Saturday, January 30, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History  January 31

Ruter Licenses Manly and Sullivan as Local Preachers,   Late January, 1838

One of the most common explanations I give to genealogists is the status of local preachers in the Methodist Episcopal Church and later the Methodist Episcopal Church South.  The inquiry usually begins, “We have a family tradition that our ancestor was a Methodist preacher, can you help find records about his ministry?”

If the ancestor was a fully ordained member of an annual conference, the answer is usually positive.   If the ancestor was a local preacher, the identification becomes more difficult.  

Local preachers were a major force in spreading the Gospel in the Republic of Texas and later the state of Texas.  None was more important than Abner Manly who was licensed as a local preacher by Martin Ruter during the last week of January 1838.  

There were two ways to become a local preacher.  The first was to obtain a license from the Presiding Elder of the District. (Ruter was not a presiding elder in 1838 but had authority as Head of Mission.)   The person so licensed would have ministerial authority only in the churches of the quarterly conference where the license was issued.  The other way was for a fully ordained “traveling” preacher to request a “location.”  That is, he would ask the bishop not to appoint him to a specific charge.  Even though he was not under appointment, he was still expected to connect to the denomination through a quarterly conference.

Abner Manly is an example of the 2nd method.  He was a “traveling” preacher in South Carolina from 1822 to 1827.  He “located” and moved to Selma, Alabama, where he practiced medicine.  He later moved to Texas and lived at both Washington and Fayetteville where he often preached and was fully involved in the Methodist activities of the era.  He was an original trustee of both the church at Washington on the Brazos and of Rutersville College.  He was an original member of the Missionary Society organized at Caney Creek in October 1837.

  He was also one of the attending preacher/physicians at Martin Ruter’s death in May 1838.  The other was William Smith who was also a local preacher who had been received from the Methodist Protestant Church.  In an ironic twist both Manly and Smith died in 1870.  Neither was ever a full member of an annual conference in Texas, but both contributed hugely to the growth of Methodism in Texas as local preachers.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History  January 24

A.     B. F. Kerr Solicits Support for Rutersville, January, 1850

Alfred Benjamin Fontaine Kerr  (1823-1881) emigrated with his family from Tennessee to Texas in 1831.  The party of immigrants landed at Harrisburg on April 21, 1831, and the Kerr family made its way to a new life in what later became Washington County.  

In 1844 he was converted at a camp meeting conducted by Robert Alexander.  After being educated at Rutersville College, he entered the Texas Conference in 1847.  He served Matagorda, Seguin, and Goliad.  While serving Seguin, he organized the church in San Marcos.   At the 1849 annual conference he was appointed agent for Rutersville College.   One sees the appointment “agent” often in journals of the period.  Today we would call the same position “development officer,” or “fund raiser.”   A. B. F. Kerr’s job was to travel the Texas conference, preach, attend camp meetings, and solicit donations for the support of the college.
Texas continued to be cash poor but land rich.  Many of the donations Kerr obtained were in land rather than cash.  Some of that land consisted of unsurveyed, unpatented claims on land rather than the land itself. 

Fortunately for us Kerr left a diary that was later published by his daughter Margaret Ingraham.  Here are excerpts from January 1850.

This book is to register my daily deeds and actions.  O: May I not do anyting of which I would be ashamed to record.
As yet, I have accomplished but little; may the Lord direct and guide me successfully for Christ’s sake.

On the sixteenth (of December 1849) I made an effort to preach at San Marcos and urged upon the congregation the duty of Christians to pray for their ministers.

On the 17th I rode to Austin where I spent Tuesday attending to business and procuring advice relative to the business pertaining to my agency.

Wednesday.  I rode to brother Coleton’s.
Thursday. I rode to Mother Hunt’s.
Friday, I rode to Rutersville.
Saturday, I received and made out lists of deeds, title books, notes of donation, etc.
Sunday, at eleven, I heard brother  Peel preach from the text---“O, Israel, thou has destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.” That night I made an effort to preach.

Monday, I met the board of trustees; received some instruction from them and home after dark.

December 25.  I spent at home.

