Saturday, June 03, 2023

 This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 4

New Orleans Advocate Publishes Sermon Preached by Rev. Elias Dibble of Houston   1866

One of the greatest Methodist preachers of 19th century Texas was David Elias Dibble (1811-1885) who was at the center of Houston's civic and religious life during the years immediately after the Civil War.   Dibble was born into bondage in Georgia and brought to Texas in 1837.  He taught himself to read and write and became part of the Methodist community in the Bayou City.   His prefacing skills were obvious, and he was licensed to preach while still in bondage.  Upon emancipation he continued to preach, now as a member of the MEC, He is honored as the founder of Trinity Methodist, the oldest African American Methodist congregation in Houston.  He also was trustee of a school, and member of a fraternal association, a founder of Olivewood Cemetery, and an early organizer of Juneteenth celebrations in Houston.  That celebration eventually led to the purchase of land for Emancipation Park---one of the most important African American historic sites in Texas.  

I was surprised when I ran across the full text of a sermon Elias Dibble preached in March, 1866, printed in the New Orleans Advocate.  Why was I surprised?  Because very few sermons of the era were printed, and those that were usually had a connection to someone in one of the publishing ventures of the church.   To have the full text of a sermon from someone who had so recently been in bondage is a rare treat.  

The sermon text is Luke 5:31    They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.  

The sermon repeats several themes common in 19th century sermons and shows that Dibble had knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments as well as Methodist theology.  His sermon development is clear and progresses logically to the conclusions We need not be astonished if the Christian shouts, for he has had his feet taken from the mire and clay and placed upon the rock;  and new songs have been put in his mouth, even praise to God.  This is the privilege of all, and in the name of our master, we invite you to flee from refuge to the hope set before you in the Gospel.  


Saturday, May 20, 2023

 This Week in Texas Methodist History May 21


 Promotes Family Reuniting During Reconstruction

One of the most despicable atrocities associated with slavery in the Southern United States was family separation.  Every type of family relationship could be destroyed at a moment's notice.  Children were torn from their parents.  Siblings had little confidence that they would stay together.  Husbands and wives may be separated and moved hundreds of miles apart.  In other words, it would be hard to imagine a more cruel system.   The reasons of the separations may have been related to inheritance and division of "assets" after a death.  They may have been caused by bankruptcy or debt.  There were even family separations as punishment for some perceived infraction.  

Texas played a large part in the separations in the 1850s and even the early 1860s.  As farms in the regions of the South that had been settled earlier were depleted of their soil fertility by cotton monoculture new lands were exploited in Texas, and thousands of enslaved persons were brought to Texas from as far away as the Carolinas.  During the Civil War some enslavers moved to Texas because it was farther away from the Federal troops to whom enslaved people sometimes ran to achieve their freedom.  

Upon emancipation it was natural for formerly enslaved people to make strenuous efforts to reunite with their loved ones.  That is where the MEC comes in.   For decades after the Civil War the MEC had official structures designed to help newly freed persons.  They did so by establishing schools and promoting church growth and literacy.  They also tried to re-unite families.  The Southwestern  Christian  Advocate published in New Orleans, had a regular column "Lost Friends" in which the Advocate published letters from persons seeking family members.    The letters were published free instead of charging the usual advertising fee, and pastors were encouraged to read the column during worship services.  

The letters are full of references to Texas.  Here are a few from just one week in 1882----Imagine--that's seventeen years after emancipation and the agony of separation is still painful.

Mr. Editor--I wish to inquire about Harriet and Yatt Rainey were in Galveston at the close of the war.  They had a half sister Siney and a brother Martin.  Their Mother's name was Ellen who at the close of the war was in Danville, Kentucky.  Write me at Floresville, Texas,  James Franklin.

Mr. Editor--I wish to inquire about my mother Jane Lampkins.  I used to live in Montgomery, Alabama.  My sisters were Charrie and Clarisa Lampkins.  My brother was Cyrus Brown, sold to John Brown. When I left my mother, I was only 12 years of age.  Any information will be greatly appreciated by Celia Lampkins, now Martha Brown.  San Antonio, Texas.  

Mr. Editor--I wish to inquire about my daughters, Henretta and Lacey Jane.  Their mother Carolina McCullum, belonged to Malcolm McCullum, Cumberland County, North Carolina.  When last heard from she was in Fayetteville in that state. Lizzie was in South Carolina.  Brother-in-law Jasey McCullum, was sold by John McDongall to a negro trader.  My wife was sold to Mr. Leach in Raleigh and two children with her, Alfred and Malcolm.  My name was Robert Carmichael but it now Robert Ray.  Adress me at Industry, Texas.  

