Saturday, June 20, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   June 21

Schuyler Hoes Signs Anti-Slavery Convention Proclamation, June 23, 1841.

The strong connections between New England Methodism and the Republic of Texas may come as a surprise to many readers.  After all, after the division of the MEC into northern and southern branches 1844-1846, Texas Methodism assumed a predominately Southern cast, and its preachers regularly denounced New Englanders as “radical abolitionists.”  

Before 1846, though, several prominent New Englanders came to the Republic of Texas.  Martin Ruter was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Vermont.  Abel Stevens left his family in Providence, R. I. when he came to Texas. Homer Thrall, who eventually wrote a history of Texas and another one of Texas Methodism, was born in Vermont.  Chauncey Richardson was also born in Vermont.  

Much of the connection was driven by the simple law of supply and demand.  Both New England and the Ohio Valley had a surplus of preachers, and the Republic of Texas had a large demand, and a very scant supply.  Why didn’t more Southern preachers come to Texas?  Because the theft of Native American lands in Mississippi and Alabama had produced a land rush and accompanying development boom in those states. 

One of the most interesting Methodist missionaries to Texas was Schuyler Hoes who came as an agent for the American Bible Society rather than under appointment as a missionary.  Hoes chose the river route, down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans, then to Houston, arriving in November, 1838.  He cooled his heels in Houston for about a month, working with both Littleton Fowler and William Allen (Presbyterian missionary) waiting for the shipment of Bibles, New Testaments, and tracts to arrive.  Once they did, he set out on a grand tour of Texas settlements.  He organized local chapters of the American Bible Society in settlements from Nacogdoches to Texana.  He preached at camp meetings and solicited donations for the cause.  

Unlike so many missionaries, Hoes was a married man, having wed Minerva Falley in 1833.  Perhaps that was the reason he returned to New England after his organizing tour.  On the other hand, we can speculate that his tour through Texas gave him a close look at slavery, and he was repulsed!

In 1841 Hoes was living in Ithaca, New York, and was one of the signatories to the call for the Christian Anti-Slavery Convention to be held in Auburn, New York, June 23.  The next year he was appointed to Lowell, Massachusetts, and continued his abolitionist activism.  

When Littleton Fowler went to New York City as a delegate to the 1844 General Conference of the MEC, he reconnected with Hoes.  One of his letters from New York reports that they dined together.  Fowler wrote that Hoes was an abolitionist—one of the New England abolitionists who had actually seen the evils of slavery first hand.


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