Saturday, January 26, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 27

Rev. James E. Ferguson Criticizes Inaugural Address  January 29,1850

Last week’s column reported on Bishop A. Frank Smith’s invocation at the inauguration of Governor Beauford H. Jester.  About one hundred years earlier, another Methodist preacher went to Austin for a gubernatorial inauguration.  He later wrote a very critical letter of the experience.

The preacher was the Rev. James Ferguson,  (1824-1876) a recent transfer to the Texas Conference from the Arkansas Conference.  In January 1850 he went to Austin for the inauguration of Governor Peter Hansborough Bell.  Here is his report

Brother Phillips and I visited Austin, and was present at the Inauguration of Gov Bell.  In my humble judgment the Ex, and Elect, Governors made poor speeches.  I will tell you what Wood (George T. Wood, the outgoing governor) put me in mind of Bro Snead trying to be eloquent, or at least very interesting.  He drank water, spit and Pawed and with all his awkwardness he was cheered, huzzahed, as if a thunderstorm of Eloquence was pouring like a burning river of fire.  Bell read his speech, in a dry, solo style and stop occasionally to wet his whistle.  He also was cheered at a round rate.  I am of the opinion, if any of our preachers were to go to Austin and make as stumbling an out that half of the congregation would leave the house in high dudgeon. Bro Phillips acted as Chaplain, and did his part well. ]

James E. Ferguson was a prominent member of the Texas Conference who served some of the most important churches.  After the Civil War he located and lived on a farm near Salado in Bell County, named for Peter Hansborough Bell. 

In 1914 Ferguson’s son James E. Ferguson faced another son of a Texas Methodist preacher, Thomas Ball, in the contest for governor.  The main issue was prohibition.  Ball was a dry.  Ferguson was a wet.  Ferguson won in 1914 and again in 1916.  Last week’s subject, Beauford Jester was the only governor to die in office.  Ferguson is the only governor to be removed from office by impeachment.  Mrs. Ferguson (Miriam Amanda or “Ma”) was later elected to the office.


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