Saturday, June 23, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History   June 24

John Wesley Hanner Considers Volunteering for Texas---If He Can Get Land, June 29, 1838

Littleton Fowler, one of the first three appointed missionaries to Texas, became head of the Texian Mission upon Martin Ruter’s death in May 1838.  When Texas was added to the Mississippi Conference in December 1838, he became Presiding Elder of the Texas District.  
Fowler volunteered for the Texian Mission while serving as agent for LaGrange College in Alabama.  “Agent” meant fundraising.  Fowler’s job was to travel Alabama and Tennessee soliciting funds for the college which at the time was headed by Robert Paine who was to be elected Bishop of the MECS at its first General Conference, 1846. 
Fowler was one of several agents, and based on letters in the Fowler Collection at Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, SMU, the colleague with whom he was closest was John Wesley Hanner (?-1898).    Hanner appeared to be Fowler’s advocate at LaGrange after Fowler moved to Texas.  Agents for the college did not receive a salary, but were expected to draw a salary from the collections they received from their fundraising efforts.  When Fowler volunteered for Texas, LaGrange owed him for his work, but could not pay him.  Hanner pressed the case for payments in Fowler’s absence.

Hanner also expressed an interest in joining Fowler in Texas—especially after Ruter’s death left the Mission short-handed.  In a letter for June 29, 1838, just a month after learning about Ruter’s death, Hanner wrote the following:

I wish to learn this Country, & go to South Ala., the Caido country between Red River & Sabine, or Texas. Tell me, can I now get that 1000 acres so cheap as you offered me, if I would be there last April? Provided I would come next Oct. & bring what the college owes you. Can I get a mission there? Would it be better to have an appointment from the Bishop, or Superintendant of the Mission? Or would neither be best? I am resolved on preaching somewhere; and that in no measured ways. I did not buy land of Crawford as I expected when I wrote you last; because he kind of bobbled in the contract. What sort of folks have you in Texas? There is more rascality, and underhanded meanness in this country than I have any use for. But it is a species of refined dishonesty & fraud. An honorable kind of injustice & oppression—rather have a little more bare-faced, & then one could know without philosophy, what it means.
How Hanner knows about the sophisticated rascality in Texas, we do not know, and perhaps the “Crawford” refers to Robert Crawford.  (see post for last week).
Hanner goes on

What would it cost to board my family in San Ausugtine? If I be a missionary or otherwise? When will any one who choses, be permitted to enter lands vacant, as here, -- & what the government price? I guess the chance for speculation has well-nigh passed away. How long do you expect to live in Texas? I conclude it is a sickly country, from the number & frequency of deaths. Bro. Ruter is no more! Alexander, I learn, has married, and gone into speculation. It is said they threatened him, for abusive preaching; and that none of you are doing much, in the way of gospel.

Less than two weeks later Hanner wrote again
My Beloved Fowler
The Quarterly Meeting here has just closed. Brother Pitts was present. We had a talk about going to Texas as missionaries. Your pressing appeal to Bro. [Robert] Paine, in behalf of this cause, calling for Pitts as a laborer drew his attention, and enlisted his feelings. This morning he mailed a letter to Rev. N[athan] Bangs, stating that if no appointment has been made in view of the vacancy occasioned by Dr. Ruter’s death, he & myself were willing and ready to go in company to that Republic as missionaries, at any time. We concluded that you had written to the appointing power, recommending certain persons, perhaps Pitts, among the rest. He requested Bangs to answer him immediately, perhaps he will get it in Aug. If we are appointed, we think of leaving our families here, for the first six, or twelve months, until we can get something of a home for them there. We believe that Texas is destined, at no distant day, to become one of the first countries on the globe.

Fountain Pitts did come to Texas but Hanner spent most of the rest of his life in Tennessee.  He continued to correspond with Littleton Fowler until Fowler’s death in Jan. 1846.  


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