Saturday, December 29, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History  December 30

Sam Houston Commissions Methodist Preacher As Army Surgeon  January 1, 1836

Several Methodist preachers in 19th century Texas also practice medicine.  Licensing for physicians was all but non-existent.  There were no state agencies to examine the educational and training credentials of men who called themselves doctors.  The era of the Texas Revolution and Republic was also the heyday of competing schools of medicine.  An ailing patient in a large city in the United States could choose among homeopathy, naturopathy, hydropathy, herbal remedies, etc. 

The first recorded Methodist preacher-physician is Rev. Dr. William P. Smith.  He attended the Caney Creek Camp Meeting in September 1835.  At that meeting he showed his ministerial credentials from the Methodist Protestant Church and asked to become a member of the MEC quarterly conference organized at that meeting. 

His next appearance in the historical record is on October 1 at Gonzales where he delivered an address to the assembled Texian forces.  On January 1, 1836 at Washington on the Brazos Sam Houston commissioned him as a surgeon “for the regular and volunteer army.’ 

Smith survived the Revolution and continued to live in Washington.  His daughter, Theodocia, married William Scates, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Smith was a trustee of the Methodist Church in Washington and attended Martin Ruter during his final illness.  When Methodist organized Rutersville, Smith was one of the signers of the town charter. He moved to Rutersville and was its postmaster. 

William P. Smith died in 1870.  Although he had never taken an appointment in the Texas Conference, in the words of Homer Thrall, throughout his life he“remained a useful local preacher.”

Saturday, December 22, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History  December 23

Methodists Provide Leadership in Texas Bible Society, December 23, 1839  
The American Bible Society was interested in Texas even before Texian independence.  On his way to Texas David Ayres stopped by the New York City headquarters for a supply of English and Spanish testaments.  After independence was secured, the ABS sent Schuyler Hoes, a New York Methodist minister, to Texas as its agent. 

Hoes was successful in organizing the Texas Bible Society in Houston on the last Sunday of November 1838.   They met in the capitol.  Sam Houston and other officials lent their names and influence to the new organization.  They established a Bible depository which stocked Bibles in a variety of languages. 

In the year that followed, there were many changes.  Hoes returned to New York.  Sam Houston, who had lent his personal and political prestige to the Society was no longer president of the Republic.  Houston was no longer the capital of the Republic.  President Lamar had moved the seat of government to the banks of the Colorado River where the city of Austin was being erected to serve as capital.  As the anniversary of the founding of the Texas Bible Society approached, its officers planned a “first annual meeting” to mark the event.  They decided to hold that meeting in Austin rather than Houston.   Methodists were prominent in the organization, but it was an interreligious group, including at least one Jew on the Executive Committee.      

\The meeting started with a reading from Isaiah 55 by the Rev. John Haynie (Methodist).  William Y. Allen (Presbyterian) supplied a summary of the previous year’s activities.  David G. Burnet (Presbyterian), president of the Texas Bible Society, and vice-president of the Republic of Texas, delivered an oration appropriate to the occasion.   The assembled members passed a number of resolutions and dismissed after singing the missionary hymn, From Greenland’s icy mountains. .

Austin in 1839 was a raw, frontier town, and the Bible Society members reflected that status.   All of its members had been attracted to the opportunities in a new land, and all of them had fascinating life stories. Musgrove Evans brought his family from Michigan after the death of his wife in 1832.  His son died at the Alamo, and he fought at San Jacinto.  The house he built in Tecumseh, Michigan, in 1824 still stands and is on the National Register.  David S. Kaufman was the only Jew to serve in either the Congress of the Republic of Texas or the state legislature until 1970,   James Burke was known as “Sunday School Man” because of his efforts to establish Sunday Schools and supply them with literature.  Chauncey Richardson was in the process of establishing Rutersville as the first university in Texas.   Haynie had been ordained a deacon in 1811 by none other than Francis Asbury.  Burnet, Kaufman, and Hansford were all honored by having counties named for them.  The group that gathered to promote the telling of the “old, old story that I love so well” had interesting life stories of their own. 

 Officers of the Texas Bible Society, 1839

President—David G. Burnet (Presbyterian, Vice President of the Republic of Texas)
1st Vice President  Martin Clark (Methodist)
2nd Vice President  Chauncey Richardson (Methodist University President))
3rd Vice President  John P. Wells
4th Vice President  J. M. Hansford (Congress of the Republic of Texas)
5th Vice President John Haynie (Methodist)
Treasurer  Musgrove Evans  (Auditor of the Congress)
Corresponding Secretary  James Burke (Presbyterian; Asst, Clerk of the House of Rep. )
Recording Secretary  W. S. Hotchkiss
Executive Committee David S. Kaufman  (Jewish, Congress of the Republic of Texas)
Executive Committee R. M. Spicer
Executive Committee  R. Bullock (owner of best hotel in Austin)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History   December 16

