METHODISM ALONG THE BAYOU
by Timothy Hebert
First United Methodist Church of Houma
Copyright 1994 Timothy Hebert
THE RISE AND FALL OF TERREBONNE METHODISM
Finally, in 1842 another pastor was appointed to the area. In that year, John Powell was sent to the Lafourche Mission. He had spent the last few years on the Franklin/Newtown circuit, just west of Terrebonne Parish. Newtown was an old name for New Iberia. It is quite possible that he had ventured into Terrebonne Parish at some time during his Franklin/Newtown appointment.
Lafourche was now in the Natchez District. Rev. Harp's church journal ... which you'll hear more about later ... notes that the Lafourche Circuit extended from Donaldsonville to Berwick Bay. The stops have included Donaldsonville, Napoleonville, Labadieville, Thibodaux, Houma, Gibson, and Berwick. Rev. Powell is probably the first Methodist minister to make regular stops in Terrebonne Parish.
Meanwhile, Father Menard was ordained and became the Catholic priest in Thibodaux. He made his way into Houma, conducting services in the courthouse from time to time. He said that Houma consisted of about twenty homes along the bayou. He noted that the people were "ignorant of the principal truths of religion." Later, in 1844, he suggested that a Catholic church be built in Houma.
In 1843 the Lafourche circuit became part of the New Orleans District, where William Winans was the presiding elder. That year, both John Powell and Philo M. Goodwyn were appointed to the Lafourche circuit. Rev. Goodwyn, who was only twenty-three at the time, would later return to the area in the 1860's. It is noted in Rev. Harp's journal that funds were being raised towards the building of a church in Thibodaux (and probably in Houma as well). Rev. Powell, the elder of the two ministers, was probably the impetus behind the building of the church.
In 1844, Henry B. Price and Stephen J. Davies were appointed to the Lafourche Mission, as it was now called. These were probably the preachers who encouraged the Houma Methodists to work on building their own church.
Rev. Price was from Morehouse Parish. Later, in 1855, he married Miss C.A. Kidd in Union Parish.
Rev. Davies came from Cardiganshire, Wales. He was born in 1816 and passed away in 1864. He was buried in St. Mary Parish. He had a son, Stephen Davies, Jr., who became a prominent Methodist minister. It was said that Rev. Davies was "one of the most eloquent, powerful and successful preachers of modern times."
This year also saw the transfer of Charles P. Clark from the New York to the Mississippi Conference. He had learned fluent French so that he could preach to the French population of Louisiana. But, because of the turmoil concerning the separation of the Methodist Episcopal Church into northern and southern factions, he left the denomination and joined the Protestant Episcopal Church. The French of south Louisiana would have to wait for over thirty years before hearing the Gospel in their tongue.
In 1845, Rev. Price was reappointed to the Lafourche Mission and Rev. W.W. Jenkins took Rev. Davies' place. It is in this year that the first church of any denomination in Terrebonne Parish was begun. Up to this time, religious services were held in the courthouse. On January 14, 1845, the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States bought a lot from Richard H. Grinage for $200. It was located on the southeast corner of the intersection of South Street and Terrebonne Street. These streets are known today as Goode Street and Belanger Street. Some of the residents who made up this first church were: Dr. William F. Robinson, Dr. John Wesley Danks, John Watson, Van Winder, Joseph Semple, James Cage, and Samuel Clifton. The church was built shortly after. Funds to build the church came not only from the Methodists, but also from Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and non-Protestants. Since it would be over ten years before the other Protestant religions built their own churches, they were allowed to use the Methodists' church when it was free.
It is interesting to note that the first church in this predominantly Catholic Terrebonne Parish was a Methodist church. Although the Acadians, Spanish, and French had always been Catholic, they had been without a church and priest since they came to the Louisiana territory. They had to rely on priests visiting from other parishes to perform church rituals. The Terrebonne Catholics were served by St. Joseph's Church in Thibodaux, which had been formed in 1817. Father Menard of St. Joseph's had recognized the need for a church in Houma. In 1847, Father Z. Leveque was assigned to organize the Catholic Parish of St. Francis de Sales of Houma. The early services by Father Leveque were held in the courthouse (at 9:30 on Sundays) and in private homes. He described the Cajuns as "good-natured, kind, hospitable, and anxious to learn."
A subscription list to build the Catholic church was circulated in 1847. Every Catholic was asked to pledge $10 ... $5 to be paid in 1848 and $5 in 1849. The church was to cost $2050. The church was begun in 1848. Father Leveque left in April 1848 for France. No one knows what became of him. Father E. Barthe came to finish the church and stayed until 1852. The next priest stayed only one month and left. Due to priest turnover and financial problems, the Catholic church was still under construction in 1853. When finished, the brick structure was 47' by 90' and could hold forty families.
Though Episcopal and Presbyterian ministers had visited the area since the late 1830's, the first Protestant church in the area wasn't built until the 1840's. St. John's Episcopal Church of Thibodaux was begun in 1844 and was completed in 1845. It still stands on Jackson Street in Thibodaux. The original church was a rather plain looking building, since the steeple was not added until ten years later. The driving force behind the Episcopal Church was George Guion (who donated the land) and Rev. Leonidas Polk. It had twenty-four members the first year, fourteen of whom were black. The Episcopals and Presbyterians in Terrebonne Parish didn't build their own churches until the mid to late 1850's. They used the Methodist church and/or the courthouse.
Of course, the Methodist churches did not look anything like the Catholic churches. Rev. Harper, in his book In the Land of New Acadie, says that "Catholics built churches that looked like churches. Methodist churches might look like a barn, a town hall, or a Greek temple. They have rough, homemade seats (pews) and an assortment of chairs. Sometimes there is a piano or organ, though not in good shape. It wasn't very appealing to the Catholics who were used to their grand cathedrals. Most French Mission churches were like this."
This was the general style of Protestant churches at the time. They were usually 36' by 57', give or take a few feet. They were built up on brick posts. They had a high-pitched saddle-back roof covered with shingles. A stove was often placed in the middle of the room for heat. Besides pews and chairs, the only other piece of furniture was the pulpit and lectern. There were about five windows on each side of the church, but usually none on the facade. If any had stained glass windows, there would never appear images of Christ or Biblical people/things. The only "Catholic" feature sometimes found would be a small tower topped by a steeple. If you visit the church in Gibson, you will see an example of an early Methodist church. It is quite simple. The Protestants intentionally tried to stay away from the Catholic style of church architecture.
Although there are no surviving photographs or sketches of Houma's original Methodist church, we can piece together an image of the building based on old maps and newspaper articles. The church was a wood-framed structure about 42' by 57'. This included an 8' gallery (porch) in the front, supported by six columns. There were probably four to five shuttered windows on each side, but none in the front or back. Although it could have been unpainted, it may have been painted white since it was a church. Whitewashed walls with green windows was a popular color scheme for churches back then. It was probably set on blocks, as most buildings were at that time. The only "liberty" taken in the sketch we have done is the steeple. The Gibson church (which is still standing) had no steeple. The Thibodaux church had a large 50' tall steeple. Since the size of the Houma church was in-between these two churches, it is not improbable to assume that it had a small steeple. Such steeples were common on country churches of that day.
There were over 8,000 Methodists in Louisiana in the 1840's, over half of which were black. The Attakapas Circuit, which included the Lafourche Mission, had about 1,500 members. Once again, half of these were black.
The Methodist Church made a major split this year. The Conference reprimanded Bishop James O. Andrew because he had not freed slaves that he inherited. Many of the southern churches separated to form the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The question of slavery, which the Methodist Church had always opposed, was one of the major reasons for the separation.
Virtually all Louisiana Methodists were in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Methodist Episcopal Church (North) ... while preaching against slavery ... failed to put their integration into practice. The northern branch of the Methodist Church would not make its way down to south Louisiana until after the Civil War.
Most of the blacks were reached when the Methodist ministers were allowed to preach to the workers on the plantations. Where there were churches, whites and blacks sometimes met together in the same church, though they sat in separate areas. When they took communion, the blacks and whites would take it side by side. The black population was very receptive to the Methodist message. Since the Methodists preached to all on a simple level, the blacks readily understood and accepted. As one ex-slave said, the Methodist preachers "preached in a grammer so plain that the way-faring man, though a fool, could not err therein." The Methodist preachers, likewise, eagerly accepted the blacks into the church. In fact, by 1847, there were eight missions in Louisiana aimed at the black population. These missions were continued until the end of the Civil War.
In 1846, Lafourche was placed under the Attakapas District. John Powell was the presiding elder. Philip H. Dieffenwierth and Thomas J. Lacey were appointed to the Lafourche Mission.
In 1847, the Louisiana Conference was formed. At the first conference in Opelousas, the Houma/Bayou Black circuit got its first appointment. Charles J. Hallberg, who had been in the Plaquemine area the previous year, was appointed. He served from January 1847 through 1848.
Rev. Hallberg was born in the West Indies on June 3, 1820. He and his family came to New Orleans when he was a boy. He was converted when he was seventeen years old. He was admitted on trial as a Methodist preacher in 1844 and was appointed to the Vidalia Circuit. Rev. Hallberg was admitted into full connection and ordained deacon by Bishop Soule at the first session of the Louisiana Conference in Opelousas in January of 1847. After serving Houma/Bayou Black, he moved on to the Richmond Circuit. On December 22, 1851, he married Eliza Lambert in New Orleans. Rev. Hallberg worked for the rest of his ministry in central and northern Louisiana. He also served in the Civil War as a chaplain in Mississippi. It was said that he was a faithful and self-denying laborer who had endured and suffered much in the service of the church. He died in Isaquena County, Mississippi on July 29, 1870. He left behind his wife and five children.
