Saturday, June 25, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 26

Epworth Era Debuts, July 1894

Previous posts have highlighted the role of the Epworth League in Texas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The organization of Methodist youth and young adults provided invaluable service to the denomination.  It lifted up missionary concerns, recruited men and women for Christian vocation, and was an important training ground for future denominational leaders.  

The official organ of the MECS Epworth League was the Epworth Era which debuted in July 1894 with S. A. Steel as editor.  The corresponding MEC publication was the Epworth Herald, published in Chicago.  The Era began optimistically as a monthly and soon grew into a widely-circulated periodical.  It reported on activities of state Epworth League conventions, provided topic ideas for prayer meetings, and almost always reported on activities in the various mission fields. 
In 1919 the editor was Fitzgerald S. Parker.  Here is a representative sampling of reports from the field in June and July 1919.

The West Texas Conference met in Corpus Christi led by President Mrs. Kuehne.  Speakers included Miss Ruby Van Hooser of Scarritt Bible Training School and W. H. Moore of the Mission Board.  

The North Texas Conference met in Paris and registered the largest number of attendees of any of the annual conferences—over 300.  They pledged over $9000 for missions.  They adopted W. H. Moore as their missionary to Brazil and raised over $1500 for his support.  At the conclusion of “Bob” Schuler’s sermon asking for full time volunteers for missionary service, 12 members met him at the altar.  

The C. M. E. Sunday School and Epworth League were also meeting in Paris at the same time and MECS officials were invited to address them.
About 90  Central Texas Leaguers met at Polytechnic MECS church in Fort Worth and heard the blind preacher from Lawton, Oklahoma,  Willmore Kendall and Alonzo Monk.  

The Texas Conference League met at Houston, and President L. L. Nelms and Secretary Lulu Beard managed to secure pledges of about $1200 from the 80 delegates.

The annual conference meetings were just a prelude to the big event, however.  That was the Texas State Assembly at Epworth by the Sea near Port O’Connor.  The campground/convention facility was wholly owned by the Epworth Leagues in Texas and in 1919 featured Frank Onderdonk, Frank Smith, Hiram Boaz, Paul Kern, and other major players in Texas Methodism.  

The Epworth Era was able to continue publication until 1931 when it fell victim to the changing times.  If the name of its editor, Fitzgerald Parker, is familiar, you may know it from Mt. Sequoyah in Fayetteville, Arkansas.   In 1924, as Mt. Sequoyah was being built as a retreat and conference center, Epworth Leagues in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana raised funds to build Epworth Lodge.  In 1936 upon the death of Fitzgerald Parker, it was renamed in his honor.  It is the oldest remaining building on the campus. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 19

We Celebrate the Birthday of Francis A. Mood, Born June 23, 1830

I suppose I first became aware of F. A. Mood when I moved into Mood Hall at Southwestern University for the fall semester, 1965.  I heard from older family members that my grandfather, Wesley W. Hardt (B. A. 1919) had also lived in Mood Hall as an undergraduate.  

The building is still there, although no longer used as a dormitory and the name has been changed to Mood-Bridwell Hall.  It was built in 1908 and named to honor the founder of Southwestern University.  (see

Francis Asbury Mood was born in Charleston, S.C. on June 23, 1830.  His father, John Mood, followed his father occupation, silversmith and jeweler, until his call to preach.  John Mood joined the South Carolina Conference in 1824.  He served several appointments, but in 1830 located and resumed his trade.  Mood thus was raised in Charleston.  This decision allowed for Mood to enjoy a boyhood of stability and the educational advantages that a city such as Charleston had to offer.  He also received an intense religious education, including Sunday School, class meeting, preaching, and family hymns.  The family also left the city to attend camp meetings in the surrounding country side.  

It was at such a camp meeting in April 1842 that the young Mood received the gift of the peace that comes with conversion.  In 1849 he was licensed to preach.  He and his family were particularly close to Bishop Andrew who advised him that the South Carolina Conference was to small to accommodate all four Mood preacher brothers.  F. A. Mood then volunteered for missionary service to China.  Bishop Andrew advised him that such a move would devastate his mother, and he should wait and possibly consider Texas as a mission field too.

During the Civil War he was in the hospital chaplaincy and then preached at a Unitarian church.  

Meanwhile Soule University in Chappell Hill was struggling to recover from its closure during the Civil War and yellow fever epidemic.  It offered Mood a professorship which he refused.  That offer brought him to the attention of the Soule Board of Governors, and when the presidency became vacant, they offered it to Mood.  

This time he accepted.  He moved to Chappell Hill, transferred to the Texas Conference and almost immediately realized that a successful educational institution depended upon a broader base of support.  