Kenney Party Arrives at Washington on the Brazos  December 18, 1833

One of the pioneer preachers in early Texas Methodism was John Wesley Kenney (1799-1865).  Kenney was the main organizer of the 1834 and 1835 Caney Creek camp meetings that resulted in the organization of the first quarterly conference in “western Texas” and the appeal for missionaries from the United States.  Although he served under appointment for only one year in the Texas Conference, he preached many times as a local pastor and at camp meetings. Circuit riders and missionaries often stayed at his home, and in his secular profession of surveyor, he laid out the Methodist town of Rutersville in Fayette County

John Wesley Kenney was born in southwestern Pennsylvania in 1799 to Irish immigrants who operated a tavern on the main road to the West.  His mother had been converted by John Wesley on one of his numerous trips to Ireland, hence his name.  After the removal of Native Americans from much of the Ohio Valley in the War of 1812 made settlement safer for European-Americans, the Kenney family migrated down the Ohio.  As a young man Kenney came to know Martin Ruter who was in charge of the Methodist Book Depository in Cincinnati.  That relationship led to Kenney’s joining the Ohio Conference of the MEC, and when the General Conference of 1820 broke Kentucky off from Ohio to created the Kentucky Annual Conference, Kenney became a charter member of that conference.

He married Maria McHenry, daughter of pioneer preacher Barnabas McHenry who had been one of the first Methodists appointed west of the Appalachians.  Maria’s mother was Sarah Hardin, daughter of Colonel John Hardin, General George Washington’s aide-de-camp and soldier in the Northwest Territories

Kenney served several appointments in Kentucky, then located and moved to Rock Island, Il.   He continued to preacher, but also tried his hand at selling firewood to the steamboats on the Mississippi RiverRock Island had previously been a Native American settlement.  Their lands were taken from them and they were forced further west.  When they tried to come back to their old homes on the Mississippi to raise corn, the Illinois Militia of which John Wesley Kenney was an officer, did not recognize their peaceful intentions and the Black Hawk War resulted. 

Kenney sent his family back to the McHenry household in Kentucky to escape hostilities.  During that time the Kenney house at Rock Island was destroyed.  The war did not go well for the Illinois Militia so federal forces were summoned.   The troop movements facilitated the transmission of cholera throughout the Ohio Valley, including the home county of the McHenry family.  On one terrible weekend (June 15-17, 1833), Barnabas and Sarah Hardin McHenry and their daughters, Sarah and Emily, and one of John Wesley and Maria Kenney’s daughters, Sarah Kenney, all died of cholera.

Maria Kenney thus lost both parents, two sisters, and a five-year-old daughter in one weekend.  They decided to emigrate.  Their homestead in Rock Island, Illinois, had been destroyed.  They decided to come to Texas

The survivors camped out until October, waiting for cooler weather and less danger from fever, and then started out for Texas with a fairly large travelling party. John Wesley and Maria had three surviving children, Ann, James Harvey, and Martin McHenry.  Maria’s sister Lydia came.  John Wesley’s brother Thomas and his family also decided to come to Texas.  At least one other family and at least two enslaved women made up the travelling party. 

Although river transport along the Ohio and Mississippi was well established by 1833, the Kenney’s travelled by wagon, crossing the Ohio at Shawneetown, the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, and the Arkansas at Little Rock.  The party proceeded to Nacogdoches and then to Washington where Kenney erected the first house at the new ferry crossing. 

John Wesley Kenney, ever a restless soul, hollowed out a cottonwood tree into a dugout and went down the Brazos and spent much of the winter boiling seawater for salt.  When spring came, the family moved about 25 miles south of Washington to a tributary of Caney Creek (the present boundary between Austin and Washington Counties).  It was there that in September 1834 that Kenney organized the famous camp meeting along with Henry Stephenson.  One year later, also on Caney Creek, came the famous appeal for missionaries.  The head of that missionary team was Martin Ruter who had helped Kenney years before in Cincinnati.  

Saturday, December 08, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History  December 9

Inappropriate Shouting Interrupts  Sermon at Annual Conference, December 9, 1895

19th Century Methodists were known for their enthusiastic shouting during worship sermons, and some of those shouts have provided generations to follow with humorous stories about inappropriate shouting.  One such story comes from the Texas Annual Conference of 1895.  The conference met in Brenham that year and one of the guests was the Rev. John James Tigert III, an editor of church publications from Nashville

Most annual conferences of the era devoted a special service devoted to the missionary cause, and Rev. Tigert was invited to preach for that service.  The title of his sermon was The Call and Work of the Minister.  One section of that sermon included the sacred responsibility of clergy and the sadness that accompanied every incident in which clergy lapsed from such sacred responsibility.  The theme of lapsing clergy was especially pointed since the 1895 conference expelled the host preacher and presiding elder at this conference for their escapades in Galveston earlier in the year.  (See the column on the expulsion December 2006

One of the lines in Tigert’s sermon was “I have thought, my Brethren, what an awful thing it would be, if after having preached to others, I, myself  should be a castaway.”   One of the brothers then shouted, loud enough for all to hear, “Lord, grant it!”  The inappropriate shout disconcerted the preacher.