Philo M. Goodwyn and Thomas J. Lacey were appointed to the Lafourche area (which now extended from Donaldsonville to Thibodaux) for 1847. Lafourche had a membership of 36 whites and 33 black.
Although the Conference Journal shows Houma "to be supplied" for 1848, Rev. Hallberg seems to have stayed in the area for part or most of the year. In 1848, Houma/Bayou Black had a membership of 30 whites.
William R. Gober was appointed to the Lafourche Circuit, which was now only Napoleonville and Thibodaux. Rev. Gober was single; he would marry in 1851 to Miss N.P. Beazley, a minister's daughter from Jackson, Mississippi. They later moved to California.
Lafourche had 30 whites and 60 blacks in its membership for the year. Lafourche and Houma were now in the Baton Rouge District.
Houma was incorporated as a town in 1848. The first mayor was N.H. Rightor.
In 1849, Alexander Sutherland was appointed supernumerary for the Houma circuit. He was a retired pastor who agreed to take the pulpit for a year. There were 48 whites on the Houma/Bayou Black circuit. Rev. Gober continued on the Lafourche Circuit. Rev. Lewis Reed was now working in the area as a missionary. The Lafourche Colored Mission was formed to reach the slave population of the area. Rev. Reed would continue his missionary position for the next four years.
Lewis A. Reed was born in September of 1812 in Henderson, Kentucky. He married Miss Eleanor Martha Phillips. He had joined the Poydras St. church in 1842. Before entering the ministry, Rev. Reed worked as an accountant. He was also a partner in a N.O. omnibus company. He sold his interest in the omnibus company after his conversion, because he refused to have a hand in a business that operated on the Sabbath.
The itinerant life was hard on the Reeds. Their little girl, Rosina, died in 1853 when she was six years old. Only two years later, their eight month old son, Robert, also died.
A number of his charges were to "colored missions". It was said that "few men were ever respected and reverenced by the whites or beloved by the negroes as was Brother Reed." Even though he might have seemed serious on the outside, the children and youth adored him. He made effective use of the Scripture in his sermons and was a better than average doctrinal preacher.
His first appointment was in the New Orleans area in 1845. Rev. Reed served the Napoleonville/Lafourche (from 1851 to 1853) and Lafourche/Bayou Black Circuits (from 1854 to 1856). He wrote to the Advocate several times at this period to list marriages he had performed. It appears that a popular spot for weddings was the Rose Cottage, a beautiful home in Terrebonne Parish. He quit the ministry temporarily in 1867 due to money problems. He later went back to the Lafourche Circuit (1876-1878). He continued to serve charges around Louisiana until his death. He passed away on January 20, 1899.
Cornelius C. Wallis and John Wallis donated a lot of land in Tigerville (now called Gibson) on May 17, 1849 to the Methodists for the construction of a church and cemetery. The church building was built before the end of the year (see Rev. Price's article in the next paragraph). The church built on this property still stands today. Some of the original members of this church were Tobias Gibson, John McIntyre, and William Thompson. Of the churches at Thibodaux, Houma, and Tigerville, this one was the smallest and simplest. It is a variation of Greek revival style that was common at the time. It was known back then as the Sycamore Church, because sycamore trees grew in the yard.
Rev. H.B. Price (who served the area in 1844-1845), writing to DeBow's Review from Bayou Black in 1849, says that "there is a Methodist church newly built" in Houma. He also mentions the church at Gibson, saying "there is likewise another Protestant church, belonging to the Methodists on Bayou Black, and recently completed." Since the Gibson church was built in less than a year, the Houma Church was probably completed in 1845 or 1846. The Houma Church was larger than the Gibson Church. Rev. Price goes on to say that the slaves are allowed to participate in religious duties; and that some of the plantation owners "consider it a duty to provide a religious instructor to their slaves, i.e. K.H. Cage, Tobias Gibson, Dr. Danks."
Rev. Sutherland was replaced by Henderson A. Morse in 1850. Rev. Morse had one local preacher to assist him. His job was to fill in for the minister when he was preaching elsewhere. The membership of whites was down to 15, but the membership of blacks was up to 95.
The Houma church was dedicated in 1850. The service was led by the presiding elder, W.H. Crenshaw.
The first Sabbath School (Sunday School) was formed at Houma. At this time, there were fewer than three dozen Sabbath Schools in all of Louisiana.
The Lafourche Circuit was taken in 1850 by Rev. William J. Ferguson. The Lafourche Colored Mission was served by Rev. Lewis A. Reed. Although the Colored Mission had only a couple of whites, it served around 500 blacks.
According to the Historical Atlas of Religion in America, there were more Methodist churches in Louisiana (125) than any other denomination in 1850. But the memberships were usually quite small compared to the Catholic churches. Catholic churches at the time covered entire parishes, while Protestant churches served a smaller community.
Rev. Morse left Houma after one year. The Houma church was now served by Rev. Ferguson, who had both the Lafourche and Houma charges. The membership of both circuits combined was 46 whites and 166 blacks. Lewis Reed, still serving the Colored Mission, had 3 whites and 329 blacks.
In a May 27th letter to the New Orleans Christian Advocate, Rev. Reed mentioned that it takes him four weeks to cover the thirteen plantations along the two hundred mile length of Bayou Lafourche and its tributaries. He noted that the church at Thibodaux was to be dedicated on September 24, 1851. In speaking of the Tigerville church, he said that its prospects were flattering.
After a trial run in 1850, the New Orleans Christian Advocate began its ninety plus year history. Different editions of the Christian Avocate newspaper were issued around the country. The New Orleans edition covered the news from Louisiana, Mississippi, and sometimes Alabama. It also included articles from around the country and the world on Methodism and religion. Much of the information gathered for this book would have been impossible to obtain without the old issues of the Advocate.
A March 15, 1851 issue of the Advocate describes the travels of the "first year of an itinerant in Louisiana Interior" whose initials were P.A.S. The minister writing this letter had a circuit that stretched across south Louisiana. Traveling by boat, he made his way to Houma (after visiting everyone who would open their doors to him). Upon reaching Houma, he preached at Houma's "new, beautiful and commodious church." He noted that before this church was built, services were held in the courthouse.
Besides the church, there were several other preaching places in the parish. They were: every six weeks, on Thursday night, at Mrs. Pierce's plantation; every three weeks, on Saturday night, at Mr. S. Gibson's plantation (one mile above Houma); every six weeks, on Sunday evening, alternating between Dr. Danks' plantation (on Bayou Terrebonne, eight miles below Houma and three miles above Mrs. P's plantation) and Messrs. Mayfield and Lane's plantation (on Grand Caillou, six miles from Houma); every three weeks, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, at Mr. Cage's plantation (four miles below Houma on Grand Caillou). At Tigerville, he preaches every three weeks to whites and blacks. In the evening, he preaches to Mr. S. Gibson's "negroes" about six miles above Tigerville. The planters in the area wanted their slaves to hear the preaching, also.
The article's author also mentions that the Catholics have a "large brick edifice here, intended for a church, but unfinished." He goes on to describe that the "priest who had collected the money to build it went to France and neither he nor the money returned."
G.N. Pierce says in a 1851 article of DeBow's Review that
Houma "consists of five stores, ten to twelve dwelling houses, a church (Methodist), a blacksmith shop, a school-house, hotel, grog-shop, and billiard room," and a courthouse, jail, and official offices. There were also several doctors and lawyers' offices. He goes on to say that "in respect to religion, it is rather below par; however, there is a half-finished brick Catholic church at Houma, generally well-attended, (nearly all the Creoles being Catholics); also a Methodist church." The Methodist church was also used by the Episcopalians and Presbyterians on Sundays when the Methodists weren't using it. The Methodist circuit preachers had been holding regular services at the church, but there was little enthusiasm from thecommunity. The preachers were forced to move on for lack of financial support (they were "frequently starved out"). The Methodist church at Tigerville, was in about the same shape as the one in Houma.
Bishop James Andrew said at this time that the Methodists tended to start a church and then neglect its growth. It seemed as though this was happening in Terrebonne Parish.
The 6th session of the Louisiana Conference was held in Guion's Academy in Thibodaux in December, 1851. Guion's Academy was the first public school, built on land donated by George Guion, an Episcopalian. At this time, Thibodaux was much larger than Houma, with a population of 1200-1500. Having a church in a city in the middle of the heartland of Catholicism was probably considered a big deal.
Though the Thibodaux church was built on a back street, it was moved to its Jackson Street location, near the Episcopal church, before the conference. It had been dedicated in September. The church was an attractive building with a tall steeple that could be seen from far off. It was about the same size as the Episcopal Church, which still sits on Jackson Street. It had seating space for three hundred people. The location of this church is now a parking lot for an auto dealer on Jackson Street. The Methodist preacher had services every two weeks. The Presbyterian minister, Rev. Chamberlain, used it the other two weeks of the month. The Presbyterians built a slightly larger church a few years later on Thibodaux Street.
This big event may have marked the high point of Methodism in the 19th century in south Louisiana. H.N. McTyeire said after the conference that he knew of "no ministerial work in the Louisiana Conference or any Conference that exceeds this, either in the opening prospects of large success, in intrinsic importance, or in moral sublimity." But, the membership and outreach of Methodism in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes in the 19th century was restricted to the English speaking population. Growth was slow and membership was small. The area had always been predominantly French-speaking Catholics. Since the early Methodist preachers couldn't speak French and the Catholic religion still held a good deal of control, this early attempt at the establishment of Methodism by-passed the majority of the population. It would be years before Methodists went to the people with a French-speaking pastor.
