Saturday, May 17, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 18

Distinguished Texas Politician Accepts Christ; Homer Thrall Administers Sacrament of Holy Communion, May 1846

George Whitfield Terrell, one of the most distinguished politicians of the Republic of Texas, lay dying in Dieterich’s Hotel in Austin in May 1846.  He less than 45 years old, but had served in the administrations of all of the presidents of the Republic, Houston, Lamar, and Jones.  He was not a member of a church.  His newspaper obituary called him ”a practical Christian.”  He asked his friends to summon the Methodist preacher, Homer Thrall, to his hotel room, and there Terrell accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior and asked Thrall to administer the sacrament of Holy Communion.  Thrall complied with the request on a Friday in May, and the following Monday, Terrell succumbed to the pulmonary disease afflicting him.

Terrell had been born in Kentucky in 1803.  His family moved to Tennessee when he was young, and he was admitted to the Tennessee Bar. Sam Houston, then Governor of Tennessee, appointed him to the post of District Attorney when he was only 25 and then elevated him to the post of Attorney General of Tennessee.  He was the occupant of that post when Sam Houston resigned the governorship.  

Terrell then served in the Tennessee Legislature from 1829 to 1836. He moved to Mississippi but didn’t stay there long.  In 1837 he moved to Texas.  President Lamar appointed him District Judge of the San Augustine District in 1840.  In December 1841 when Sam Houston began his second term as President, he appointed him Attorney General of the Republic of Texas.  In an interesting coincidence, Terrell succeeded Francis Asbury Morris, the son of Bishop Thomas A. Morris, as Attorney General for the Republic of Texas. 

In 1842 Terrell shifted from law to diplomacy when Houston appointed him Indian Commissioner.  It was Terrell who negotiated the Treaty of Bird’s Fort with nine Indian tribes in 1843.  In December 1844 he was appointed charge d’affaires from the Republic to France, Great Britain, and Spain.  He thus became the point man for Texas in promoting commerce and immigration from much of Europe.  

With the prospect of annexation looming, Texas would no longer need a diplomat in Europe so Terrell returned to his Texas where President Anson Jones made him Indian Commissioner again.

Terrell was in Austin tending to official business when he became ill.  According to the obituary, after Homer Thrall administered communion,  Terrell “expressed his strong confidence in God and his willingness to die—His last moments were spent in prayer to God. He constantly prayed that he might die calm.  His prayer was granted.”   

Homer Thrall preached his funeral sermon.  Terrell left behind a widow and two children.


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