Saturday, March 30, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  March 31

J. H. McLean Dedicates New Church Building at Manor, April 6, 1882

F. A. Mood, Regent of Southwestern University, was scheduled to give the dedicatory sermon for the new church at Manor, but he was indisposed, so J. H. McLean, the Vice-Regent filled in for him.  Methodists in Manor traced their origins to 1854 when they met in a school.  In 1871 the Austin branch of the Houston and Texas Central Railway provided access to markets, and northeastern Travis County prospered.  The Methodist church dedicated in April 1882 was one of three churches in Manor in the mid-1880s. 

The Day set for the dedication of the our church at Manor, Travis County, Texas, found a large congregation in attendance –more than could be comfortably seated although the house is 34 by 50 feet.  On account of the indisposition of Dr. Mood, Bro. J. H. McLean from the Southwestern University, came to our relief, for which we give thanks.  The theme selected for the occasion was “Spiritual Worship,” and it was well handled, and the preacher peculiarly fortunate in the elucidation of the want of modality in all the instances of worship as given in the Bible. . .

The friends brought refreshments of the most kind and greatest abundance, showing the cordiality with which they greeted the new enterprise.

May this building long stand a monument of the zeal and devotion of a few Christians.

W. C. Nelms, Texas Christian Advocate, April 22, 1882.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 24

Bishop Keener Issues Appeal to Build Church in Laredo, “The Strong Should Support the Weak.”  March 25, 1882

Bishop John Christian Keener (1819-1906) was the MECS Bishop most closely associated with the denomination’s Mexican Missions.  It was Keener who founded the MECS Mexican Mission in 1873.  He had been elected bishop from the editorship of the New Orleans Christian Advocate in 1870 and continued to reside in a New Orleans suburb.  For most of the first part of his episcopacy he was thus the MECS bishop who lived closest to Mexico.  In the fall of 1881 Keener presided over the Texas conferences.  At the West Texas Conference he appointed T. W. Biggs to Laredo.
1881 was a pivotal year in the history of Laredo.  That was the year that the International and Great Northern Railway extended its tracks from San Antonio to Laredo.  Also in 1881 rails connected Laredo to Corpus Christi.  The rail connections made Laredo the most important inland port connecting the United States and Mexico.  It continues to hold that rank.  In 2012 there were 2,800,000 truck crossings at Los Dos Laredos.   

As Laredo became an important center for international commerce, it also became important for MECS missions.  In 1880 the wives of two presiding elders took some Mexican girls into their homes to teach them.  From such small efforts by Mrs. Frank Onderdonk and Mrs. Joseph P. Norwood came Laredo Seminary.  Laredo Seminary was later renamed Holding Institute.    
Just months after appointing Biggs to Laredo, Keener wrote the editor of the Texas Christian Advocate an open letter appealing for aid in helping Biggs raise funds for a church building. 

  Here is the letter from the March 25, 1882 Advocate.

New Orleans---At the last West Texas Conference the Rev. T. W. Biggs was appointed to Laredo.  He was judged to be a very fit man for that very important frontier rail road city, which les on the border of Mexico and Texas.  His first and greatest need is a church building, and to this work he is now addressing himself.  If Southern Methodism would hold the keys of the state of Texas we must do by faith and works.  That she has the faith, who can doubt?  But faith without works will not hold Laredo, whatever it may have accomplished else where.  There are at present only a few church members there, but a large population of rail road men and new settlers are coming who will attend upon the preaching of the word if opportunity is afforded them.  Thus by the blessing of God and the presence of the Holy Ghost, these bones on the border may be breathed to life. , and become a strong force in the great campaign.

It is a well settled principle in Methodism that the strong should support the weak and I therefore commend Bro. Biggs to all the church he may visit in furtherance of building a good and creditable house of God in Laredo.   J. C. Keener.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 17, 1844

Reverend Thomas Brown Preaches First Methodist Sermon in Dallas Area, March 19, 1844

Texas Methodist history and the history of Dallas have been intertwined since the city was surveyed into lots in 1844.  The first recorded preacher in Dallas was the Rev. Thomas Brown.  Isaac Webb’s diary entry for March 19, 1844, reads in part, “Thomas Brown, the first traveling Methodist preacher that visited the Colony, stayed all night with me and preached at Wm. M Cochran’s the first sermon in the neighborhood.  From Romans 1:16, hymn, From All that Dwells Below the Skies, tune, “Kedron,” .    Webb was referring to William and Nancy Jane Cochran.  Webb was married to Nancy Jane’s sister, Mary. 

