This Week in Texas Methodist History July 31
Willis Hosts District Conference, Great Hospitality but Poor Attendance July, 1875
In the late 19th century Presiding Elders convened regular district conferences to transact business and provide a venue for several days of prayer, song, preaching, and praise for the hard working circuit riders whose life could be lonely. The district conferences provided a morale boost and engagement with other Methodists.
P. E. James Wesson appointed a conference of the Huntsville District for July 28, 1875 in Willis. The Methodists of Willis eagerly anticipated the event. After all, it would provide the opportunity for several days of worship and a chance to renew old friendships with the visiting preachers and lay delegates.
It was customary in the era for parishioners to provide food and beds for the visitors. Newspaper accounts reveal that the Willisites went all out in their preparations
. . .The country people volunteered their assistance, and on the 21st and 22nd, wagons, loaded with vegetables, corn, melons, fruit, etc, rolled into town and disbursed contents where most needed.
The small town expected a large crowd
Dame Rumor with her thousand tongues had declared that between 50 and 60 ministers and lay delegates. . .would resign themselves to the tender mercies—i.e. hospitality—of the Willisites.
That attendance estimate proved wildly optimistic
. . .only twelve minister on whom to expend their largess of their hearts and bounties of their tables appeared.
Wesson conducted the Conference even with the few ministers. When it was concluded it followed a common practice of the era and segued into a protracted meeting that lasted for days.