The area's first Bible society was started in 1852. The Bible Society of Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes had its first meeting on January 18 at the Methodist church in Thibodaux. The ministers and several members of the area's Protestant churches (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist) made up the membership. The Episcopalian, Rev. Leonidas Polk, was selected as chairman. George Guion was elected president. Members from TerrebonneParish included Joseph Semple (the vice-president), J.C. Potts, and Rev. William Ferguson. The funds generated from the society were to be used to distribute the Scripture to people of the two parishes.
The Lafourche/Terrebonne area was placed under the jurisdiction of the New Orleans District in 1852. The presiding elder was John C. Keener. The Houma/Bayou Black Mission consisted of 33 whites and 233 blacks. The pastor was Rev. William Ferguson. It was referred to as the Houma and Bayou Colored Mission in the records. The Bayou Black Mission consisted of six plantations and the church in Gibson. Rev. Ferguson collected $260 from the Bayou Black Mission for 1852.
Rev. Ferguson wrote to the Advocate to describe the third Quarterly Meeting for the Houma/Bayou Black mission. It was held at the Tigerville church and lasted from September 23 to October 3. Fourteen people "embraced religion" and sixteen people joined the church. The old members were also uplifted. All ages and classes were affected. Father and son ... mother and daughter ... planter and worker were seen to kneel together at the altar. The presiding elder, Rev. Keener came to preach and will long be remembered by the people. Two local preachers, Rev. Rolls and Rev. Knight, assisted in the services.
Rev. Ferguson was married this year. On November 24, he married Harriet P. Jarvis of Tennessee. Rev. Lewis Reed performed the ceremony in Thibodaux.
The pastor assigned to Thibodaux was Robert J. Harp. He arrived from the Baton Rouge Circuit at the young age of 22. He ministered to 64 whites and 62 blacks. A Sabbath School class was organized this year in Thibodaux. The Thibodaux church was finally completed in March.
The Colored Mission of Napoleonville and Lafourche was served by Lewis A. Reed. Its membership consisted of 7 whites and 345 blacks, with 316 children under religious instruction. His collections along his circuit of eleven plantations came to $283 for the year.
A revival was held in Thibodaux that lasted three weeks from September to October. Rev. Harp accepted 40 new members into the church and 30 people were converted. This was the first real "revival" that the area had seen.
Rev. Robert James Harp was born in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee on April 29, 1829. He felt the call to preach at the young age of fourteen. He was licensed and preached at the same age. His ministry was to last for seventy-one years. He transferred to the Louisiana Conference in 1846, when he was appointed to the Caddo Circuit. He started Shreveport's first temperance society. He moved southward, serving Alexandria and Baton Rouge before being appointed to Thibodaux. While pastoring a church in New Orleans, he married Miss Agnes Pennington on September 23, 1869. They had three daughters.
He was a true example of the itinerant minister, having served around the state over a distinguished career. He was an intelligent, unselfish, and gentle man. One of his family said that he could not even think evil. He lived the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians. It was said that if Methodist ministers could ascend to sainthood, Rev. Harp would be placed at the head of the line. He passed away in Shreveport on July 24, 1914.
The appointments stayed the same for 1853. The black memberships increased slightly, while the white membership declined a bit. Membership at the Houma/Bayou Black Mission decreased for both (15 whites and 201 blacks). This is the last time that Houma is mentioned until 1860. The Houma circuit was served from time to time by preachers from surrounding circuits, most probably the Thibodaux/Lafourche circuit. Bishop James Andrews visited a number of churches in south Louisiana this year, but did not go to Houma. He did stop at the Thibodaux church and had a meal at Francis Mead's home, which was located in Schriever. This was the first time a Methodist Bishop had entered Terrebonne Parish.
Lewis Reed, appointed to the Lafourche Colored Mission, informed the Advocate that he had lost access to five of the twelve plantations he had been serving. The "slave membership" was down to 700 souls.
Rev. Harp wrote to the Advocate to inform the readers that the Thibodaux church had a big July 4th celebration. It was hosted by the Sunday School.
Many people in the area, including Methodists, died in a yellow fever epidemic in 1853. One of those, Mr. M.P. Ziles, left $1000 to the Thibodaux Methodist Church.
Rev. Ferguson left Houma in 1854 to serve Plaquemine and Point Coupee. The Houma church was served by Lewis A. Reed, who was appointed to serve Lafourche and the Bayou Black Circuit/Mission. His appointment serviced 50 whites and 882 blacks.
Hazael A. Sugg was appointed to replace Rev. Harp in Thibodaux. While waiting for Rev. Sugg to arrive, Rev. Keener appointed B.F. Alexander to take charge of the Thibodaux Station. Rev. Alexander, who grew up and preached in Kentucky, had just transferred to the Louisiana Conference. Rev. Sugg was busy in Caddo Parish; he married Mollie Kate Cooke, of Tennessee, in January of 1854. He did make it down to the area soon after. The records show that he performed a wedding in Terrebonne Parish at the end of February. The Thibodaux Circuit was serving 45 whites and 64 blacks at this time.
Before he left, Rev. Robert Harp started a church journal of records. He tried to put earlier records as he could find them, back to 1832. This record book was kept through 1889, though there are many gaps and omissions. Since the Houma and Gibson churches were placed on the same circuit as Thibodaux (especially after the Civil War), the only records we have of the 19th century Terrebonne Methodists are found in this book. This is the book that has previously been referred to as Rev. Harp's church journal. It was "rediscovered" in the Gibson church in 1976. It is now located in the Archives at Centenary College in Shreveport, though a transcription of the material was done and is available in several libraries.
While looking though the records of this journal, you will notice that just about all of the names are Anglo-Saxon. The 19th century Methodist church never reached the predominantly French-speaking population. This is probably why it virtually disappeared in the 1880's.
Rev. Harp had been working on the history of the Methodists in south Louisiana. Unfortunately, all of his notes were burnt in a fire. If not for that fire, we would have an extensive history of 19th century Louisiana Methodism from someone who was there.
Lewis Reed continued to serve the Bayou Black Circuit/Mission for 1855. But this year, Donaldsonville was added to the circuit and Jesse Fulton was sent to help him. Together, they ministered to 39 whites and 671 blacks.
The mission extended 140 miles from St. Mary Parish to St. James Parish. It includes eighteen plantations. They are able to reach the largest plantations about once a month. At a quarterly meeting at Bayou Black, Dr. J.C. Keener suggested that a series of chapels be built along the circuit by the blacks. Funds were soon collected and construction of chapels on Bayou Black and Bayou Lafourche began.
Rev. Jesse Fulton was born in Baton Rouge on March 24, 1831. He was converted in childhood. His first marriage was to Miss Mary A. Phipps on February 18, 1858; his second was to Mrs. Lucy A. Brown on December 4, 1865. He was admitted to the Louisiana Conference in 1855. He served as junior on the Lafourche and Bayou Black Circuit. He passed away in Meridian, Texas, on August 19, 1897.
The Thibodaux and Napoleonville Circuit received a different preacher for 1855. Samuel Hawes was appointed to minister to the 46 whites and 82 blacks on the circuit.
Rev. Samuel Hawes was born in Louisiana on October 5, 1819. He was born again in 1840. He was admitted on trial into the Mississippi Conference in 1842. He spent most ofhis ministry in southern Louisiana.
Rev. Hawes was a gentle man ... full of mercy. Like Rev. Reed, he had experienced the loss of loved ones recently. He came to the area as a widower. His wife, Rachel, had died after giving birth in 1852. His mother died of yellow fever while Rev. Hawes was in Thibodaux in 1855. He remarried shortly after to Miss Sarah A. Cain. His own life, after serving this circuit, did not last very long. On his deathbed, a friend asked him "whither goest thou." He answered "to a better world." He died of typhoid fever on July 2, 1860, two months after the birth of his daughter, Zipporah. Zipporah would later have a daughter named Ella, who will be discussed later.
By 1855, there were nine different branches of the Methodist Church in America. Over 80% of the 1,672,517 American Methodists were in two branches (the Methodist Episcopal Church - 783,358; Methodist Episcopal Church, South - 579,525). But the Methodist Episcopal Church had 4,579 ministers, while the Methodist Episcopal Church, South had only 1,672 ministers. Most of the 10,599 Methodists in Louisiana were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. So they were serving more people per pastor (1 pastor = 84 members) than their northern counterparts. There were also thousands of local ministers who preached more or less every week, when the official ministers couldn't make it. It is interesting to note that 1,255,897 of the Methodists were Anglo-Saxon. Almost none of them were French ... the predominant population of southern Louisiana.
A Houma Ceres newspaper article states that services were held at the Houma Methodist Church on November 13-16, 1856. Communion was served on Sunday, the 16th. Those attending included the preacher in charge, Lewis Reed, and the Methodist pastor from Thibodaux, Samuel Hawes.
To illustrate the sharing of the Methodist building, a notice in the Houma Ceres on December 6, 1856 advertised that the Episcopal pastor from Thibodaux would be preaching the next week at the "Protestant Church" in Houma.
The end of 1856 brought a change in ministers for the Houma and Lafourche Circuit. While Jesse Fulton remained, Lewis Reed left and was replaced by Thomas L. Beard. They served 43 whites and 575 blacks.
The fourth quarterly meeting for the circuit was held at the Houma Methodist church on the third weekend of January. Rev. J.B. Walker of New Orleans presided.
A notice was placed in the Houma Ceres on May 23, 1857 that stated that services would be held at the Methodist church at 11 a.m. on May 31. Services would continue every other week for the rest of the year.
Rev. Hawes remained in Thibodaux. A revival was held, with the help of Rev. C.K. Marshall and Rev. J.B. Walker. It yieldedtwo conversions and five who joined the church.
