Friday, August 30, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 1

Rev. C. B. Cross Reports on “Old People’s” Revival at Atlanta, September 3, 1903

By the turn of the 20th century the revival culture that shaped Methodism and was shaped by Methodism was fully mature and perhaps at its height.  Rail transportation made it possible for evangelists and song leaders to make a very good living preaching at revivals, tent meetings, camp meetings, and protracted meetings. For example, the financial records of the Chappell Hill-Bellville Camp Ground Association reveal that the revival preacher received as much for two weeks work as the preacher appointed to the circuit received in a year. 

 Although most towns had church buildings, they often moved to open air venues such as tabernacles, brush arbors, and other more pastoral settings for these meetings.  Often persons who had indicated their intention to join the church were advised by the preacher to wait until the revival so that the “members received” number would be inflated when the pastor reported the revival to the Texas Christian Advocate.

Another aspect of revival culture of the era was the use of theme nights during the revivals.  There would be a Ladies’ Night when women filled the choir loft.  Sometimes there was a mission night.  In Abe Mulkey revivals, there was always one night dedicated to the Methodist Home in Waco

Rev. C. B. Cross, the Atlanta station preacher, reported that during their revival they had “Old People’s Night.” This is the way he reported it to the Advocate

We had one of the greatest meetings in years.  Bro. O. T. Hotchkiss of Texarkana preached for us for two weeks.  One delightful feature of the meeting was three services for the Old People.  Carriages were secured and every Old Person in the town was present.  We sang the old songs.  Everybody testified and shouted and praised God.  The Holy Spirit was present in wonderful power.  As a result of this meeting thirty united with the church by baptism and vows.  If not providentially hindered, I should be able to report all claims filled at Conference.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  August 25

Eccentric Banker Gives Generous Bequest to Methodist Preacher, August 1916

It’s 1916.  Imagine a Methodist preacher being driven around town in a luxurious touring car by a chauffeur.  Considering the meager salaries Methodist preachers earned, you might have some questions, but that was the case for the Rev. J. W. Hill, preacher at Commerce.  You see, an eccentric banker made Hill a beneficiary of his will and left him a house and small fortune. 

J. W. Hill was one of the most prominent members of the North Texas Conference.  He was born in Arkansas in 1854 and moved to Texas in 1865.  Even though his father died the next year, he was able to attend McKenzie College and was tutored in Latin, German, and Greek.  In 1872 he was converted at a camp meeting in Lamar County and two years later began his ministerial career.  After the obligatory rural circuits, he began serving churches in the booming North Texas region, including First Methodist Dallas and McKinney.  He spent one year at Laurel Heights in San Antonio, but found that silk stocking church  “insufficiently evangelistic,” so he transferred back to North Texas.

 His great passion was the Epworth League, and he wrote the constitution for the State League.  He was a delegate to General Conference, and Southwestern University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. 

The eccentric banker was E. G. Patten, President of Union Bank and Trust of Dallas.  Here’s how one reporter described the benefactor

During his life he was to be seen at only one of three places; his home, his bank, or his church.  Wherever he went. . .he carried a small black bag, similar to a surgeon’s bag.  He never permitted it to leave his side, and no one, not even his wife, knew what it contained. 

His acquaintance with Dr. Hill dated back more than twenty-five years.  Known as a man who would exact the last penny of interest on a note in a business deal, he was always first to contribute to a church work or to help the poor.   Dr. Patten would not give a nickel  to help any public movement other than religious or charitable, and these he subscribed more than any other on the list.

Another fad of Dr. Patten was the education of young men and women.  Sixty-nine graduates of colleges and universities owe their education to Dr. Patten, and more than 100 young men were secured lucrative positions with banks or other substantial business houses through his influence.  The condition on which Dr. Patten secured these places was the consideration that the applicant was a Sunday School member and neither used tobacco nor liquor.    Many prominent business men of Dallas and vicinity got their first positions through Dr. Patten.

Becoming interested in the work of Dr. Hill, Dr. Patten decided to make him one of his heirs.  In telling Dr. Hill of his decision,  Dr. Patten said, “ I have been successful as a moneymaker.  You are successful as a preacher.  You have never made or tried to make a dollar in your life, and you should not be expected to try.   Your work is to save souls and gather men into a better life.  I am going to see that you are comfortable in your old age.  It is the least I can do.”

Dr. Patten imposed a condition on Dr. Hill that he visit him when on his deathbed, close his eyes, and preach his funeral sermon.  These conditions were religiously fulfilled by Dr. Hill and with the settlement of the estate last week he entered into the possession of his inheritance.

