The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971 Page: 284
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
of the Republic and early statehood when freedom was in abundance,
but there was little else to promote religion in the commonwealth.
The author treats in depth the period from 1865 to 1885, the era
of foundation-laying that has made Baptists the most numerous re-
ligious group in Texas. He centers his treatment on the frontier,
which he breaks into three major sections: northwestern, western,
and southwestern. He deals extensively with associations (regional
groupings of Baptist churches) and with numbers of churches.
The study acquaints the reader with several rugged old soldiers of
the Cross. One was George Webb Slaughter, who carried a message
to Travis in the Alamo, later owned large herds of cattle in the
Palo Pinto country, and preached and practiced medicine as far as
the foot of the High Plains. Even more widely known in his day,
perhaps, was Noah T. Byars, who served as armorer for Sam Houston's
troops, and who later, as a Baptist preacher, organized more than
sixty churches. Byars rarely complained of the hardships of the
frontier, but he grew restive when a protracted covering of snow and
the scarcity of horse feed prevented his following the trails, and the
fear of Indians kept people away from church.
Professor Mason's book is not just a chronicle of frontier religious
life. He examines Baptist church polity and points out the charac-
teristics that fitted the people for a pioneer environment. Congre-
gational control of the church stirred their love of democracy.
Preachers were called out of the rank and file of churchmen. Although
there were never enough preachers, even then there were far more
than might have been available if the requirements for minimal
education had been set and observed. Preachers were paid little
or nothing but even this practice had some merits in a community
where everybody was poor. As the churches grew in numbers and
wealth, some clung to this pioneer policy-to their detriment.
On the frontier the churches set moral standards which were ac-
cepted generally by sinner as well as saint, although both frequently
failed to live up to them. This, Mason explains, accounts for the
emphasis placed on discipline. For instance, during thirty-one years,
753 members were excluded from the churches of the West Fork
Baptist Association, a number that must have exceeded to percent of
the whole membership. Charges which might bring about expulsion
were profanity, lying, gambling, and participation in worldly plays.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971, periodical, 1971; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/m1/296/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.