This Week in Texas Methodist History November 27
G. C. Rankin Transfers to North Texas Conference, Finds Interesting Cultural Differences between Houston and Dallas. Nov. 27, 1896
George Rankin was completing his four year pastorate at Shearn Methodist (later First Methodist) in Houston. Bishop Keener came from the Northwest Texas Conference to Houston and requested a bedroom and solitude from Rankin. Keener took a stack of North Texas Conference Journals into the bedroom. When he emerged several days later, he announced he had made the North Texas appointments and Rankin would be transferring to that conference but did not tell him the charge.
The Texas Conference then met with Bishop Eugene Hendrix presiding, and when the appointments were read, Rankin discovered he was going to First Methodist Dallas.
Rankin served that pastorate and then assumed the editorship of the Texas Christian Advocate which had its offices in Dallas. He managed to write his life story and included therein a most interesting comparison between Houston and Dallas circa 1896.
Even before the oil boom, Houston was much more of a culturally diverse city. Here how Rankin describes it.
When the Texas Conference met in Bastrop, with Bishop Hendrix in the chair, I was transferred to the North Texas Conference. I really regretted to leave that section of the State and those excellent brethren, but it seemed a necessity under the circumstances. However, I felt that Texas was one, though divided into five conferences.
True, the lines between them were closely drawn, but the Methodism of the State was one. Nevertheless I found a striking difference between the people of South and North Texas; and I also9 found a difference between the preacher of the two sections.
Down there (Houston) is a large mixture of foreign peoples, and the effect upon the customs and usages of the people is marked, they have a somewhat different texture of civilization. Many of the people of foreign extraction have become largely Americanized, it is true, but many of them are as distinctively foreign as if they were living in Continental Europe or in Old Mexico.
Among them are German, Bohemian, and Italian communities, but Houston was, and is, a composite mixture of many sorts of peoples. A Catholic priest told me that in that in his one congregation, he had nine distinct nationalities. The influence in this condition is seen in the social and political life of the city. The saloons are a potent element, and in municipal politics, they are a dominant force.
In North Texas it is vastly different. The population is largely native and American ideas and customs more largely prevail. There are comparatively few foreign people, and their presence and influence is not so much found in Church and State. Protestant Christianity, public schools, and the English language have the right of way. Moral sentiment is in the ascendancy and saloons have but little influence in social and political life. The soil is more varied in its productions and the rural districts are more populated. The cities and towns do not have so much their way, and the country idea of morals more than offset the tendency of the city toward vice and lax enforcement of law. . . .
Hence throughout South Texas there is not much respect for the Sabbath except as a day of recreation and hilarity; the saloon and beer garden are popular resorts, and there is great antipathy to prohibition in any form. . . .
So when I came to North Texas, it was like coming into contact with another civilization and with the masses of another race of people