Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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often united in preaching the Gospel to crowded assemblies
in Ohio and Kentucky. He now rests from all his toil,
enjoying the promised reward ; and if faithful to the grace
given, may I not hope soon to join with him in the song


of final and everlasting triumph? When we read on the
cold marble, "thirty-seven years an itinerant minister of
the Methodist Episcopal Church, and superintendent of
the first mission of that Church in the republic of Texas,"
and then remembered that the same mission had already
become a respectable annual conference, and was still in-
creasing, the thought arose, whereunto will this mission
grow, and what cause of rejoicing must this be to its first
superintendent forever? Our visiting the graveyard at
sundown in a village where we knew no one, and where
no one knew us, seemed to excite some curiosity. A col-
ored boy, sent no doubt for the purpose, came and inquired
whence we journeyed? Our answer was, "Into all the
world." That night we were kindly received and enter-
tained at the house of brother Lynch, sheriff of the county,
two miles west of town.

Yours, truly, T. A. Morris.

Washington, Texas, Jan. 13, 1842.

Brother Elliott, — As we came west from the vicinity
of Washington, the scenery was delightful ; every sensa-
tion of pleasure which extended plains, spotted with
clumps of evergreens, grazing herds, and cultivated fields,
all basking in the bright beams of a calm sunny morning,
could inspire, was ours. A little east of Independence
we gained the most commanding elevation which our eyes
beheld in the republic. Standing on this most lovely emi-
nence, the eye calmly rested on many objects of beauty
near at hand, such as small islands of timber, farm-houses,
and the village below, while the general appearance was
that of boundless expanse, filling the mind with pleasure
and admiration. Passing through Independence, we
arrived, on Friday evening, at Dr. Hoxey's, near the
academy, where we were expected to preach the two fol-


lowing days. This is one of the finest neighborhoods we
have yet seen in Texas. The meeting was well attended ;
but having no place of worship, only the academy, which
is occupied in common by all the religious denominations
of the country, our prospect of usefulness is rather limited,
till our people shall build a chapel in town, of which
there is some prospect. Still, there is much cause of
gratitude in what has been accomplished. A revival of
religion, which, I believe, commenced under the preaching
of brother F. some time ago, resulted in the conversion of
several families, some of whom joined our Church. May
they walk in Christ as they have received him !

Monday, 1 7th, we proceeded on, amidst scenes of beauty
and grandeur peculiar to this region of the republic, to
Capt. Crisman's, and preached in the evening, where we
had more hearers than house room, who listened atten-
tively to our plain talk. The Captain was an early settler
in Colonel Austin's colony, and has resided in Texas
nearly twenty years, and gave us many interesting inci-
dents connected with the history of that colony. When
Capt. C. arrived, there were only about forty families on
the two rivers, Brazos and Colorado, most of whom went
out with himself, and the few Mexicans about Nacogdoches
and San Antonio were a long distance off. The colonists
suffered much ; some lived six months, and others a year
or more, without ever eating a bit of bread, depending on
deer, turkey, and the like, for a subsistence. As for him-
self, he was four years without a shoe, sock, shirt, or any
clothing, except what he made of skins; and for the first
ten years never heard a sermon. He is now in easy cir-
cumstances, well fixed for good living, and, with his family
and many of his neighbors, happy in the enjoyment of
religion after the Methodist sort; and, of course, rejoices
exceedingly in the civil and religious improvement of the


The next day we were received and entertained very
cordially by brother H. Kerr and family, after our day's
journey. The old gentleman is a native of Ireland, quite-
intelligent and communicative, and somewhat conspicuous
as the author of "A Poem on Texas," which purports to
be a history of the republic in verse. In the evening his
neighbors came in, and filled the room, to whom we deliv-
ered a short sermon and exhortation.

