Saturday, September 17, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 18

Union Protracted Meeting at Washington on the Brazos,  September 1837

“The claims of denominational rivalry have been greatly overstated.”  One of the most common remarks the author hears concern denominational rivalry.  While it is true that Methodists, Baptists, Adventists, and Disciples in Texas engaged in debates---usually over infant baptism or universal salvation---the records from the Republic period of Texas history clearly show cooperation rather than rivalry.  A preacher of one denomination would call for a meeting and invite preachers of “all orthodox denominations” to participate.   The various denominations shared facilities—including a church building in San Felipe that still stands, and is still owned by the municipal government.

One such “union” protracted meeting occurred at Washington on the Brazos in September 1837.  Three preachers of three denominations, led the meeting.

The Baptist was Z. N. Morrell (1803-1883), a native of Tennessee who had lived in Mississippi.  He moved his family to the Falls of the Brazos in April, 1836, but Indian raids prompted his removal to Washington on the Brazos where he organized Baptist churches in the region.   He spent two years in a Mexican prison after being captured at the Battle of the Salado.  Upon his release, he rode a circuit from Cameron to Corsicana.  After the Civil War he spent two years in Honduras, but moved back to Texas and continued to support Baptist causes, including Baylor University.  His memoir, Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness, or Forty-Six Years in Texas and Two Winters in Honduras (1872) is perhaps the most complete memoir of any preacher who worked in the Republic of Texas.  He was first buried at Kyle, but in 1946 his remains were reinterred in the Texas State Cemetery. 

The Methodist was Robert Alexander (1811-1882) another Tennessee native who moved to Texas from Mississippi.  Alexander was the first of the three officially appointed Methodist missionaries to enter the Republic of Texas. Alexander was involved in Methodist work for the rest of his life—he was active in helping to establish schools and publishing.  He was first buried in Chappell Hill, but was later reinterred at Brenham. 

The Presbyterian was Amos Roark, who had come to Texas in 1831 and is reputed to have organized a church at the home of James Duff on Mill Creek in Austin County that same year.  If that is true, it would be the first church organized in Texas.  Much better documented is his participation of the Texas Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Sumner Bacon’s house near San Augustine in November 1837.   His previous affiliation had been the Hatchie Presbytery in Tennessee.  

One of Roark’s contributions to the history of religion in the Republic is his extended essay Narrative of the State of Religion within the Bounds of the Presbytery of Texas, printed in the Telegraph and Texas Register, Aug. 4, 1838.


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