Saturday, April 14, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 15

180 Years Ago This Week

The week of April 15-21, 1838 was marked with intense activity of the Texas Mission.  It was one of the few times that the three missionaries saw each other during the life of the Texas Mission which I define as the period between September 1837 when Robert Alexander first set foot on Texas soil to December 1838 when the Mission was attached to the Mississippi Conference.  

On Sunday April 15, 1838 Littleton Fowler preached twice in Houston.  William Y. Allen, a Presbyterian missionary, also preached.   Having Sunday morning, afternoon, and evening preaching services were common in the era, and citizens of Houston were happy to have the services.  Congress was in session so the young capital city was crowded with visitors including legislators.  

Martin Ruter, the head of the Mission was in Washington.  On Saturday the 14th he had sought medical treatment.  There were two Methodist local preachers in Washington who also practiced medicine, Abner Manly and William P. Smith.  We know now that he had only a month to live.   On Sunday Ruter preached and then rode to Kessee’s (near the present town of Chappell Hill) where he spent the night. 
On Monday the 16th Ruter rode to Centre Hill in northern Austin County.  Fowler remained in Houston where he visited his Masonic Brothers.   Since the Congress of the Republic of Texas was in session in Houston, it was a good time for the Grand Lodge to meet.  Fowler gave the opening prayer and then was named Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Texas.  

On Tuesday the 17th Ruter and Alexander were in Centre Hill where Ruter wrote two letters, one private and one intended for general circulation.   The general letter detailed the plan of appointments he had devised for the three missionaries and the local preachers who also preached but did not ride regular circuits.   The private letter revealed his illness and told of his plans to return to New Albany, Indiana, to bring Mrs. Ruter and the younger children to Texas.  The family had been staying in New Albany while Ruter came to Texas because Martin Ruter’s brother, Calvin, was Presiding Elder of the New Albany District.

That afternoon Ruter rode to John Rabb’s.  

On Wednesday the 18th Littleton Fowler went down Buffalo Bayou to Harrisburg to preach the funeral service of a man named Nathaniel James Dobie (1811-1838).  (N. J. Dobie was J. Frank Dobie’s great-uncle.)

On Thursday the 19th Ruter rode back to Hall’s where he wrote a report that could rightly be considered the first Texas census of Methodists.  He reported 20 societies with 325 members and 12 local preachers.  Church buildings were mainly still under construction and were located in Washington, Caney, San Augustine, Nacogdoches, and Cedar Creek.   After writing his report, in the company of William Chappell, he departed for the Red River area.  He planned to visit Methodists mainly around Clarksville and then proceed to New Albany.  

Saturday the 21st was the second anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto.  Both Alexander and Fowler were in Houston for the event.  Ruter, though, became so ill that he advised Chappell to go on without him.  The next day, Ruter decided to return to Washington to seek medical attention from Manly and Smith.  

April 15 to 21 1838 was quite a week.  Martin Ruter, a man so sick he would be dead in a month, did not spend two consecutive nights at any one house from Sunday through Friday.  He managed to write at least three letters and rode about 12-15 miles each day.   Robert Alexander spent the week in Austin County and Houston.  Fowler stayed in Houston/Harrisburg all week.  

The young mission was about to experience tragedy because of Ruter’s death.  April 15-21 was probably the last week of “normal” operations.     


Blogger Karon Jahn said...

Fascinating. Thank you.

10:03 AM  

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