Friday, September 26, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 28

Tennessee Conference Meets, Four Preachers Transfer to the Texas Mission, October 3, 1838

Many Texans are aware of the close relationship between Texas and Tennessee.  Many famous Texans including Davey Crockett and Sam Houston, were Tennesseans, as well as numerous lesser known immigrants.  It should come as not surprise that Methodists were well represented in the Tennessee-Texas connection. 

On October 3, 1838, the Tennessee Annual Conference met in Huntsville, Alabama.  The conference at that time included northern Alabama.  When the appointments were read, the brothers and sisters found that four of its members were transferred to the Texas Mission.    Three of the transfers, Isaac L. G. Strickland, Jesse Hord, and Samuel Williams, were finishing their first year as full elders, having been in the same ordination class at the 1837 Annual Conference.  At the 1837 conference Williams had been appointed to Trenton, and Hord and Strickland, who were already good friends and served in the same district 1837/38, Hord at Memphis and Strickland at LaGrange, TN.  Fowler’s appointment had been as agent for LaGrange College in northern Alabama, but had volunteered for Texas the prior year. 

Hord and Strickland traveled together.  They went by way of Memphis, Little Rock, Benton, and Hot Springs.  Instead of staying on the well-marked road to the Red River Crossing at Fulton, they struck out  to go through Louisiana where Hord had brother.  They became so lost that they had to hire a guide who took them to Washington, Arkansas, where the Arkansas Annual Conference was in session. They finally reached Gaines Ferry on November 29—about 6 weeks after they started their travels.  They stayed in San Augustine where both Fowler and Williams were also staying.  On December 17 Fowler met with the three other transfers and assigned them as follows:   Williams to San Augustine,  Strickland to a huge circuit between the Trinity and Brazos Rivers from about Spring Creek in Harris County as far north as he could find settlements.  Hord also received a huge circuit—all the coastal settlements from Houston to Victoria. 

As more recruits arrived from the United State, Fowler was able to reduce the size of the circuits.  He reunited Strickland and Hord by having them share the huge coastal circuit. 

Strickland was the first of the four to die.  The coastal circuit was extremely unhealthy.  He died on July 2, 1839---less than a year after the October 1838 Annual Conference at which he volunteered for Texas.  Fowler was next.  He died in January, 1846.  Williams went on to a distinguished career as preacher, presiding elder, and even presiding officer of the annual conference when the bishop did not arrive.  He died in 1866 at the age of 56  and is buried in San Augustine.  Hord was the only one to live into old age.  In the months before his death he contributed memoirs to the Advocate.  Those memoirs constitute an important resource for the study of Texas Methodist history.

Friday, September 19, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 21

September 23, 1838   John Wesley Kenney Begins Survey of Rutersville

Within a few months of Martin Ruter’s death in May, 1838, Texas Methodists formed a town corporation to create a Methodist community named in his honor.  The incorporators of the town saw their work as an extension of Ruter’s because the centerpiece of the town would be a Methodist school.  Education was Ruter’s great passion.  He had taught and written text books, and had even resigned a college presidency to come to Texas. 

There were conflicting ideas about where the college should be located.  David Ayres accompanied Ruter from Indiana to Texas and he believed that Ruter favored a location near his residence in Center Hill.  Another possibility was Independence where the Baptists did establish a school or Bastrop, a fine city on the Colorado which had already attracted some Methodist settlers. 

The trustees, instead opted for a relatively unpopulated league on the La Bahia Road (usually spelled in contemporary letters as “Labadee.”)

The signers of the town charter on June 25 were  Robert Alexander, A. P. Manly, F. W. Hubert, Charles B. Howard, Franklin Lewis, Robert Chappell, Lindsay Rucker, and J. W. LeMaster.    The provisions of the charter prohibited the sale of lots to anyone who planned to erect an establishment that sold alcohol or allowed gambling.  Robert Alexander described the land as follows, 

We have good water running the length of the league, high undulating prairie, cedar & oak on the land and splendid pine convenient say, 5 miles.

