Saturday, November 12, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Nov. 13

Barbeque Follows Cornerstone Ceremony at Soule University,  Nov. 1858

I like barbeque as much as the next man, but am a little bemused at how the Barbecue Cult has become one of the major cultural touchstones of Texan (and US) culture.  The Houston Chronicle has a regular barbeque reviewer.  Texas Monthly publishes an annual list with ratings of the best “cue.”  There are also tours of the famous Central Texas establishments that go to Lockhart, Taylor, Lexington, and other smoky shrines to the art of spit and grill.    It’s even become competitive with contests that include seeding, divisions, and separate prizes for each delicacy (brisket, ribs, sausage, etc.).  It’s become quite a conversation starter when I meet someone from North Carolina and trash talk what they call barbeque---shredded pork!  No way!  With slaw?? Never!

On Nov. 9, 1858 the cornerstone for Soule University’s impressive building was laid with full Masonic honors.  On Nov. 17 an article appeared in the Weekly Telegraph (Houston) describing the event.  The reporting of the ceremony was typical, but the reporter then decided to describe the barbeque that followed with great literary flourishes. 

The ceremony consisted of officers of the local Masonic Lodge and the presentation of a satin flag with the name Soulé University on it. (note accent—it’s the only time I’ve seen the accent used in the name.)

John Wesley Kenney made the last speech of the day and then the interracial, intergenerational crowd moved to the food.  Here’s how the reporter described it.  

. . .the tables not only groaned, but grunted and heaved under their meats and other fixings.   Cow, sheep, hog, and for all I know, deer and opossum, together with flour fexins, and other doins, and various Gimcracks were in the greatest profusion.  Jewhillicans!  Didn’t they make the grease fly!  The attack lasted about an hour and three quarters and during two thirds of that time was awfully terrific.  In this description I do not try to do justice;  it would require the brilliant imagination of Lord Byron or the graphic delineation of Sir Walter Scott.  Meats, cakes, pies et cetera disappeared down the capacious necks of both sexes with a gusto, vigor, and velocity,  with a speed that would put to blush a railroad locomotive.  Imagine the fat, lazy voluptuous Abbott of St. Mary’s at Glendearg, picking into the fat venison and rich pastry of the good Dame, Widow Glendening,* and you may form some faint idea of the way Soule University barbeque was disposed of at Chappell Hill. 
*This is a reference to Scott’s 1820 novel, The Monastery.

The Nov. 1858 celebration was for a building that had a short life.  The university closed during the Civil War.  The foundation failed, Local citizens began salvaging building materials for other projects.  When F. A. Mood got there to reopen the school, the first item of business was fixing the roof.  A sad end for a building that had been started with such a celebration. 


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