Thursday, November 7, 2013

Emergence of Religion in 19th Century Texas
By Karla L. Camacho

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The Catholic Church was the established religion of Texas until late in the Mexican era, but then declined after the Texas Revolution. During the days of the Republic, as few as 1 in 8 Texans were affiliated with a church. For the most part, religion did not reach parts of Texas until after the Civil War. "There are men and women here, with grown children, who have never heard a preaching,” wrote Samuel Newcomb, a pioneer West Texas settler from Connecticut. Nevertheless, the need for religious spirituality was never gone. Texas was still part of “the South,” and that was widely reflected in its religious ethics, which generally placed piety, or religious devotion, and the need for individual redemption ahead of its social and moral ethics. Because of this, the absence of religion didn’t last long. During the decade of 1850 and 1860, church expansion far exceeded population growth. Methodist churches expanded from 33,045 followers to 103,799. Baptists could claim 10,680 in 1850 and 77,435 ten years later. By 1860, there were 410 Methodist churches in Texas, 280 Baptist, and 124

Presbyterian. Other denominations also expanded, but on a smaller scale than the three major evangelistic denominations.

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Once established, churches carried out their traditional roles as civilizing forces, moral and ethical leaders, and as major supporters of education (“Religion in Early Texas”). A failure to provide education facilities was one complaint Texas revolutionaries had against the Mexican government. But after independence, the government of the Republic, lacking money, did no better. Therefore, the early responsibility for education fell to private and religious groups. Even information and communication was taken over by religious institutions. The first denominational newspaper in the Republic was the Texas Christian Advocate and Brenham Advertiser, published by Methodists in 1847. In the end, these churches affected the young nation (and later the young state) positively. They contributed to a sense of community amongst Texans, which consequently helped establish order and unity; everything a common Southern state valued and cherished.

Works Cited
"Religion in Early Texas." Texas Almanac - The Source for All Things Texan since 1857. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. Storey, John W. "Religion." Www.tshaonline.org. Texas State Historical Association, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2013