Saturday, February 09, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Feb 10 

Disillusioned Pastor Abandons California, Returns to Texas,  Feb. 10, 1888

The most famous Texas Methodist preacher to go to California for evangelistic purposes in the 19th century was Orceneth Fisher.  He was not the only Methodist to head to California.  One should not be surprised since California’s wealth, climate, and other natural resources have proved compelling since the acquisition of California in 1848. 

Sometimes the image did not meet reality.  On February 10, 1888, the Rev. M. G. Jenkins sought out a reporter on his return to Fort Worth and readmission to the Northwest Texas Conference.  The year before Jenkins had transferred to California and appointed to Bakersfield.    Let him speak for himself. . .

He told the Gazette reporter. . .

I might be able to deter some others from venturing in a country so cheerless, comfortless, and utterly desolate as found California.  It is Christian duty I feel bound to perform to warn all I can from going there.   It is sinful.  Last fall I was transferred by the Northwest Texas Conference to Bakersfield, a small place  (1890 census pop. 2616)  in the San Joaquin valley, about 160 miles north of Los Angeles.  I went there expecting to find a country rich in all that goes to make life pleasant, but I found the whole country bleak, barren, and desolate, in fact a great desert, resembling that arid waste stretching from New Mexico to Yuma; in fact I believe it to be the same desert, intersected only by the Sierra Madre mountains.  It is the most God-forsaken country.  (If a minister can use such an expression.) I ever saw.  The ministers have no support there, all those of Protestant denominations being supported by missionary appropriations from the east.  The people as a rule take more interest in their rabbit drives than in the preaching of the gospel.  The only man in the whole country, who wanted me to stay when I had up my mind in utter disgust to leave, was a gambler who said he would contribute to my expenses if I would stay, but would not attend my service. 
This is no place for a man of whatever occupation to go.  It is expensive to live and there is no work to do. In the village of Bakersfield they had town lots surveyed off out in the desert, which they hold at $200 and $300 per acres, but there were few people foolish enough to buy at such figures.  

We may smile at the ironies in some of the opinions Rev. Jenkins expressed. 
Bakersfield, far from being a desolate waste, is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the nation. It produces almonds, carrots, alfalfa, citrus, grapes, cotton, and roses—all dependent upon irrigation that transformed the San Joaquin Valley from desert to farmland. The region also has oil production and manufacturing.  

The greatest irony, though, is that just 40 years after Jenkins warned Texans not to go to Bakersfield, it was the main focus for emigrants form the Dust Bowl---If only Jenkins had snapped up some of that cheap real estate!


Post a Comment

<< Home