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History of the Presbytery of Central Texas online

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Rev. l. TENNEY


Eugene Von Boeckmann, Printer, Bookbinder, Statione*



History of the Presbytery of Central

In 1837 R ev - Hugh Wilson visited Texas. Of the particulars
of this visit, what points he preached at, we have no information.
Returning to Tennessee, he came out again the next year with
his family. Stopping near San Augustine, he found there a
group of Presbyterians on Tune 2, 1838, and organized them into
a church — the first Presbyterian church in Texas, four miles west
of San Augustine. The church as organized, numbered twenty-
two members, and was named Bethel. Some years afterwards
the location and name were changed to San Augustine. Mr.
Wilson continued to preach to the church till October of that
year. In February, 1839, he organized a church at Independ-
ence. Houston church was organized by Rev. W. Y. Allen,
April, 1839. Austin church by the same, October, 1839. Gal-
veston church by Rev. John McCullough, January 1, 184.0.
April 3, 1840, the three ministers above named, and one ruling
elder, John McFarland, of Independence church, who had come
with Mr. Wilson's family, from San Augustine, met at Chrits-
man's school house, near Independence, and organized the Brazos
Presbytery, connected with the Synod of Mississippi. In 1850,
the Synod divided the Brazos Presbytery into three Presbyteries
of Brazos, Eastern Texas and Western, the boundaries divid-
ing them being the Colorado river and the Trinity river to the
33d degree north latitude, thence due north to the Indian Terri-
tory. The Presbyteries thus formed petitioned the General As-
sembly to be erected into the Synod of Texas, and the petition
being granted, the first meeting of the Synod was held at Aus-
tin, October 30, 1851. It adjourned to meet at Huntsville June
30, 1852, but there being no quorum at that time, it met at the
call of the Moderator, Rev. Dr. Baker, at Huntsville, April 8,


The records of the Presbytery of Central Texas contain the
following preliminary statement: "The Presbytery of Brazos



which met in Huntsville, Texas, on Thursday, April 6, 1854,
made an overture to the Synod of Texas that a new Presbytery
by set off from the northern part of their territory. Therefore at
a meeting of the Synod held at Huntsville in Austin College on
Monday, April 10th, the overture was considered, and it was

"Resolved, That all the territory embraced between the Trinity
and Colorado rivers north of the north boundary line of the coun-
ties of Colorado, Washington, Brazos and L,eon, be set off as a
new Presbytery, to be called the Presbytery of Central Texas,
the Rev. Hugh Wilson to call and moderate the first meeting."

The act of the Synod does not name the ministers and
churches constituting the new Presbytery. The churches in the
territory were seven: La Grange, Round Top, String Prairie
(now Hugh Wilson), Austin, Deer Creek (now Carolina), Con-
cord and Oak Island.

All the ministers residing in the territory — Hugh Wilson,
John T. Balch, Wm. M. Baker and R. F. Bunting — being present
at the meeting of Synod, met according to the direction of
Synod at 2 o'clock p. m., in the college building, and organized.
W. M. Baker was Temporary Clerk and R. F. Bunting was
elected Stated Clerk, and directed to act as Treasurer. W. M.
Baker and Elder A. H. Cook were chosen Commissioners to the
General Assembly, which met in Buffalo, New York, the next
month. The third Thursday of April and the last Thursday of
October were appointed the times for the stated meetings.

A permanent committee on Missions was appointed, also a
committee to mature a plan for scholarship in Austin College.
The minutes of the next meeting make no mention of the Com-
missioners to the General Assembly reporting their attendance,
and probably neither of them attended.

Permission was given licentiates T. W. Erwin and L,. Tenney
to labor within the Presbytery. The latter, though not a mem-
ber, was present at this and the next meeting.

The Second Meeting was at the String Prairie church, October
26, 1854. All the ministers were present, and Ruling Elders J.
H. Hutchings, Austin; W. C. Cunningham, String Prairie; T.
W. Archibald, Oak Island; A. V. Sea, Deer Creek; Dr. Thos.
Barbee, Round Rock. Rev. J. T. Balch was Moderator. At
this meeting licentiate T. W. Erwin was ordained, Rev. Michael
Dickson was received from the Presbytery of Talladyer. The
churches of Round Rock, organized by Rev. W. M. Baker, and
Chambers Creek, organized by Rev. J. T. Balch, were received,
and the name of Deer Creek church changed to Carolina. A
committee was appointed to confer with a candidate, T. J. Stone,
understood to be residing within the Presbytery. This commit-


tee was continued for several sessions without meeting Mr. S.
He left the State, but returned about 1878 or '79, and preached
in the Presbytery of Dallas.

