Saturday, February 07, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  February 8

Telegraph and Texas Register Notes Impending First Issue of Wesleyan Banner, Feb. 8, 1849

One of the most prominent threads of Methodist history is the enthusiasm for publishing.  The denomination’s founder, John Wesley, was a prolific and best selling author.  When Wesleyans created their denomination, the Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1784, publishing soon followed.  

Perhaps you have seen images of circuit riders.  A typical image shows the horseback rider with an open book and saddlebags.  Those saddlebags were stuffed with tracts, testaments, printed editions of Wesley’s sermons, and commentaries on the scriptures.   In addition to bringing the spoken word to isolated settlements, they also acted as distribution agents for the literary output of the publishing house.

It was, therefore, natural that Texans would ache for their own publishing concern.  Robert B. Wells, the station pastor at Brenham, is credited with starting the first Texas Methodist newspaper.  Wells called his newspaper the Texas Christian Advocate and Brenham Advertiser.  Unfortunately the high hopes associated with the newspaper did not materialize.  The publishing effort was taken over by the Texas Annual Conference, moved to Houston, and renamed the Texas Wesleyan Banner. 

The main secular newspaper of Houston, the Democratic Telegram and Texas Register, took note of the upcoming publication of issue #1 as follows

The first number of a new religious paper, to be styled the Wesleyan Banner, will be published in this city in a few weeks.  This paper is to (be) under the direction of a committee of the Methodist conference and will be edited by the Rev. Chauncey Richardson, a gentleman who has been long and favorably known to the Texian public, and who possesses every talent requisite to ensure the success of such a journal.   We congratulate our Methodist friends that a gentleman of such high literary attainments and such fervent piety,  and such untiring and ardent zeal, has been selected for this highly responsible station.  We earnestly hope that this journal  will, by the blessings of Him who can render the efforts of man availing, become like a beacon light amid the gloom of surrounding darkness, and prove an effective agent in dispelling the clouds of vice and scepticism  that have too long lowered over our fair land.  

The editor of the Telegram and Texas Register (and probable author of this notice) was good friend of many of the prominent Houston Methodists of the era and one of the most fascinating characters in Texas history.  Francis Moore was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of a Harvard-educated physician.  He came to Texas to help fight for its independence, arriving in June 1836.  He bought a share in the newspaper in 1837 and continued to be a major force in Texas journalism for the next 17 years.  He served three terms as mayor of Houston, and served in the Senate of the Republic of Texas.  One of his achievements in that office was chartering Rutersville College. 

Although he was Episcopalian, his newspaper demonstrated a friendly interest in Methodism.  He sold that interest in 1854 and moved back to New York and pursued his interest in geology.  He returned to Texas several times to collect fossil and geologic specimens, and returned to Texas in 1859—this time as a lawyer.  He continued his interest in geology, but when Texas seceded, he returned to New York.  He died at Duluth, Minnesota, in 1864 while on a expedition that examined the copper resources of that region.  Francis Moore—a remarkable man, and a friend of Texas Methodism. 


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