Saturday, May 25, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 26

Fellowship Class of Wharton Methodist Church Announced as Winners of “Name the Camp” Contest, May 1948

The Texas Annual Conference of the MC (South Central Jurisdiction) was a relative latecomer to establishing a conference encampment.  The other annual conferences in Texas all had some such facility before World War II, but not the Texas Conference.

To be sure there was camping for the purpose of spiritual retreat and refreshment but not at a conference-owned facility.  Texas A&M  and Lon Morris hosted summer youth assemblies at various times.   Individual districts also conducted camping programs in a variety of faculties, and the Longview District, led by an enthusiastic young preacher named Chad Murray, seriously considered buying property for district camping use.

Finally though, in the post World War II era, the Conference decided to acquire property for camping use.  The property chosen was in Anderson County just south of the city of Palestine on Highway 294.   It consisted of rolling hills forested with mixed hardwoods and pines.  
In order build support for the project, the appointed Board of Managers conducted a “Name the Camp” contest. 

When Annual Conference met the last week of May 1948, the winner was announced.  The Fellowship Sunday School Class of Wharton Methodist Church had the winning entry, Lakeview.  The name was somewhat ironic since the lake had not yet been constructed.  What was the prize?  A camping experience for up to twenty-five persons at the new facility. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 19

Sam Butman Donates Land to Northwest Texas Conference for Youth Camp, May 1953

Few Methodists in the densely populated states of the Eastern seaboard can really grasp the how large the Northwest Texas Conference is.  It was even larger before 1910 when the General Conference broke off its southeastern portion to form the Central Texas Conference.     One of the difficulties of distance was addressed at the annual conference session of 1953 when the conference accepted Sam Butman’s generous donation of 232 acres of ranch land called Mulberry Canyon near Merkel for a youth camp.   

The Northwest Texas Conference already had an encampment, Ceta Canyon, near Happy.  The two encampments were about 250 miles apart.   Butman had signed the deed on May 14 so the Conference action was a formality.   Just a few years earlier, in 1950, Butman had made another generous donation so that Pioneer Memorial Methodist Church could be built in Merkel. 

We are fortunate that Darris Egger, Sr., a former member of the TUMHS, wrote a history of the encampment.  This selection from Egger’s book is used on the Butman website.

After a number of years of hope, dreaming, planning and praying, a camp in beautiful Mulberry Canyon, to be used by thousands of young and old alike, then awaited construction ...Let's put the picture into perspective. The Conference then had 231 plus acres of rocky, hilly, mesquite and cedar covered land. What lay ahead? What would rise from these seemingly rugged acres? To answer this question all we have to do is to visit Butman Methodist Camp and see all the facilities that house and feed hundreds and hundreds of people each year. We can walk the trails that children, youth and adults walk, see the shelters for small group sharings, listen to the singing , the sharing of experiences of the various camps, and to hear testimonies of changed lives by experiences led by Christian leaders." "We thank God for the vision of Sam Butman Sr., for the dedication and commitment of laity and clergy across a wide area , for their generosity in bringing to pass dreams that have been dreamed and prayers that have been uttered for His guidance and blessings.

Butman died 3 years later at the age of 92.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 12

Houston Post Recognizes Texans Serving in MECS Missions, May 18, 1919

Methodists, both MEC and MECS, celebrated the centennial of the first Methodist mission which had occurred in 1819 by a huge fund raising campaign called the Centenary Campaign throughout 1919. 
The religion editor of the Houston Post decided to run a full page article on Texans serving in MECS missions.  The reporter’s job wasn’t that difficult since the Mission Board published an annual which included a comprehensive directory and reports from all the missions.   

Texans were in seven different mission fields, as follows with the hometown (where known) of each.   

Three Texans were at Collegio Palmore in Chihuahua.  They included Norwood Wynn of Dallas, Virginia Booth of San Marcos, and Ethel McCaughan of Corpus Christi.  Edith Park from Galveston worked at the MECS school in Saltillo. 
Male missionaries to Mexico included J. F. Corbin; J. B. Cox; L. B. Newberry; J. A. Phillips; and Laurence Reynolds.

The missionaries to China which was still working out its government after the successful revolt earlier in the decade were mainly teachers.  They included Carey Touchstone of Merkel, Sid Anderson or Rising Star, Mary Tarrant of Galveston, Maggie Rogers of Marlin, and Sue Standiford of Waco.    Anderson was Presiding Elder of a district in which all the charges were villages around a large lake.  He “rode” his district in a motor boat donated by Methodists of Ranger.