On the 26th I rode to Capt. Chrisman’s (Chriesman) where I learned of  aunt Thomson’s death.

On the 27th, I rode to uncle Thomson’s.

Owing to a very cold spell of weather, I remained at home until the 31st.

On that day I rode to brother James W. Scott’s.

On Jan 1, 1850 I procured a deed from Bro. Scott for 320 acres in Brazos County.

. . .Jan. 8.  rode to Chapple Hill where I attended to business, concerning my work.  I also got some blank deeds from brother Bragg.

. . .On Jan. 12 I saw L. P. Moore from whom I had a title bond.  He said his land is not yet patented by the government.  There is some difficulty about the title.  So soon as he gets a patent he will deed 100 acres to the college.

On the (Feb.) 5th rode to Rutersville. Enroute, left my brother William’s (Kerr) deed at his home to be acknowledge before a notary public and thence forwarded  to S. B. Brigham, Matagorda.
Thus the diary continues---riding, obtaining deeds, taking them to the court house---that’s the way fund raisers worked in the 1850s.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 17

San Antonio Methodists Welcome Edwin Mouzon as Resident Bishop January 17, 1911

Travis Park MECC in San Antonio was the site for one of Texas Methodism’s great celebrations on January 17, 1911.  The event was a welcoming party for Edwin Mouzon, former pastor of Travis Park.  He served the downtown city church from 1904 to 1908 when he moved to Southwestern University to teach theology.  At the 1910 MECS General Conference in Asheville, NC, he was elected bishop.  

In this era bishops were not required or even expected to live in their episcopal area—after all each bishop supervised multiple conferences and traveled much of the year.  Mouzon’s chose San Antonio as his residence, and Methodists there were delighted.  

San Antonio was a major Texas Methodist hub in 1910, perhaps rivaling even Dallas. (remember SMU had not been founded yet.)  Five Presiding Elders of the MECS lived in San Antonio (English speaking San Antonio, Llano, and Uvalde Districts and the Spanish and German speaking districts as well).  A. J. Weeks, later editor of the Texas Christian Advocate, was president of the San Antonio Female College, and the Methodist home for unwed mothers was already in operation.  A. K. Ragsdale, president of the Texas Epworth League, lived in San Antonio.   

San Antonio was also a railroad hub and was the acknowledged commercial, financial, and cultural center for a huge swath of West and South Texas.  Mouzon’s choice made a great deal of sense.
Although Travis Park, pastored by V. A. Godbey, was the site of the welcoming celebration, all the MECS churches in the area participated in the gala.  J. H. Groseclose (Laurel Heights) served as master of ceremonies.  He introduced a succession of church and civic leaders who praised Mouzon.   

Then Bishop Mouzon took the pulpit to reply to the accolades.  That reply stressed how he was coming to a city he knew well and his intention to be a pastor to the community.  

Mouzon didn’t stay in San Antonio very long.  When SMU was founded, he went to Dallas to the Theological Department.  That assignment left him time for his episcopal duties in addition to his academic duties. 

Mouzon spent the 1920s and 1930s presiding over conferences in Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  Mouzon took the lead in many of the issues of the day.  He supported the U.S. entrance into the League of Nations, opposed Al Smith for president in 1928, and was a stalwart prohibitionist.  

He was also one of the bishops most outspoken in the battle against fundamentalism.  His 1923 booklet So-Called Fundamentalism was expanded into a book, The Fundamentals of Methodism.  

Bishop Edwin Mouzon died at his home in Charlotte, NC, in February, 1937, and his body was returned to Oakland Cemetery in Dallas for burial.

The celebration at Travis Park in 1911 was one expression of the great love Texas Methodists had for Edwin Mouzon.  A more lasting one is the number of Texas Methodists who named their sons “Mouzon.”  At one time there were five members of the Texas Annual Conference with the given name “Mouzon.” 

Saturday, January 09, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 10

James A. Smith Preaches His First Sermon at Webb’s Chapel, January 1847

Readers will be interested in this memoir from the early history of Methodism in Dallas.