Earnest action was taken on the subjects of Systematic Benevo-
lence, taking collections for the boards and ministerial support.
It was resolved to establish a perpetual scholarship in Austin
College. The plan adopted was to pay the interest annually,
$50, and the churches were assessed at the rate of 20 cents per
member to raise the money. This interest was paid four years,
and in 1858 something over $100 was paid on the principal. But
the scholarship was never issued, and in April, 1859, it was voted
to recede from the action.. Rev. J. T. Balch and Elder A. H.
Cook were elected Commissioners to the next General Assembly.
All the members who sat in this Presbytery, except T. W. Erwin,
who sat for a short time after his his ordination, have gone to
their reward; the last of them Elder J. H.Hutchins, who died
at his home in Austin, July 22, 1893.

The Third Meeting was held at the Oak Island church, April
19, 1855. All the ministers were present except Mr. Erwin, and
Elders Jas. Means, Oak Island; Richard Sansom, Round Rock;
John Loughridge, Chambers Creek; A. V. Sea, Carolina, and
W. B. McAllister, Blue Ridge. In the fall or early winter of
1854, six ministers arrived in Texas from Indiana; five of them
in one company — Samuel Taylor, Thos. Alexander and J. M.
McChord, men advanced in life, and Robert F. Taylor, a son,
and W. C. Rice, a son-in-law of Samuel Taylor. The three
former stopped near Waco. The two young men went to the
Eastern Texas Presbytery, and a few years after to the east of
the Mississippi.

Mr. Rice died young. Mr. Taylor while in Eastern Texas sup-
plied the Lancaster church, in this Presbytery, for a short time.
The sixth was R. M. Overstreet, who settled at Georgetown.
Messrs. S. Taylor, Alexander and McChord were received by the
Presbytery at this meeting, also L. Tenney, who had been or-
dained by the Brazos Presbytery in the fall, and dismissed to this
Presbytery. He had spent the previous summer preaching and
teaching at Round Top. Mr. Overstreet was present but had
not his dismission. The church of Blue Ridge, organized by
Rev. J. T. Balch, was received. Messrs. Taylor, Alexander and
McChord were appointed to organize a church at Waco.

Messrs. Taylor and McChord were recommended to the Board
of Domestic Missions for salaries of $300 each, to labor on the
frontier. Mr. Taylor died on the 9th of June following. Mr.
McChord did not meet the Presbytery again to make any report
of his labors, and was dismissed the next spring to the Presby-


tery of Vincennes, having left the State perhaps during the sum-
mer. Mr. Taylor was a native of Nova Scotia, but reared prin-
cipally in New Hampshire and Ohio. He had preached in Ken-
tucky and Indiana for about thirty-two years, and was in his six-
tieth year at his death.

The practice of appointing two ministers to preach on specified
subjects at following meeting, was commenced at this time.
Some subjects occupying the attention of the church at large at
the time were considered. The matter of establishing a Board
of Missions at New Orleans was favored. A proposed change
of the Church Extension Committee of the B. of D. M. to a
Board was disapproved. The Board of Publication was request-
ed to commission Dr. Thos. Barbee, an elder of Round Rock
church, as a colporteur. This request was granted, and Dr. Bar-
bee spent several months in the work, but died during the next
year. The churches of Round Rock and Carolina were recom-
mended to the Board of Missions for aid. It may be added here
that during the years previous to the civil war every church in
the Presbytery, except String Prairie, applied for and received
recommendations for aid.

The Fourth Meeting was held at the Round Top church, on
October 27, 1855. Only five of the nine ministers now belong-
ing to the Presbytery were present — Baker, Alexander, Balch,
Bunting and Tenuey — and Elders A. R. Jones, Round Top; T.
W. Archibald, Oak Island; Richard Sansom, Round Rock.

Rev. Daniel Baker, D. D., was present and preached several
sermons during the time of the meeting.

