This Week in Texas Methodist History February 27
Chauncey Richardson Arrives Enters Texas at Galveston, March 3, 1839
On March 3, 1839 the Rev. Chauncey Richardson entered Texas at the port of Galveston. Richardson was born in Vermont in 1802. He entered the New England Conference of the MEC in 1826. He itinerated in Massachusetts for several years, but then the rigors of circuit riding broke his health. He recuperated at Wesleyan University, Middleton, Connecticut.
Those studies qualified him as a professor, so in 1833 he went to Tuscumbia, Alabama, as president of a female college. He held that position until his departure for Texas. He left New Orleans on the steamship New York on Feb. 28, and set foot on Texas soil five days later.
Richardson cleared customs and hurried to Houston where he began his efforts that resulted in the opening of Rutersville College in January 1840. Rutersville is recognized as the predecessor of Southwestern University.
Galveston in 1839 was a far cry from the bustling port city it would become in just a few years. Although the island had been previously occupied, most famously by the pirate Jean Laffite, the city we know today dates from 1838 when Michel Menard and group of investors surveyed a streets and lots and offered those lots for sale.
When Richardson arrived in March 1839, organized religious life barely existed. The editor of the Galvestonian (March 27, 1839) suggested that in the absence of an organized church, “leading men” of the city gather each Sunday morning and listen to a sermon from “one of the great divines” such as Wesley read by one of the assembled citizens.
The idea of the leading citizens of the city assuming responsibility for devotional services in the absence of clergy led the editor to continue,
As for preachers by trade, we dislike them. Our climate suits not their constitutions; especially as the most ordinary are prone to where better ___not be paid. . . . Many a man runs his head against a pulpit who could have done his country excellent service at the plough-tail.”
Unfortunately the editor’s comment “our climate suits them not” proved prescient. Richardson died in Galveston in 1852. His body was returned to Rutersville for burial.