Saturday, March 31, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 1

Educational Commissioners Meet in Galveston to Locate Central University, April 2, 1855

In April 1855 and April 1870 Methodists met in Galveston to organize a central Methodist university for Texas.  Robert Alexander was a member of both commissions.  The 1855 Commission selected Chappell Hill as the site.  The 1870 Commission put plans in motion that eventually resulted in Georgetown’s being chosen.  

Why Galveston?   The island city was certainly not central for the participants but in both years it was the home of the Publishing House, and that made it the nerve center for all things Methodist in Texas. 
By 1855 Methodists had already attempted the organization of several schools.  Starting with Rutersville College in 1840, each had proved a disappointment.  Debt, disease, incompetence, and scandal had hindered Methodist educational work in Texas.   Bishop Fitzgerald later wrote, “The history of Methodist schools in Texas, like those of other conferences, is a history of hard struggles, partial success, and many mistakes.”

Robert Alexander, although not the beneficiary of higher education himself, was committed to education for others.  He had been one of the organizers of Rutersville, and even established his residence there briefly.  In 1853/54 he was Presiding Elder of the Huntsville District and an agent for both Andrew College (in Huntsville) and Chappell Hill College.  As a delegate to the 1854 General Conference meeting in Columbus, Georgia, he served on the Education Committee.  

At the 1854 Conference of the Texas Conference, meeting in Chappell Hill, Alexander offered a resolution authorizing an Educational Commission which would, with the cooperation of the East Texas Conference, create a Central University. Such a central university would combine the financial resources of both conferences so that a stable university could be created.

The Commission considered Richmond, San Felipe, and Waco, but chose Chappell Hill as the site because of generous offers of aid from citizens of that city.  Soule University came into being.

Twenty-five years later the notion of centrality had changed.  Population had moved west.  There were now five Texas Conferences rather than two.  Georgetown was chosen as the site for a next central university.   Forty years later the definition of centrality had changed again.     Neither Soule in Chappell Hill or Southwestern in Georgetown ever completely fulfilled the vision of centrality of the commissioners, but Dallas did.  That’s why SMU can be considered the central university Texas Methodists had being trying to build for decades.


Post a Comment

<< Home