T. W. Erwin was dismissed to Bethel Presbytery, having left
the State several months before. He returned to Texas about
1880, and is now in Dallas Presbytery. R. M. Overstreet, having
been in the Presbytery about a year, being known to the mem-
bers and giving good reasons for not being present, was received
as a member without examination, the Presbytery thereby incur-
ring the censure of the Synod. The first church organized in
McLennan county, organized by the committee appointed for the
purpose, with seventeen members, was received. Rev. J. T.
Balch reported his attendance on the last General Assembly, and
Rev. R. F. Bunting and Elder A. H. Cook were elected commis-
sioners to the next Assembly. In those early years no provision
was made to pay the expenses of the ruling elder commissioner,
and if one was not found to pay his own expenses, none went.
C. J. Erwin was received as a candidate for the ministry, but
never entered it for want of the required education.

In connection with the free conversation on the state of reli-
gion, it is said: Considerable interest was reported in some of the


churches, and in general an encouraging state of things. The
ministers generally reported having fulfilled the requirement to
preach two Sabbaths in destitute places. Supplies were appointed
for the vacant churches.

The Fifth Meeting was held at the Carolina church, April 17,
1856. Ministers present — Wilson, Alexander, Balch, Dickson,
Baker, Tenney. Absent — Bunting and Overstreet. Elders J. J.
Long, Carolina; Thos. Barbee, Georgetown; J. McFarland, 1st
church McLennan county; James Means, Oak Island; H. Steele,
Blue Ridge; W. Smythe, Austin; W. R. Hudson, Milford.

Rev. Bunting had left the Presbytery and commenced his work
at San Antonio. Having been elected commissioner to the Gen-
eral Assembly at the fall meeting, he did not ask for a dismission,
but went to the Assembly. The office of stated clerk was declared
vacant and Rev. L,. Tenney elected to fill it. From this time the
clerk received $20 per year for his work, until 1887, when it was
increased to $40. The Milford church, organized by Rev. M.
Dickson, June 25, 1855, w * tn twenty members, was received.
Rev. L- Tenney was installed pastor of Carolina church. This
relation continued till the end of the year 1859. Half of his
time was given to the Carolina church and much of the time he
had a monthly appointment at Marlin and at Belton.

The Sixth Meeting was held at Georgetown, October 30, 1856.
Six ministers present. B> an oversight, doubtless, presence of
elders not noted. Rev. F. Bunting was dismissed. Rev. Jos.
Boone was received from the Brazos Presbytery. Rev. M. Dick-
son reported the organization of the Lancaster church, with nine
members. Rev. R. M. Overstreet was elected commissioner to the
General Assembly, but the alternate, Jos. Boone, attended. Elder
Wm. Smythe, of Austin, was also elected commissioner, and at-
tended — the first elder the Presbytery had in the Assembly. The
Presbytery had called on the Board of Missions for quite a large
amount of money and at this meeting a letter was received set-
ting forth the necessities of the Board. It met a suitable response
and generally the churches were liberal, for their means, in giv-
ing. The narrative at this meeting says: "There are many things
to discourage, especially the unsettled state of the churches. But
there appears to be a good degree of diligence and fidelity in
preaching the Word. Good attendance on preaching generally,
and reason to believe that our church is exerting a healthful in-
fluence in this part of the State."

The Seventh Meeting was held at Austin, April 17, 1857.
Ministers present— Alexander, Dickson, Baker, Tenney, Wilson,
Overstreet. Absent — Balch and Boone. Only two elders re-
ported present— A. H. Cook, of Austin, and Samuel Carothers.


Pleasant Hill had been organized by Rev. Overstreet, Feb. 14.
In the reports concerning collections it is noted that no collec-
tions had been taken in the Austin church on account of the ab-
sence of the pastor during the greater part of the year. Nearly
all the churches reported collections. This meeting was held a
few days after one of the most disastrous spring freezes in the
history of the country — two freezes, indeed, five or six days
apart. The wheat was killed in all the wheat growing region,
the young corn also, and as old corn was very scarce in the
country, the prospect was gloomy indeed. In view of this and
of the spiritual dearth, Wednesday, the 29th of the month, was
appointed a day of fasting and prayer, to be observed by our
churches. A form for keeping session books was adopted and
recommended to the sessions, and though not followed in full, it
has probably had a good deal of influence since upon the man-
ner of keeping the books. It was drawn up by Rev. M. Dickson.

