Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 28

North Texas Epworth League Convention Stunned By News of Missionary Death, 1908

One of the highlights of the 1907 Texas Epworth League meeting at Epworth-by-the-Sea near Corpus Christi was a farewell speech from one of their own.  Ruby Kendrick, a 24-year old Leaguer from Plano told the 5,000 assembled there that in a month she was going to depart for missionary service in Korea.

Kendrick was well-prepared for the mission field.  She had been a member of the Junior Epworth League and Senior Epworth League.  She graduated from Plano High School in 1903 and spent two years at Scarritt and another at Southwestern University.  Since she was still too young to be commissioned as a missionary, she taught Bible classes at a Methodist school in Terrell. 

In 1908, the North Texas Conference Epworth League met in Denison.  While they were in session, a cablegram arrived informing them that Ruby Kendrick had died of appendicitis in Seoul, Korea.  Few missionary deaths have inspired great action. 

One of the actions was immediate.   The North Texas Conferences organized a memorial service on the day the telegram was received.  It concluded with an appeal to continue her Korean missionary service.  Eleven Leaguers answered the altar call and volunteered for missionary service.  

The next year at the state convention at Epworth-by-the-Sea participants collected funds for a memorial stone to be erected over Kendrick’s grave in Korea.  The monument recorded her last words, “If I had a thousand lives to give, Korea would have them all.” 

The Leaguers raised so much money for the monument that after paying for the monument they had a surplus of $1000.  They decided to use that money to build a missionary hall at Epworth-by-the-Sea.   Before they could begin construction, a hurricane destroyed the encampment.  Although a new site for a new encampment was soon acquired, trustees decided to take the $1000 on hand and add $3000 raised for the missionary hall and create a missionary scholarship at the new Methodist university then being created in Dallas, Southern Methodist University. From 1908 to 1928 the  Epworth League members raised $120,000 for scholarships for future missionaries in honor of Ruby Kendrick.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History   July 21

Milk in Texas Methodist History

Most of us don’t think much about milk except when prices rise.  Some of us have memories of home delivery of milk or even a family milk cow, but for most of us milk has been a staple we consume every day but don’t often think of where it comes from.

What about the connection between Methodism and milk?  Sure some churches still have ice cream socials, but most of the ice cream is purchased from commercial sources rather than hand cranked.  It would surprise most Methodists to know that not too long ago most Methodist residential institutions had their own dairy herds to supply fresh, raw milk to the dining halls.

Southwestern University had a dairy as late as the mid-1950s.  The Methodist Home with its large population of children who needed milk operated a dairy as did Lon Morris College.  The institution with the greatest dairy involvement was Texas Wesleyan College in Austin.  TWC was owned by the Swedish Methodist Conference of the MEC.  It operated Sunnybrook Dairy in Austin and produced far more milk than the students could consume.  The excess was marketed in Austin to raise funds to support the college.  It also provided employment for the Texas-Swedish farm boys who could finance their education by working at Sunnybrook.

It is a little ironic that the state in which Gail Borden had so much early influence, the dairy industry was very slow to develop.  Travelers to 19th century Texas such as Fredrick Law Olmsted looked at all the cows and marveled at how little fresh milk and butter he saw. The cheese industry was practically non existent. 

Part of the reason was that the dairy breeds of cattle had originated in the cool marine climate of northwestern Europe and suffered tremendously in the Texas heat.   In sprite of that difficulty, people wanted milk. 

Milk production in Texas tended to be very localized.  People purchased milk from neighbors or very small producers.  Milk is very difficult to transport so agricultural censuses show that dairy cattle populations in Texas about 1900 were greatest in the largest cities.  As better roads and rubber-tired vehicles became more common, each metropolitan area in Texas developed a nearby “milkshed,” from which its milk came.  Houstonians drank milk from Grimes and Washington CountiesCorpus Christi got its milk from AliceParker County supplied Fort Worth, and the greatest milkshed of all was Hopkins County which supplied much of North Texas, including Dallas.  El Paso, isolated as it was, continued to report a large dairy cow population long after milk cows moved from other Texas cities.

The maintenance of dairies in Methodist institutions made a great deal of economic sense.  The college or home could assure itself of a guaranteed supply of a staple over which it had control at every step from production to consumption.  Memories of illness transmitted by milk were still fresh, and Progressive Era muckrakers  pointed out the dangers of  adulterated milk sold in cities.  By owning its own dairy the school could ensure the purity of the product. 

