Saturday, August 26, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   August 27

Sumner Bacon Organizes American Bible Society Chapter in San Augustine  September 1834

In September, 1834, Sumner Bacon organized the first chapter of the American Bible Society in Mexican Texas.   The ABS was founded in 1816 and is still a major distributor of scriptures in many languages. 

Bacon was born in 1790 in Massachusetts.   His early plans for education and a legal career were ended with the death of his father.  He moved west, down the Ohio River and eventually ended in the U S Army in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  He was converted at a camp meeting and became a Cumberland Presbyterian.  He lived in Arkansas after leaving the army.  He sought ordination but his lack of education meant that he did not meet the requirements.  In 1829 he moved to Texas as an itinerant evangelist. 

He continued to seek ordination in the Arkansas Presbytery, but was unsuccessful.  A meeting with the Rev. Benjamin Chase led to his appointment as the first Texian representative of the American Bible Society.  In 1834/35 he distributed about 2000 English and Spanish Bibles.  Also in 1835 he presented himself for ordination to the Louisiana Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  He was still only semi-literate at best, but Presbytery recognized his zeal and ordained him anyway.    After all “he scattered the Word of Life from San Antonio to the Sabine with an industrious hand."

After service as a courier in the Texas Revolution he attended the session of the Mississippi Presbytery in the fall of 1836.  While there he received authorization to form a Texas Presbytery when he could assemble three Cumberland Presbyterian preachers.  In 1837 he was able to find the requisite two other preachers and organized the Presbytery about 5 miles east of San Augustine. 
Readers of this column will note how close the organization was to McMahan’s Chapel—also east of San Augustine and also the coincidence of the ABS organization being about the same time as the first Caney Creek Camp Meeting.

The 1837 organization of the Texas Presbytery preceded other Protestant organization.  The Regular Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists all organized their judicatories within a few months of each other in 1840.    He died at San Augustine in January 1844. 

Saturday, August 05, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  August 6

Houston Trinity Sponsors City Wide Revival Two Weeks Before Camp Logan Riots
August , 1917

As Houston prepares to mark the centennial of the worst racial violence in its history, we should remember that only two weeks prior to the Camp Logan Riots, Houston Trinity MEC sponsored a city wide revival in which both races participated.

The story of the Camp Logan Riots is well known.  Soon after US entry into World War I the War Department authorized two new facilities in Harris County,  Ellington Field and Camp Logan.  The Camp Logan site is now occupied by Memorial Park.
The 24th US Infantry was ordered to Houston to guard the construction site.  The guards were an all African American unit. Tensions between these soldiers from the North and the Jim Crow restrictions in place in Houston eventually boiled over into a riot in which almost 20 people were killed.  Eventually 19 mutineers were hanged and 41 were given life sentences. 

Only two weeks earlier, an event of racial amity in Houston occurred.  Trinity MEC sponsored a city wide revival in Emancipation Park.  The evangelist, Rev. Chinn preached at day break,   11:00, 3:00, and again at 8:00 to audiences estimated as reaching 4000 on Sunday night and 2000 on week nights.  In accordance with the Jim Crow laws then in place, white attendees were accommodated with a separate seating section.   As was typical of the era, each night of the revival had a different theme.  On night was tuberculosis night with the collection being devoted to the tuberculosis sanitarium.  Another was Galveston night.  Another night was devoted to raising money to build a home for delinquent Negro children.  One night only men came, and another only women.  Still another day was “Old Folks Day.”   

Rev. John E. Green (see post for July 16) preached another night.  Perhaps Chinn’s most noted sermon was “Why Should the Devil Rule Houston?”   That sermon concentrated on the evils of dancing and card playing.  On Friday, August 10, the revival moved indoors to the City Auditorium so that more attendees could hear the sermon for which had made Chinn nationally known,  “After the Ball is Over” from Matthew 24:7(For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.)  The sermon title was taken from a popular 1891 song.   The service held in the City Auditorium was specifically advertised in white newspapers and promised, in addition to the sermon, a motion picture and a chorus of “jubilee and plantation” songs.  

  The pastor at Trinity at the time was Rev. J. O. Williams.    He, and the other organizers, knew of the all black 24 Infantry and extended a special invitation to them and asked their officers for leave so they could attend.

Only two weeks after these bi-racial revival services came the worst racial incident in Houston’s history.