Saturday, March 28, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   March 29

Martin Ruter Inventories  Basic Methodist Library  March  30, 1838

Suppose you were given the task of bringing Methodism to a foreign country.  You would certainly want doctrinal tracts, Bibles, hymnals, Bible commentaries, expositions, Christian history, etc.  How would one choose what to bring?

We are fortunate that Martin Ruter’s list of books he had shipped to Texas from the United States survives.  It provides a wonderful insight into what constituted a basic Methodist library in the 1830’s.  One should remember that Ruter was Book Agent at Cincinnati from 1820 to 1828,  college president, and a prolific author.  With the possible exception of Nathan Bangs no one was more qualified than Ruter to draw up such a list.  

In the era before modern freight services how did one get boxes of books from the Ohio Valley to Texas?  The answer is through the services of consignment agents.  Such brokers existed in all the important ports of the era.  One would send a shipment to one of the agents who would hold it until the owner or owner's representative picked it up.  It was that system that produced the list from March 30, 1838 because Martin Ruter gave David Ayres authority to receive the book shipment at Columbia “or any other port.”  

Ruter wrote the list from Centre Hill, where David Ayres lived.  Here is the list

1 set Fletcher’s works
10 Ruter’s Gregory
1 set Wesley’s Works
2 Watson’s Institutes (in one vol.)
1 Watson’s Institutes (in two vol.)
10 Life of Wesley
20 Nelson’s Journal
100 Disciplines
100 Hymnbooks  24 mo
100 Hymnbooks 48 mo
100 Hymnbooks 72 mo
10 Polyglott Bibles
500 Scriptural Catechisms
100 Sabbath School Hymnbooks
100 Testaments
1 Set Clark’e Commentary
6 Hymbooks 24 mo
12 Christian Pattern
12 Mrs. Rowe

50 Common Bibles
100 Testaments
To give to Schools. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   March 22

Francis Wilson Departs for Petersburg Convention, March 26, 1846

The first months of 1846 saw momentous changes for Texas Methodists.  Littleton Fowler died in January.  The Republic of Texas segued into the state of Texas as the 28th state of the United States, and the two formerly MEC annual conferences in Texas became part of the MECS.  The latter two changes—from Republic to state and from MEC to MECS were both accomplished with almost unbelievable ease considering the magnitude of the transition. 

The Republic-to-state transition was so easy because the founders of the Republic of Texas, with the exception of Tejanos such as Antonio Navarro, were recent arrivals from the United States where many of them had participated actively in civic affairs and knew the founding U. S. documents.  The Republic of Texas set up a government derived largely on the U. S. model.  Counties, law enforcement, and the judicial system, contract law, a bill of rights, the legislature, etc. all looked a lot like the United State model.  The Republic had a much more difficult time with its monetary system, post office, and military affairs, but it should be noted that during the Republic era, 1836-1845, monetary policy in the United States was also in turmoil. 

The transition from MEC to MECS was also accomplished with considerable continuity.  The First General Conference of the MECS met at Petersburg, Virginia, in May 1846.    The Texas Conference elected Robert Alexander and Chauncey Richardson as delegates, and the East Texas Conference sent Francis Wilson.  If Fowler had been alive, he certainly would have been elected. 

Wilson left home in East Texas on March 26, 1846 en route to Petersburg.  He knew the route well—only two years earlier he had gone on an extensive Eastern Tour—from New Orleans to Cincinnati, the Ohio Annual Conference, then over the hills to Washington City.  The 1844 tour was in the interest of Texas Methodism, especially raising funds for Wesleyan College in San Augustine.  

Wilson served a variety of appointments but poor health resulted in his locating.  He resided at Belgrade on the Sabine River in Newton County where he continued as a local preacher.  He died in Louisiana in 1867 and was buried in Newton County.  He and his wife, Elizabeth Kountz, had ten children of whom five survived into adulthood.   Some of Francis Wilson’s descendants still live in Texas and are faithful Methodists. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  March 15

Clayton C. Gillispie Eulogizes Bishop Soule, March 18, 1867

Clayton C. Gillispie—preacher, journalist, Confederate officer, prisoner of war---a man of many experiences, was editor of the Texas Christian Advocate from 1854 to 1858, an itinerate pastor from 1858 until Civil War service.  In 1862 he became colonel of the 25th Texas Cavalry Regiment.  His unit was captured at Arkansas Post in 1863.  He was a prisoner of war in Illinois until April 1863 when he was paroled and returned to military life.  

