Saturday, July 19, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   July 20

Webster Hosts Coast Country Sunday School Convention   July 22, 1899

The agricultural development of the Gulf Coastal Plain of Texas in the latter decades of the 19th century coincided with the heyday of the Sunday School Movement.    Sunday schools, or “Sabbath Schools” had been an important feature of Methodism since its English origins.  In much of 19th century Texas churches would have preaching only once per month, but would have Sunday School every Sunday, thus helping to hold the congregation together between the infrequent visits of the circuit rider.  Denominational publishing houses such as the MECS concern at Nashville, Tennessee, depended upon Sunday School literature sales to keep the doors open and the editors of Sunday School materials achieved considerable stature in the denomination.  At the local level, the office of Sunday School Superintendent became one of the most respected in the community.  Many obituaries from the period list years of service as SS Superintendent as one of the proudest achievements of the deceased.

The enthusiasm for Sunday Schools was not limited to Methodism.  There were local, state, national, and international interdenominational Sunday School unions.  One of their continuing influences was the publication of generic Sunday School lesson books that were acceptable to union Sunday Schools. Interdenominational Sunday School organizations also provided training sessions.    Here is an example of one local meeting held at Webster on July 22, 1899.

This usually quiet town today wore a holiday aspect and from early morning until noon the influx of visitors from adjacent coast country towns continued until there was good sized assemblage.  The occasion was the semi-annual meeting of the Coast Country Sunday School Association.  The services were held in the Presbyterian Church and an instructive and entertaining program was given.  A bountiful basket dinner was provided, which was served at the spacious residence of Captain Sam King, near the church.  Delegations were present from Alvin, Dickinson, Friendswood, Pasadena, and League City.  The next meeting will be held in League City in January, 1900.  Here is appended the program which was carried out

Devotional Exercise led by Rev. Russell# of League City.
Welcome by Mrs. G. C. Van Demark@ of Webster.
Response by J. T. Williams of Hitchcock, W. L. Shoemaker, League City.
“What Evidence Have We of the Progress of Sunday School Work?”  D. S. Anderson, Dickinson, L. L. Shirley*, Alvin.
“The Importance of Teachers and Students Taking an Active Interest in the Work of Superintendents and Making Kindly Suggestions as to Methods,”    Rev. Herrington%, Alta Loma,  T. H. Lewis&, Friendswood.
Business Session
Basket Dinner
Afternoon session—Song Service led by T. J. Steels, Alta Loma
“The True Aim of the Sunday Schools,” Rev. Breed, Arcadia,  J. W. Thompson, Webster,
“A Successful Teacher,”  Rev. Thos. Hickling, Webster
Election of Officers
Question Box. 

#John. L. Russell (c. 1858-1936) Methodist pastor at League City, 1898-1901
@ Mother of Harry Van Dusen Van Demark, prominent editor, publisher, journalist, author in Houston.
%  J. S. Herrington, Presbyterian pastor at both Alta Loma and Alvin.
& T. H. Lewis was one of the Quaker founders of Friendswood in 1895
*L. L. Shirley (1841-1910) had been president of Granbury Institute, an MECS School in Hood County.  He had a land development company in Alvin and in 1900 became vice-president of the MEC college in Alvin. 


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