At the end of the year, Rev. Hawes was replaced by Jephthah Landrum, who served through 1857. The Thibodaux church had 23 white members and 50 black members. It seems as though things were not going well. Rev. Landrum notes in the church journal that it was "a year of toil, trial, and temptation ... without any visable marks of God."
Jephthah Landrum was born in Alabama on August 25, 1825. He entered the Louisiana Conference in 1854. After getting a law degree from the University of Louisiana in 1861, he served as a chaplain in the Confederate Army. He married Miss M.C. Butterworth on January 21, 1864. After a two month illness in 1887, he passed away. On his deathbed, his wife asked him, "Does Jesus save you now?" He replied, "Yes, that he does." Raising up his hands, he exclaimed "Up, up, up, rejoice!" and ceased to breathe.
N.A. Cravens was appointed to the Lafourche and Bayou Black
circuit for 1858. There was still one Sabbath School. The circuit's library contained two hundred volumes. Besides the membership of 41 whites and 540 blacks, he also preached to 1599 slaves.
In a letter to the Advocate in October, Rev. Cravens stated that the congregations are "large and attentive ... though no general revival has been realized." In the third quarter alone, 132 were baptized and 61 were received on probation.
Thibodaux received M.D.T. Fly as their pastor for 1858. He served 20 whites and 50 blacks on the circuit. The Thibodaux library contained four hundred books.
By 1858, there were eighty-one Sabbath Schools in Louisiana. This was the term they used for the Sunday Schools. The conference that year emphasized the importance of these Sabbath Schools as a principal arm of service of the church. Sunday School would impact other areas of the church. The Sunday Schools would play an important role later on in raising money for missions. Sunday School teachers needed to have a solid foundation in Biblical accounts and teachings. Certificates and pins for good attendance and memorization of Bible verses became standard.
Rev. Cravens stayed with the Lafourche and Bayou Black Circuit/Mission for 1859. The membership declined to 32 whites and 228 blacks. The only thing that increased was the number of books in the library ... from two hundred last year to six hundred this year.
Rev. Cravens was living in Napoleonville at this time. Rev. Cravens and his wife Elizabeth had a one year old son, Joseph, who died in 1859. His mother-in-law, Elizabeth Barnett, died the next month.
The church in Thibodaux received Robert A. New. He arrived in Thibodaux on Tuesday, September 19. He preached his first sermon at the Thibodaux church the next day at 7 p.m. He was late in arriving, due to the sickness and death of his mother in Louisville, Kentucky.
Rev. New went about getting things back to normal, as the lay people had let things go in the absence of a minister. He led an old-fashioned Love Feast on November 27. Class meetings and Sunday School are now attended with more regularity. Rev. New notes in the church journal that a number of Catholics have been attending the Methodist church affairs.
The Thibodaux church ministered to 27 whites and 99 blacks. The Thibodaux church contained a library of 300 books.
Rev. Cravens was replaced at the end of the year by Stephen J. Davies and William McBeath. They were now serving 44 whites and 276 blacks. Rev. New continued to serve at Thibodaux. He reported a membership of 35 whites and 110 blacks.
The next year, 1860, saw Rev. McBeath assigned only to the Houma and Tigerville Circuit. Rev. McBeath was born in Kentucky. He passed away in December of 1861 and was buried near Houma, Louisiana. He was the first Methodist minister buried in Terrebonne Parish. The first census of Houma was taken in 1860. The population was 429.
Rev. Davies was appointed to help Rev. New on the Thibodaux and Napoleonville Circuit. While the Thibodaux church membership remained level, the Lafourche and Bayou Black Circuit continued to lose members. The first mention of financial aid was $150 apportioned for Houma and Tigerville. In the third quarterly conference held in Thibodaux in 1861, Rev. Harp (who was serving nearby) mentions that there were only a few people giving money. If this kept up, they couldn't afford to support the preacher.
There were eighteen parsonages in Louisiana at this time, and only four in the New Orleans District. There were still none in the Terrebonne/Lafourche area.
The year 1861 brought the beginning of the Civil War. Since many Louisiana Methodists were black, this was to greatly affect the church. Of Louisiana's 14,680 Methodists in 1861, 6152 were black. In Houma/Tigerville, there were 9 whites and 109 black members. The Thibodaux/Napoleonville circuit had 45 whites and 100 black members. Stephen J. Davies served the Thibodaux/Napoleonville Circuit.
Matthew D. Thomason was appointed to serve Houma and Tigerville for 1861. He had spent the last few years serving the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Alabama. There was one Sabbath School on this circuit. There was also a library of one hundred and fifty books. Along with the regular congregation, he preached to 250-1090 slaves. Rev. Thomason later left and went to Alabama to serve as a chaplain in the Confederate Army. He died in Mobile, Alabama, in 1864.
Several other Louisiana Methodist ministers, such as Joshua F. Scurlock (went to Texas), Charles J. Hallberg (went to Mississippi), and James L. Wright, served as chaplains and missionaries. They held services, distributed Bibles and literature, and Methodist newspapers during the Civil War.
Robert R.R. Alexander was appointed to cover the Thibodaux and Houma circuits for 1862 and 1863. Rev. Alexander was born in Kentucky in 1831. He died on April 11, 1867, in Jefferson, Texas.
The area was left unsupplied in 1864 and most of 1865. There were no appointments to the area because they were "without preachers because in the enemy's hands."
Then, at the end of 1865, the Thibodaux and Houma circuits welcomed Robert Hardie, Jr. He arrived in Thibodaux on Wednesday, December 26. He found the church in the possession of blacks who had joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church and were holding the property in their name. Remember, the Thibodaux church had been without a minister for a couple of years. It took a bit of work, but possession of the church was returned to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, on December 28. The African Methodists built two churches of their own in the next ten years.
Rev. Hardie preached his first sermon on the morning of December 30. He also held a watch meeting at midnight of New Years' Eve. After being without a pastor for so long, he notes that the congregation's spiritual condition was "truly lamentable." They showed complete indifference towards church obligations. After a bit of work, he was able to get the congregation under control. He reorganized the Sunday School in January. It now had two teachers and four scholars. It had broken up during the war.
Since 90% of the Houma circuit was made up of blacks, the outlook for the Houma Methodist Episcopal Church, South looked bleak. The city of Houma would not receive its own appointed minister from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for over forty years.
You may note that we have been following the history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South ... since it was the only active branch of Methodism in south Louisiana from 1845 to 1865. We will now take a break from the history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and will cover the history of the "northern" branch ... the Methodist Episcopal Church ... in our area.
THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
On Christmas day of 1865, the first session of the Mississippi Mission Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was held. Rev. Richard King Diossy, who had just transferred from the Methodist Protestant Church, was appointed as the presiding elder for the Opelousas District. Although the Methodist Episcopal Church was not a "black" branch of the Methodist Church (Rev. Diossy himself was "white"), it aimed its work at the blacks of the south. Since the Civil War had ended, they were leaving the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Episcopal Church wanted to reach out to them. Rev. Diossy noted that the ministers of these two Methodist branches were opposed to his efforts in the district.
The first pastor appointed to the Thibodaux and Houma circuit was William Murrell. By the end of 1866, there were 340 members on the circuit and two churches were being completed.
Born about 1814 in South Carolina, William Murrell was the son of a slave (Rebecca) and her "master", Peter Murrell. While a boy, William was owned by a youth named Toby, who helped him learn to read. While he was with Toby, William was converted and felt called to the ministry. He was later sold and brought to New Orleans in chains as a young man. William was bought by a Mr. Wolridge, a minister of the gospel, who allowed William to improve his education and to preach. He preached in African Methodist and Methodist Episcopal, South churches. He married Comfort Caroline Cokee in 1851. After the war, Rev. Murrell joined the newly formed Mississippi Mission Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
It was under Rev. Murrell's leadership that the first Methodist Episcopal churches were built in Houma and Thibodaux. In 1868, Rev. Murrell was elected to the State Legislature by the Republican party and served several terms. Because of his bold and determined style of speech, he was known in the Legislature as "the wild man from Lafourche." During his stay on the Thibodaux/Houma circuit, where they say his word was law, he never accepted money for his preaching services. After fifty years of preaching in the Methodist Church, Rev. Murrell passed away on February 7, 1892.
In 1866, under the authority of Rev. Richard King Diossy, property was bought in Thibodaux and Houma. The property in Houma consisted of lots 1 and 2 on block number 5. It was a 60' by 96' piece of land on the southeast corner of Canal Street and Wood Street. At that time, the Barataria Canal ran through town between Barataria Street and Canal Street. The church, known asthe Wesley Methodist Church, was completed by 1867. The cornerstone for the original church was a gift from W.J.M. Price. The original church was replaced in 1889 by a white frame steepled church with colored glass windows. The second church occupied the corner for eighty years. The Evening Star Lodge #1 donated a piece of property on Canal Street (next to the original property obtained in 1866) to the Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church. This increased the amount of property owned by the church.
The ringing of its church bell was a familiar sound to the people of Houma. After the effects of time and hurricane Betsy had damaged the building, it was torn down and replaced with the present church in 1969.
In the same year, property was purchased in Thibodaux to be used for a Methodist Episcopal Church and a school for "free persons of color." It was bought from Rachel Tabor, a "free woman of color", for $175. The property was part of lot 56, bordered by Cider Street on the south, Narrow Street on the east, and President Street on the west. The church was named the Calvary Methodist Church of Thibodaux. Construction was completed in 1867. It was rebuilt in 1885 under Rev. G.W. Lacey.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, with churches in Thibodaux and Houma, had 410 members by the end of 1867. In 1868, Rev. Murrell left the area and was replaced by Rev. Henry Grimes (in Thibodaux) and Rev. J.M. Vance (in Houma).
