Saturday, December 13, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 14

Even Homer (Thrall) Nods  December 1843

The Roman poet Horace writing in Ars Poetica about the time Jesus was born, noticed that Homer, the putative author of the Iliad and Odyssey about 8 centuries earlier, brought back a character in a poem he had already   killed.  Horace wrote,  "Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus,"—which may be translated as “Even good old Homer nods.”

The Homer of Texas Methodist history—in the sense of the recorder of the decisive events of our origins, ironically is named “Homer.”  

Homer Thrall was the great historian of Texas Methodism.  He was one of the recruits from Ohio in 1842 who transferred to Texas and served appointments in the Lone Star Republic and State.  Although Thrall had been born in Vermont, he became a fervent Texan.  His circuit riding in the Republic gave him the opportunity to meet political leaders and heroes of the Revolution.  He wrote the first comprehensive history of Texas Methodism (1872), a general history of Texas (1876), a pictorial history of Texas (1879), a Texas almanac, handbook and immigrant’s guide (1880), and a short history of Texas Methodism (1889).  He also contributed to Reminiscences and Events in the Ministerial Career of Rev. John Wesley DeVilbiss (deceased) compiled by H. A. Graves (Galveston, 1886).  

It was in this Devilbiss biography that “Homer nodded.”  He knew his subject well since Devilbiss had been one of the other Ohio recruits.  They were colleagues in both the Texas Conference and later the West Texas Conference for decades.  Thrall had an extensive research library.  No one was in a better position to tell the story of the journey of Devilbiss from the Ohio Conference to the Texas Conference. 

His error came when Thrall was describing the 1843 Texas  Annual Conference, his second conference in Texas.  The Annual Conference met at a campground near Huntsville (Robinson’s).  Thrall wrote “There were no telegraphs in those days, and news travelled tardily.  We had not learned until we reached the seat of the Conference that our good friend Daniel Poe was dead.  He and his heroic wife, I believe, died on the same day. . .”

Daniel and Jane Poe were still alive in December 1843.  Bishop Andrew appointed him to San Augustine were he and Jane died the following July.  Thrall’s memory was obviously incorrect.  When he wrote it, he was still under appointment at age 67, but his eyesight was failing, and it is easy to forgive the error. 


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