Wednesday, 19th, we reached Rutersville, in Fayette
county, and were made welcome by our Christian friends.
Rutersville is a village situated on an elevated prairie, but
contiguous to groves of timber, five miles from the Colo-
rado river, and is distinguished chiefly by the location of
Rutersville College in its immediate vicinity. The enter-
prise, I believe, originated With Dr. Ruter, during his short
but glorious career of missionary operation in that country.
A preparatory school was commenced in 1840, and had
last year some eighty students. The Faculty are organ-
ized, and ready to organize regular college classes : the
teachers are the Rev. Chauncey Richardson, President;
Rev. Charles W. Thomas, professor of ancient languages ;
Mr. Bell, tutor; and Mrs. Richardson has charge of the
female department. The college edifice, which is a frame
building, but quite respectable for a new country, is nearly
finished, and stands on a hill in the edge of a forest south
of the village, while the academy occupied by the female
teacher and pupils is situated on the west side, where the
ground is less elevated, but more retired and picturesque.
This institution is under the patronage and supervision of
the Texas annual conference, but open to the public gen-
erally on the same principle of our colleges in the United
States, and has flattering prospects of extensive patronage
and usefulness. Congress has granted them a regular
college charter, with the usual prerogatives of conferring
degrees, and a donation of seventeen thousand acres of


land, which has been increased by individual donations,
obtained chiefly by the agency of President Richardson,
till the whole amount of land owned by the College is
about seventy-five thousand acres. If the Board can
raise funds to complete the necessary improvement, and
pay incidental expenses, without sacrificing the real estate,
the institution will ultimately be well endowed. The char-
ter exempts the College lands from taxation, and allows the
corporation to hold property to the amount of $100,000,
exclusive of the buildings, library, and apparatus. The
Rev. Littleton Fowler, and the Rev. John Haynie, are
regularly-authorized agents to collect funds for Rutersville
College this year. On Sunday, January 23, we preached
in the college chapel, crowded with attentive hearers.

The country between the Brazos and Colorado rivers,
by the route we came, is one of exceeding beauty and
fertility, much like the country between the Brazos and
Trinity, except that the former affords more prairie and
less pine than the latter. But the entire country, from
the Trinity to the Colorado, is, with the exception of some
limited sections, an excellent one. If a man wished to
engage in planting cotton, or raising stock, or both, he
could scarcely find a substantial objection to it, except the
inconvenience of getting his produce to market, which
would apply forcibly to much of it. In this part of the
republic Indian corn grows tolerably well, and nearly all
sorts of culinary vegetables, except Irish potatos, are
easily produced in great abundance ; so are peaches,
plums, grapes, melons, etc. ; but for wheat flour, the
only certain dependence is importation from the states.

Monday, 24th, I resumed my journey, and traveled up
the Colorado, on the north-east side, twenty-five miles, to
Mr. Middleton Hill's, where I was very kindly enter-
tained. That night it rained, and next day turned quite
cold, of which I had ample proof while riding against the


storm. After preaching to a small congregation at Gage's
school-house, where brother Whipple met me, we rode in
company, crossed the river, dined at brother Wiley Hill's,
and spent the night at Mrs. M' Gee's very pleasantly. I
was delighted with the people of this neighborhood. They
reside in a circle around a small but beautiful prairie of
excellent land. That night the Indians, who had been for
some nights collecting a drove of horses in a pen on Cedar
creek, came to a house, in sight of where we lodged across
the prairie, and stole five : also, several, the same night,
from the opposite side of the river. Indeed, it was said
by the citizens, that they had not left enough horses and
mules on the river to enable them to raise their crop.
Most families, who did not watch or lock up their horses,
lost them. It was matter of accommodation to us on our
journey that they did not take ours.

Next day we preached at Bastrop, under the roar of
artillery, the signal for collecting minute men to go in
pursuit of the Indians. Our congregation was quite
respectable for a week-day, and very attentive, consider-
ing the circumstances ; but at each report of the cannon
many of them would involuntarily spring from their seats ;
and after all we had a very comfortable meeting to many.
The same afternoon we recrossed the river and proceeded
on fourteen miles, through an unsettled and poor region
of country, to. brother Haynie's, where we tarried for the
night ; and on Thursday, 27th, finished our journey to the
neighborhood of Austin City. This day several objects
attracted our attention : the muskeet grass, which contin-
ues green all winter, resorted to by herds of cattle, and
covered with flocks of geese and cranes to an extent in-
credible to any one who has never seen them, the Onion
creek lands, with the Colorado on the right, the Pilot
Mountain and Austin City ahead, and apparently a bound-
less waste on the left, presented a prospect of inimitable


