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)


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