The year 1869 brought Rev. Grimes back to Thibodaux, while Rev. John W. Wesley replaced Rev. Vance in Houma. Rev. Diossy, who was still the presiding elder of the Opelousas District, noted that there was much animosity and persecution towards the ministers and the church. It was often not safe for him to travel to some parts of the district.
In January of 1870, Rev. J.W. Wesley was reappointed to the Houma church (which had 128 members), and Rev. Robert Hodge was appointed to the Thibodaux church (which had 839 members).
Rev. Hodge, born a slave in Virginia in 1807, was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for 47 years. He was one of the original preachers of the Mississippi Mission Conference back in 1866. On his deathbed he said, "I am waiting for the Lord and feel as a soldier mustered out of service going to his reward."
The Methodist Episcopal Church in Thibodaux welcomed Rev. William Murrel back as their pastor in 1871. Austin Kennedy was also appointed to the circuit. Rev. J.W. Wesley was reappointed to Houma.
Though Murrell and Kennedy returned for 1872, Rev. Wesley was replaced by Rev. Samuel Davage.
Under the leadership of Rev. Kennedy, a congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated in 1872 at Terrebonne Station (now called Schriever). Like the Wesley Church in Houma, most members were black even though this wasn't a black branch of the Methodist Church. The trustees included Henry Johnson, Fredrick Bud, Anthony Hill, Ledger Hill, Edmond Brown, and Robert Capen. They took a ninety-nine year lease on a lot from George D. Craigen, a New York native who owned Magnolia Grove. It was a 100 foot square lot along the left bank of Bayou Terrebonne between Magnolia Grove and Dumas Plantations. A small church was located on the property. By the end of the first year, the Schriever church had 267 members.
A congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, North was incorporated on May 27, 1897 at Schriever. People in this congregation included Nathan Pugh, Alfred Nicholls, Dennis Johnson, Aaron Robinson, Ezekiah Robinson, Robert Smith, and William L. Brooks. This was probably a re-incorporation of Rev. Kennedy's church.
Austin Kennedy, the original pastor of the church, worked in a local sawmill. After being admitted on trial in 1870, he served most of his ministry in the Terrebonne area. He passed away in 1895 and was buried in Schriever.
The Methodist Episcopal Churches in Terrebonne Parish saw a number of preachers come and go for the rest of the century. The church at Schriever was pastored by Austin Kennedy (1870-1874, 1877-1879), Robert Hodge (1875), E.P. Royal (1876), George Washington (1880-1881), Willis Carr (1882-1883), A.J. Pickett (1889), H.J. Wright (1890), Charles Monroe (1891), Stephen Green (1892-1893), H.C. Gair (1894), A.J. Proctor (1895), and W.S. Harris (1896). Over the years, the membership of the Schriever church went from 146 (1873) to 130 (1889) to 80 (1896).
The church at Houma, called the Wesley Methodist Church, was pastored by John Sparks (1873-1874), Henry P. Taylor (1875-1877), Aristide E.P. Albert (1878-1879), Edward Fields (1880-1881), A.J. Ford (1882-1883), Frank D. Bowers (1889-1891), Robert Anderson (1892), Sanders Carroll (1893), H.T.O. Abbott (1894-1895), and D.M. Seals (1896). Over the years, the membership in Houma went from 75 (1873) to 265 (1889) to 89 (1896).
Another Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in Terrebonne Parish in 1875. Like the other Methodist Episcopal Churches founded in 1866 and 1872, this congregation consisted of mainly black members. The articles of incorporation for the "Houma Methodist Episcopal Church" were filed on June 22, 1875. The pastor was Henry P. Taylor. The board of trustees included Charles Lang, Jack Hick, Robert Williams, Samuel Singleton, Louis Wright, Smith Thomas, John Murray, and Claiborne Wright.
Rev. Henry P. Taylor was born in 1825 in South Carolina. He was converted at age thirteen. Though born aslave, he was able to receive an education with the free children. He came to Louisiana in 1845 and helped erect Wesley Chapel in New Orleans. Rev. Taylor transferred from the African Zion Connection to the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873. After serving in New Orleans for two years, he served in Houma for two years. Rev. Taylor was remembered as a fine vocalist and Christian gentleman. While serving in Houma, Rev. Taylor passed away on January 15, 1877. He was survived by his second wife and his three children. He was buried in Terrebonne Parish.
A New Yorker, George D. Cragin, donated a piece of land to the Methodist Episcopal Church, Live Oak, on February 15, 1882. It was located on his Dulac plantation twenty miles below Houma. The Dulac area was called Live Oak at the time. The Board of Trustees included Townsend Jackson, Daniel Jones, James Johnson, John Hubbard, Richard Wilson, and Manuel Smith. The pastor was Rev. Henry C. Armstrong of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The membership stood at 15 for the first year. After one year, the membership had increased to 24 and a church was in use. The pastor for the second year (1883) was C.H. Claiborne. From the mid 1880's until the end of the century, the Dulac church was usually served by the pastor from Houma. The membership in those years never rose above 10 people. Pastors of the early 1900's assigned to Dulac included T.H. Roberson (1902), Nolan McNeal (1904), James Christian (1905), and D. Sutton (1906). After the plantation shut down, the church gradually died away.
A group of citizens bought a piece of property from R.R. Barrow in 1887. The land was in Bateyville (Beattieville), an area that used to be Mr. Barrow's Batey Plantation. The area is now in the town known as Gray. The trustees at the time of purchase were J.P. Brown, William Hickman, Harry Williams, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas Santu, Sr. This church was a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church. There were now four Methodist Episcopal Churches in Terrebonne Parish.
The first mention of the Bateyville (Gray) church in the Conference Journal came in 1890, when H.J. Wright was appointed to serve Schriever and "Beattieville." The property for the church was bought from R.R. Barrow in 1887. The congregation was organized as the Mt. Vernon Methodist Church and was incorporated on this property in 1906. Michael Smith was the president at that time.
The early 20th century saw another series of pastors in Terrebonne Parish. Some of the pastors in Houma were I.R. Scott (1901), H.C. Gair (1902), M.S. Goins (1903-1904), W.S. Harris (1905), D.J. Price (1907), F.T. Chinn (1913), and H.A. Sorrell (1919). Some of the pastors in Schriever were Edward Powell (1901-1902), C.W. Kersaw (1903-1904), and Thomas Williams (1905-1907).
A report from the 20th session of the South New Orleans District Conference shows that local appointments included P.C. Colton (Houma), H.A. Sorrell (Schriever), and R.E. White (Gray). The Houma church had 107 members, 4 local preachers, 2 exhorters, and 1 school. The pastor's salary for the year was $150. The church building was in good condition. They raised $239 for the year.
With the merger of 1939, the northern and southern branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church were joined. Now, let us return back to 1866 and the history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
Houma was now included in the Thibodaux Circuit. Philo M. Goodwyn was appointed to the Thibodaux and Houma Circuits for 1867. This was the same Philo M. Goodwyn who had served here many years before. He served the circuit for two years. In both circuits, now combined into one again, there were 48 whites and 100 blacks. The circuit now consisted of Thibodaux, Napoleonville, Houma, Tigerville. Rev. Goodwyn preached one Sunday a month at each place. During the reconstruction period, which lasted from 1865 to 1877, the Methodist church building was used as a public school during the week.
Rev. Goodwyn was born in 1820 in New Albany, Indiana. He moved to the South in 1837. He was soon converted and joined the Poydras St. Church in 1840. He was admitted into the Mississippi Conference the next year. His first appointment was to the Lafourche Circuit in 1842. He returned to the area to serve from 1867 to 1868. Rev. Goodwyn had a sprightly disposition and an active temperament. He served as a true circuit rider around the state of Louisiana for over thirty years. It was said that his character was without stain; he lived to do good. In the end, the hard itinerant life had worn him down. Rev. Goodwyn passed away on December 15, 1892 in New Orleans.
Records for Houma and Tigerville now start appearing in Rev. Harp's church journal. The members for 1867-1868 are listed. Sixteen names are listed for Houma and four for Tigerville. The only record that actually mentions the Houma church itself is the baptism of Mrs. Elmyra Delarand Helmick, which took place in the Houma church on July 5, 1868. She was baptized by Rev. Goodwyn.
Of the 9,831 Louisiana Methodists, only 1,983 were now black. Despite the loss of the black members, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South began to grow. This was largely due to the efforts of the lay people, both male and female. This was because there was a shortage of pastors. This shortage continued for a number of years. This led to many circuits being combined or left to be supplied. This is what happened in the Houma area.
For 1868, Philo M. Goodwyn was again appointed to the area, now known as the Thibodaux Circuit. The Houma Mission was included on this circuit. Its membership is listed as 31 whites. Blacks are no longer listed in the conference statistics.
James L. Chapman replaced Rev. Goodwyn the next year on the Thibodaux Circuit. The membership of the Thibodaux Circuit is now given as 41 whites.
The Christian Advocate published an article at that time that "outlaws" certain activities that Methodists were expected to stay away from. These banned activities include going to or participating in: a gambling saloon, a brothel, dancing, Mardi Gras, and the theater. In fact, the preacher is told to turn away from church anyone who has gone to a theater.
To combat the competition from the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church, South did away with the probation period for new members, allowed for greater lay representation, and allowed preachers to stay for four years in an appointment. The itinerant minister was becoming a little less itinerant.
In 1870, James L. Wright was appointed to serve the 22 whites still remaining on the Thibodaux Circuit. Rev. Harp's church journal lists twelve members for the Houma church for 1870. Rev. Wright preached his first sermon in Thibodaux on February 6. The sermon was on "Be there in the fear of the Lord all the day long ... Proverbs." The first quarterly meeting of the year was held in Houma.
