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.  


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