This Week in Texas Methodist History Jan. 29
P. E. Gregory Appoints E. B. Duncan to Sulphur Fork January 1837
The earliest Methodist preaching in Texas occurred in northeastern Texas as early as the mid 1810’s. The settlements along the Red River in present day Red River, Bowie, and Lamar Counties were nominally still part of Spanish Texas, but since the Red River was part of the Mississippi drainage basin, it was therefore part of the Louisiana Purchase. The Adams-Oñis Treaty of 1819 between the United States and Spain resolved the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase by making the Sabine River the boundary from its mouth to 32 ° North Latitude, hence due north to the Red River, thence up the channel of the Red River, etc. This boundary which was adopted by the new nation of Mexico after its successful revolution, put the settlements on the south side of the Red River into Spanish and then Mexican territory.
The region was so distant from the Mexican heartland that little civil authority existed. Anglo American took advantage of the absence of a strong Mexican presence to squat on the lands along the Red, Sulphur, and their tributaries. Those settlers included Littleton Fowler’s aunt and uncle and their family. It was a great risk to move onto lands before governments established the mechanisms of securing land titles, but the potential reward was also great.
What little civil authority that did exist was mainly exercised from Fort Towson, a U. S. Army post in present day Oklahoma. Southwestern Arkansas also became a popular destination for settlers, and the whole region, on both sides of the Red was often referred to as the Miller Territory after Miller Co., Arkansas.
The area was incorporated first into the Missouri Annual Conference of the MEC, and with the creation of the Arkansas Conference in 1836, into the Arkansas Conference. The journals of the Arkansas Conference reveal appointments to the “Sulphur Fork Circuit” very early, but are often left “to be supplied.” Those appointments included such preaching points as Pecan Point, DeKalb, and Jonesboro. In late January 1837 Robert Gregory, the presiding elder of the District that included southwest Arkansas/northeast Texas appointed E. B. Duncan to the Sulphur Fork Circuit.
The appointments in northeastern Texas remained in the Arkansas Conference even after the creation of the Texas Conference in 1840. In 1844 with the creation of the East Texas Conference, they were taken from Arkansas and moved to the East Texas Conference.