His project to secure the sponsorship of the five MECS annual conferences in Texas for a new university outside the fever belt was a herculean effort, but Mood was able to accomplish it.  The new university, Texas University, opened in Georgetown and was later renamed to Southwestern University. 
He died in Waco in 1884 and was buried in Georgetown. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 12

Homer Thrall Marries Louisa Dickson and Rev. William S. Hamilton, June 14, 1846

Homer Thrall is well known as the preeminent historian of Texas Methodism during the 19th century.  Less well known is his role as a general Texas historian.
Thrall found time to publish A History of Texas:  From the Earliest Settlements. . “ in 1876 and A Pictorial History of Texas in 1883.  

Although Thrall cited other historians such as Henderson Yoakum and Mary Austin Holley, he claims his friendship with Texian leaders as part of his credential for writing.  This is from the Preface
. . .It has been the good fortune of the writer to enjoy the personal friendship of nearly everyone who has filled the executive chair, from the organization of the government to the present time, including Governors Smith and Robinson, appointed by the Consultation in 1835; President Burnet of the government ad interim; all the presidents of the Republic prior to the annexation, and the Governors of the state since that period.    Yes, Homer Thrall was a Texas history enthusiast. 

On June 14, 1846, he officiated at a wedding involving one of the families of the Revolutionary period.  The bride was Louisa Dickson.  The groom was the Rev. William S. Hamilton. 
Dickson’s father, Abishai Mercer Dickson, joined the Alabama Red Rovers, one of the volunteer companies formed in the United States in support of the Texian cause.  He was martyred at the Goliad Massacre, March 27, 1836.  The Republic of Texas rewarded families of the deceased soldiers with land grants so Louisa’s mother, Ann, brought the young Louisa and her younger brother Richard Hogue Dickson, to Texas to claim the land that had been bought with blood.

They came to the Alabama Colony ( see post of Dec. 6, 2014 for more information on the Methodists of the Alabama Colony) where the Widow Dickson married John Sutherland, another Revolutionary hero.  

William S. Hamilton, the groom, was admitted O. T. at the Texas Annual Conference in December, 1843, and appointed to the Egypt Circuit as the junior preacher working with Homer Thrall. 
We are fortunate that several items of the Dickson family, including letters from the Rev. William Hamilton to Louisa and a collection of Louisa’s brother. Richard Hogue Dickson (1831-1931) have survived.  They are part of the DRT Library, formerly available for research at the Alamo.  The DRT collection is currently in transition to a new facility. 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 5

Texas Conference Celebrates Diamond Jubilee of Organized Women’s Work in Texas   1955

A special celebration was held at the Texas Annual Conference in 1955 in honor of the 75th anniversary of organized women’s work in the conference.  Women had been shouldering much of the burden of Methodist work since its beginnings, but the formal organization dates only to the post-Civil War era when the East Texas Conference meeting in Marshall and the Texas Conference meeting in Flatonia created formal organizations for the women.

Prior to Annual Conference, from March 17-20, 1955, the Woman’s Society and Wesleyan Service Guild held a joint meeting at First Methodist Houston.  Over 1000 participants attended.  (note to readers:  In 1955 the Woman’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) consisted mainly of women who were not employed outside the home.  Their meetings were commonly held during the day. The Wesleyan Service Guild consisted mainly of women who were employed outside the home.  Their meetings were usually in the evenings.)

The highlight of the Diamond Jubilee celebration was a drama, I Send You Forth, written by one of the most accomplished Texas Methodists of the 20th century, Johnny Marie Brooks Grimes (1905-1997). 

Johnny Marie Brooks was born in Bellville into a family with deep Texas Methodist roots.  Her father, John Williamson Brooks (1856-1939) was a surveyor who had learned his surveying from Martin McHenry Kenney, son of John Wesley Kenney, the preacher/surveyor who organized the 1834 Caney Creek Camp Meeting.    She attended Bellville schools, and showed signs of brilliance.  If one visits the Bellville Public Library even today and asks for information on the history of Bellville, the librarian will supply a copy of a paper Johnny Marie wrote as an 8th grade student.  

Johnny Marie received her B. A. from Southwestern University and then a Master’s from Columbia Teacher’s College and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. 

She became one of the outstanding Christian educators of the era and worked at both the YWCA and First Methodist Houston.  She married the Rev. Lewis Howard Grimes (1915-1989).  The couple made their home in Dallas where they both were employed by SMU. Howard was on the faculty of Perkins School of Theology.  

Johnnie Marie was research assistant to the president of Southern Methodist University from 1953 to 1975.  In that position she provided invaluable assistance to the entire SMU community.    She also was elected to the State Board of Education.
Johnnie Marie and Howard attended First Methodist Dallas and, as you could probably guess, were active in educational activities.  The Aldersgate Sunday School Class still honors their memory.