In January, 1847, in company with my family and several other Methodist families, we arrived in Texas, and settled in Peters’ Colony.  We found to our joyful surprise that Methodism had preceded us.  A small class, ren or twelve in number had been organized and a little chapel, built by Brother Isaac B. Webb, and his neighbors on Farmer’s Branch called Webb’s Chapel.

In this little log-house I preached my first sermon in Texas, to a small but very attentive praying congregation.  I soon found that I would have no excuse fro idleness in Texas.  Applications were made from various neighborhoods for preaching, and I soon had as many appointments as I could fill once a month on Sabbath.
The next year Brothers Biggs and Cole were sent to this circuit to travel and preach for us ==both men of faith and prayer.  They labored faithfully for several months with very little apparent success; but, honor to God, a time of great refreshing was at hand, and the seed sown by his servants with toil and tears was destined to produce abundant fruit.  About the middle of November they appointed a meeting to commence on Friday evening, and continue Saturday and Sunday.   At the very commencement of this meeting, an unusual solemnity and deep interest seemed to pervade the entire congregation, and on Saturday there was evidently a prospect for a most glorious revival; but they weather was unfavorable, cloudy and cold.  Our little chapel was open—no chimney or stove--and it became a serious question whether we would not have to break up our meeting, though, greatly against the feelings and wishes of all.  In this emergency we had a striking example of what devoted heart can and will do, and what sacrifices it will make for the glory for God and the salvation of souls.

No sooner did Brother and Sister Webb learn the subject of our consultation, than they immediately entered their formal protest against any such thing, declaring that they would empty their little cabin, (fourteen feet square) put their beds and table our in the yard, and give up their domestic comfort, keep a good fire on the hearth, and the meeting should go on.

In short, all was done as well as said, and the meeting did go on, and one of the most glorious and happy meetings that it has been my privilege to witness was the result.  Day and night, for six days, the meeting was kept up.  Preaching was pleasant task.  Mourners came forward, weeping and calling for mercy.  The Lord was in Zion, for her King was in her midst.  There was balm in Gilead, a great Physician there, and not less than twenty-two sin-sick souls were made whole, and glorified God their Savior.

This beginning of revivals in Peters’ Colony is due, under God, to the humble prayers and faithful labors as well as pious examples of a few pioneers, who when they came to Texas, did not forget their religion or their Church privileges. 

The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.
James A. Smith.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 3

African American Methodists in Houston Hold Fundraising Fair for New Building
January 8, 1859

The following interesting item ran in the January 5, 1859, issue of the Weekly Telegraph,

The members of the Affrican (sic) Methodist E. Church are notified that there will be a Fair at Mr. W. R. Baker’s building on Saturday, the 8th inst., for the purpose of raising funds for the new church building.  

Ladies and children are most respectfully solicited to attend in the afternoon, and gentlemen in the evening as it will be inconvenient for them to leave their business, in day time, as many as can will receive the heartful thanks of their humble servants. 

There are several points of interest in this short notice.
1.      The “Affrican  Methodist E. Church” is not the A.M. E. Church.  That denomination did not enter Texas until after emancipation. The church in the notice is the African American congregation formed from Shearn MECS (later First Methodist Houston).  One can tell from the notice that they were a strong enough congregation to build their own structure for worship.  As a matter of fact, when the Shearn Church building fell into disrepair, Shearn used the African American Church building.
2.      The printing of the notice in the Weekly Telegraph offers evidence that at least some African Americans in Houston in 1859 were literate—in spite of restrictions on teaching African Americans in the era and a lack of schools.
3.      The reader is struck by the use of the terms “ladies” and “gentlemen.”  Later in the dark, regressive days of Jim Crow, it became a Southern journalistic convention, to strip African American of the dignity of being called “Mister,” “Miss,” or :”Mrs.” --much less “Ladies” and “Gentlemen.”
4.      Who was W. R. Baker?  William R. Robinson Baker (1820-1890) was one of the most prominent Houstonians of the 19th century.  He came to Texas from New York with A. C. Allen in 1837 when the Allen Brothers founded Houston.  Baker worked for the Houston Town Company.  He kept a store, was County Clerk, and in 1859 was Secretary of the Houston and Texas Central Rail Line.  He later was president of that Railroad, a State Senator and 3-term mayor of Houston.