Saturday, September 26, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   September 27

El Paso Methodists Prepare to Host Two Annual Conferences, October 1896

In October 1896 El Paso had the rare privilege of hosting two Methodist Annual Conferences---the New Mexico Conference of the MECS convened on October 4, and the New Mexico English Mission of the MEC convened the next week. 

The location of El Paso made sense for both New Mexico conferences since it contained by far the largest Methodist membership of any city within the conference boundaries.  As the name “El Paso” indicates, the city owes its prominence to its location.  It is located at the intersection of both east-west and north-south routes that had been used for ages.  When the railroads built their tracks through El Paso, the city was transformed from a fairly major regional city to one of international importance, a status it retains to this day.

The development of mines in Arizona, Chihuahua, Sonora, and New Mexico helped make El Paso the most importing metal smelting site in Texas.  Its commercial, military, manufacturing, and transportation functions assured it would be a major city.

Both the MEC and the MECS had a somewhat difficult time evangelizing New Mexico.  In Texas Methodism had expanded with the expansion of European-American settlement.  When Methodists arrived in New Mexico, they found expanding European-American settlements in the railroad cities, but there also existed a Native American/Hispanic culture that had roots deeper than any culture in the eastern United States.  

One way to create New Mexico Annual Conferences with a large enough membership was to include El Paso and much of the rest of West Texas in the New Mexico Conference.  That move, rooted in necessity, made a great deal of geographical sense then and still does today.  El Paso serves as the main economic and cultural center of large sections of southern New Mexico.
As the two conferences planned their sessions, the newspapers highlighted the accomplishments of the bishops who were coming to El Paso.

The MECS bishop was R. K. Hargrove (1829-1905, elected 1882).  Hargrove, an Alabaman and graduate of the University of Alabama was well known as college president, member of the Cape May Commission, and the man who suggested that the Woman’s Department of Church Extension take on the project of securing parsonages at all the churches.

The announced bishop for the MEC conference was John H. Vincent (1832-1920, elected 1888).  Vincent’s reputation as co-founder of the Chautauqua Assembly  preceded him.  In addition to pasturing churches in the Chicago area, he also edited American Sunday School Union materials from 1868 to 1884—was thus known in other denominations besides Methodists. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   September 20

Rev. James C. Wilson Reburied at Texas State Cemetery, September 21, 1936

James C. Wilson was born in Yorkshire, England in 1816, and became the only Texas preacher I’ve found who attended Oxford University, as did Charles and John Wesley.  While still a young man, he became enthusiastic for the cause of Texas independence and decided to come as an immigrant.  He arrived in 1837, too late for the Revolution, but not too late to participate in the Somervell Expedition and its disastrous sequel, the Mier Expedition.  

  As you will recall, the 176 prisoners of the Mier Expedition were forced to draw from a jar of beans—white meant life and a black bean meant execution.

Wilson drew a white bean and was thus in the part of prisoners taken further into Mexico to the dungeons of Perote Castle.  He was told that he could be released by asserting his British citizenship, but stayed loyal to the Lone Star Republic and remained with his fellow prisoners.

He eventually escaped and made his way back to Wharton where he practiced law. He later moved to Matagorda.  The practice of law led to politics.  He was elected to the Congress of the Republic of Texas, and when Texas joined the Union became a member of the Texas State Senate.  In 1854 he moved to San Antonio, and then to Austin where he was appointed commissioner for the Court of Claims.  

He did not stay in that position long but moved to a farm near Gonzales in the spring of 1857.  In the fall of that same year he joined the Texas Annual Conference meeting in Waco and was appointed to Gonzales.

As storm clouds gathered, Wilson became an ardent secessionist and even raised a cavalry regiment.    Typhoid struck before he could lead that regiment into battle, and he died in 1861.His reburial in the Texas State Cemetery occurred on September 21, 1936 as Texans were celebrating the centennial of Texas Independence.

Friday, September 11, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 13

African American Methodist Preachers Resume Preaching After Civil War, September 15, 1865

One neglected aspect of Texas Methodist history is the role of African Americans in the church before 1865.  Although membership statistics show that sizeable numbers of African American Methodists existed, and the appointments “African Mission” or “Colored Mission” were common, we are frustrated at the lack of our knowledge of the members of the churches and the exhorters, class leaders, and local preachers who led them.  

The scraps of evidence that actually name a pre-1865 Texas Methodist who was African American are very rare.  The most famous is “Uncle Mark” who is known to us from Joseph Sneed’s diary.  Sneed attend one of Uncle Mark’s sermons and was favorable impressed.  The only African American Methodist woman we know by name before 1865 is Cecilia Craft of Bastrop.  Other evidence for African American preachers comes from Francis Wilson’s memoir about preachers at Liberty and the notice that Orceneth Fisher issued local preacher licenses in Brazoria.  

We also know that some preachers such as Elias Dibble who had been preaching before 1865 continued afterwards, and thus we have a better chance of knowing their names.

One interesting document from the Weekly Southern Intelligencer (Austin) of September 15, 1865, gives us two more names.   Here is the article

Isaac and John, two noted preachers of the Methodist persuasion, who have been silent for several years, have again commenced preaching, with the consent of the proper authority.  During the war it was not deemed proper to permit the colored preachers to pursue their calling; but now, the war being over the reasons no longer exist, and they have recommenced preaching.. 

Saturday, September 05, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 6

Maggie Jo Rogers Leaves Marlin for Scarritt to Begin Missionary Career   September 1902

In September 1902 twenty-four year old Maggie Jo Rogers left Marlin to attend Scarritt Bible Training School in Kansas City.  She would graduate in May  1904 and in October 1904 arrived in Soochow, China, where she was to devote thirty-six years to evangelistic work in that city.  

In a sense she had been preparing for her life’s work for years.  Her mother, Florella Cloy Rogers, was a charter member of the Marlin Woman’s Missionary Society.  She enrolled Maggie as a child in the “Rosebuds,” a children’s arm of the Society, sometimes called the “Cradle Roll.”

Mrs. Sarah “Sallie” Philpott was President of the Texas Conference Society.  She lived close to Marlin in Dew and when urging local chapters to raise funds for scholarships to Scarritt, also urged Texas Conference women to apply for those missionary scholarships.  

Maggie Rogers later wrote that when Philpott’s appeal was read in the Marlin Society, she knew the call to missionary service was meant for her.  When she shared her decision, it resulted in a “praising, crying time,” and the Marlin women showered Maggie with the things she would need at Scarritt.  

Maggie Jo Rogers graduated from Scarritt in May 1904, and the Board of Missions appointed her to Soochow, China.  She remained in that post until the South Central Jurisdictional Board granted her the superannuate relation in 1943 at the age of 65 and with the Japanese in their long occupation of the Chinese coast, including Soochow.  

She lived another 15 years and was buried in the Cavalry Cemetery in Marlin.  Here is a link to her picture