There were two MECS Texan missionaries to Japan:  James Oxford of Turnersville and Miss Charlie Holland of Moscow.

Korea held a special fascination for Methodists of the era.  Ruby Kendrick, a former Southwestern University student, had died there, and in doing so created a special link to Texas.  In 1919 missionaries included Laura Edwards of Hereford and Agnes Graham of Comanche.

The MECS did not have a large presence in Africa.  The MEC did, and the British colonies had missions from the colonial power, but Texans served in Wambo Naima.  They were Mathron Wilson of Dallas and Etta Lee Woolsey of Bay City. 

The MECS has a huge investment in Brazilian missions which included a variety of schools including medical and dental.  Texans included Mary Lamar from Houston, Rachel Jarrett of Red Water, Lydie Ferguson of Belton, Maud Mathis of Arp, Mary Sue Brown of Gatesville, Lela Putnam of Albany, Charles Long of Cherokee County, and J. W. Daniel of Cotulla.   Daniel’s work is particularly interesting.  It was supported by students at the University of Texas.   In one year they raised $4000 to build a church.

Cuba was also an attractive destination for Texans.  Ben O. Hill (another Southwestern alum) was joined by J. F. Capterton of Itasca, L. H. Robinson of Live Oak County, Annie Churchill of Uvalde, and Rebecca Toland whose address was listed as Beeville, but was really from Chappell Hill.

The Post reporter included anecdotes supplied by the missionaries, and stressed the exoticism of the enterprise, but he also linked the missionaries with the Texas heritage.  He said  The old spirit of adventure and crusade that gave birth to Texas is being kept alive by these knights and ladies of cross.  

As a result of the funds raised by the Centenary Campaign and moral fervor of the last gasps of the Progressive Era, the MECS expanded its missions in the 1920’s, most notably to Europe, including Poland and Czechoslovakia.   

Some of the missionaries named in the article served a short time and returned to the United States.  Others made a career of missions.  Both groups were highly revered in the Texas churches to which they returned, either of periodic furloughs or permanently.  They were admired as the epitomes of Christian service.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 11

Robert Josselyn Reviews Thrall’s New History of Methodism in Texas,  May 11, 1872

The first book length history of Methodism in Texas was Homer Thrall’s, History of Methodism in Texas, Houston, Cushing and Co. , 1872.   There had been previously published snippets of Texas Methodist history including portions of books by Abel Stevens, W. P. Strickland, Henderson Yoakum,  and a few other writers, both Methodist and secular.  All the bishops who came to Texas during the Republic Era published their travel accounts in various editions of the Advocate, and one of them, Bishop Morris, included his account in his Miscellany:  Consisting of Essays, Biographical Sketches, and notes of Travel by Rev. T. A. Morris, D. D., one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1854. 
Once the Texas Christian Advocate began, old timers contributed letters to the editor which told about their experiences.  Most notable of these memoirists was David Ayres who lived in Galveston where the Advocate was published and acted as financial agent for the publication.  His frequent contributions helped shape the historical narrative about early Texas Methodist history and put himself into a favorable light in that history.
In 1872 Homer Thrall produced his first volume about Texas history, and that book provided the framework for all succeeding Texas Methodist historiography.  Thrall was one of the Ohio preachers Fowler had recruited in 1842.  Thrall transferred to Texas and embraced his new home state enthusiastically.  He sought out the acquaintances of prominent public figures, served appointments in the Texas and then West Texas Conferences and devoted a great deal of his time to writing.

Robert Josselyn obtained a copy of his 1872 work and printed a front page review of the book in the Dallas Herald of which he was editor.  History of Methodism in Texas had been published by the editor of the Houston newspaper, E. H. Cushing so Josselyn probably obtained the copy through the profession courtesy of newspaper editors. 

The reviewer takes pains not to insult members of other denominations in his review but he accepts Thrall’s thesis that Methodism’s success in Texas and the other “:new states” was due to their itinerant system of circuit riders which allowed them to penetrate into newly settled areas more rapidly than other denominations. 
Josselyn also includes an excerpt to give readers a sample of the book.  His choice of which passage to include is curious.  He chose the account of the 1867 yellow fever epidemic that killed hundreds of Texans including several preachers.  The epidemic did have large consequences.  It led to the closing of Methodist schools in Chappell Hill and Huntsville, but the purpose of the excerpt is to highlight the courage of the pastors in ministering to sick and dying. 
1872 marked another publishing milestone in the religious history of Texas.  In that same year Z. N. Morrell published his Flowers and Fruits in the Wilderness.  Morrell was a Baptist preacher who also served during the Republic era.  His Flowers is the best preacher memoir of the era.