Saturday, August 27, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History  August 28

Rev. Clayton C. Gillespie Speaks To Temperance Meeting at San Antonio Against Temperance Legislation, August 28, 1874

Most of our perception of Methodists and temperance come from the 1880-1920 period when the church seemed unanimous on the subject and supplied the lion’s share of volunteers and money for the cause of Prohibition.

We forget that immediately before this period, it was fairly easy to find Methodists willing to speak against prohibition legislation.    They were for temperance, but they wanted to achieve that goal through individual persuasion rather than the coercive power of the state.

One such Methodist was Clayton C. Gillespie, (1822-1876).  Gillespie was a Georgian who made his way to Texas and served significant pastorates.  When the Civil War broke out, he was one of the three “Chappell Hill Preacher Colonels” the other two being G. W. Carter and F. W. Wilkes.  Gillespie was elected Colonel of the Texas 25th Calvary and surrendered with that command at Arkansas Post in January 1863.  He was sent to Camp Douglass, the p.o.w. camp near Chicago,, but was exchanged and returned to the war.

After the war he resumed preaching and had one of the most important jobs in Texas Methodism.  He was editor of the Texas Christian Advocate.

In August 1874 he found himself in San Antonio at the Methodist church where a Temperance Society meeting was underway.  Because of his prestige he was invited to speak.  It took a brave man to speak against the prevailing opinion, but that’s what Gillespie did. 

This is from the newspaper report of the meeting

Col. Gillespie deprecated the denunciation of the bar-room men, as they only sold what society around them demanded.  He also deprecated society fanaticism, and opposed all temperance legislation, and temperance politics.  He then set forth the terrible ravages of intemperance, especially since the war among the very best men of the land, of all professions and occupations of life, many of whom were already buried, and many others following in their footsteps.

Gillespie himself did not have that much longer to live.  He died on Christmas Day 1875.  By that time his editorial successor, G. W. Briggs had turned the Advocate into a prohibition organ.  (see previous column for Briggs).


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