On September 23, John Wesley Kenney, who then held the post of County Surveyor for Austin County, one county to the east of the tract in Fayette County began subdividing the league into parcels most of which were 30 acres, five acres, or town lots.  Although Texans had won their independence from Mexico, Kenney was using  the old Spanish system of town surveying for Rutersville.  The different sizes were intended to be used for different purposes.  The town lots were intended for businesses, and possibly residences.  The five acre lots were considered residential.  Five acres was large enough for a house, garden, orchards and outbuildings such as corn cribs and animal sheds.  The thirty acre lots were intended for corn and cotton, and the usual pattern in Texas at the time was for purchasers to purchase non-contiguous lots for this purpose so that everyone in the community would end up with parcels possessing different characteristics.  For example one 30 acre tract might be wooded and exploited for construction materials and firewood.  Another parcel might be prairie and good for crops. 

The Fayette County tax rolls for 1840 exist and show that of the signers of the town charter only Alexander, Manly, and LeMaster owned town lots.  The town company had been successful in selling much of the league, but the tax rolls show that several were unsold and under the agency of John Rabb, who also acted as agent for several absentee lot owners. 

The original hope was to open two academies by April, 1839 (male and female), and then have the male academy grow into a “collage” as soon as practicable.  In actuality Rutersville College opened in January, 1840, received its charter from the Republic of Texas in February, and in December provided the site for the organization of the Texas Conference. 

Neither the town nor the college prospered, but Rutersville’s charter is the basis for Southwestern University’s claim as the oldest institution of higher education in Texas. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   September 14

Caney Creek Camp Meeting  Participants, (continued)

William Medford,   (b. c. 1789 d. 1841 at Piney, Austin Co., Texas) Received On Trial 1818 into Missouri Conference and appointed to Harrison, IN.  1819/20 appointed to Jessup, Lawrence Co., Ark. Served Vanderburgh County, Illinois in 1823. 1828  appointed to Schuyler Circuit, Illinois.  Bangs says he located in 1827.  Phelan says he located in 1830.  He came to Texas in 1833—First to Chappell Hill where he opened a four point circuit(his house, ( Walker’s, Cooper’s on Mill Creek, and Clockey’s) Deed filed 12 Oct 1837 from Thomas Bell to Medford for 300 acres in Nichols Survey west of Piney Creek where he now lives. (emphasis added) Was Assistant County Clerk and notary for Austin County and in that capacity signed many of the documents relating to land distribution in Austin County.  Texas State Library and Archives has Gibson Kuykendall’s affidavit that Medford enlisted in the Texian Army on March 1, 1836 and was discharged due to age on the 10th or 15th of April, 1836.  300 acre site in Nichols Survey contained a camp meeting ground. In 1840 renders 3 cattle for taxes. His burial on that property in 1841 led to the present-day Medford (a.k.a. Jeff Cemetery in Bellville)  Rabb memoir says  both Medford and Babbitt disgraced themselves 18 months after 1834 camp meeting

Elizabeth Medford, There are references to Elizabeth Medford keeping boarders after the death of William on 23 May 1841.  She later David Ayres of Galveston power of attorney to “attend to my business in Texas during my absence.”  That business includes division of headright between claimants and heirs and also to sell homestead  of 148 acres  to educate 3 infant children.  Instrument is witnessed by Rufus Campbell (Ayres’ son-in-law) Eliza Alexander (Ayres’ daughter) and George Rottenstess (probably George Rottenstein, a Methodist Preacher)  Elizabeth is still alive 12 Sept 1855 when Benjamin Cheek swears before Zimri Hunt, acting as notary that she is surviving widow of William Medford.