Tigert is often remembered not as an able author and editor for the MECS, but as a sad footnote in the history of the Methodist episcopacy.  He was elected bishop at the General Conference of 1906 along with Seth Ward and James Atkins.  Tigert’s first assigned duty was to preside over the Oklahoma Annual Conference.  On his was to that post, he stopped at an Indian Missionary Conference church at Atoka.  Fried chicken was on the menu.  A broken chicken bone lodged in Tigert’s throat.  Infection set in and he died before he could hold annual conference.  He was buried in Tulsa and his remains later moved to Nashville.  Seth Ward, who was elected with him and the first native born Texan to be elected bishop, also died before the quadrennium ended.  Ward died in Kyoto while on his second missionary trip to Asia.  1906 was a bad year to be elected bishop.  

Saturday, December 01, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History   December 2

Texas and East Texas Annual Conferences Reunite in Crockett,  December 3-8, 1902

The General Conference of 1840 authorized the creation of the Texas Annual Conference.  Its boundaries included all of the Republic of Texas save for the appointments in northeastern Texas served by preachers from the Arkansas Conference.  Only four years later the 1844 General conference authorized the division of the Texas Conference into the Eastern and Western Texas Conferences.  The Trinity River served as the boundary.   When the MECS was organized in 1846, it continued those conferences and renamed them the Texas Conference and the East Texas Conference. 

Those two conferences existed side by side throughout the remaining years of the 19th century.  In 1858 the Texas Conference was reduced when its southwestern districts were struck off to form the predecessor of today’s Southwest Texas Annual Conference.  In 1866 both the Texas and the East Texas Conferences had their northern districts struck off to form new conferences. 

As Texas population increased in the latter half of the 19th century, the growth was greatest in the Northwest Texas and North Texas Conferences.  The Texas and East Texas Conferences fell far behind the membership of those Conferences.    There had been adjustments to try to restore some numerical balance.  In 1881 the Northwest Texas Conference returned Leon, Freestone, Robertson, Milam, Falls, and part of Limestone Counties to the Texas Conference.  In 1894 the North Texas Conference returned Bowie, Cass, Marion, Morris Counties and parts of Camp, Titus, Wood, and Van Zandt Counties to the East Texas Conference. 

Even with these territorial cessions, the imbalance of conference membership continued. In a nutshell North Texas and Northwest Texas Conferences far outpaced all the other conferences in the state. 

The 1902 General Conference of the MECS, meeting in Dallas, made the conferences more equal by reversing the 1844 General Conference action and reuniting the Texas and East Texas Conferences.  In an attempt to shore up the West Texas Conference (now Southwest Texas) membership it moved the Austin District of the Texas Conference to the West Texas Conference. 

The first session of the recently reunited Texas Annual Conference convened at Crockett on December 3, 1902 with Bishop Eugene Hendrix in the chair.   

Although the event occurred 110 years ago, modern Methodists would feel very much at home at this session of Annual Conference.  There was a Bible Study based on Philippians, powerful preaching, examination of the young preachers going through the ordination process.  In 1902 those classes included several preachers who would go on to assume leadership roles in the conference, Jesse Lee, J. W. Mills, and S. S. McKinney. 

Bishop Hendrix had to resolve a point of church law that seems incredibly arcane by today’s standards.  On an appeal from Marvin MECS in Tyler he had to decide the question of whether the quarterly conference or the Sunday School had the right to name an assistant Sunday School superintendent. (The Bishop ruled in favor of the quarterly conference.) 

As is common with annual conferences, there was a fund raising appeal for a denominational project.  This year it was for the superannuate retirement fund.  The total goal was $5,000,000.  The Texas Conference pledged $15,000 to that effort.  The credentials of one Missionary Baptist and one Congregational preacher were recognized, and those preachers given appointments. 

A perennial desire of late 19th century Texas Methodists was to have a resident bishop.  The newly reunited Texas Conference made another try.  It named Seth Ward, Sam Hay, and V. A. Godbey to a committee to try to get a bishop to move into the bounds of the Texas Conference.  (Both Ward and Hay were later elected to that post.  Ward in 1906 and Hay in 1922)

The real story of Annual Conference 1902, though, was one of reunion.  The Texas Conference still lagged behind the Northwest Texas Conference  (55,329 to 66,876 respectively).   It had given up the Austin District to the West Texas Conference.  On the other hand, its preachers looked forward to a greater field of service.