After the war he became editor of the Tri-weekly Telegram, a secular newspaper in Houston.  When word of the death of Bishop Joshua Soule (1781-1867) reached him, he put the following tribute on page 1

Rev. Joshua Soule, D.D., L,.L.D, senior bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and also senior bishop of American  Methodism,  died in the city of Nashville, on the 6th inst at three o’clock in the morning.   We never saw him until he was over 60 years of age, but we were then deeply impressed with the fact that we had never seen so grand a man, taken altogether.  His form was cast in nature’s largest and finest mould.  His mind was magnificent in its power. His character was grandly simple and lofty, and his bearing was majesty itself realized.  We have never seen such another man. Nor have we ever seen the picture, in art or in history, of his superior.  He was to the Methodist Church what Washington was to the United States.  He was a prince among men, and his simple presences among strangers always commanded instinctive respect and homage.  If we mistake not, he was the oldest Methodist preacher in the world with one exception.  .  . .He was for sixty-eight a preacher and forty-three a bishop.  . . .

When the Texas Conference was organized in 1840, Joshua Soule was already 59 years old and widely revered.  He made only one episcopal tour to Texas, holding annual conferences in Houston and Marshall in the winter of 1845-46, but his fame was so great that the university at Chappell Hill was named in his honor. 

Clayton C. Gillispie did not enjoy long life as did Bishop Soule.  He died in Austin on Christmas day, 1876 at the age of 54.  He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 8

John Wesley Kenney Preaches His First Sermon in Texas  at the Gates House  March 1834

On a Sunday in March 1834 John Wesley Kenney travelled about five miles from his home at Washington on the Brazos to the Gates house upstream from the crossing.  He was going to deliver his first sermon since his arrival in Texas the previous December. 
Kenney was still a young man, having been born in western Pennsylvania in 1799.  His family migrated down the Ohio to near Cincinnati.  He met Martin Ruter, head of the Methodist Book Concern in Cincinnati, joined the Ohio Conference and became a charter member of the Kentucky Conference when it was created from the Ohio Conference.  He married a preacher’s daughter, Maria McHenry, but then located and moved to Rock Island, Illinois.  He lost his home in the turmoil of the Black Hawk War and lost most of his in-laws in the cholera epidemic that troops transmitted through the Ohio Valley as they went to fight in the war.

In October 1833, Kenney led a large party from Kentucky to Texas.  He arrived at Washington on the Brazos where the town proprietor Andrew Robinson gave him a building lot.  He built a house, and then spent the rest of the winter by going down the Brazos to the Gulf of Mexico and boiling sea water for salt.  

My March he had returned from the coast and turned his attention to preaching.  Kenney was a newcomer, but his hosts, the Gates family were old timers by comparison.  They were members of Austin’s Old 300 who arrived at the Brazos on December 31, 1822.  That date is preserved in the name of a local water feature, New Year’s Creek.  

The Gates, Robinson, Kuykendall, and Gilleland families were not just some of the Old 300, they were among the first of that group.  They were migrants mainly from Kentucky and Tennessee who were interrelated by marriage who had moved into what is today southwestern Arkansas.  They were poised for further immigration just as soon as Stephen F. Austin could supply grants in his colony. 

Was Kenney breaking the law by preaching at the Gates home?  One of the most persistent misunderstandings I encounter is the idea that the Mexican government imposed Roman Catholicism on Austin’s colonists.  As I study the documents, I see that Mexican officials were tolerant of Protestant practices.  It might have been illegal to organize religious societies, but Mexican officials ignored travelling preachers such as Kenney, Henry Stephenson, William Medford, and others.  

How about the requirement that individual colonists offer proof of adherence to Roman Catholicism?   As one examines the certifications of good character in the General Land Office files, one sees the dominant pattern.  

Most certificates of good character were issued at Nacogdoches and contain a reference to adherence to “our catholic faith.”  The certificate is also signed by a civil officer rather than a priest, and the phrase is not “Roman Catholic.”  

The phrase “our catholic faith” was so inoffensive to Protestants that some ordained Methodist preachers including Kenney and Medford were willing to sign it.  Benjamin Babbitt swore to the same “catholic” certification while he under appointment in the Missouri Conference.   The evidence of a heavy Roman Catholic oppression enforced by Mexican officials is just not there.  

Kenney was not in danger because he was preaching in March 1834.    Only 6 months later he had left Washington on the Brazos, moved a few miles to the south across Caney Creek where he organized the famous September 1834 Camp Meeting---which also faced no opposition from Mexican authorities.

What about the Gates family?  There are still Methodist descendants of the Old 300 Gates in Texas.  The Mexican land grant is now subdivided into to recreational ranchettes.  The family cemetery may be accessed at