Saturday, July 28, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 29

Francis White, of Alabama Colony, Defended in the Press, He is not a Drunkard.   July, 1857

Previous blog posts have dealt with the Alabama Colony, one of the most important Methodist groups to immigrate to Texas during the Mexican period.  The names of some of those colonists, Menefee, Sutherland, Heard, and resounded down through the decades of Texas Methodist history.  Another member of the group who came from Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1830 was Francis Menefee White, (1811-1897), soldier, lawyer, politician. 

Frank White married into another prominent Texas family with Methodist connections in February 1835 when he and Rosanna McNutt married.   1835 also saw the first engagements of the Texas Revolution, and White was part of them.  He was commissioned a lieutenant in October of that year and participated in the siege of Bexar and the Grass Fight.  He was elected a delegate to the Consultation, but could not attend.   He left the army to care for Rosanna who was pregnant and spent the Runaway Scrape with her in the Brazos bottoms. 

After the war he became Commissioner of Jackson County, Justice of the Peace, a delegate to the 1845 Convention, and a member of the legislature.   He was especially interested in the public lands and in 1857 became Land Commissioner.
The publicity of the political office subjected him to attacks, including the charge that he was a drunkard.    He was defended by the editor of the Galveston Civilian and Gazette,

Here’s the defense

We lived neighbor to Frank White twenty years ago, and have known him intimately ever since.  So far as him being a drunkard, he never did dissipate and, for ten or twelve years past, has been the grand Shangai of the temperance society in Jackson Co., He is not a member of any church but nearly all his family and relatives are members of the Methodist denomination and he is a regular attendant upon and supporter of that body.  The idea of Frank White being a drunkard would cause the good old ladies of Jackson Co. than is experienced by a chicken in a thunderstorm. ,

Saturday, July 21, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 22

Marshall Preachers Try to Stop Sunday Baseball, July 1889

On July 26, 1889 ministers of several denominations met at the Methodist church to discuss a pressing social issue.  They were concerned about a problem in their city.  Was it racial discrimination?  After all Harrison County had the largest African American population of any county in Texas, but those citizens were systematically denied the most basic rights.  Was it industrial safety?  Marshall had developed significant railroad shops and lumber mills where workers toiled without the most basic safety precautions.  Perhaps it was public health.  Marshall and other cities of the era suffered from numerous sanitation issues---the “common cup” with which thirsty people dipped from the water barrel, the piles of manure left by the draft animals pulling the wagons and carriages, and so on.

No, it was none of these.  It was Sunday baseball.  The ministers issued the following resolution:

Whereas it has become the custom to have base—ball games on Sundays in the city of Marshall, attracting a large number of persons of all ages; and

Whereas we deem it our Christian duty to call the attention of the people thereto;
There be it
Resolved by the undersigned clergymen of the city of Marshall, that playing the game of base-ball on Sunday is a violation of the sanctity of that holy day.
2        That it is antagonistic to the work of the church in advancing the spiritual interest of the community.
1.       That it is demoralizing to the individual participants, the young especially to the community at large.

2.      That we hereby invoke the aid of all good people in discountenancing the evil here complained of.

3.      Resolved that nothing herein contained is intended to apply to the game itself except when played on Sunday or accompanied with betting.

4.      Resolved that a copy of the above resolution be furnished each of the city papers with a request to publish same.  

I wonder what issues that exercise us today will seem similarly quaint 100 years from now.  

