Saturday, December 06, 2014

This Week In Texas Methodist History   December 7

Martin Ruter Preaches to Methodists in Egypt (Texas), December 9, 1837

The more I study the life of Martin Ruter, the more I admire his determination to spread the gospel message in the wilds of Texas.  His zeal seemed to know no limits—witness for example his actions upon arriving in Texas in late November, 1837. 

Ruter crossed the Sabine with David Ayres in late November, 1837 after a horseback back journey across all of Louisiana from  Rodney, Mississippi, where they had disembarked from a steamboat. Since the Texian Mission of which Ruter was head had been encouraged by Methodists in the Caney Creek area (present-day Austin and Washington Counties), also home to David Ayres, they went there first.

The striking example of Ruter’s zeal is that after a few days resting with Ayres and other Methodist in the Caney Creek area, he left the comfort of fireside and lodging for another long horseback trip on muddy December roads.  

His destination was a colony of devout Methodists who hungered for the Gospel.  The colony consisted of several interrelated families who had emigrated from northern Alabama to Texas in 1830-31.  Those families first came to the Texana on the in present-day Jackson County. Some of the families, including that of W. J. E. Heard (1801-1874) moved to the more productive farm lands along the Colorado River at Egypt in present-day Wharton County.  Heard and other members of the “Alabama Colony,” participated whole-heartedly in the events of the Revolution.  One member of the colony, William Depriest Sutherland (1818-1836) was an Alamo defender. After independence several of them became prominent in the affairs of the Republic.  Francis Menifee White served in four Texas Legislatures.  George Sutherland was a member of the Texas Congress and  a county commissioner. John Sutherland Menifee was also a member of Congress. William Menifee signed the Declaration of Independence and also a member of Congress.  Heard served as Chief Justice (today’s County Judge) of both Wharton and Colorado Counties. 

On Saturday, December 9, 1838, Martin Ruter preached at Heard’s home in Egypt.  This sermon marked the most southerly point of his missionary journeys in Texas.  On Sunday, December 10, Ruter preached again—at 11:00 to the whites and 3:00 to the African-Americans.  His traveling companion, the Rev. John Wesley Kenney, preached a third sermon, this time by candlelight.  Ruter and Kenney also formed a society at Egypt.

Ruter and Kenney departed on Monday, and Ruter reached Houston by the next Friday.  Even though Ruter organized a society, there were not enough preachers in Texas to have regular preaching.  Ruter made another trip there during the first week of March.  That was the last time he was there.  The next record we have of an ordained Methodist preacher in Egypt is that of Jesse Hord in the first week of January, 1839.  Other appointments to the Egypt Circuit included Ike Strickland, Henderson Palmer, and John W. Devilbiss.  It was one of the most important circuits in the Republic. 

W. J. E. Heard continued his devotion to Methodism.  In 1866 he moved to Chappell Hill, a very strong Methodist settlement at the time.

Other families in the Alabama Colony will be well-known to readers of this column.  They include especially the Menifee, Sutherland, and Rector families.  Quinn Menifee (1830-1867) became a Methodist preacher, and Talitha Menifee (1824-1846) married John Wesley Devilbiss.  Unfortunately both died far too early.  Alexander Sutherland dedicated his life to Spanish-speaking Methodists.  Samuel C, A. Rogers (1810-1892) was licensed as a local preacher. The Alabama Colonists were a mighty force in both the civic and religious life of the Republic. 


Post a Comment

<< Home