John Rabb, ( b. Fayette Co., PA, 1 Jan 1798 d. Travis County TX 5 Jun 1861)  Was one of Old 300 in Texas by 1822 after living in Ohio, Illinois, and Jonesboro, Arkansas. Received land in Austin and Fort Bend Co., and lived near San Felipe, but settled at Rabb’s Prairie in Fayette Co., Active supporter of Rutersville College.  Was treasurer in 1840. Moved to Barton Springs where he died. Has letter in TWB Oct. 5, 1850 describing early years in Texas, hosting Henry Stephenson in 1824, etc

Note that Rabb and Kenney were both born in Fayette County, PA,

Elizabeth Scott,  (b. circa 1785 Buncombe Co., NC d. 1842 Burleson Co., TX), Widow of Joseph Scott (born 1789 Va. ;died 1832 in Gay Hill, Washington Co.) who preached in area. Children (nine sons, no daughters)were born in Maury, TN and Florence, AL, Sneed says was from TN.  Elizabeth Chapel UMC in Burleson County is named for her according to historical marker on site. 

James Walker  (Orange Co., VA, 1756 d. Washington Co., TX 1837) Married Catherine Miller 09 September 1783 in Greenbrier Co., VA. Previous residences included Madison, Cumberland, and Wayne Counties, KY (two of these locations had been on circuits served by Barnabas McHenry) Moved to Texas in 1824 and claimed land in central Washington County.  His house on New Year’s Creek was a preaching point on William Medford’s circuit.  They were members of Old 300. James and Catherine Walker had fifteen or fourteen children.  They suffered losses during the Runaway Scrape.  James and Catherine emancipated slaves 14 June 1836.  They were the oldest members of the class and lived only about 10 miles north of the camp site.  Their house still exists. 

Dudley and Bethia White, (both born in GA, circa 1804) They came to Texas in Feb., 1827, received a two league grant on present Waller-Grimes County line adjacent to Benjamin Babbit’s in 1831.  They had eight children.  Dudley went to California during the Gold Rush.  The family received several letters, then they quit coming.  He presumably died in California. 

If the reader has particular interest in any one of the persons or others on the class list, please contact me.  Corrections are most welcome.

Friday, September 05, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   September 7

