Saturday, April 07, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 8

Littleton Fowler Reports on Journey to General Conference  April 15, 1844

As delegates are preparing to travel to General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Florida, it is time to remember the long and arduous journeys delegates in prior years made.

Texas sent only two delegates to the 1844 General Conference which was held in New York City.  John Clark, the only southern delegate to side the northern conferences, did not return to Texas.  Littleton Fowler, one of the original missionaries, did return, but died less than two years later.  As Fowler made his way from East Texas to New York City, he wrote letters to his wife, Missouri Fowler.  That correspondence is now at Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, SMU. 

The letters reveal that Fowler combined church business, family business, and shopping as he made his way north.  The route took him to Natchitoches, Louisiana,  then to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  Monday, April 15, 1844, found him in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He had arrived the previous Saturday and about 2:00 p.m. took the stage for Hamilton,  about 26 miles to the north.  There he met  his mother-in-law, “Mother Symmes.”    On Sunday he preached in Hamilton and after services dined with the parents of William O’Connor, one of the Oho preachers he had recruited for Texas.  O’Connor died the previous October in Harrison County, and  Fowler was thus paying a bereavement call on the parents of his dead colleague. 

On Monday Fowler bought six barrels of flour, two for him and four for Daniel and Jane Poe.  Getting flour from Cincinnati to East Texas in 1844 was no easy task.   Purchasers such as Fowler depended upon consignment merchants.  In this case, two intermediaries had to be employed, one in New Orleans and one in Natchitoches.   Presumably Fowler would pick the flour up at Natchitoches on his return trip.  Daniel and Jane Poe would die before their shipment of flour could make it to San Augustine. 

Littleton Fowler informed Missouri that he would continue his trip to either Wheeling or Pittsburgh by water and then strike overland to Washington, D.C., on his way to New York City.  By this point in his journey Fowler was in familiar territory with old friends.  He had served in the Kentucky Conference before coming to Texas and delegates from Ohio and Kentucky were travelling the same route.  He thus looked forward to travelling with amiable companions.   

When they got to General Conference, they may have wished for more amiability.  The conference was consumed with the question of slavery.  The result was the eventual creation of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, a division that would last until 1939.  


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