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.


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