The next year, 1845, the Rev. Daniel Shook formed a circuit in the area.  In 1846 Isaac Webb built a chapel and Dallas was designated the temporary county seat until an election could be held.  In 1851 the Cochran family bought a section of land on what is today called Bachman Branch.  In 1856 Jane Cochran deeded land to the Methodist Episcopal Church South for a church building and cemetery. 

Cochran Chapel and the cemetery still exist.  The location is on Northwest Highway near Love Field.  The congregation at Cochran Chapel UMC is proud of its history.  It honors its heritage by providing vital ministries too numerous to list here.  I invite you to visit the Cochran Chapel UMC website to learn more about its history.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  March 10

Rev. Charles H. Brooks Leads Houston in Revival, March 10, 1856

Rev. Charles H. Brooks was appointed to Shearn Methodist (today’s First Methodist UMC) in Houston at the Texas Annual Conference in December 1855.  When He arrived at his new post, he found the church had stagnated.  Rev. T. O. Summers had instituted pew rents as way of raising the church’s budget.  The church membership roll had disappeared.  When Brooks re-organized the rolls, he found the church membership numbered 70 fewer members than had been reported at annual conference.  It was clearly time for action.  As the weather warmed, Brooks called for a four week protracted meeting.  The four weeks of preaching resulted in 100 professions of faith, love feasts, reorganization of the Sunday School and class meetings.  At least one German immigrant was “slain in the spirit” and fell to the floor unable to move. 

Rev. Brooks described part of the protracted meeting in a letter dated March 10, 1856.
(Spelling and punctuation as in original)

My prospects for doing good in Houston are increasing.  I preached to a large congregation on Sabbath, on the depravity of the human heart, which I illustrated 1st from the bible 2dly from the City of Houston.  Sabath night the house was crowded.  I preached an hour & a half from Hbrs 11th and 7th.  I am laboring night and day for a revival of religion.  Without it Houston is gon. Pray for us.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History   March 3

Mary Sherwood Helm Wightman Warns Niece Against Methodism, March 6, 1853

Although Methodism claimed more adherents in the Republic of Texas than any other denomination, it was not universally respected and admired.  The Protestant Episcopal Church (Anglican) was particularly strong in Matagorda County and at least one of the members of that church had nothing good to say about Methodism. 

Mary Sherwood Helm Wightman (1807-1886) lived in Matagorda County from 1829-1841.  She and her husband were part of an immigrant group from New York.  They founded the town of Matagorda and owned a salt works and agricultural land.  Mary taught both a civil and a Sunday School, making her one of the pioneer educators in Texas.  

Matagorda holds the distinction of having the first Protestant Episcopal Church in Texas, and Mary Sherwood Helm was one of its main supporters.  In 1841 the Helms moved to Kentucky where Mr. Helm died and Mrs. Helm remarried.  In 1884 Mary S. H. Wightman published Scraps of Early Texas History.  The book contains very interesting first person accounts of Texas, Native Americans, the Texas Revolution, and so on.  It also contains much religious dogma including a letter to a niece dated Mar. 6, 1853 in which she criticizes her niece’s new religion—Methodism.  Here are some excerpts:

. . .In the (Episcopal) litany. . .we pray to be delivered from heresy and schism—from those who are in error and are deceived; for all who are distressed in mind, body, or estate.  I hope the books I have sent you, have the tendency to restrain you from warming up your devotions by “strange fires.’

Be it remembered that if you go with the multitude, under some circumstances, you may become a Papist, or even a Mohammedan, without looking into the reason, history, and evidence of these things, but the Methodist system is such that they are bound to remain ignorant: they are made to believe and feel that they are more holy than others, not by their fruits, but by their feelings, and why, say they, should they examine any further, “Their religion is good enough for them.”  . . .they are required to spend all the time that can be possibly spared from their daily vocations in attending the various meetings—class, prayer, quarterly, protracted—sometimes for eight weeks.  And should a young man wish to read to become a preacher, they chalk out his work from month to month, with such poison as to confirm every erroneous notion he has imbibed from his former teaching.
Scraps of Early Texas History is available at Google Books.