Mr. Editor--I wish to find my children, Carloss, Easter, Jane, Frank, and Margaret.   Margaret, the youngest was three years old when I left her in Chickass County.  I was sold to Columbus Williams who took me to Memphis, Tennessee, and sold me to Captain Sam Bullington.  He carried me to near Natchez.  There I remained until after the war.  I heard my children were carried to Kaufman County Texas by Henry Carlisle.  My name was Charolotte Carlisle; first husband Steven Milbrooks; second husband Bill Davis.     Charlotte Ann Davis

Sunday, May 14, 2023

 This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 14

Trinity MEC in San Antonio Lays Cornerstone, 1879

The MEC had a difficult time in Texas since most Methodists preferred the MECS to the "northern" church, but that did not stop their evangelization efforts.  The first successes were with African American and German-Texans who had   been MECS before the Civil War, but switched denominations after 1865.  By the 1872 there were separate conferences in Texas for African American, German speakers, and English-speaking Anglos. 

The Anglo MEC churches were most prominent in the cities and in North Texas areas being opened by railroads.  The main constituency was northern migrants to those cities and new agricultural lands being opened by rail expansion.

San Antonio finally got an Anglo church in 1879 only after the establishment of both African American and German churches in the Alamo city.  It was called Trinity.  The Rev. M. A. Daughtery preached the sermon at the laying of the cornerstone for the stone building with 500 seat capacity.

Unlike most reports of cornerstone ceremonies, the contents of the box put into the cornerstone were published.   They included the Discipline, the hymnal, copies of the denominational newspapers, lists of the choir members, stewards, etc.  There were two surprises in the list of items placed in the cornerstone.  One was a copy of the MECS Advocate published in Galveston.  The other was the roster of Federal troops in the District of Texas.  One should remember that San Antonio was then and is now the Texas city with the longest and most significant military presence.  

Official Reconstruction was over but warm feelings toward the U. S. Army persisted in the MEC.  Not only did the denomination benefit from northern soldiers who were Methodists stationed in Texas, but they played a major role in protecting African American Methodists from the violence that was often directed against freedmen and their Anglo supporters in Texas by unreconstructed Southerners.  That is the reason that a roster of federal troops was placed in cornerstone.  

Saturday, April 22, 2023

 This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 23

Advocate Promotes Evangelization of Mexico and Central America but Decries Filibusters 1855

One of the attractions of Texas for Methodists in the 19th century was our state's proximity to Mexico and Central America.  Texas often depicted as the gate way through which Mexico and Central America were to be converted from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism.   Eventually Laredo did become the main portal to northern Mexico.  After rail connections to Laredo were established in the early 1880s and Laredo Seminary was established, the MECS established a number of schools and at least one hospital in northern Mexico.  Excursion trains from San Antonio through Laredo to visit these mission institutions became common for Epworth League groups in the 1890s.  Much of the motivation for the interest was the prevailing anti-Roman Catholic prejudices that prevailed among many Methodists of the era.  The stereotyped views of Catholicism were often of a priestly conspiracy that kept their church members in ignorance and superstition and would not allow them access to the Bible.  

In the 1850s two developments increased American interest in not just Mexico, but also of Central America.  The first was the increasing number of gold seekers transiting Central America on their way to California.  The other was the filibustering expeditions of William Walker and Henry Kinney.

Kinney was well known in Texas and was given credit for founding the town of Corpus Christi.  There is even a county named for him.  I will not go into the complicated history of filibustering in the 1850s, but in summary, both Kinney and Walker attempted to set themselves up as dictators of Nicaragua.  

The editors of the Texas Christian advocate were appalled---not necessarily because they opposed filibustering in general, but because the private military forces hired by Kinney and Walker would turn the population against all Americans---and hinder Protestant missionary efforts.  

What advice did the Advocate give?   Go to Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua.  Then, as through much of Central American history, Costa Rica was seen as an oasis of stability in a desert of despotism---land a country ripe for evangelization by Protestants. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

 This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 16

86 Year Old Retired Bishop Boaz Named Grand Chaplain of Grand Lodge of Texas,  1953

One of the Texas Methodist bishops who remained very active in retirement was Hiram Abiff Boaz (1866-1962).  He had been elected bishop in 1922 and served four quadrennia, the first four years in Asia and the last twelve in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arkansas.   He retired in 1938 at the age of 72 and resided in Dallas.  His main recreation was golf, but his passion was fundraising for SMU.  His main emphasis in raising money was building person ties to the Dallas community.  He did not confine his efforts to Methodists but developed friendships with the whole community.  One way he did this was to accept speaking engagements with just about any group that needed a luncheon or after dinner speaker, civic clubs, garden clubs, literary clubs, etc.  You name an audience in Dallas, Biishop Boaz was happy to provide a program.  

In performing this service for SMU, he was returning to the institution he had helped create.  Robert S, Hyer is rightly honored as the founder and first president of SMU, but Boaz was right there with him.  As Hyer was founding SMU, Boaz was president of Polytechnic College in Fort Worth.  Hyer was a physicist and academic.  Boaz was a preacher much more skilled in fund raising than Hyer so Boaz served as vice president of SMU briefly, drawing upon his Methodist preacher connections to raise money for the fledgling university while Hyer was planning the academic side.  After a stint in Nashville with the Board of Church Extension, Boaz returned to Dallas to replace Hyer as SMU's second president.  