Rev. Wright was born in Russellville, Kentucky on September 21, 1822. He was converted in New Orleans in February of 1842. He later married Miss Mary A. Grant. They raised a large family. He was admitted on trial in the Mississippi Conference in December, 1845. In 1848, he transferred to the Louisiana Conference. He served a variety of charges around Louisiana. In 1865, he was a chaplain in the Confederate army.
As a pastor, he always met his obligations. His preaching was very "hortatory". He didn't like exegetical preaching, and rarely tried it. His plea to sinners to repent was delivered with tremendous power. Rev. Wright liked to sing a hymn before delivering his sermon. His singing alone was enough to bring a tear to the eye of many listeners. Rev. Wright was best known for his gift of prayer. He passed away in Ruston in 1903.
The Thibodaux Circuit was combined with the Algiers Circuit later in 1871, It was left to be supplied by Lewis A. Reed in 1872. Since Lafourche (and Terrebonne) were on a larger circuit, this meant that the visits from the pastor were even less frequent. On the entire circuit, there were only 56 whites.
In January of 1872, a Louisiana conference for black Methodists was formed. Two years earlier, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church had been formed.
Thomas Mullett was appointed to serve Brashear City (now called Morgan City) and the Lafourche Mission for 1873. He arrived on February 8. He found the Thibodaux church in poor condition. There were only eight members on the church roll. While the circuit was left "to be supplied," many of the members transferred to the Episcopal Church. Rev. Mullett's schedule was to preach at Tigerville on the first and third Sundays of each month, at Thibodaux on the second Sunday of each month, and at Houma on the fourth Sunday of each month. He went to Tigerville twice a month because of the "anxiety on the part of the people for preaching."
Rev. Mullett was appointed to the same area for 1874. He mentioned in the journal that he has no horse and can't afford to buy one. He has to travel by foot from church to church. By this time, there were only 15 members on the entire circuit.
The circuit was left to be supplied for 1875.
The next appointment came when Lewis A. Reed returned to the circuit for 1876. The circuit now included Donaldsonville, Napoleonville, Thibodaux, Houma, and Tigerville.
Rev. Reed formed one Sunday School and put together a library of two hundred and fifty volumes. The membership now stood at 24. After one more year, he had built up the membership to 81.
In 1878, however, Rev. Reed moved on and Lafourche was left to be supplied. There were 78 members.
Lafourche and its 64 members were still left to be supplied in 1879. There were four churches on the circuit, valued at $6000. This number undoubtedly included the churches at Houma, Gibson, Thibodaux, along with one other location.
Rev. William J. Picot, a French Canadian and preacher in the Wesleyan Church, joined the Louisiana conference and was appointed to the Attakapas French Mission in 1879. After a bit of hesitation by the Conference (he was married to a fifteen year old girl from Haiti), his appointment was approved. He concentrated on the Iberia Parish area, though it is known that he preached from Lafayette to Morgan City. He preached in houses, out in the open, in ball rooms ... wherever he could find a group of people. The Catholic priests were not too happy that he was speaking to the French. In fact, the priest in New Iberia forbid his members to attend Rev. Picot's services. After one year, Rev. Picot reported 72 members, 1 local preacher, 15 adults and 6 infants baptized, 1 parsonage ($700), 3 Sunday Schools, 6 teachers, 69 scholars, $16 collected for Sunday Schools, and $400 paid to missions.
By the end of the year, he was asking for money to support another pastor from Canada who could speak French. In a letter to Rev. J.D. Harper, Rev. Picot mentions that with an additional man, they could even reach Terrebonne Parish. But money was hard to come by for the French Mission field. His letters to Rev. Harper in 1879 were full of encouragement for the missionary work. But in 1880, the topic of his letters was largely concentrated on his need for funds.
Picot did not stay long. In 1880, he was dismissed from the Conference for "gross immorality." Once again, the French Mission field was abandoned.
Thomas Hall Jones was officially appointed to the 63 members of the Lafourche Mission in 1880. He had already spent much of 1880 serving as supply for the Mission. Since Rev. Jones only stayed a short while in 1881, the Lafourche Mission was without a minister for most of 1881. Evidently one or more of the churches had fallen into disrepair, because they had to spend $100 for church repairs that year.
Rev. Jones was born in Montgomery, Alabama on September
12, 1859. He moved to New Orleans in 1861 and was converted at the Sea Shore Camp Ground in the summer of 1876. From the first hour of his conversion, he knew he was meant to preach the Gospel. He attended Centenary College, though he was bothered by ill health. After spending much of 1880 serving as a supply for the Lafourche Mission, he was admitted to the Louisiana Conference in December of 1880 and was appointed to the Lafourche Mission. After only serving a couple of months, the disease that had plagued him for several years crippled his health. He returned to his home and passed away on April 4, 1881. His untimely death robbed us of a promising minister of the Gospel. The Lafourche Mission was therefore without a minister for most of 1881.
On April 20, 1881, Hugh O'Rourke donated a lot of land along Bayou Tiger to the Methodist Church. It was a 60' by 100' block of land inside O'Rourke's property around Gibson. The pastor of that congregation, which was Methodist Episcopal Church - Zion Connection, was Barnabas Callaway. The Zion Connection was a black branch of the Methodist Church that had separated in 1822. He stated that if a church wasn't built, the land would revert back to him. The records do not state whether or not a church was ever built on the property.
Charles F. Stivers was appointed to the Lafourche Mission for the year 1882. The membership was down to 60 whites. The offering for the year came to $250.
Rev. Stivers was born in October, 1860 in Bastrop, Louisiana. He was converted and joined the Methodist Church in 1878.
The Lafourche Circuit was down to 35 whites in 1883. Rev. P. Calvin was appointed pastor.
Robert Smith donated a piece of land on Little Caillou to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. J.D. Haynes is mentioned on the documentation.
J.F. Scurlock was appointed to minister to the 36 whites on the circuit for 1884. There was one Sunday School with 12 members. The library had "disappeared". Perhaps Rev. Reed took them with him when he left. At least some of the books were left in the area. Miss Ella Hooper of the MacDonell School had stated she possessed some books with Lewis Reed's name in them. The circuit now had three churches valued at $3000.
Rev. Scurlock was born in Jackson County, Alabama in 1834. He was saved at a camp meeting in 1850. He joined the Memphis Conference. After hearing Rev. Robert Harp make an appeal for ministers to come to Louisiana, he transferred. Rev. Scurlock was a diligent student of the Bible who loved to read. He also loved to preach. Although bothered by disease for many years, his preaching was instructive and original. He was a pious man who prayed often. He served as a chaplain in Texas for the Civil War. He passed away on April 23, 1902 in New Orleans.
Rev. Stephen Davies, Jr. wrote an article to the Advocate in 1884 on the French Mission field. He noted that he was asked to go to the area at the last conference. No one had been to the area since Rev. Picot's dismissal. Rev. Davies couldn't speak French, but he agreed to go to the Cypremont area. He had limited success. Those who were converted were very zealous and can "say amen with true Methodist fervour." He made an appeal for the appointment of someone who could speak their language. He referred to the area as a "Macedonia in our midst" where help was needed badly.
J.F. Scurlock remained on the Lafourche Circuit for 1885, but the membership had dropped to 28. Also, the Sunday School had been dissolved. There was only one baptism (an infant) for the entire year.
When Rev. Scurlock was moved to Algiers/Gretna, Lafourche was left to be supplied for the next few years.
In the spring of 1885, the Presbyterian church (in Houma) on School Street that had been built in the late 1850's fell apart. For the next few years, the Presbyterians used the Methodist church for their services.
The Lafourche Circuit was left to be supplied for 1887. It was under the jurisdiction of the Opelousas Circuit. It's too bad that it didn't stay in the New Orleans District. New Orleans kept perfect records for the year, while the Opelousas District didn't keep any records. If there were better records, we might have a better idea of what was going on at the Houma church.
The Thibodaux/Houma area is not mentioned in the appointments for 1888. The population of Houma at this time was 1200.
Rev. Harp's church journal lists six members in the Houma church in the mid 1880's. Of the six, Sarah Wallis and Rebecca Wallis died, and the church lost track of Mary R. King and Mariah Hornsby. This left only Mary E. Robertson and Sarah Prevost as members of the Houma church.
In January 1888, the Houma City Council improvement committee noted the "dangerous condition" of the Methodist Church building. Mayor M.F. Smith ordered it to be removed or it would be condemned because it was in such bad shape. A fire had occurred in Houma the previous December. They were looking at the old church as a fire hazard. Since the Houma church had dwindled down to two members, it was decided to sell the property.
At the first quarterly conference of 1888 at Morgan City, Rev. S.S. Keener, the presiding elder, was directed to sell the church in Houma and to use the funds to build another church in the district.
Under the authority of Rev. Keener, the building and property were sold on March 19, 1888, for $650 to D. Albert Chauvin. The money was put into the district account and used to build a church in Crowley. Mr. Chauvin sold the property two years later to Mrs. Mary Booth Fulton. It was Mrs. Fulton who had the church torn down and replaced with a millinery and dry goods business. Mr. D. Albert Chauvin bought the building a few years later and lived in it for a number of years. He sold it to the Houma Council of the Knights of Columbus, who in turn sold it to Mr. J.H. Thatcher in 1929. Mr. Thatcher tore down the building and build a hotel on the property. Today, the hotel is used as an office building.
So, does this mean that there is a gap in the history of Methodism in Houma/Terrebonne? Of course not; the Methodist Episcopal Churches were still around. Also, the Methodist Epicopal Church, South, in Gibson still received occasional visits from the pastors to the west from Morgan City & Berwick.
