Saturday, January 20, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 21

Rev. John R. Nelson Attends Large Evangelistic Services Held for Camp Logan Troops, January 22, 1918

Try to imagine a far different geography of Houston 100 years ago.  Camp Logan occupied 9312 acres of land, including the present site of Memorial Park.  Such a large area was needed because much of the land was used for artillery practice.  A smaller area, about 2000 acres, was used for rifle practice.  The Army had leased the land, which had included truck farms, pasture, woods, and dairy farms for a three year period.   
Just to the east, down Washington Avenue at the intersection of Washington and Heights, was the “Soldier’s Tabernacle” which had a seating capacity of 2500.  Standees could bring attendance to 3500.  A canteen and reading room were attached.   There were Methodist Episcopal Church South churches fairly close to the Tabernacle, Grace and Washington Avenue.  Washington Ave. was the older of the two, having been established specifically for the railroad employees and their families who had settled along the main tracks leading west from downtown.  Grace had been established later to serve the Houston Heights which was an incorporated municipality built around the most success streetcar suburb of Houston.   There was also a Methodist Episcopal Church, Collins Memorial, in the same general area.  Larkin Street Methodist was also not too far away as was West End Methodist (Brunner at Wood).
One hundred years ago this week the Rev.  W. H. Holderby, an evangelist of the Salvation Army held services for the troops in the tabernacle.  Nearby churches sent their young people to these services, and Collins Memorial held an all day prayer meeting in support of the evangelistic effort. 
There was a Methodist Chaplain at Camp Logan, H. T. Perritte (yes, you might know Perritte Memorial in Nacogdoches, named in his honor), and there was a also a state wide director of Methodist Army work—John R. Nelson, of the North Texas Conference in town for the week of preaching by Holderby and lectures supplied by the Fosdick Commission to prevent drunkenness, venereal disease, and visiting prostitutes.* 
It must have been an impressive sight to see troops marching down Washington Avenue in their uniforms to attend services at the Soldier’s Tabernacle.    John R. Nelson must have received a favorable impression.  In 1920 he transferred from the North Texas Conference to the Texas Conference so he could be appointed to Grace in the Heights.   In 1921, however, he transferred to the Memphis Conference.  That vacancy at Grace opened the way for a transfer from the Little Rock Conference, W. C. Martin---later Bishop Martin. 
*Raymond Fosdick was director of camp activities during World War I.  His office supplied speakers and programs to promote readiness and morale.  After the war he returned to the practice of law and directed the Rockefeller Foundation.  His brother was Harry Emerson Fosdick.   


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