This Week in Texas Methodist History Aug. 9
William Kessee Defends Honor of Town, Church Members, and Methodist Preacher against “Scurrilous Editorial” August 10, 1854
There is a great body of historical scholarship about how sensitive Texans and other Southerners were about defending their honor. They were also prone to settling issues of honor by bypassing the legal system, sometimes by duels and sometimes by assault. Newspaper editors often had to carry arms since they were especially liable to retaliation for insults they had printed.
In August 1854 an incident between two Methodist preachers embroiled the whole town of Chappell Hill in a scandalous situation. One of the leading lay men of the Chappell Hill Methodist Church felt compelled to defend the honor of his town, church, and preacher. Here is the letter to the editor William Kessee used instead of challenging the editor to a duel. It appeared in the Texas Ranger, August 10, 1854.
We noticed a scurrilous Editorial in the last issue of the Brenham Inquirer, derogatory to the character of the Rev. Mr. Walsh, the preacher in charge of the Methodist Station at this place, which is not only an attack on the reputation of Mr. Walsh, but also is insulting to the citizens of Chappell Hill. And especially to the members and congregation of the Methodist Church.
But notwithstanding the offered insult, when we take into consideration the source from which it emanated, we would not notice it but for the probability that some respectable paper would copy it.
Therefore you will do us the favor to place in the columns of your respectable paper the following facts:
About two weeks ago one Joshua Shepard, a preacher in the Methodist Conference, in company with Jno. Brooks, his brother-in-law, went to the house of Maj. Wallace who lives near this place, (the house where Mr. Walsh was boarding and with the pretense of a friendly visit, decoyed him from the house, where Shepard assaulted his person in a brutal manner, giving him little or no explanation about why he did it. Mr. Walsh, although fully competent to defend himself, received the insult in the true spirit of the Master—without resenting it. A circumstance that will elevate himself in the estimation of the great and good, wherever it is known. He is too great a man, and too good a mind, to make a brute of himself by fighting Joshua Shepard.
Subsequently, Mr. Shepard informed the community and the church that Mr. Walsh was at his mother’s about six weeks ago, and took his sister by the hand, and kissed her, which Mr. Walsh denies on oath. And I cannot believe that a man of his information would swear falsely for the world.
They say it occurred between the hours of 11:00 and 12:00 Noonday, in a small house, three doors open, and whole family in and round the house the whole time. Why, sir, no libertine in the state, with evil intentions, would have made advances toward a woman under such circumstances.
A committee of respectable and intelligent clergymen were called together by the presiding Elder to investigate the conduct of Mr. Walsh, and after all the proof could be brought to bear against him, decided that he was imprudent, which was the result of his artless and unsophisticated manner among his friends—
Mr. Walsh is still the minister in charge of this station, and we hope will continue so for years to come. I cannot imagine why the publisher of the Brenham Inquirer published the pieces alluded to, unless he wished to call forth a reply, and thereby make it known that he is Brother-in-law to the fighting preacher.
Rev. Shepard was only 25 at the time, but was already a seasoned preacher, having been admitted in 1849. Mr. Walsh was a recent arrival. He joined the Texas the following December by transfer from the Memphis Conference.
William Keesee is well known to Texas Methodist historians. When Littleton Fowler needed to convene a meeting of the preachers in January, 1839, he told them to report to Kessee's farm. It was the largest such "business meeting" of Methodist preachers in Texas until the organization of the annual conference in 1840.