Class List from Caney, September 8, 1834

In one of the most important footnotes in Homer Thrall’s History of Methodism in Texas,
 he says
The original class-paper, in Mr. Kinney’s handwriting, lies before us, dated September 8th,
and contains the following names:  John W. Kinney, Mariah L. Kinney, Lydia A. McHenry, 
John Rabb,
 James Walker, Catherine Walker, Wm. Medford, Elizabeth Medford, John Ingram, John
Amelia Stephenson, B. Babbitt, Dudley J. White, Henry Whitesides, Laura J. Whitesides,
 Rachel Dever, 
Eliza Alford, Elizabeth Scott, Malinda Bargely, Catherine Bargely, Demaris Stephenson,
 Priscilla Chandler,
 Mary Huff,  Thomas Bell, Abigail Day, Bethel White. 
The class had been formed as a result of the camp meeting that Henry Stephenson 
and John Kenney l
ed near Kenney’s residence in what is today northern Austin County (Caney Creek 
forms much of th
e boundary between Austin and Washington Counties.).  Thrall also claims that
 on the Sunday night 
of the meeting the sacrament of Holy Communion was performed for the first time 
in Austin’s Colony.  
The “class” has been explained in a previous post (see post for Aug. 24).   
The identities of the persons 
named is of great interest so this week’s and next week'
Benjamin Babbitt    Admitted OT in Missouri Conference, 1831, appointed to 
Missouri in St. Louis 
District. In 1832 remained OT and appointed to Lexington Circuit in Missouri District. 
Thrall describes 
as “who once travelled in Kentucky.”  Married Sally Allen, in Austin County, 
May 14, 1833 according to
 Austin County Marriage Records.  First land grant was ¼ league on present
 Waller/Grimes County line 
adjacent to Dudley White with whom he seems to have been associated. 
His marriage entitled him to 
another grant which was issued October 3, 1835 on north side of Mill Creek, 
west of Cummins Hacienda.
 (Encompasses western part of present-day Bellville, and would have placed
 him near Thomas and
 James Bell residence.  Supposedly died in Arkansas in 1837.  Cousin of Carlisle
 Babbitt of Kentucky
 Conference and named a son Carlisle.  Rabb letter to TWB October 5, 1850
 says he and Medford 
disgraced themselves eighteen months after camp meeting.  James Stephenson 
(husband of Amelia 
Bell Stephenson) bought Babbitt ¼ league in 1835.
Babbitt is particularly interesting because his two land grants give lie to the 
common assumption 
that Roman Catholicism was a necessary precondition for obtaining land 
grants in Mexican Texas
.  Babbitt received land grants while a member of the Missouri Conference.
Priscilla Chandler (born Christian County, KY, 1805)  Husband, Davis Chandler
, took oath 5 Jan. 1829. 
 His league granted 10 Mar 1831 is adjacent to Kenney’s.  Served in Mill Creek 
Volunteers and died at 
Bastrop c. 1845.  Previous residence Clark Co., Arkansas.  One child born in 
Arkansas March 1827 and the 
next child born in Texas 1831.  On  26 Oct 1835 they sold  300 acres to Lydia
 McHenry and Maria Kenney    
Davis and Prissa Chandler are in Austin’s Register of Families, 1830, arrived 
from AR in 1829, ages 30 and 23, 
one son, one daughter, farmer, White  Davis and Priscilla moved to Kenney’s 
Fort on Brushy Creek, 
Williamson County, founded by Thomas Kenney, brother of John Wesley 
Kenney. Davis and Priscilla
 chandler were in attendance at death of Mrs. Mary Jane Kenney on Dec. 12, 1841.
The land transactions and the close association with the Kenney family are 
particularly interesting 
and raise questions about whether the families knew each other in Kentucky.  
 The sale of 300 acres 
to the sisters, Maria and Lydia show that they were women of independent means,
 probably an i
nheritance from the estate of their parents, Barnabas and Sarah McHenry.
Peter Fullinwider (b. Shelbyville, Ky, 1897, died Huntsville, Tx,  1867)  Presbyterian
 preacher educated at 
Princeton 1827-30. Ordained by New Brunswick Presbytery 1830. Missionary tour in 
Texas 1831. Married 
Belinda McNair  (b, Aug. 9, 1819) in Mississippi on March 18, 1834.  Preached in both
 1834 and 1835 
Caney Creek meetings.  Late 1835 or early 1836 moved to Fort Houston (Palestine).
 Participated in 
Runaway Scrape. Lived in Mississippi 1838-1846 then back to Texas. Organized 
Bethel church at 
present-day Madisonville
John Ingram (b. Green Co., KY, 10 Mar. 1808 d. Fort Concho, TX 1893) To Texas in fall of 1821 from Arkansas (note extreme youth). Spent winter on Brazos then on to Colorado where he stayed until June. Then back to Arkansas and
 when his guardian refused permission, he ran away to Texas with William Rabb and James Gilleland. Lived with Rabb family.  Many, many Indian fights and then much action in Texas Revolution. After Revolution lived in Fayette Co, including some time in Rutersville. Moved to Blanco Co in 1869.  Ingram’s brother Elisha was killed in Surveyor’s Fight with E. M. Cox , father of J. Fred Cox, prominent Methodist preacher.  Married Elizabeth Price 9 Jan. 1838 Austin County Marriage Records 

Kenney, Mariah (b. Frederick, KY 22 March 1801 d. Travis, Austin Co. TX 22 Apr 1875)  Mrs. John W. Kenney, daughter of Barnabas McHenry, one of first circuit riders west of Appalachians.  All copies of her signature on land records and existing letter show that she signed her name “Maria,” not “Mariah,” as Thrall claims.

To be continued next week.