Saturday, October 27, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 28

Methodist Protestant Conference Announces Appointments, October 1864

The business of the the MECS annual conferences in Texas were severely disrupted by the Civil War, but the Methodist Protestant Annual Conference was able to conduct business as usual.  The Civil War prevented bishops from coming to preside over annual conferences in Texas.  In the absence of a bishop, conferences elected one of their own members to preside.  The major disruption was that ordination of elders could not occur without the presence of a bishop.
The Methodist Protestant Church, which grew out of a democratic reform movement in the MEC, never had bishops, so they conducted business as usual.
In October 1864 the Methodist Protestant Church convened its annual conference at Salem.  There are so many Salems in Texas I cannot be sure of which Salem it was –possibly in Cherokee or Wood County.  

Instead of a bishop, the MP Church had a President, elected by the members for a one year term.  The entire conference served as the “Stationing Committee”  and made the appointments.  Unlike the MECS, the MP Conference had lay delegates.

There were 16 clergy and 7 lay delegates in attendance.  Three men were ordained deacons and one was ordained as an elder.   There were nine appointments:

Bonham Mission
Clarkeville (sic)

In 1939 the Methodist Protestant Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South merged to form the Methodist Church.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 21

Methodist Church Sexton in Roxton Assaulted by Racist Thugs, 1900

The controversies over removal of Confederate statutes and renaming of schools, streets, and other public facilities named for Confederates have had the effect of renewed interest in the period 1890-1920.  It was that period in which most of the statues were erected and many public parks, schools, and streets were named to honor Confederates.   As always, one of the benefits of historical knowledge is being able to provide the larger context of events.   Although superficially benign, the honorifics were part of a larger picture of trying to ennoble the motives of those who had taken up arms to destroy the United States of America.  

Besides the erection of statues other actions of the period included disenfranchisement of African American voters, the imposition of strict social segregation, enactment of “Black Codes” which treated African Americans and European Americans differently even in courts of law, and myriad other violations of democratic values.

Even worse was the reign of terror launched against African Americans in the Texas and the rest of the South.   Lynching, assassination of political activists, imprisonment on trumped up or petty charges and other devices made life dangerous for African Americans.   Men swept up by the law for vague, unsubstantiated charges could find themselves leased out for chain gang labor, especially in the cane fields of the Brazos bottomlands.  An unknown number  died there.   

Even the sanctity of a Methodist church could not provide safety from the racist violence as this article from the Rockdale Messenger, October 25, 1900 shows

                                                        Attack on a Sexton
Paris, Texas, October 20,  About two months ago a negro (sic) was employed as a sexton at the Methodist Church in Roxton (Lamar County, about 18 miles sw of Paris).  Three of four weeks ago the church was entered at night by unknown persons who upset the benches, smashed the lights, and committed other depredations.  They posted a notice on the door warning the sexton to quit work.  The supposition is that they objected to him on account of his color.  Last night after the prayer meeting before persons who had attended had time to get out of hearing and while the sexton was engaged in putting out the lights, three or four unknown young men went up to the window and asked him why he was not picking cotton. He replied that he was attending to the church.  A stone was hurled through the window and struck him on the shoulder.  Almost immediately afterwards two shots were fired, one of the bullets grazing the side of his head and the other passing through his coat.  There is no clew as to who the parties were. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 14

Texas Monumental and Military Institute Opens at Rutersville, October 1856

Texas Methodists had high hopes for their university named in honor of Martin Ruter establishing near LaGrange in 1840, but those hopes were shattered and abandoned for good in 1856.  Immediately after Martin Ruter’s death in May, 1838, Texas Methodists bought a league of land in Fayette County, surveyed it into lots, and began the process of organizing both a town and college. 

They hired Chauncey Richardson to be the organizing president, lobbied the Congress of the Republic of Texas for a charter and land grants to support the college.  In 1840 those aims bore fruit when Rutersville College began instruction.  There were three departments, collegiate, preparatory, and women’s.   Methodists sent their children there, eager to have them educated in a Methodist institution. 