Saturday, July 14, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 15

Polk Street Amarillo Opens New Building, Pays Off Debt, July 1907

Polk Street UMC in Amarillo was founded in 1888 and has worshiped in several buildings in its illustrious history.    Here is the text from the THC historical marker, awarded in 2015

The congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, south was organized on November 23, 1888, by Rev. Isaac Mills, Rev. Jerome Haralson and eight members. The church held title to Parker’s Chapel, the first church building constructed in Amarillo in 1889. The building initially housed several denominations that later organized and moved into their own buildings. The Methodist congregation grew significantly and, less than ten years later, it was clear that a much larger building was needed. In 1899, Rev. J.A. Whitehurst arrived in Amarillo and deeded a lot on Polk Street to the congregation. A gothic revival white-frame church was constructed by W.J. Beck in 1902. Known as the “white church,” it served the congregation for five years before it was moved across the street to make room for construction of a new, two-story Romanesque Revival Style brick church. In 1908, the church changed its name to Polk Street Methodist Church. As attendance grew to over 2,000, the church outgrew its third campus. The Reuben Harrison Hunt Company designed this Gothic Revival Brick structure on Polk Street six blocks south of the previous church. The new building opened in 1928 with additions in 1953 and 2012. Details include pointed arched openings, parapeted gables with limestone coping, lancets, pinnacles and pedimented buttresses. Built with Tudor details, including stained glass windows, the church is designed to be more than a house of worship. Theological education classes are held in the building’s many classrooms and community organizations utilize the large meeting halls. This beautiful, historic landmark was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

As you can read from the marker text, the 1907 church was replacing a building that was only 5 years old and it would last only 20 years itself. 
There were about 3000 persons present at the July 1907 opening, and the $33,000 building was still $8,400 short of paying for construction costs.  Naturally Rev. C. N. Ferguson called for pledges to pay off the debt, and over $9,000 was pledged.  It was a grand day for Methodists in Amarillo.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 1

Martin Ruter Provides Instructions for Littleton Fowler’s Journey to Texas, July 5, 1837

The letter Martin Ruter wrote to Littleton Fowler on July 5, 1837 reveals Ruter’s gifts of organization and spiritual leadership.  As the head of the Texian Mission, and an older, more experienced preacher, Ruter was able to offer some good advice to his junior colleague.  He was also misinformed about Texas geography.

In July 1837 Ruter was still in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he had just resigned the presidency of Allegheny College.  As he was packing his belongings and preparing to take his family down the Allegheny River to the Ohio and then to New Albany, Indiana, he found time to write Fowler.
He got right to the point about financial support.  Texas was a foreign nation, almost bereft of solid currency.  Even the smallest financial transactions were handled with I.O. U.s and promissory notes.  Texas was also full of scoundrels, counterfeiters, and con artists who had flocked to the Lone Star Republic to take advantage of those conditions   Ruter instructs Fowler to take all the validating documents he could—the letter from Nathan Bangs, of the Missionary Society that promised funding from that source, the letter from Bishop Morris who had appointed Fowler to Texas, and character reference letters from friends in the United States who were known in Texas.  And, by the way, be sure to have your parchments (license to preach) with you all the time.   Texas merchants were accustomed to providing goods to travelers on promise of payment, and Fowler's credentials would be among the best most Texas merchants would ever see. 

Ruter then advised Fowler to go to Memphis and take river transportation down the Mississippi to the Red and then to Natchitoches, then overland to Texas.  He told him not to go to New Orleans and then by ship because of the danger of being captured by Mexicans in the Gulf.Be sure to take a horse from the United States since mounts were more expensive in Texas.   I guess that Ruter did not know that Fowler knew more about Texas than he did, having been there to visit relatives in the settlements along the Red River in what is today Lamar County.  Fowler ignored Ruter’s advice about the route, and went by land from Memphis to Fulton, Arkansas and then to his family near Paris.  

When he got there, Ruter told Fowler to look for the immigrants who had been Methodists in the United States and to organize them into classes and establish preaching points (circuits) for them.  He told Fowler to avoid San Augustine where there were many rough and wicked people loitering day and night. 

As he organized the classes of Methodists from the United States, Ruter cautioned Fowler to be very careful about who he admitted to the classes.  Many will be our friends and members of our congregations who are not prepared to live a cross-bearing life.

Ruter then closes the letter with a practical matter.  Ruter had managed the Cincinnati Book Depository from 1820-1828 and was an author of some renown,  His final instruction to Fowler was “When you get to Texas, write me and tell me where I can send books.  I will bring some and ship others.”