This Week in Texas Methodist History September 29
Tennessee Annual Conference Meets—Sends Four Missionaries to Texas October 3, 1838
Tennessee was one of the most important source regions for
immigration to Texas
during Mexican rule and during the Republic.
There were well-known Tennesseans such as Davy Crockett and former
Tennessee Governor Sam Houston. There
were also many less prominent residents of Tennessee who came as farmers, merchants,
and even Methodist preachers. Some of
the motivation for immigration came from the Panic of 1837 which created
economic difficulties for many Tennessee
farmers. The initials GTT (Gone to Texas) were chalked on
many cabin doors in the state.
The Tennessee Annual Conference convened on
October 3, 1838 in Huntsville, Alabama,
and provided a much-needed boost to the
missionary forces in Texas. Littleton
Fowler, Jesse Hord, Isaac L. G. (Ike) Strickland, and S. A.
Williams all transferred from the Tennessee Conference to the Texian
Mission of the Mississippi Conference. The
previous summer the MEC bishops decided to take the Texian Mission from the
Board of Missions and give it to the Mississippi Annual Conference—thus necessitating
the transfers into the Mississippi Conference.
The Mississippi Annual Conference did not
meet until the first week of December.
There was no bishop present, but the minutes reveal the following
appointments to the Texan Mission.
Littleton Fowler, Presiding Elder
Abel Stevens, Houston
S. A. Williams, Nacogdoches
R. Alexander and I.
L. G. Strickland, Washington
Jesse Hoard (sic), Montgomery
J. P. Snead (sic), Brazoria
Sneed was already a member of the Mississippi
Conference. Stevens was a member of the
New England Conference. His most recent appointment
was Providence, RI.,
This Week in Texas Methodist History September 22
Methodist Student Federation Officers Meet in
Fort Worth, September, 1924
Methodist students from eleven Texas institutions
(McMurry, SMU, University of Texas, Lon Morris College, Texas A&M, Sam
Houston State Teachers’ College, East Texas State Teachers’ College, North
Texas State Teachers’ College, Texas Women’s College. College
of Industrial Arts and Southwestern University)
met for five days at a campground on Lake
Worth at the beginning of the 1924-1925 academic
year. They were all officers in
Methodist organizations on their home campuses.
Their planning retreat happened to include
September 12, and that coincidence provided hours of late-night discussion for
the college students. September 12 was
the date chosen by the War Department as “National Defense Day,” in which all
regular army units and National Guard units engaged in practice
mobilization. There was no imminent (or
even long range) threat and the event was mainly a gimmick to honor General J.
J. Pershing who had announced his retirement for Sept. 13.
those of us who have lived in the post-1941 militarized world of standing
armies and huge military appropriations, such a mobilization doesn't seem
controversial. Attitudes in 1924 were
different. The horrors of World War I
were a painful, recent memory. All over
the world were young men whose missing limbs, blindness, scarred lungs, and
shell shock (the old term for PTSD) were a constant reminder of the insanity of
In 1924 historians and other interpreters
were trying to make sense of the Great War.
Almost all the interpreters agreed that one of the most important causes
of the war was militarization, including increasing armaments and frequent
mobilization of forces. The “Guns of
August” had been preceded by military maneuvers and practice mobilizations by
the European armies.
The Methodist college students attending the
Methodist Student Federation in 1924 were too young to have fought in the war,
but during their formative years they had been bombarded with war news. It is little wonder that many of them studied
the Gospels and dedicated themselves to working for world peace.
With such historical memory it is little
wonder that National Defense Day generated opposition not just from idealistic
college students, but also from a wide swath of the population. The governors of Maine,
all publicly denounced National Defense Day.
Governor Sweet of Colorado even refused to issue orders so the
Colorado National Guard could participate.
Governor Al Smith of New York
wavered and finally agreed to include his state’s National Guard. He also asked the public to go to church and
pray for goodwill among nations. Religious
bodies, including the Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference of 1924,
passed resolutions against National Defense Day.
One of the retreat speakers was Jack Doty, an
assistant history professor from SMU.
His lecture was “Christianity in International Relations.” In
Nov. 1919 Doty and fellow student George Thomas were named the first Rhodes
Scholars from SMU. Doty was thus speaking as one with European experience. Since Doty’s lecture was held on National
Defense Day, the discussion that followed focused on the event. Although no resolution was offered, the
reporter covering the event wrote that the group felt that the event should not
have been held.
Methodist college students of 1924 had lived
through heady times. They had seen
Christian progressivism triumph with the prohibition of alcohol. They had seen women get the vote in both
civic elections and elections for General Conference delegates. Many had devoured the works of Social Gospel
writers such as Charles Monroe Sheldon and Walter Rauschenbusch. The next compelling crusade seemed to be
peace.—a vital religion demanded it, and they were ready to give their lives
for the cause.
