This Week in Texas Methodist History July 19
Rev. Frank Gary of Galveston Addresses Epworth Leaguers in Indianapolis, July 22, 1898
The 1890s are rightly known as a very bleak period for African Americans. During the Reconstruction era the Republican Party had attempted to create a base of African-American voters in the South who were naturally grateful for the role of the Republican Party in the abolition of slavery. By the 1890s though, party leaders recognized that such a strategy was not working. With the withdrawal of Republican support, there was nothing to stop a full-fledged attack on rights of African Americans. The Jim Crow system of segregation of the races, denial of voting rights, and an increase in lynching characterized the 1890s.
Methodist youth, however, provided one small counter current to the flood of racism that was washing over the United States. That one small action was the convening of annual conventions of the Epworth League. Those conventions embraced both the MECS and MEC Epworth Leagues and included young Methodists from the U.S, Canada, and England. When Leaguers began planning these conventions, northern Leaguers demanded integration, and they got it. The integrated nature of Epworth League conventions meant they had to meet in the northern states and Canada where integrated convention facilities could be provided.
The 1899 Epworth League Convention was held in Indianapolis. One of the speakers was the Rev. Frank Gary of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Galveston. St. Paul’s had an interesting history. It was formed by members of Reedy Chapel when a majority of Reedy Chapel members decided to switch denominations and become an A.M.E. church. Not all the members wished to become A.M.E. so they obtained property on Ave. H between 8th and 9th Streets, and created an M.E. C. church pastored by the Rev. Samuel Osborn.
St. Paul’s MEC was one of the most prominent churches in the Texas Conference, but just two years after Rev. Gary’s participation in the Epworth League convention, his church sanctuary was destroyed by the hurricane.
Under Gary’s leadership, the congregation decided to relocate, this time to Broadway, a more prominent location.