This Week in Texas Methodist History December 18
Texas Conference Convenes fro Second Session, December 23, 1841`
The second session of the Texas Conference of the MEC met in San Augustine on December 23, 1841, with Bishop Thomas A. Morris presiding.
In spite of economic problems facing Texas and Texas Methodists, the preachers were able to report significant accomplishments. The membership had grown by 917 members so the rolls now showed 2795 members. The conference college at Rutersville boasted an enrollment of between 70 and 80 students. Successful camp meetings were conducted at Montgomery, Rutersville, and Waugh Camp Ground (then in Milam County, now in Burleson County). T. O. Summers had done great work in Houston, strengthening the small society of Methodists in that city. J. P. Sneed was able to report new organizations in Victoria, Gonzales, Port Lavaca, and Seguin. John Haynie had established churches on the Upper Colorado on the Austin Circuit. The geographic footprint of Methodist had expanded in Texas both northwest, southwest, and along the Red River settlements.
The conference was strengthened by the addition of transfers and admissions.
The transfers included John Clark, J. W. Whipple, and Orceneth Fisher from Illinois, all of whom were to play major roles in the Texas Conference. William Craig transferred from the Mississippi Conference. The ordinands included Henderson Palmer, Daniel Carl, Robert Crawford, John Haynie, and J. W. Whipple. .
The conference included three districts whose Presiding Elders were among the most renowned in Texas Methodist history.
Robert Alexander was Presiding Elder of the Galveston District which stretched all the way from Brazoria to Franklin in Robertson County.
John Clark presided over the Rutersville District which included Austin, Washington County, all the way to Victoria and Matagorda.
Francis Wilson had the San Augustine District, basically Liberty, Crockett, and Jasper, all the way to Marshall. In addition to traveling his district conducting quarterly conferences, he also devoted much time to the establishment of a college in San Augustine.
One of the most consequential appointments was that of Littleton Fowler as Agent of Rutersville College. The appointment freed him from the day-to-day administration that had been his life’s work since the death of Martin Ruter in May, 1838. Upon Ruter’s death, he became head of the Texian Mission, and after the Mission became part of the Mississippi Conference, Presiding Elder for most of East Texas. In addition he had married, acquired a family, tried to start a farm, and worked to obtain a college charter. The job as Agent allowed a break in the hectic life he had been living. He used the opportunity to travel to Ohio and recruit preachers from the two Ohio Conferences for Texas. Some of those transfers, especially DeVilbiss and Thrall, were to cast giant shadows over Texas Methodism for decades.
At the conclusion of the conference Bishop Morris did not return directly home. Instead he went on a long, difficult winter tour of Texas. He went by Washington on the Brazos to visit the grave of Martin Ruter. He stopped at Rutersville to preach to the college students. He then went to Austin where his son, Thomas Asbury Morris was in the process of vacating the office of Attorney General of the Republic of Texas. The younger Morris had assumed the office when President Lamar appointed Attorney General Webb as a special negotiator to Mexico. Morris finished out the term and did not stay for the incoming administration of Sam Houston’s second term. Instead he accompanied his father to Galveston and then home.