As I wrote this blog, I was reminded of my link to the student idealism
of the era through my aunt and uncle, the Rev. Charles and Ruby Hardt. They lived out the gospel through a life of
missionary service to war-torn Europe and pastoral ministry in the West Texas and then Southwest Texas Conference. Among their other contributions to the cause
of world peace is an endowment administered by the Southwest Texas Conference
intended to promote the issues at the core of Jesus’ teachings—peace
Methodist History September 15
Texas Methodists Mourn Slain President September 19, 1901
On September 14, 1901, the United States
was plunged into mourning by the assassination of its president. William McKinley was the third president
in 36 years to fall before an assassin’s bullet.
Governor Sayers proclaimed Sept. 19 as the
official day of mourning in Texas
and asked that businesses close between 11:00 and 1:00 that day so that communities
could hold joint memorial services.
Since William McKinley was a Methodist, and Methodist churches often had
the largest seating capacity of any church in town, Methodist churches all over
Texas were filled on 11:00 a.m.on September 19, 1901.
The main memorial service was in the Texas
State Capitol. Governor Sayers presided,
and the venerable John Reagan gave the principal eulogy. Reagan and McKinley had served in the U. S.
Congress together and developed a personal friendship in spite of their
partisan differences. Among his remarks,
Reagan said, “If we have to have a Republican president, I’m glad it was
The Houston Post reported on services throughout
the state, at Bellville, Caldwell, Eagle Pass, Bryan, Jefferson,
Wortham, Fort Worth,
and so on. Each service began at 11:00
and featured prayer, a psalm, and usually a memorial oration from some local
politician. The favorite hymns used in
the services included, Nearer, My God to
Thee; Lead, Kindly Light; and It Is
Well With My Soul.
The services were union, or what we would
call today, “interfaith.” Houston services were held in the Methodist church whose
pastor Sam Hay introduced the pastor of First Baptist
Church who gave the main
address. In Palestine Rabbi Weiss participated. Such unity did not extend to race. African Americans and whites held separate
Each community also gave the service some
particular twist. In Fort Worth
Confederate and Union veterans sat together.
Most communities appointed a committee to write resolutions which were
read at the services. In Brenham, there was a 21 gun salute fired at
a city park. In La Porte the Grand Army of the Republic (a
Union veterans organization) marched from their hall to the Methodist
church. McKinley was also a veteran of
the Civil War.
McKinley’s Methodism was very much part of
his public persona. One of his most
difficult decisions was whether to annex the Philippines after the Spanish
American War. In a widely-quoted
passage, McKinley related how he prayed over the decision and then decided that
the United States
had an obligation to Christianize the Filipinos (ignoring their Roman Catholic
McKinley’s legacy has been overshadowed by
his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, and his principal political opponent,
William Jennings Bryan. The flamboyant
TR and the “Great Commoner” have been more attractive subjects for historians
and biographers. There are some
historians, however, who have tried to elevate McKinley’s status in our
historical consciousness. Historians of U. S. foreign policy point out that it was
during his administration that the United States acquired its overseas
empire and thus became a major imperial power. Political historians point out that in 1896 McKinley
ushered in a new era of presidential campaigning. His manager, Mark Hanna, raised large amounts
of corporate cash and used that money to buy favorable press coverage. Imperialism
and the influence of corporate money on the political process—Maybe McKinley
was the first modern U. S.
This Week in Texas Methodist History September 8
C. L. Ballard Provides Ammunition Against
“Evangelistic Marauders,” September 10, 1903
As last week’s column noted, the turn of the
20th century was probably the high tide of revivalism in
Methodism. Some Methodists thought it unfair that members of other denominations snatched recent converts into their churches after being saved at Methodist meetings.
It may have been true that persons converted
in the emotional atmosphere of a revival may have been theologically naïve and
subject to persuasion by other denominational arguments and must have presented
tempting targets to stalwarts of other denominations.
C. L. Ballard of Sherman thought that recent converts could be
kept in the Methodist church if they had proper instruction in the tenets of
Methodism. Accordingly he wrote and
self-published a series of books to help the recent convert see the truth of
He placed the following advertisement in the
Texas Christian Advocate, September
You will need . . .to drive away the
ecclesiastical marauders who hang around our protracted meetings to proselytize
our young converts and church members.
Half our converts are lost to us because they are not taught our
doctrine. This stealing should be
stopped. There is but one way to do
it. Indoctrinate our young people and
shoot the thief. We furnish the guns and
ammunition at a small cost and those who have tried these guns say that they
Dynamite; or Immersion Exploded
by the Way; or Apostasy Proven
Polity of the Church Vindicated; or The Itinerancy Contrasted with
Hammer on Baptist Succession; or The Unbroken Chain Broken.
All available for $1.30 post paid to C. L.
Ballard, Sherman, Texas.