Saturday, September 29, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 30

Boynton Chapel MEC Hosts Houston District Conference October 3, 1900

Delegates to the Houston District Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church convened at Boynton Chapel at the corner of Dallas and Paige (about 10 blocks southeast of the current George R. Brown Convention Center) on October 3, 1900.  Less than a month earlier coastal Texas had suffered the greatest natural disaster in United States history, the hurricane of September 6-8, 1900.  Newspapers still printed lists of known victims not just from Galveston but from Alvin, Brazoria, Anahuac, Dickinson, and other coastal cities as far inland as Columbus and LaGrange.  Newspapers also printed notices from New York, Pennsylvania, and other states appealing for news about loved ones. 

The recent mega-disaster was the major concern of the delegates.   The pastor of St. Paul’s Galveston, Rev. J. H. Reed, gave an impassioned appeal for aid to the survivors.  Dr. L. B. Scott, editor of the Southwestern Christian Advocate, came from New Orleans to report on relief efforts.  He also addressed the assembled delegates at Boynton Chapel. 

After the presentations from Reed and Scott, the delegates got down to business.    
One of the most important items of district conferences of the era was licensing local preachers, and one candidate presented himself for licensure.  J. D. Spivey was granted a local preacher’s license, but on the condition that he quit using tobacco.

The most interesting part of the conference consisted of the consideration of two questions in panel discussion form.
  1. “Does the modern class leader fulfill the requirements of his office according to Wesley’s standards?”
  2. “Is the probationary system necessary today in the Methodist Episcopal Church?”

Each discussion began with a formal statement to which the panelists responded.  We have no record of the points made by the discussants, but both questions must have elicited interesting discussions.

In October 1900 Texans were focused on relief efforts.  No one could know that only a few months later and less than 100 miles from the devastation an event would occur that would transform Texas.  The event was the Spindletop Oil Field discovery near Beaumont

Houston, rather than Beaumont, was the main beneficiary of the Spindletop discovery and subsequent oil strikes.  Its population boomed as petroleum exploration and refining companies made their headquarters in Houston.  Allied industries including banking, law, transportation, machine works, and insurance all expanded. 

The neighborhood around Boynton Chapel changed.  Before 1900 the east side of Houston was mainly mixed residential.  Houstonians of various income levels rubbed shoulders with each other.  In 1910 the railroads built a Union Station to accommodate passengers.  Its construction accelerated changes in residential patterns on the east side of downtown Houston.  Hotels replaced some houses, and some of the old houses were remodeled into apartments and boarding houses.  They catered to travelers and railroad workers who were more transient that the former residents.  Eventually Boynton Chapel moved about a mile south of its former location at Dallas and Paige to 2812 Milby. Boynton Chapel UMC continues to proclaim the Good News as it has done so for more than a century.  Parts of Union Station have been preserved as Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.  


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