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Guide to Life and Literature
of the Southwest


13
Circuit Riders and Missionaries

NOTWITHSTANDING both the tradition and the facts of hard-shooting, hard-riding cowboys, of bad men, of border lawlessness, of inhabitants who had left some other place under a cloud, of frontier towns "west of God," hard layouts and conscienceless "courthouse crowds" -- notwithstanding all this, the Southwest has been and is religious-minded. This is not to say that it is spiritual-natured. It belongs to H. L. Mencken's "Bible Belt." "Pass-the-Biscuits" Pappy O'Daniel got to be governor of Texas and then U.S. senator by advertising his piety. A politician as "ignorant as a Mexican hog" on foreign affairs and the complexities of political economy can run in favor of what he and the voters call religion and leave an informed man of intellect and sincerity in the shade. The biggest campmeeting in the Southwest, the Bloys Campmeeting near Fort Davis, Texas, is in the midst of an enormous range country away from all factories and farmers.

Since about 1933 the United States Indian Service has not only allowed but rather encouraged the Indians to revert to their own religious ceremonies. They have always been religious. The Spanish colonists of the Southwest, as elsewhere, were zealously Catholic, and their descendants have generally remained Catholic. The first English-speaking settlers of the region -- the colonists led by Stephen F. Austin to Texas -- were overwhelmingly Protestant, though in order to establish Mexican citizenship and get titles to homestead land they had, technically, to declare themselves Catholics. One of the causes of the Texas Revolution as set forth by the Texans in their Declaration of Independence was the Mexican government's denial of "the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience." A history of southwestern society that left out the Bible would be as badly gapped as one leaving out the horse or the six-shooter.

See chapter entitled "On the Lord's Side" in Dobie's The Flavor of Texas. Most of the books listed under "How the Early Settlers Lived" contain information on religion and preachers. Church histories are about as numerous as state histories. Virtually all county histories take into account church development. The books listed below are strong on personal experiences.

ASBURY, FRANCIS

Three or more lives have been written of this representative pioneer bishop.

BOLTON, HERBERT E.

The Padre on Horseback, 1932. Life of the Jesuit missionary Kino. OP.

BROWNLOW, W. G.

Portrait and Biography of Parson Brownlow, the Tennessee Patriot, 1862. Brownlow was a very representative figure. Under the title of William G Brownlow, Fighting Parson of the Southern Highland, E. M Coulter has brought out a thorough life of him, published by University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1937.

BURLESON, RUFUS C.

Life and Writings, 1901. OP. The autobiographical part of this amorphously arranged volume is a social document of the first rank.

CARTWRIGHT, PETER

Autobiography, 1857. Out of Kentucky, into Indiana and then into Illinois, where he ran against Lincoln for Congress, Cartwright rode with saddlebags and Bible. Sandburg characterizes him as "an enemy of whisky, gambling, jewelry, fine clothes, and higher learning." He seems to me more unlovely in his intolerance and sectarianism than most circuit riders of the Southwest, but as a militant, rough-and-ready "soldier of the Lord" he represented southwestern frontiers as well as his own.

CRANFILL, J. B.

Chronicle, A Story of Life in Texas, 1916. Cranfill was a lot of things besides a Baptist preacher -- trail driver, fiddler, publisher, always an observer. OP.

DEVILBISS, JOHN WESLEY

Reminiscences and Events (compiled by H. A. Graves), 1886. The very essence of pioneering,

DOMENECH, ABBÉ

Missionary Adventures in Texas and Mexico (translated from the French), London, 1858. OP. The Abbé always had eyes open for wonders. He saw them. Delicious narrative.

EVANS, WILL G.

Border Skylines, published in Dallas, 1940, for Bloys Campmeeting Association, Fort Davis, Texas. Chronicles of the men and women -- cow people -- and cow country responsible for the best known campmeeting, held annually, Texas has ever had. OP.

GRAVIS, PETER W.

25 Years on the Outside Row of the Northwest Texas Annual Conference, Comanche, Texas, 1892. Another one of those small personal records, privately printed but full of juice. OP.

LIDE, ANNA A.

Robert Alexander and the Early Methodist Church in Texas, La Grange, Texas, 1935. OP.

MORRELL, Z. N.

Fruits and Flowers in the Wilderness, 1872. Though reprinted three times, last in 1886, long OP. In many ways the best circuit rider's chronicle of the Southwest that has been published. Morrell fought Indians and Mexicans in Texas and was rich in other experiences.

MORRIS, T. A.

Miscellany, 1854. The "Notes of Travel" -- particularly to Texas in 1841 -- are what makes this book interesting.

PARISOT, P. F.

Reminiscences of a Texas Missionary, 1899. Mostly the Texas-Mexican border.

POTTER, ANDREW JACKSON

Commonly called the "Fighting Parson." Life of him by H. A. Graves, 1890, not nearly so good as Potter was himself.

THOMASON, JOHN W.

Lone Star Preacher, Scribner's, New York, 1941. Fiction, true to humanity. The moving story of a Texas chaplain who carried a Bible in one hand and a captain's sword in the other through the Civil War.




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