The Eighth Meeting was held in the Milford church, October
29, 1857. Six ministers present; absent, Alexander and Baker.
Only two elders present, J. Means, of Oak Island, and H. G.
Bostwick, of Milford. On account of the small number of
elders present at several meetings, a rule was adopted that each
minister present, if unaccompanied by an elder, should give a
reason therefor. The minutes of the meeting show the usual
earnest attention to the spiritual situation and to benevolent work.
Yet the narrative says: "There have been no revivals and few
additions — worldly- mindedness perhaps more than usually prev-
alent. Yet there is manifestly a growing interest in, and in-
creasing attendance upon the preaching of the Word. There is
also a pressing desire in every direction for the labors of minis-
ters of our church." A committee was appointed to inquire into
the expedience of establishing a Presbyterial Academy.

The Presbytery met by adjournment November 6th, during
the sessions of Synod at Palestine, and received Rev. A. J.
Loughridge from the Presbytery of Eastern Texas.

The Presbytery now contained nine ministers and thirteen
churches. For several years there was little change in the situa-
tion, and little growth. The narratives from time to time show
that the members of the Presbytery were alive to the condition
of things, and were earnestly at work.

The Ninth Meeting was held at the String Prairie church,
April 8th, 1858. Present, six ministers; absent, Alexander,
Balch and Baker. Two elders only were present. Mr. Baker
was absent from the Presbytery for several months at this time,
writing his biography of his father, Rev. Dr. Daniel Baker. The
effort to have two presbyterial sermons at each meeting had not


been very successful, and at this time the rule was changed, and
only one appointed. The Oak Island church was recommended
to the Church Extension committee for aid — $250 — to complete
their house of worship. The General Assembly, at New Orleans,
this year was attended by Rev. L. Tenney.

The Tenth Meeting was held at the Oak Island church, Oc-
tober 28th, 1858. Present, six ministers; absent, Baker, Balch,
Boone. Only one elder reported present. Rev. Thos. Alexander
had removed to Oak Island some time before, and at this meet-
ing he received a call and was installed pastor of the Oak Island
church. The installation sermon did double duty, being also a
dedication sermon for the new house of worship. The first meet-
ing of the Presbytery with this church was held in a log build-
ing. Rev. J. T. Balch was dismissed to the Presbytery of Red
River. He died at Minden, La., about the end of the year 1861.
He was a native (probably) of Tennessee; had preached in
Arkansas some time before coming to Texas, and when this Pres-
bytery was organized was stated supply to the Oak Island church,
in which work he continued till a short time before he left the
State. At this meeting, appointments were made for a visitation
of the churches of the Presbytery, two ministers being sent to
each church.

The Eleventh Meeting was held at Carolina church, April 21st,
1859. Five ministers present; three absent. Four elders pres-
ent. The committee on Presbyterial Academy reported that it
had no action to recommend, and the subject was dropped.
After the death of the colporteur, Dr. Barbee, the books he had
on hand had been taken by the members of the Presbytery, to
pay for and dispose of as best they could. An effort had been
made to get another colporteur, but was unsuccessful. It had
been proposed also that each minister should take $12 worth of
books annually, and dispose of them. The report at this meet-
ing showed only a very small measure of success. T. M. Carter,
a licentiate of Transylvania Presbytery, was given permission to
labor in the Presbytery. He had prepared for the ministry, but
a serious impediment in his speech prevented his preaching
much. After the war, he joined a colony to Brazil, and died
there. A second appointment was made for a visitation of the
churches, going "two and two." The appointments made at
the last meeting were reported generally filled. The Presbyter}'
was represented in the General Assembly this year by Rev. T.
Alexander and Dr. R. S. Shannon, elder, of La Grange.

The Twelfth Meeting was at La Grange, October 28th, 1859.
Present, five ministers and three ruling elders. Rev. Amzi Brad-
shaw, from Tennessee, a minister of the New School church, had


preached for some time at La Grange, and died there June 5th,
1859. A memorial of him was placed on the records of the
Presbytery. The subject of the committee of Missions, to be
established at New Orleans, came before the Presbytery, and the
clerk was directed to correspond with the Secretary of the Board
of Missions with regard to the meaning of the act establishing
the committee. The objection to it was that it threw the church
in the South entirely on its own resources, the board at Philadel-
phia not being expected to give any aid, a thing which we had
not previously supposed was intended.

