Saturday, November 03, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History Nov. 4




Bishop James O. Andrew Presides Over Texas Conference, First Week of November 1860 AND 1865

Bishop James O. Andrew is best known to Methodist historians as the bishop whose ownership of slaves precipitated the dramatic events of the General Conference of 1844 which resulted in the division of the MEC into the MECS and the MEC.
James O. Andrew made 5 trips to Texas, including ones in 1860 and 1865.   
As stated in the post for last week, no bishops were able to come to Texas during the Civil War so the 1860 and 1865 visits were sort of “bookends” for Texas.
Andrew had been born in 1796 and elected in 1832.  At the formation of the MEC, he naturally went with southern branch of the church.     Bishops of the era could live where they wished and although he was a Georgian, he made his home near his daughter’s family in Alabama.

Here is how his biographer described the 1860 episcopal trip to Texas:
Nearly twenty years before he had first gone to this republic. 
At that time there was only a little band of heroic men forming one
 small Conference ; now, there were three Conferences, two of them quite
 large. At that time there had been few appointments on the eastern side
 of the State and in the larger cities; there were now stations and circuits
 reaching from the Rio Grande to the Sabine, and from 
the Gulf to the territories on the north. The work was very hard, 
and successive droughts had made this year one which was especially trying. He
 made the trips by boat to Galveston and thence into the interior, and then 
returned to Alabama. 
It should be noted that this visit was made during the Presidential election of 1860.

The 1865 episcopal visit is described in much greater detail.
The Trans-Mississippi had not had any Episcopal supervision for years. 
Some one must go, and al- though he was old and feeble, and moneyless,
 he con- sented to make the journey. How he made it Brother 
Rush tells. 
 
He reached the seat of the Texas Conference and presided over it and over
 the East Texas. During his visit to the Texas Conference, of the amount 
raised for superannuated preachers, widows, etc., the Conference proposed to 
appropriate one hundred dollars to Bishop Andrew ; he refused to. receive it. 
Penniless as he was, he would not take a penny of that fund, but the brave 
Texans were not willing to allow him to go out empty handed, and raised a 
handsome purse for him, which hedid receive without hesitation. He did not
 attempt to reach the Rio Grande Conference, but made his way to Summerfield 
again.
The Texas Conference was held in Chappell Hill and there was lots of business to catch up on.  10 men were ordained because of the pent-up demand since no bishops had come to ordain preachers in Texas during the war.  The conference also recognized the death of John Wesley Kenney, a true pioneer of Texas Methodism who had died the previous January.   

Bishop Andrew’s episcopal visit that interests me most was his first, when he was a much younger man and better able to withstand the rigors of travel. 
In 1843 he arrived at Galveston, made his way to Houston and sought advice on the best way to get to the conference site, Robinson’s in southwestern Walker County.   He was advised there were two options.  He could go by steamboat up the Trinity to approximately where Riverside is today and then go overland from there.  The other option was to go northwest approximating the present route of US 290 as far as Hockley and then north through Montgomery, then to Robinson’s.   He, accompanied by Charles Shearn and T. O. Summers, chose the latter. 
It was a miserable route. 

The whole prairie was inundated — the water was up to the knees 
of their horses, and sometimes in a slough their own 
feet were covered. The stars above them gave all 
the light they had, and "save the sound of our 
horses' feet splashing in the water, the shrill cry of 
the crane, or the noise of numerous flocks of wild 
geese and ducks, which were startled upon our ap- proach, there was no
 sound to break in upon the gloomy silence of the scene around us ; unless we 
chose to keep our own voices employed, which we 
did pretty freely by way of cheering each other's 
spirits." 


It got worse:  The big obstacle was Lake Creek in Montgomery County.  It was so flooded that he had to swim, holding on to his horses reins.

I think about that weekly.  My route from home to the Texas Conference Archives is Highway 105.  It crosses Lake Creek at Dobbin.   The Halloween storms this week made Lake Creek come out of its banks, much like in 1843.    I thought about Bishop Andrew again and how after his swimming the creek, only six months later he was in New York City—presumably sleeping in a comfortable hotel. 

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