This Week in Texas Methodist History April 27
Isaac M. Williams Reports on Church Conditions at Matagorda, April 30, 1844
Grace of God, live or die, sink or swim.”
The most significant ministerial recruiting
trip in Texas Methodist history was Littleton Fowler’s 1842 visit to Ohio. By 1842 Fowler needed a break. He arrived in Texas
in 1837 and shouldered much of the responsibility of establishing Methodism in
the Republic of Texas.
From Ruter’s death in May, 1838 to December of that year, he was head of
the Texian Mission. In Dec. 1838 Texas was added to the
Mississippi Conference, and he was a Presiding Elder. He also married and was in the process of establishing
a farmstead. It was time for a break.
Accordingly he took an appointment as Agent
for Wesleyan College.
Fowler was an experienced agent (fund raiser) since he had volunteered
for Texas while agent for LaGrange College. Freed of the responsibility of holing
quarterly meetings, Fowler could take extended trips.
In 1842 he went north to attend annual
conferences and to recruit volunteers for Texas pulpits. His most spectacular success was at the Ohio
Annual Conference where a veritable stampede of volunteers supplied Texas with some of its
most able preachers—Homer Thrall, John W. Devilbiss, Daniel Poe, Wilbur
Thurber, William O’Connor, and Richard Walker all volunteered.
Fowler then travelled to the North Ohio
Annual Conference where his efforts were less successful—only one volunteer,
Isaac M. Williams—transferred to Texas.
In April 1844 Williams was serving in
Matagorda, on a circuit that had been organized by Jesse Hord just five years
before. Like Hord, Williams suffered
from the rigors of trying to travel on the Gulf Coastal Prairie. He wrote Fowler the following
journey to this place was one of toil and weariness. My feelings and scenery
were uniform in their monotony and being naturally of a gloomy cast by the time
I arrived at my field of labor my feelings were any thing but enviable.
found the Circuit in a bad state or in other words no state at all. However I
trust I have gone to work in the right way in both senses in spirit
& in manner.
circuit is 180 miles round, this I travel in three weeks—
preaching 12 times. I
have made 1/2 station of [this] town preaching [p. 2] here two Sabbaths in
succession out of three. Another of my appointments is on the Peninsular which
I visit every 3 weeks & preach 2 or 3 times when there. I go in a small
open sail boat. ’Tis about 30 miles. I think I shall organize a society there.
You may judge of my feelings when I affirm there is not a [at this place
Williams drew a pointing finger] local Preacher Ex[?] or class leader in the
bounds of my work! And but one class and had much preferred the non-existence
of this. Through the negligence of the ministers of last year ’tis on the
direct route to anihilation.
is one of the most slavishly disagreeable countries I ever travelled. ’Tis so
low and flat that an ordinary rain will completely inundate for miles. Here I
go splash -- -- -- until by way of change my horse plunges a clear over and all
under in one of those slews too common in the prairie country. Getting
lost—sleeping out doors without [illegible]—swimming creeks, etc. are no longer
to me rarieties. Notwithstanding all this I am encouraged. The people are kind
and thankfully accept my labors and [page 3] by the grace of God, live or die,
sink or swim, I am in for a revival. Pray for me.
In addition to the difficulties of climate
and topography, Matagorda was an Episcopal stronghold. Williams reported coolness on the part of the
Episcopal priest, Caleb Ives. Ives, the
first duly appointed Episcopal priest to Texas
already had a church building and academy in Matagorda when Williams
After the division of Texas into Eastern and Western Annual
Conferences, Williams transferred to the Eastern Texas Conference and thus
traded the coastal plains for the Piney Woods.