The Thirteenth Meeting was held at Georgetown, April 19th,
i860. Present, six ministers. Only one elder present, R. San-
som, of Georgetown. Rev. J. M. McChord having returned from
Indiana, was present, but was not received till the next meet-
ing. A resolution was passed cordially approving the establish-
ing of the "Advisory Committee of Missions" at New Orleans.
Rev. R. M. Overstreet was commissioner to the General Assem-
bly. The narrative of the state of religion makes a comparison
with the state of things four years before, to show how little
growth there had been, with all the labor expended. In '56, 8
ministers, 2 candidates, 11 churches, 27 added on examination,
45 on certificate, 13 colored communicants, 328 total number of
communicants, 7 adults and 36 infants baptized, 227 children in
Sabbath-schools, $3771 total contributions. In '60, 8 ministers,
no candidates, 13 churches, 16 added on examination, 24 on
certificate, 11 colored communicants, 386 total communicants, 2
adults and 21 infants baptized, 117 children in Sabbath-schools,
$4599 total contributions.

The Fourteenth Meeting was held at Round Top, October
27th, i860. Present, five ministers and three ruling elders. An
overture was ordered to be sent to the Synod to divide the Pres-
bytery on the line of the Brazos river, and to add to the new
Presbytery on the east side of the river the counties of L,eon and
Robertson from the Brazos Presbytery. A committee was ap-
pointed on application of persons at Clifton to organize a church
at that place.

The Fifteenth Meeting took place at the Blue Ridge church,
April 1 8th, 1861. Present, five ministers; absent, four. Four
elders enrolled. The churches of North Bosque and of Belton
were received under the care of the Presbytery. The Stated
Clerk, L. Tenney, being engaged in teaching, which for the time
prevented his regular attendance at the meetings, sent in his
resignation. Rev. J. M. McChord was elected clerk. Rev. Wm.
Baker was chosen commissioner to the General Assembly, and
attended the memorable session of that body in Philadelphia in


May, 1 86 1. He did not meet the Presbytery to afterwards ren-
der a report of his attendance. The story was told by some who
were there, that in making a speech upon the issues of the day,
he began with, "I am the son of Daniel Baker," and went on to
say that he was glad that his father had not lived to see that

The Sixteenth Meeting was held at Milford, October 10th,
1861. The troubles of the "war times" were beginning to be
heavily felt, and the Presbytery was called upon to define its po-
sition in regard to the changes taking place in church relations.
Yet the meeting was a small one, M. Dickson, J. M. McChord
and L/. Tenney being the only ministers present. The ruling
elders were Dr. T. L. C. Means, of Oak Island; T. W. Archi-
bald, of North Bosque; H. G. Bostwick, of Milford, and A. V.
Lea, of Carolina. The usual routine of business was gone
through. Rev. S. Martin, of Ningpo Presbytery, received per-
mission to preach for the Lancaster Presbytery till the next
meeting. Mr. Martin had spent some time as a missionary in
China, and expected to return there. Whether he did or not,
the writer is not able to say.

The following paper was adopted:

Whereas, The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
in the United States of America, by declaring in their resolution,
that we are under obligations to promote and to perpetuate, so
far as in us lies, the integrity of the United States, and to
strengthen, uphold and encourage the Federal Government, has
required of its members in the Confederate States to do that
which would be treasonable against the powers that be in these
States, thereby leaving no course open for us to pursue but to
separate from that General Assembly; therefore, be it

Resolved, 1st. That our connection with the General x\ssembly
of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America be
and is hereby dissolved.

2nd. That this Presbytery will appoint commissioners to
unite with commissioners from the other Presbyteries in the Con-
federate States in organizing a General Assembly, at Augusta,
Georgia, on the 4th day of December next, or at whatever time
and place the majority of them may designate, and to consult,
vote and determine on all things that may come before that body
according to the principles and constitution of this church in the
Confederate States of America.

Another resolution affirmed adherence to the constitution as it
then existed.

Rev. L. Tenney and Elder J. H. Dobbin were chosen commis-


sioners to the Assembly. The former attended the meeting, the
latter did not.

The narrative noted the fact, that in the midst of general cold-
ness one church, Carolina, showed signs of a revival, and an ap-
pointment was for a protracted meeting there.

The Seventeenth Meeting was held at Carolina church, April
17th, 1862. Present, four ministers and three ruling elders.
Rev. Jos. Boone was dismissed to Brazos Presbytery. Commis-
sioners were appointed to the General Assembly, but it would
have been scarcely possible for them to attend. Appointments
were made for missionary work as usual. Mr. Boone had spent
most of the time he was in the Presbytery at La Grange, preach-
ing to that and the Round Top churches. He was the first Texas

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