Saturday, April 11, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 12

Bishop Richard Green Waterhouse Visits Methodist Institutions in El Paso  April 14, 1914

Texas Methodist History fans may be forgiven if you do not recognize the name Bishop Richard G. Waterhouse.  After all, he was one of seven bishops elected at the MECS General Conference of 1910, and presided over only one session of an annual conference in Texas, the Southern German Mission Conference of 1914.

The early 20th century was an era of electing educators to the office of bishop.  Consider the class of 1910---Collins Denny had been Chaplain at the University of Virginia.  John Kilgo was president of Trinity (Duke). Edwin Mouzon was professor at Southwestern when elected and later served as Dean at SMU while also serving as bishop. Walter Lambuth—both a doctor and a preacher had been involved in mission schools in Asia. William B. Murrah was elected while president of Millsaps. R. G. Waterhouse was president of Emory and Henry when elected.  J. H. McCoy was the other bishop elected. 

The era was one in which bishops presided over several annual conferences per year, and not all episcopal assignments were equal.  Some of the bishops had the luxury of staying close to home.  For example after their  1910 elections, Kilgo remained in Durham, Murrah in Jackson,  and McCoy in Birmingham—all was “home sweet home.” Others were assigned the overseas missions which required meant long ocean voyages.  

Waterhouse drew one of the more arduous assignments—the Pacific Coast of the United States.  During his first quadrennium he presided over annual conferences in California, Oregon, and Montana where Southern Methodists were few and far between and travel distances were great.  

Waterhouse must have pined for the beautiful hills around Emory and Henry at Abingdon, VA.  The Holston Conference was his home conference.  Visitors to the Holston area still speak of the rugged beauty of its setting.  He had been a student at Emory and Henry, (class of 1885), and  served the Abingdon Circuit.  He became a professor in 1892 and was elevated to the presidency the next year.  He held that post until his election in 1910. 

He was widely admired as college president and greatly in demand as a speaker throughout the denomination.  He tackled the E&H debt and refused a salary increase throughout his 17-year presidency.

His assignment to the Pacific Coast meant relocation to Los Angeles.  Then, as now, Nashville was the home of denominational offices, and his attendance at meetings in Tennessee and Georgia required fairly frequent trips through Texas via the Southern Pacific Railway.  Newspaper accounts of 1911-1914 reveal that he chose to spend extended periods of time in San Antonio and El Paso.   Visits in the two large cities of Texas usually included preaching at Trinity (El Paso) or Travis Park (San Antonio) and tours of the Methodist institutions in those cities.  The society pages of the newspapers usually included some social even such as a tea for Mrs. Waterhouse.  The couple even decided to make San Antonio their home one winter.  

Bishop Waterhouse’s health declined, and he moved back to Abingdon.  He took the superannuate relationship in 1918 at age 63 and died in 1922.  Perhaps we should make him an honorary Texan because of his extended visits here.


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