Saturday, July 05, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   July 6

John Hanner Recommends Fountain Pitts as Head of Texian Mission  

July 10, 1838

Martin Ruter’s death in May 1838 did nothing to discourage other Methodist preachers from volunteering for Texas.  It actually had the opposite effect.  Ruter was extremely well known in Methodist circles, especially throughout the Ohio Valley because of service as Book Agent in Cincinnati for eight years.     

As most readers of this column already know, Littleton Fowler was appointed head of mission to take Ruter’s place until Texas was attached to the Mississippi Conference in December 1838.  In the months immediately following Ruter’s death, several preachers floated ideas for the direction the Texian Mission should take, none more interesting than the suggestion that Fountain E. Pitts be named as Ruter’s replacement. 

Fountain Elliot Pitts was born in Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1808.  Bishop Roberts ordained him deacon in 1826 and Bishop Soule in 1828, both in the Kentucky Conference.  He was elected a delegate to the General Conference of 1832 (note his extreme youth when elected—He was only 23 years old at the time.)   He was later elected a delegate to every other General Conference (save one—1866) for the rest of his life.  

Pitts became known to the entire denomination when in 1835 he was selected to establish Methodist missions in South America—specifically Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.  His greatest success was in Buenos Aires, and he returned to Kentucky in 1836.  

 He attained the rank of Colonel in the 81st Tennessee and participated in the Battle Vicksburg, alternately preaching and fighting thereby earning the sobriquet “the Fighting Parson.”   

Pitts died during the 1874 General Conference of the MECS at Louisville where his first funeral service was conducted in Walnut Street church.  His body was then loaded on the railroad and sent to Nashville.   The Advocate requested mourners to meet the train at the Nashville station and process to McKendree Church for a second funeral before his interment in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.  

Here is a portion of Hanner’s letter to Fowler recommending Pitts

Ten[nessee,] Franklin July 9th 1838
My Beloved Fowler
The Quarterly Meeting here has just closed. Brother Pitts was present. We had a talk about going to Texas as missionaries. Your pressing appeal to Bro. [Robert] Paine, in behalf of this cause, calling for Pitts as a laborer drew his attention, and enlisted his feelings. This morning he mailed a letter to Rev. N[athan] Bangs, stating that if no appointment has been made in view of the vacancy occasioned by Dr. Ruter’s death, he & myself were willing and ready to go in company to that Republic as missionaries, at any time. We concluded that you had written to the appointing power, recommending certain persons, perhaps Pitts, among the rest. He requested Bangs to answer him immediately, perhaps he will get it in Aug. If we are appointed, we think of leaving our families here, for the first six, or twelve months, until we can get something of a home for them there. We believe that Texas is destined, at no distant day, to become one of the first countries on the globe. Bro. Fowler, you know that it is important to have such man as Fountain E. [Pitts] in that country so soon as practicable…
 Pitts is the man to carry out such plans, in conjunction with yourself & others of the same stamp. He speaks Spanish you know; and has an eye to Mexico. Perhaps, God intends through Texas, to plant the gospel amid the dulusions[sic] of that old Country*

*The idea that Texas would be the launching pad for evangelizing Mexico continued for a very long time and resulted in the establishment of a series of mission schools along the Texas Mexico border.  


Post a Comment

<< Home