At the request of Rev. C.F. Evans, the presiding elder of the New Orleans District, Bishop Hargroves appointed Rev. James Matthew Henry to serve the Thibodaux Circuit until the annual conference. He arrived in Thibodaux on July 1, 1889 and found a church building and six members. He also found a church building and seven members at Gibson.
James Matthew Henry was born on January 15, 1853. He came to Louisiana straight out of Vandebilt University. He was a quiet, but friendly man. He passed away on October 11, 1921.
Rev. Henry began preaching with small congregations ... about 40 people. After a while, the number increased to 75 to 140 people. The prayer meetings drew 50 to 65 people. He did not try to revive the Sunday School. He raised fifty dollars in collections, just enough to cover the traveling and church expenses.
The last entry in Rev. Harp's church journal was the 1889 registry of the church at Tigerville (Gibson). It consisted of seven members: Jane E. Nash, Emeline Carline, Roso Moody, Nannie Moody, Phillip Walthers, John Walthers, and William Walthers. The church would be served on an irregular basis from now on by the pastors from Morgan City or Berwick.
At the yearly conference, held in December, 1889, Rev. Henry was appointed to supply the Morgan City and Patterson circuits. No one was appointed to the Thibodaux/Houma area, though it is possible that Rev. Henry made his way back to the area on occasion. A few records from the Gibson area can be found in the Morgan City registers in the 1890's.
Other Protestant denominations also continued to use the Gibson church. It was used by the Episcopals for quite a while. The Episcopal Church records in Houma show records from the church, known to them as St. Anna's Mission, dating from 1880 into the early 20th century.
The Gibson Methodist Church was also used as a school before a school building could be built in Gibson. During the Civil War, Union soldiers used the small building as a hospital.
No one was appointed to the Thibodaux or Houma areas for 1890. E.T. Denson was appointed to serve the Thibodaux and Houma Circuit for 1891. He was stationed in Thibodaux. The Thibodaux church still showed 15 members. There was also one Sunday School with 55 members. The only church on the circuit was the one in Thibodaux, valued at $2000.
Rev. Denson had raised the membership to 25 whites and 1 black, though the Sunday School had dropped to 18 members. Thibodaux and Houma were left to be supplied for the next two years. Subsequent years, from 1893 on, do not even mention the circuit.
The Board of Missions for the New Orleans District stated in the 1892 Conference Journal that "in Lafourche we have a church, but no preacher; in Terrebonne - possibly a house, but no preacher." The Thibodaux church was never resupplied. It was sold at the beginning of the 20th century. The Methodist church in Thibodaux wasn't restored until 1949 under Rev. John Redmond.
It is at this time that the Epworth League was formed in Louisiana. This organization was for the youth. Louisiana's first chapters began in 1894. The Houma area would not form a chapter until the church was "resurrected" in the next century.
In the 1894 Journal, the French Mission shows up and is listed as "to be supplied by Joseph Berwick." Finally, H.W. Wallace of New Iberia was appointed to the French Mission for 1896. The 1896 Journal lists the French Mission "to be supplied by O.B. Seiward" for 1897. It also states that there were 57 members in the French Mission in 1896. The French Mission at this time was considered to be the area around New Iberia and St. Martinville. The area would expand to include the Terrebonne/Lafourche area in 1907.
The conference for 1898 was held in January of that year. Martin Hebert (of St. Martinville) asked to be sent to the French. He was admitted on trial to the French Mission for 1898. Armed with two sermons in French, he began his first year in ministry to the French. There were still 57 members and no church. By the end of the year, the membership had dropped to 43, but there was now a church (at Isle Aux Cannes) in the Mission. He only accepted two people on profession of faith. A local "Creole" was licensed to exhort during the third quarter. Looking back, Rev. Hebert said that his biggest accomplishment that first year was meeting and marrying his wife, Nettie. His salary for this first year was $210.
The church built in 1898, which measured 28' by 38', should have been built twenty years ago when Rev. Picot was in the area. He had gotten the cypress lumber to build the church, but it was never built. Some of the lumber was even used to build a dance hall.
Rev. Hebert stated that his biggest problem was not the Catholic Church, but the drinking and dancing. The Methodist Church opposed drinking and dancing, which were an important part of the lifestyle in south Louisiana. To join the Methodist Church meant that they had to give up drinking and dancing. To many, this was harder than turning away from Catholicism.
The French Mission was left to be supplied by Joseph Berwick in 1899. Though they didn't tell him why, Rev. Hebert was moved to the Plaquemine/Brulee Circuit. No one was appointed to the French Mission for 1900. But the next year, Martin Hebert was back.
Martin Hebert was born in Bell City, Louisiana on May 29, 1874. He grew up in the Catholic church. As a youth, he was converted. He went to Lake Charles College and taught for a while. He heard the call to preach, but didn't have the money for an education to prepare him for the ministry. He and his brothers raised a crop and used the proceeds to pay for their schooling (his brother Willie became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church). He was licensed to preach at age twenty-three and was admitted on trial in 1898.
He married Miss Nettie Clarissa Kingsbury, of Missouri Valley, Iowa, on July 18, 1898. The two of them had seven children, all of whom were born in parsonages. Nettie was a talented teacher and musician, and would always lend a hand when needed. She was the model pastor's wife ... maintaining a Christian family while still supporting her husband's ministry. When accolades were poured on Rev. Hebert, he knew that he was able to accomplish what he did due to the efforts of his beloved wife, Nettie.
Approximately two-thirds of his ministry was dedicated to the French people of south Louisiana. He traveled across the bayou country by horseback, boat, buggy, wagon, on foot, and by bicycle. He often came to Terrebonne Parish by train. He served the French Mission for much of the first quarter of the 20th century. He filled in as the Houma pastor for half of 1916. He was the presiding elder of the Houma and French Mission District form 1920-1923. He also served a variety of charges in other parts of the state.
Simply put, Martin Hebert WAS the French Mission in Louisiana. He was the "emblem of the Protestant French" in south Louisiana, as Dr. B. Joseph Martin once said. He recognized the need to bring the Methodist message to the people in their own language. Many of the Methodist churches in south Louisiana owe their existence to his efforts.
The message that Rev. Hebert preached was simple and straight-forward. He wasn't interested in theological subleties and fancy religious opinions. He offered the Gospel to everyone and offered it to them equally.
Rev. Hebert passed away on October 9, 1961. He left behind a legacy unequalled in south Louisiana Methodism.
Back in Terrebonne Parish, we find Robert E. Martin. He was a person of deep religious nature; but he was not satisfied with the Catholic religion. His father had bought a Bible, a rarity in the hands of Catholics in those days. By reading his Bible and praying, he was converted. On October 3, 1899, he organized The Spiritualist Society of Bayou Blue. It was near Matherne Canal, on the left bank of Bayou Blue. This area is also often referred to as Bourg or St. James. Their first "church" was an old hay shed that was converted into a meeting place. They later built a chapel. Services were conducted in French. The officers were: Robert Martin, president; Albert Martin, vice-president; Teles Matherne, secretary; and Clay Savoie, treasurer and medium.
Rev. Hebert was working out of New Iberia. At Lydia he found families that had converted to Methodism when Rev. Picot had served the area. He also found a Methodist family, the Prince family, at Cypremort. He used these three families as a foundation for congregations at both towns. By the end of 1901, there were 119 members in the French Mission. Another church was built at Cypremont.
Revivals were held around the area, especially in the summer. Rev. Hebert notes that the church could not hold all of the people who came to hear the Word. The services were in French, with some singing sometimes done in English. He noted that it was slow work to convert the Catholics, who had never known of any other religion.
Three years later, the membership had risen to 140, and there were two churches in the Mission. There were now 30,000 Methodists in Louisiana. This is over twice as many as there were just twenty years ago.
Rev. Hebert kept writing to the Advocate trying to raise funds for the French Mission. An article in a 1905 issue of the Christian Advocate stated that we must not forget about the "unsaved at our own door" ... referring to the French people of south Louisiana.
If we may, let's take a look at the Gibson church in the early 1900's. Methodists in Terrebonne Parish were being served by the pastor from Morgan City. Rev. H.S. Johns, pastor at Morgan City, noted in the fourth quarterly conference in 1903 that he had been preaching at Gibson and Donner. He also mentioned that he had "officiated at many funerals of which no record has been kept, from Belle Isle to Houma." The people of Gibson and Donner even guaranteed to pay $500 if a man would be assigned to their circuit.
Rev. S.S. Keener noted at a 1907 quarterly conference that the Gibson church needed a new roof. In 1909, Gibson was mentioned as one of the stops on the Morgan City/Berwick circuit. In 1910, the pastor noted that "at Gibson, La., congregations have been better through this year than last" and "the church atGibson has been painted." Morgan City's pastor in 1914, C.C. Weir, wrote that "there are two mission points that should be reached more thoroughly: Donner and Gibson" and that "there is a vast territory up and down the river that should be evangelized." Several records of Methodists in Terrebonne Parish can be found in the registers of the Morgan City church during this time.
While Rev. Hebert was working in the New Iberia area, something was happening in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. Robert Martin, previously mentioned as the leader of the Spiritualist Society of Bayou Blue, was given a list of twenty-one different religious denominations by a friend, Mr. W.P. Martin. This was the first that Robert had ever heard of any religion besides Catholicism. Shortly after this, the Spiritualist Society received a visit from Rev. Martin Hebert.
Rev. Hebert was trying to extend the scope of the French Mission to the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche. He came into the area in 1907 to conduct a meeting. The Bayou Blue Society was impressed by his message. Robert Martin showed him the list of religious denominations and said, "Now which is your Church?" Rev. Hebert pointed to Methodism.
