GOD and TEXAS: Camp Meeting at Chappell Hill
After the Battle of San Jacinto, the new Republic of Texas was practically unmanageable. Taming Texas was akin to breaking or training a wild stallion. Or as President Sam Houston observed, “Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.”
Elected leaders like Houston, Mirabeau Lamar, and Anson Jones tried their best to govern. But public debt soared, Mexico remained a constant threat, and depredations by marauding Comanches intensified. The influx of bigamists, thieves, prostitutes, and vigilantes only compounded the mayhem.
Despite these dire circumstances, something uplifting happened. Independent camp meetings broke out around emerging Texas. Settlers hungry for worship and fellowship with like-minded Believers, met under brush-arbors, or by riversides to sing, pray, preach, and study the Word of God.
Prior to the Texas Revolution, Mexico had banned all religions but Catholic. Religious freedom was one of the motivations behind the fight for independence. One of the last letters that Col. William Barret Travis wrote before he entered the Alamo, was to the Methodist organization requesting it to “expand quickly into Texas. Settlers are hungry for the Word.”
Now that Texas was a sovereign Republic, evangelists came quickly. The outdoor camp meetings often lasted for a week, and included church services, weddings, meal functions, small-talk, and extended prayer sessions. Circuit-riding missionary preacher Robert Alexander described these times as “fighting the Devil on his own ground, Texas!”
Texas soon flourished with religious fervor. In the Summer of 1843, a camp meeting was held near Egypt in Wharton County. The fertile Colorado river valley had become known for its’ bountiful harvests of corn. But following the results of this brush arbor service, they harvested many souls for Christ.
On Oct. 19 of that year, a camp meeting began on the banks of Cedar Creek in Washington County. Eleven pioneer Methodist ministers teamed to lead these historic services. According to records, all but a few of the residents of Cedar Creek accepted Christ as Savior. From then on, Cedar Creek, now known as Chappell Hill, was the heart of Christian influence. Eventually, several Bible colleges were built with hundreds of students.
The wild spirit of liberated Texans impeded civilized life, and God had the remedy. In ancient times, the Greek army captured wild steeds and “meeked” (praus) them for battle. Once “meeked,” the horses controlled their power and became useful in warfare. Many believe that these sacred camp meetings essentially “meeked” Texas.
Meekness, according to the Bible, is being humble and gentle towards others and willingly being submissive and obedient to the Lord. This illustrates what the power of God does in the heart of unmanageable individuals. The Apostle Peter explained that those who profess Christ as Savior were to exhibit “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4 KJV).
May Texas never stray from the “meeking” of these camp meeting roots.
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