Saturday, June 22, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 23

Reverend John Wesley Kenney Administers Estate of Dead Brother  June 26, 1846

From his arrival at Washington on the Brazos in December 1833 to his death at his home in January 1865, the Rev. John Wesley Kenney was a stalwart of Texas Methodism and of the Texas Conference.  Kenney was the main organizer of the 1834 and 1835 Caney Creek Camp Meetings that issued the call for Methodist missionaries.  In 1838 Kenney surveyed the town site of Rutersville, a projected Methodist town anchored by a university.  He regularly filled the pulpit at camp meetings and often surprised some attendees when they observed the tall man who dressed in crude buckskins but  was capable of impassioned and articulate sermons. 

Although Kenney was a fully ordained member of the Kentucky Conference, in Texas he accepted a full time itinerating appointment for one conference year.  At the third session of the Texas Annual Conference, held at Bastrop in December 1842, he was appointed to the Brazos Circuit.  His mighty feats in support of Texas Methodism were accomplished mainly as a local pastor. 

At least part of the reason Kenney served as a local pastor rather than a travelling preacher was that he had significant family responsibilities.  John Wesley and Maria Kenney had eight children of their own, and tragic circumstances made his the guardian of three of his nieces. 

The three nieces were the orphaned children of John Wesley Kenney’s brother, Doctor Thomas and Mary Jane Kenney.  Thomas Kenney also immigrated to Texas, but did not stay long in “Eastern Texas.”  In 1839 he pushed on to present Williamson County and established a settlement called Kenney’s Fort on Brushy Creek in what is now Round Rock.  Kenney’s Fort attracted some settlers, but life was not easy.  In 1841 Mary Jane Kenney died of consumption.  Thomas sent the two oldest daughters, Mary Jane and Clarissa to school in nearby Austin.  In the spring of 1844 Thomas Kenney decided to send Mary Jane and Clarissa to Rutersville College.  As he loaded his wagon on the night of April 5, two of his neighbors, Courtney and Castlebury, returned from a buffalo hunt on the Salado Creek about five or six miles north of present day Corn Hill in northern Williamson County.  They had cached buffalo hides.  It was now becoming warm so the hides were deteriorating.  They wanted Kenney’s help and his ox wagon to haul the hides.

Thomas Kenney agreed to delay taking Mary Jane and Clarissa to Rutersville so he could help retrieve the hides.  When they did not return, a search party was dispatched.  That party found the bodies of all three men.  Their horses and firearms were taken, and the oxen were dead with arrow wounds.  Mary Jane, Clarissa, and the baby Anna were now orphans. 

Their uncle, John Wesley Kenney brought them back to Austin County where he raised them to adulthood with his own children.  


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