By 1856, it all came crashing down.  Chauncey Richardson was not particularly effective as president, there was a sex scandal, and the great bugaboo of almost all Methodist colleges in the 19th century, debt, was too much to overcome.
As the end drew near, the school still had some assets, buildings and its charter.  The trustees agreed to keep something going by merging with the Monumental Institute and the Texas Military Institute of Galveston.  The Monumental Institute had been chartered in 1850 to build a monument at Rutersville to honor the fallen who had perished in the two disastrous military episodes of 1842, the Mier Expedition and the death of so men under Dawson’s command at the Battle of Salado.   Many of the fallen had volunteered from Fayette and surrounding counties.  

Colonel Caleb Forshey brought his TMI from Galveston and assumed control of the new institution while Rutersville’s last president, William Halsey, went ot Chappell Hill to try to kick start Methodist educational efforts there.

Forshey had attended West Point and was an engineer, scientist, and educator.  He came to Texas as the Chief Engineer for the Galveston, Houston, Henderson Railway.  He started that project and then founded the Texas Military Institute in Galveston in 1854 but moved it to Rutersville when that site became available.  
Prospective cadets had to 12 years old and 52 inches tall.  They had to be able to spell, read, write and cipher.  They also had to bring their own furniture to college and supply a uniform.   Tuition for the preparatory department was $50 and for the collegiate was $100.  

The TMI lasted until the Civil War.  The cadets all joined the Confederate forces and Forshey returned to his previous occupation of military engineer.  He planned coastal defenses and gave the orders for the “cotton clads” which helped retake Galveston Island from the Federals.  If that weren’t enough, he also composed Civil War songs.

After the war he returned to civilian engineers of railroads, canals, and river improvements.  He died in Carrollton, LA, in 1881.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  October 7

Methodist Church in Paducah Hosts War Bond Rally,  Oct 6, 1918

World War I was in its final stages.  The Allies had mounted a final push to try to end the horrific stalemate which had gone on for four years and had already resulted in millions of causalities.   On Sunday night, October 6, a giant rally was held in the MECS  Church in Paducah.   The account in the Paducah Post reported that the rally consisted of music and speeches full of “spice and snap.”  The program “made the audience “hate the Kaiser all the more.”  Promoting any kind of hatred in the church seems odd, but another article on the front page of the Post goes even further.   J. W. Hoopes of the Federal Reserve Bank called the Kaiser an “unnatural degenerate.”    One should remember how strong the anti-German sentiment was.  About 70 miles from Paducah, the town of Brandenburg changed its name to Old Glory.  German language instruction was banned in the public schools, and some German-Texans were forced to kiss the American flag to show their loyalty.  At least a few German-Texans bought war bonds because of pressure to show their patriotism, although there was no evidence of German-Texan fifth column activity.

On Monday, October 7, the rally continued.  Stores closed at 12:00 so the population could go watch an airplane land.  Two aviators from Call Field in Wichita Falls flew to Paducah in support of the rally.  

This episode naturally makes us remember how our nation has funded its wars.  In both World War I and World War II there were bond drives which have much in common with Methodist pledge drives.  Musical entertainment, stirring oratory, and lots of competitions between communities were all part of the process in both national and church fund drives.

The bond drives and pledge drives depended upon a broad based reservoir of support.  Both had significant impacts.  For example, just one year later the Methodist denominations staged the largest coordinated fund drive of all, the Centenary Campaign in support of missions.  Thousands of mission projects were initiated.  When the enthusiasm of the campaign waned and the Depression set in, many of those mission projects were abandoned.   

A main result of the bond drives after World War I and World War II was enforced savings.  During World War II the conversion of factories producing consumer goods to military goods created shortages in products from tires to nylon stockings.  Overtime wages earned in the cause of military production and enforced savings meant that after World War II there was a pent up demand for consumer goods desired by a population with accumulated savings, a sure recipe for both inflation and increased investment in factories to produce consumer goods.   

From the Methodist perspective, there was also a pent up demand for new church buildings.  The Depression and World War II had slowed new church construct.  In the period 1946-1956 Texas Methodists went on a building spree, financed, in part, by contributions made possible by the accumulation of wealth through war bond sales.