"What do the Methodists believe?" asked Robert Martin.
"Well, we believe in the Bible." replied Rev. Hebert.
"So do we." answered Mr. Martin.
"We believe in conversion." said Rev. Hebert.
"So do we." answered Mr. Martin.
"We believe in sanctification." said Rev. Hebert.
"So do we." answered Mr. Martin.
"We believe in keeping ourselves separate from the sin of the world." said Rev. Hebert.
"So do we." concluded Mr. Martin. "I didn't know we were Methodist." Subsequently, the entire Society converted to the Methodist religion. Rev. Hebert later said that one of the happiest days in his life was when he opened the church doors at Bayou Blue and received sixty-four applicants. For many years, it was the largest single group to join the Methodist Church at one time.
The Bayou Blue and surrounding communities would make great contributions to Methodism in Louisiana. The Martin family alone contributed six men who became pastors and/or local preachers. Robert E. Martin later became licensed to preach and became a local elder. Two of his sons, A.J. Martin and A.M. Martin, also became full-fledged ministers in the Louisiana Conference. They preached around south Louisiana. For a while, A.J. was a conference evangelist. Kleibert F. Martin, Robert's brother, served as a local preacher in Terrebonne Parish. The third brother, Anatole D. Martin, was a pioneer of the French Mission.
Rev. Anatole D. Martin began his ministry on the Lafourche Mission in 1914. Born on April 23, 1882 in Bayou Blue, he was a member of the Spiritualist Society of Bayou Blue, which was led by his brother Robert. As a young man, he and his brothers operated a syrup mill and a saw mill. He married Agnes Matherne in 1902.
Anatole Martin decided to follow his brother Robert and entered the ministry. He started the first Protestant church in a schoolhouse in Raceland in 1914. Over the next couple of decades, he served churches along the bayous of Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes ... Pointe au Chien, Little Caillou, Dulac, Griffin, Lockport, Labadieville, and Golden Meadow. Some of these little churches no longer exist. The church at Griffin was later demolished and the wood used to build the church at Thibodaux. There was no church at Labadieville ... they used to meet at a Mr. Richard's house. To get to Dulac, he would take a boat from Point aux Chene to meet a Mr. Savoie. Mr. Savoie would pick him up in a pirogue and take him to Dulac, where they would hold services in private homes.
He preached at many more locations. His daughter, Maggie, would often accompany him and play the pump organ. Later, during the Depression, several of these churches were closed. Some would reopen in subsequent years, but by then the other Protestant churches had picked up most of the non-Catholic population. His preacher's salary at the time was $500 a year ... not much to support a wife and seven children. He bought a horse in 1917 to get around.
Due to the lack of funds ... his salary had stayed at $500 for six years ... Rev. Martin decided to quit the ministry in 1919. He soon changed his mind and was back in the pulpit.
In 1920, he moved his family to Lydia to serve in Iberia Parish for two years. In 1922, he moved back to Terrebonne Parish and was once again serving the churches "down the bayous" ... Dulac, Grand Caillou, Bayou Blue, Pointe au Chien.
A few years later, Rev. A.D. Martin was left without an appointment. The new presiding elder said that there was no room for uneducated preachers in our district ... and Rev. Martin had only gone through the fourth grade. Now, remember, Rev. Martin had founded and served churches throughout Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. Rev. A.D. Martin was an excellent example of the fact that education is not necessarily what makes a good minister of the Gospel. Rev. Martin had common sense, zealousness, and a sincere desire to bring Christ to his French neighbors.
It didn't take long before the presiding elder realized that the French churches were not growing. The presiding elder called upon Robert Martin and said, "tell Brother Anatole I want to see him ... the French churches aren't doing well." Robert answered, "I could have told you that... but you tell him yourself." This conflict was one of the reasons that later sent Rev. A.D. Martin to another Protestant denomination. Another reason was the lack of money. The Baptist preachers got more money. Rev. Martin had always struggled to make ends meet.
In the 1930's he took correspondence courses to study the ministry. In 1936, he was ordained as a Baptist minister. He held the first Baptist services in Dulac. The Baptist services were conducted on a church that floated on the bayou on top of a barge. He pastored the Bayou Dularge Baptist Church from 1938 to 1948, when he had to retire because of his health. He soon joined the staff of the MacDonell School and later resumed serving the Methodist Church as a local preacher. He continued to preach when asked to fill in. He was honored on the television program "Crosswords" in 1954 for his ministry to God and to his fellow man. In his later years, he would walk from his home on Goaux Avenue to the courthouse every day to visit. He passed away on February 27, 1966.
Anatole's son Dr. B. Joseph Martin became a prominent Methodist minister and educator. Being the son of a local preacher, he had to drop out of high school three times to work to help raise money. Friends such as Rev. F.J. McCoy encouraged him to continue with his education; and that he did. He obtained B.A., B.Th., M.Th., Ph.D., and law degrees; and he served in prominent positions at several colleges around the country. He completed his career by serving as pastor in Lafourche and St. Mary Parish churches such as the Raceland church, which his father founded in 1914. Dr. Martin has said that education has been his life, but the ministry has been his avocation.
There were several other preachers to come out of the early French Mission area. C.J. Thibodeaux and G.A. LaGrange were educated at the MacDonell School, became preachers, and served the local French charges. They were from Labadieville. Rev. J.A. Knight, Rev. E.V. Duplantis, and Rev. E.C. Dufresne were also natives of the French Mission area who later served the area.
At the Crowley District Conference in May, 1908, Rev. Martin Hebert and his helpers presented the need of the French Mission. After his appeal, the members of the Conference pledged $250 towards the cause of the French Mission. At this same meeting, J.C. Duplantis, Robert E. Martin, Samuel R. Henderson, and William V. Falcon were admitted on trial. All of these men would go on to serve the French Mission. The first parsonage in the area was built in 1907 in St. Martinville for Rev. Hebert.
In the 1908 report by the Committee on Missions, it was resolved that the church employ as many people as possible in the French Mission work. They would also agree to raise funds tohelp pay for these workers. It was noted that the General Board of Missions had undertaken to support Rev. Hebert in his work.
In a June 30, 1908 article to the Advocate, Rev. Martin Hebert wrote an article to report on the French Mission field. The French Mission had been expanded to include the area from Vermillion to Lafourche Parish. He related the story of his latest visit to Terrebonne Parish.
He had to travel eighty-five miles by train and twelve miles by buggy to reach the church at Bourg (Bayou Blue). The church, which had been built the previous year, just installed new pews. After visiting with six families that afternoon, he held a service for fifty people that night. It was an "old-fashioned experience" meeting in which a dozen members witnessed as to how they were saved. Six new applications were made for church membership.
Another service was held in the morning at 11 a.m. One of the gentlemen at the service was a life-long Catholic, about fifty years old. He had been reading from a New Testament borrowed from a neighbor who had bought it from a colporter. A colporter was a seller of Bibles and other religious material. The gentleman had traveled ten miles to learn more about what he read. After the sermon, he invited the ministers to come and preach at his house, which they promised to do on the next trip.
It is interesting to note that this man had never read a Bible before. Catholics of this day were not allowed to read the Bible on their own. One gentleman interviewed for this book actually remembers seeing a Catholic priest tearing up Bibles that had made their way into people's hands. Thankfully, the Catholic church has changed its position since then.
That afternoon, Rev. Hebert traveled twenty miles by buggy to Dulac. Rev. R.E. Martin and Rev. William V. Falcon had recently started work here. Rev. Martin was starting his first year as a Methodist minister. Rev. Falcon, a young French preacher from Baton Rouge, decided to work the French Mission field, also.
That evening a service was held in a dance hall to a packed crowd. He was dissappointed that he couldn't hold services the next night. The hall was needed for the bi-weekly "hop." Mention was made to the dance hall owner that the building would be put to good use as a permanent meeting place. A service was held the next day at 11 a.m.
Rev. Hebert was approached by a man who had a dance hall but was no longer in the business. He offerred the use of his building. So Rev. Hebert moved to the ex-dance hall. A service was held in his building that night to a filled room. Many attending expressed a desire to be saved. After the service, Rev. Hebert was told that the attendance at the "hop" at the other dance hall was extremely small. The owner said that if the Methodists kept on coming, he would be forced to go out of business.
A Sunday morning service was held the next day. Rev. Hebert returned to Bayou Blue and arrived in time to hear Rev. J.C. Duplantis delivering his sermon to a congregation of 100. Rev. Duplantis had just finished his education at Ruskin Cave College. Six people joined the church and fifty-six members received communion.
Rev. Hebert mentioned the efforts of two others in the area. One is an agent of the American Bible Society who had sold three hundred Bibles in the last three months. Most of these people were reading their first word of scripture. The second person is Rev. O. Derouen. He was a native-born French-speaking Creole who was a devout Catholic until age thirty. Working for the American Sunday School Union, he has organized eight Sunday Schools among the French in the last four months.
Working in the western area of the French Mission was Rev. S.R. Henderson. Though he had been there only two months and doesn't speak French, things looked promising.
Rev. Hebert concludes the article by saying that someone is needed to serve Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. This person would also need a motorized boat to enable him to reach the people. It would not be long before his plea would be answered.
At the Louisiana Conference held in December, Martin Hebert was returned to the French Mission for the ninth consecutive year. He finally received help. Rev. C.V. Breithaupt was appointed to minister to the 60 members of the French Mission in Houma (and Bayou Blue). Robert Martin would also be helping Rev. Hebert. The French Mission had grown to 120 members, with three church buildings.
The Conference Journal also notes that C.V. Breithaupt, F.J. McCoy, and others would continue on trial. They hadn't passed the exam for their first year of classes.