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.”


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