beauty. In the afternoon we reached the country resi-
dence of Judge Webb, two miles below the city, which is
situated in a grove of live-oaks, on a handsome eminence,
overlooking his cultivated fields and forests on the low-
land, and is remarkably pleasant and inviting. Here I
spent several days pleasantly with the Judge and his
family, and my own son, whom I had not seen during the
three years he had resided in Texas. Only one thing
embarrassed me, and that was a heavy cold settled on my
lungs, which entirely disqualified me for any public service
for some days, in consequence of which I did not attempt
to preach in Austin, nor was I in the city at all, only long
enough to hear one sermon on Sabbath morning, by
brother Clark, the presiding elder of the district. The
capital, situated in the Colorado Valley, and in full view
of the only mountains we saw in the republic, presents an
air of beauty, and appears somewhat romantic. I made
no examination, however, and decline any particular de-
scription of it. The arguments in favor of the location
of the capital must be drawn chiefly from considerations
of beauty, romance, and solitude, for between it and the
populated part of the country there is no connecting liga-
ment but a narrow string of settlements alone: the Col-
orado. To reach Austin City from Galveston requires
a journey of two hundred and seventy-five miles, and to
reach it from the Sabine on the east requires a journey
of about four hundred. It may be geographically central,
but it certainly is not so to the inhabited parts of the

Yours, truly, T. A. Morris.

Austin, Texas, Feb. 1, 1842.

Brother Elliott, — On Monday, 31st of January, we
commenced retracing our steps, and returned to Ruters-
ville by nearly the same route, crossing the river at sundry


places. The Colorado is a rapid stream of clear water,
about twenty rods wide, passing over a gravel bottom,
between prominent bluff banks, through one of the finest
sections of the republic, affording, perhaps, more pictur-
esque and elegant building sites, and more fine groves of
red cedar, ash, and elm, than any other part which came
under my observation, and with at least as good a pros-
pect of health as any interior point. The range on this
river is exceedingly fine : beside the prairie grass common
to the country, there is the finest sort of rye bottoms for
the stock in winter, as green and fresh in January as a
field of tame rye in April. The scenery of the Colorado
is wild, but lovely and inviting. Much of the land is rich
and cheap, and would probably be settled as fast as any
other part of the republic, were it not so exposed to
Indian depredations. This is at present a formidable dif-
ficulty : there is no barrier between the settlements and
the Indian country, nor any provision of Government for
their defense. If the Camanchees were like the northern
Indians that resisted the settlement of Kentucky and
Western Virginia, they would very soon destroy all the
inhabitants of the Colorado; but they are wild, cowardly,
and, having but few guns, are slow to attack the white
man with his fire-arms, except when they have a decided
advantage, then they will let their pointed arrows fly, and
often with fatal consequence. These wild Indians live
like Arabs; they have no certain dwelling-place, pass
much of their time on horseback armed with spears, and
having a vast extent of country to range in, it is difficult
to dislodge or subdue them. Perhaps in thirty hours
after the commission of theft or murder, they may be one
hundred miles from the scene of atrocity, and so scattered
that they can be trailed no further.

Friday, February 4th, brother Alexander met and pro-
ceeded on with me toward Houston. That night we

3±2 Al I S C K L L A N Y .

staid with Colonel Thomas, and next day reached the
neighborhood of Center Hill, where our congregation on
the Sabbath was quite too large for the school-house,
nearly one-half having to remain out of doors.

Monday, 7th, we passed the ruins of the late residence
of Colonel Austin, which was destroyed during the revo-
lution, and spent the night with Dr. H. Matthews, for-
merly of Lancaster, Ohio, in San Phillipe, which, by order
of General Houston, was burnt by the Texan army as
they retreated before the enemy, but has been since
rebuilt. It is the seat of justice for Austin county, and
stands on the west bank of the Brazos river. Dr. Ma-
thews's family were in mourning for the recent death of
Mrs. Hill, their only daughter; still our interview with
these esteemed old friends was cheerful and pleasant.
The country across from the Colorado to the Brazos is
nearly such as I have endeavored to portray before be-
tween these rivers. On crossing the river next morning,
we took leave of the undulating section of Texas, and
passed fifty miles over a level plain, generally wet and
without timber, or any thing of interest to rest the eye on
or break the monotonous scene, except the immense flocks
of deer which range over this desolation like droves of
sheep. Wild horses also are here, it is said, though I
saw none of them.

