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.


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