Dr. Hill lived four more years.  He died at Honey Grove was buried at Oakland Cemetery, about a mile south of Fair Park in Dallas.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  August 18

Methodist Imposter Exposed at Bryan, August 19, 1878

C. F. Grant had a good thing going as a travelling evangelist.  He had completed a protracted meeting for the Methodists in Waco and moved down the Brazos to Bryan.  Unfortunately for “Rev.” Grant one of the congregational members in Bryan was a certain Mr. Draper who recognized Grant from his travels in Canada.  The problem was that he recognized Grant as George Holmes, a Baptist preacher who had abandoned his wife and children and absconded with $200 not belonging to him. 

One would think that such a revelation would bring Holmes-Grant to ruin in Bryan, but the man must have been the consummate slick talker—at least he talked his way out of this jam.
He started by admitting that Draper was right—his real name was Holmes and that he had left his wife and children in Canada, but for good cause, and he had left funds for their support and left property enough to cover the $200  he took.  He admitted that it had been wrong to hold evangelistic meetings for five or six years under an assumed name, but said that he had gone too far to turn back and preach under his real name. 

He then said that his current wife who was travelling with him knew nothing of his previous life.  Holmes claimed he married her 7 months after the first wife died.

  He left town with the new wife who was never told why they were leaving so quickly, but Bryanites continued to be divided in their opinions about the fraud.  Here’s how the News reported it.

Some say he is a fraud, while others (and they seem to be in the majority) sympathize with and are ready to excuse him, saying they believe him to be a true Christian and are ready to subscribe money to bring him back.  Taken all in all, the cause of religion here is not hurt by this showing up; but to say the least of it, if Mr. Grant is a fraud, the people should know it, but if not be, he ought to face the music and clear it up.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 11

Texas Conference Preacher Eulogized as “One of the Best Men in the World”  August 15, 1929

Upon learning of the death of the Rev. W. W. Watts, the editor of the Mineola Monitor, R. H. Carraway, called the deceased “one of the best preachers in Texas, and one of the best men in the world.”

Carraway then related that he had known Rev. Watts for about thirty years and told of the preacher’s extraordinary generosity.  One incident illustrated that generosity. At one of his pastorates Watts was called to the death bed of a woman with 7 children.  Her husband had died without property.  The woman could see that she was about to join her husband in death.  She told Watts, “If you promise to take my children, I can die in peace.”  Watts assured her that he would.  The mother then died, and W. W. Watts kept his word.  He adopted the 7 children, one of whom was an infant. 

Wilson Woodrough Watts was born in Georgia in 1861.  In 1891 he was admitted on trial into the East Texas Conference of the MECS and was appointed to the Marshall Mission and then the  Garrison Circuit.  He went from there to Orange, Beaumont First, and then volunteered as a chaplain in the 1st Texas Regiment in the Spanish American War.  He came back from the chaplaincy to Longview, Nacogdoches, Marlin, Jacksonville, Houston Tabernacle, Pittsburg, and back to Orange.  His last appointment was Presiding Elder of the Beaumont District, and in 1923 became Conference Mission Secretary. 

The seven orphan children from one family were not the only children in the family.  Mrs. Watts (the former Lillie Blalock) had four children of their own, and in addition to the 7 orphan children from one family, they adopted, reared, and educated nine more orphans for a total of 20 children.  Mrs. Watts (born 1872 in Harrison Co.) died in 1912 while they living in Pittsburg.  W. W. Watts then had sole responsibility for the children.  How could he do it?  He obviously needed a great deal of help.  Watts solicited funds from wealthy parishioners to help him carry on this work of taking orphaned children into the parsonage and providing for their sustenance and education.

When death finally came, it was at the home of his daughter Martha in Thomasville, Georgia.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 4

Epworth League Encampment 1908 (Continued)

Last week’s column told the story of Ruby Kendrick, a missionary from the North Texas  Conference to Korea, whose death was announced at the North Texas Conference League Meeting in the summer of 1908.  That column related how the State Epworth League raised funds for a memorial stone and scholarship.  Here is more about the state meeting at which those events occurred.

The Corpus Christi Weekly Caller gave a front page spread to the opening of the Texas Epworth League Meeting on August 6, 1908.  The event was newsworthy as thousands of young Methodists made their way through Corpus Christi to the encampment on the beach. 

In no time a small city of tents was created.  That city had regular rail passenger service, a post office, barbershop, hospital tent, restaurant, and all the other amenities the campers needed. 

The full schedule from Thursday night through Sunday night was published in the Caller.  It reveals that some of the big names in Southern Methodism were on the program.  There were two bishops, Key and Hendrix; two future bishops, Hay and Ainsworth; and prominent preachers including John Barcus and George Rankin.  The Ruby Kendrick Memorial service that resulted in the generous outpouring of mission support was led by the Rev. Frank Onderdonk, famous for his Mexican Mission work. 

You may read the whole schedule and see images of the League leaders at