Saturday, June 02, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 3

Bishop Morris Offers Health Advice, “Go to Arkansas or Texas.”

As we approach moving day, our thoughts naturally turn to preachers who received new appointments.  Perhaps it would be well to think about Bishop Thomas Morris’s advice to preachers in an era when at least some then sought comfortable appointments. 

This letter is already too long, yet I beg indulgence
till I make one small addition. In most of our older
conferences we have some good brethren in delicate
health, who seem to think themselves unable to endure
the toils and exposures of an itinerant life, and under the
influence of mistaken notions of self-preservation, incline
to linger about those places where roast beef, plum-pud-
ding, and preserves abound in the greatest luxuriance; so
that it would not be marvelous if they were to decline
under the wasting influence of dyspepsy, hypochondria,
and nervous debility. Now, for the benefit of all such
young preachers, though not a professor of the healing
art, I venture to make this prescription: Let them form
themselves into companies of two, three, or four, and vol-
unteer for the work in Arkansas or Texas conference, not
to float down the river pent in the cabin of a steamboat,
but to travel in light wagons, such as will carry them-
selves, tents, and baggage: let them camp out; kill, roast,
and eat wild meat; study their Bibles; pray; and sleep
with their feet to the fire. A few blankets are easily car-
ried; and as for feathers, every oak and elm produces
abundance of such as would be most healthy for them,
and which they can have for the trouble of gathering,
One such campaign, with the blessing of Providence,
would make them sound men, buoyant in spirit, and ready
for a frontier circuit, or mission, where they might have
the honor of preaching the Gospel to the poor, and of
aiding a noble band of brethren in their efforts to save
souls. Who will get ready and make the experiment next fall?
 Healthy brethren are not excluded from the priv-
ilege of coming.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches, ..1853

. Morris, Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury), 1794-1874.

The similarities to Theodore Roosevelt’s advice for the rugged outdoor life as a means for achieving health are obvious.  What about the results?  Did the vigorous outdoor life of riding circuits in the Republic of Texas lead to improved health?

Unfortunately, not for some.  

The first Methodist preacher to die in Texas was Martin Ruter at age 53.  The second was John Denton at 35, but we cannot attribute the death to disease.  He was killed by Native Americans.  Moses Speer died in 1840, but he was fairly elderly when he came to Texas.  Ike Strickland was only 30, and less than a year in Texas when he died at Bell’s Plantation on the Brazos.  The first preacher to die after the organization of the Texas Conference was William O’Connor who was only 27 when he died at Marshall.  Littleton Fowler was only 42 when he died in January 1849.  He is buried at McMahan’s Chapel.  Also at McMahan’s Chapel are Daniel and Jane Poe who died in 1844   He was 35.
It is no coincidence that we still sing, And Are We Yet Alive?  at Annual Conference.


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