He didn't last long in that position as the General Conference of 1922 elected him bishop. 

 His vigorous retirement included his being named the Right Worshipful Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1953 at the age of 86.  His connection with Masonry was lifelong.  Perhaps you have wondered about his given names, "Hiram Abiff".  In his autobiography Eighty-four Golden Years, he explains that those names are significant in Masonry.  He says that Hiram Abiff drew up the plans for Solomon's Temple, and his father, a Master Mason, gave him that Masonic name and "has caused no little interest among Masons and has brought me many favors undeserved."

Boaz died at the age of 95 in 1962 and was buried in Dallas.  

Saturday, April 08, 2023

 This  Week in Texas Methodist History April 9

Marshall District Tries Four Local Preachers on Insubordination Charges,  1895

In the last decades of the 19th century Methodism was engulfed in a struggle brought about by the rise of the Holiness Movement.  This movement was most often referred to in the press as the "second blessing movement" at the time.  The seeds of the movement had been sown in the emphasis in Methodism on experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit in one's own personal life.  The revivals of the early 19th century were directed toward attendees being acutely conscious of their sin and then being overcome by the Holy Spirit's reassurance that they were saved by the redemption offered through their accepting Jesus as their personal savior.  

In the late 19th century, there were still camp meetings and revivals, but many Methodists were no longer "shouting" Methodists.  They had become "respectable" and were no longer comfortable in worship services where attendees displayed what they saw as emotional excess.

The Holiness Movement was tremendously important and eventually led to what are often referred to as the Pentecostal denominations, but until those denominations formed, the movement caused conflict as some Methodists were inspired by the Holy Spirit to disregard what they considered to be man's law rather than God's law.  The conflict was acute in the MECS after the General Conference passed a rule that required independent evangelists (many of whom were adherents of the second blessing) to obtain permission from the station preacher before held a revival in that preacher's town.  

Harrison County became one of the most important Holiness locations in Texas.  The areas around both Scottsville and Noonday created campgrounds in which the second blessing was preached.   One prominent evangelist was L. L. Pickett who named his son after one of the Harrison County families.  That is how future Bishop of India, J. Waskom Pickett got his name. 

A Marshall District meeting in 1895 had to deal with four local preachers who refused to work under the direction of the ordained preachers in their district.  A trial for insubordination was held. One of the local preachers, Brother Ulig was asked if he would "work in harmony" with the ordained preachers in the district.  He replied that he obeyed the orders of the General (God) not of the corporal (the ordained preachers).  His license and that of his colleague, Brother Tucker who answered in a similar manner were not renewed.  Two other local preachers on trial, Brothers Black and Pardo, promised they would work in harmony so their licenses were renewed.  

Saturday, April 01, 2023

 This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 2

Bishop Hartzell Receives Stage Full of Roses in San Antonio    1923

One of the most significant bishops in Methodism came to San Antonio in 1923 as a representative of the Foreign Mission Board of the MEC.  His welcome was unlike anything I have ever heard of.

James C. Hartzell was born in Moline, Il., in 1842.  He was ordained in 1866 and served Pekin, Il, but in 1870 transferred to New Orleans.  He served a local church there, but in 1873 was appointed to editorial and educational duties for the MEC in the South.  He created the Southwestern Cristian Advocate.  He also helped foster the 45 MEC schools in the South and served on the New Orleans School Board.  The publication continued well past his retirement from that office in 1896.   Much of his work was funneling northern philanthropy to schools for African Americans in the South during the days of Reconstruction and the years immediately following.  

In 1896 he was elected Missionary Bishop for Africa for the MEC. During this period the MEC had bishops with general authority and also bishops whose authority extended only to missions.  He then spent much of his time in Liberia and the Portuguese colonies of what later became Mozambique and Angola as well as the British Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe).   He even tried to establish missions in Tunisia and Algeria.  As part of his work he solicited funds and land for the establishment of medical missions and schools.   His connections with both Presidents Roosevelt and Taft meant that they added their voices to the fund raising appeal.

In 1923 Harzell was 80 years old but still strong enough to travel to San Antonio to attend the West Texas Conference of the MEC meeting in St. Paul's Church.   This conference was presided over by Bishop Robert Jones who had been editor of the Southwestern Advocate until his election as bisho in 1920.  The MEC had eliminated the post of Misionary Bishop and Jones was one of the first two African Americans to be elected with full authority.

St. Paul's was packed to the rafters.  Chairs were set up in the aisles and the balcony was full in anticipation of the Hartzell speech.  Chairs for elderly ministers were set up on the stage and all the furniture was removed to make even more room for the large crowd. 

Before Bishop Jones introduced Bishop Hartzell, the stage was cleared.  After the introduction but before Hartzell could speak, audience members on the front row removed roses from their lapel and threw them toward the pulpit.  Then the whole congregation followed, even those who had been in the balcony.  Then boxes of roses appeared form their hiding places and those flowers added to the mass of blooms around the pulpit. The entire chancel was covered in roses--what a tribute for a life of service.