This Week in Texas Methodist History July 29
Reports on Church Activities, August 2, 1888
Few of us have not been thrilled by the exciting stories of the “Wild West,” of cattle drives from
to northern points, range wars, of gun fighters and outlaws, of the “taming of
the West.” The Texas cowboy is perhaps the most enduring
mythic hero of our nation. The Western
was certainly the dominant genre on television during my formative years.
This writer, however, has always been more than a little puzzled by how events that occupied such a small slice of our history became so deeply embedded in our national (and Texan) consciousness. The mythic era lasted about twenty years in the late 19th century. Cotton farmers always exceeded cowboys in terms of
Texas population and added
much more to the state’s economic output, but it was the cowboy rather than the
farmer who became adopted as the symbol for Texas.
Certainly the Wild West was romantic, but let us not be dazzled by that romance. Another story that needs to be told beside the Wild West is the development of communities and the role of churches in building those communities.. In the case of the Texas Panhandle, that process occurred very rapidly. We may use the county seat of
, Canadian, as an
The town site of Canadian, like many other Panhandle towns, was laid out by a railroad company in 1887. The post office was opened in August of that year. On the 4th of July, 1888, one of the first commercial rodeos in
occurred. It was named a Cowboy
Reunion. On August 2, 1888, just one
year after the opening of the Post Office, the Canadian Crescent,
reported on religious activities.
Even at this early stage in its development, Canadian had both Southern and Northern Methodist Churches. The presence of the MEC members is explained by the fact that the Panhandle was closely tied to
via the rail lines. There were also
Presbyterian and Baptist churches. How
could there be enough population to support four churches in such a new
town? They did so by alternating
services. The MECS offered services on
the first Sunday of each month, the MEC on the second, the Presbyterian on the third
Sunday, and the Baptists on the fourth Sunday.
There was a union Sunday School class every Sunday. The townsfolk of Canadian could attend church
and Sunday School every Sunday—and listen to four different preachers every
month. . The arrangement was
typical. Preachers rode circuits and
visited other towns when it was not their Sunday to have services. Publishing houses by this time had developed
non-denominational Sunday School literature so that such union Sunday Schools
could avoid disputes over which church’s literature should be used.
In addition to the churches, there was also a temperance organization, the Band of Hope, which met every Saturday. The Band of Hope had been organized in
England and concentrated on
educating youth on the evils of alcohol.
Although not as famous as the Anti Saloon League or the Woman’s
Christian Temperance Union, the Band of Hope had its followers.
Churches, a newspaper, two railroads each direction every day, civic and commercial institutions firmly implanted—Year-old Canadian seems like a civilized place.