Wednesday, 8th, we reached Houston in safety, and
were kindly and comfortably entertained at Miss Morgan's
boarding-house while waiting for a boat. Here we parted
with brother Alexander, who very kindly accompanied us
to take back brother Clark's buggy, in which I had' trav-
eled from St. Louis to that place, a journey of more than
thirteen hundred miles. Houston contains some three
thousand inhabitants, and presents quite a business-like

Thursday my son and I took passage on the steamboat

NOTES OF T E A V 1 C L . 343

Patrick Henry for Galveston. The Buffalo Bayou is, in
many places, just wide enough for the steamboat to pass,
brushed by the boughs of trees on both sides. Its banks,
shaded with cypress, pine, magnolia, and wild peach-
trees, are more enchanting* than I was prepared to expect.
The town of Harrisburg, twelve miles below Houston,
presents some specimens of good taste in the arrangement
of buildings and their appurtenances. Night fell on us
just before we passed the far-famed battle-ground of San
Jacinto. Next morning we awoke on the bay, and were
soon in the city of Galveston, the grand port of entry to
the republic. The island appears to be a dry sand plain
without timber, but covered with grass and flowers like
other prairies, and has the smoothest and most beautiful
beach I ever saw. It is said to be thirty miles long, and
one and a half wide, is surrounded by salt water, and is
thought to be one of the most healthy places in the repub-
lic, or any where else. The city resembles a New Eng-
land village, as to the arrangement of lots and houses ;
but the docks and shipping give it the appearance of a
commercial city on the sea-board. Its inhabitants made a
very satisfactory showing of intelligence and refined hos-
pitality during our sojourn among them, while waiting for
a passage across the gulf, and, from the attention which
they paid to preaching, do not seem to be indifferent on
the subject of religion.

Before I lose sight of Texas, I wish to add a few gen-
eral remarks. I went there prepared to see a mixed
country, containing rich, poor, and medium land, and was
not disappointed, only the proportion of good country is
larger than I supposed. The country, of course, is new,
but as a new country I consider it inviting; and though
the improvements are yet limited, I must say that, in my
opinion, they are underrated abroad. The climate, taking
the calendar year together, must be more pleasant than


that of Cincinnati ; the days being- nearly an hour longer
in the winter, and an hour shorter in summer, bring the
temperament of the atmosphere within less extremes of
heat and cold, producing more uniformity. The water,
whether from springs or wells, is rather warm, but, to me,
pleasant, except in a few places, where it is too strongly
impregnated with lime. After performing a tour of seven
hundred miles through the republic, and making diligent
inquiry in every place, I came to the conclusion that, as a
whole, it was healthy for a new country, of which the
number and robust appearance of the children are conclu-
sive evidence. That some sections of it are sickly, must
be admitted; but much affliction, which some people
charge to the climate, should be put to the account of
their own imprudence, living in open houses, exposing
themselves to inclement weather, etc. The facilities for
making a living in Texas are such, that if the people
would use half the diligence which is necessary to prevent
starvation in the older parts of the United States, they
might render their circumstances easy and independent in
a few years. If any one doubts this, let him reflect on
the following items : good land from fifty cents to one
dollar an acre, no clearing to do, just fence and plow ; and
instead of toiling six months to raise what is indispensable
to keep his stock alive the other half of the year, his cat-
tle are fat all the year without a feed of grain, or fodder,
or a lick of salt. Any man in Texas, who can build a
cabin and raise breadstuff, can live after the first year,
and if he will be industrious and economical, he can
thrive. Indeed, the ease with which a mere living can
be made has retarded the improvement of the country,
led to idleness, dissipation, dependence on loans, specula-
tion, and hunting ; but the people are becoming convinced
that this plan will not do, and have gone to plowing
and digging, making new farms, and extending old ones


