City of Houston
In 1836, the frontier town of Houston, Texas, was more infamous than famous. The gossip drifting east of the Sabine River whispered that houses of gambling and prostitution outnumbered other businesses two to one. Rumor had it that the leading citizens were mainly thieves, drunks, and shysters.
Truth be told, the gossip was spot-on. Sketchy historical documents record that there were many seedy watering holes in the crusty town. Popular amusements included cards, dice, boxing, roulette, and betting on anything that could run whether animal or human.
The great naturalist John James Audubon visited Houston, in 1837. He noted in his journal that many of the resident were “drunk and hallooing… stumbling about in the mud in every direction.”
To make matters worse, there was no town marshal to keep the peace, as if there was any peace to keep. The biggest gun governed, and few would argue with Lone Star justice. Finally, in 1837, the Harris County Sheriffs’ Office was founded, with Sheriff John Moore serving as jurisprudence on horseback.
Bottom line, the Bayou City was a trashy place to live. Have you heard the old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure"? While many avoided Houston, to those in the ministry of Christ, Houston was a prime target for evangelism.
It is thought that Rev. R. Marsh was the first to preach in the streets of Houston in 1837. He was followed the same year by Rev. Z.N. Morrell and Rev. H. Matthews. A prominent lay-preacher named A.J. McGowen also preached the Word. McGowen had fought in the Battle of San Jacinto, and later established McGowan’s Foundry.
One of the tactics that these courageous preachers employed was to preach the Gospel on the front steps of a local saloon! In spite of the scoffing and physical attacks, they eventually moved under nearby trees to hold services. These efforts flourished into healthy fledgling churches.
In 1840, a letter was sent back East to enlist more Christian workers to help the successful but overwhelmed preachers. The letter briefly described the noble efforts that were underway in Houston and simply stated in bold letters, “WHO AMONG THEM WILL GO TO TEXAS?”
Surprisingly, the Allen Brothers, who were the founders of Houston, had set aside several prime parcels of downtown land just for churches. They knew that every city needed strong churches. And it is still true today.
The shabby town of Houston was trapped in sin and needed freedom. Matthew 12:29 ESV asks, “How can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?” Satan is the strong man that must be bound by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Then the city can thrive.
Pray for our cities that are under siege by the strongman. May the Lord send a great revival, again!