There were other benefits.  Devout Methodists could pay part of their tithe in hay.  There are records of donations of box cars of hay to the Methodist Home in Waco from Methodists in Wharton and Matagorda Counties.  During the Great Depression some students at Lon Morris College paid part of their tuition in hay.

Landing a job in college dairy for one’s student work assignment was considered a real plum and the best of all possible campus jobs.  Dairying is hard, dirty work that begins very early in the morning, but college boys vied for the job.  What made it so desirable?  Other campus jobs, such as in the dining hall or the library, existed only when school was in session, but the dairy herd had to be tended year-round so employment continued through holidays and summer vacation.

There were other minor perks such as having a key to the kitchen cooler and the ability to skim off some of the cream before delivering the milk.  A Lon Morris College Yearbook includes a cartoon based on the establishment of the “Mu Chi Mu fraternity” among the dairy hands who hosted their dates with ice cream made from cream they had skimmed before taking the milk to the kitchen. 

Texas Methodist schools got out the dairy business long ago, but there are still alumni who fondly remember that they were able to finance their education by milking cows.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 14

William Faris Informs Fowler of Death of Moses Speer  July 18, 1840

Most of the Methodist preachers who immigrated to the Republic of Texas were relatively young men, but Moses Speer was a notable exception.  He was already over 70 years old when he came to Texas.  He began preaching in Kentucky about 1804 and then moved to Tennessee.  He later preached in the Red River circuits which were then part of the Arkansas Conference before coming to the Texas Mission of the Mississippi Conference in 1838. 

Littleton Fowler assigned him to the settlements in southeastern Texas, and in that capacity is remembered as the founding pastor for the Methodist church at Jasper.  At the next annual conference he was appointed to Montgomery.  In July 1840 he died at Robinson’s Settlement on the Montgomery Circuit and was buried there. 

William Faris attended Speer in his last days and then wrote a letter to Littleton Fowler describing Speer’s last hours and his wishes concerning the disposition of his property. 

Speer directed Faris to send his horse and saddlebags to Fowler.  How fitting—the circuit rider’s earthly journey was over, but his horse would continue to carry the gospel.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 7

Bishop Bascom Holds His Only Annual Conference July 10, 1850

A previous post told the story of the short episcopal career of Bishop J. J. Tigert (see post for December 8, 2012).  One of his predecessors, Bishop Henry Bidleman Bascom, also had a brief career. 

Henry Bascom (b. 1796) was a shining star of Methodism in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  His reputation as a pulpit orator earned him the notice of Henry Clay who had him appointed Chaplain of the U. S. House of Representatives (1824-1826).  He left that position to become the first president of Madison College in Pennsylvania.  Two years later he became an agent for the American Colonization Society, an organization that promoted the immigration of African Americans to Liberia.  In 1832 he accepted a professorship at Augusta College, a Methodist college in Kentucky founded by Martin Ruter.  He served there until 1842 when he accepted the presidency of Transylvania Univeersity (the alma mater of Stephen F. Austin) in Lexington.

At the General Conference of 1844 Bascom assumed much of the leadership of the southern faction and wrote the “protest of the minority.”   His leadership in the formation of the southern branch of Methodism made him a contender in the episcopal elections of the MECS.  At the General Conference of 1850 he received the necessary votes and began his brief episcopal career.  He was chosen to hold the annual conferences in Missouri, Kansas, Indian Mission, and East Texas.  On July 10, 1850, less than two months after his election, he opened the St. Louis Annual Conference held at Independence.  He became ill, returned home to Lexington and died on Sept. 8 after being a bishop for four months.

Bascom had been scheduled to hold the East Texas Annual Conference in Palestine in November.  Palestine had a new church building, and it was common for towns with new churches to host annual conference to show off the new facilities.  The Discipline stipulated that in the absence of a bishop, conference members would elect a presiding officer.  S. A. Williams was chosen to preside and J. W. Fields chosen secretary for the 6th session of the East Texas Annual Conference.
As a tribute to the deceased bishop, the new church at Palestine was named Bascom Chapel.  Eventually it became Palestine First United Methodist Church. (see history at

Bascom Chapel was not the only way Bishop Henry Bascom was honored in Texas.  Historians believe that the town of Bascom in Smith County was named for him, and an 1845 letter from Robert Alexander to Littleton Fowler reveals that Alexander named his horse “Henry Bascom.”  Alexander, Fowler, and Bascom had all been delegates to the Louisville Convention of 1845 that planned the creation of the MECS.