rapidly. It is thought from fifty to seventy thousand
bales of cottou have been exported the past winter, and
that the number will be doubled next. They have, also,
cut down the expenses of the government largely, done
away with the government scrip as a circulating medium,
and require gold and silver, or its equivalent, for all im-
post duties and nearly all other government dues, are
determined to rub out the old score and begin anew. If
they hold on to the ground they are now taking, in three
years they will be beyond the need of a loan, unless in
case of war with some foreign power. The character of
the Texans, I beg leave to say, is not generally under-
stood abroad. He who goes to Texas presuming on his
own intelligence and their want of it, will find himself
mistaken. I am acquainted with no community of the
same number, which embodies more shrewd, intelligent
men than that of the single star republic. We know as
little of their moral as of their intellectual character.
Because some men, bankrupt in morals, have been pro-
moted to office in Texas, some have concluded that they
were all scoundrels together; but the same mode of rea-
soning w r ould blast the moral character of the United
States. The laws in Texas are comparatively few and
simple, and are better enforced than our own. For ex-
ample, every man familiar with steamboats and taverns in
the United States knows that most of them are infested
with blacklegs, a perfect nuisance to society, carrying on
their iniquitous trade with impunity ; but in Texas, any
man playing with cards in any place of public resort,
whether for money or amusement, is liable to be fined and
imprisoned, and the proper authorities are not slow in
punishing him as the law requires. But are there not
robberies and murders committed in Texas? Yes; and
so there are in our own country. The common notion
that all the bad people go to Texas can not be true, or


there would not be so many of them left among us. But
I can not pursue the subject farther, lest I weary the

When we arrived in Galveston, we were agreeably sur-
prised to meet our friend and brother Sehon, agent of the
American Bible Society. He returned with us to New
Orleans in the splendid steamship Neptune. We suffered
the usual amount of inconvenience from head winds and
seasickness ; but the urbane commander, Captain Rollins,
and his amiable family, did all that could be done to ren-
der us comfortable, during a difficult passage of fifty-six
hours from port to port. I here close my long series of
letters written in haste, by piecemeal, as I could redeem
time on a difficult journey.

As ever, yours, truly, T. A. Morris.

New Orleans, Feb. 21, 1842.


Brother Elliott, — The Missouri conference having
closed its protracted session on the 4th of October, I took
passage the same day on the steamboat Yucatan, bound
for Weston, far up the Missouri river. The desolating
effects of the spring and summer freshet were constantly
visible, and produced painful impressions on every reflect-
ing mind. With the exception of a few elevated points,
the table-lands adjoining the river had been deluged from
hill to hill, by a sweeping current, the main body of which
appears to have come out of the Kansas, as the Missouri
above that was not so much swollen. Most of the fencing
and many of the farm-houses were entirely destroyed;
and, instead of the expected crop being realized, the rich


soil was washed away, or left covered with a layer of sand
from twelve inches to two feet deep. The amount of prop-
erty lost is incalculable. A few persons were endeavoring
to repair their premises, but most of the proprietors ap-
peared to have abandoned them in despair. One conse-
quence which followed was, much sickness in the country
adjacent; and the Wyandott Indians, who reside at present
on the township of land immediately in the fork of the
Missouri and Kansas rivers, where the overflow was deep,
were perhaps among the greatest sufferers.

The Missouri river, at the time we ascended, formed a
very striking contrast with what it had recently been. On
several bars, the men who flung the lead-lines reported,
"three feet scant" on both sides of the boat; still the
water was turbid, and, in appearance, resembled boiling
soap ; and the vast numbers of snags and sawyers with
which the river abounds, increased the difficulty of navi-
gating it. However, after the usual amount of sounding,
grounding, floundering, sparring, backing off, and going
ahead, our vigilant and persevering commander and crew
brought us safely to the landing, one mile below the mouth
of the Kansas, and four hundred miles above the mouth
of the Missouri, on the 10th, between sundown and dark.
Here I came ashore alone, in a strange land : the ten or

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 26 of 30)