Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996 Page: 82
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
trustees and empowered them to create other, preparatory schools. To help finance the
institution, the board was given authority to collect subscriptions of either fifty dollars or
fifty acres, and the university was given the right to locate a league of land. The charter also
demanded that no student or employee be excluded on the basis of his religion, and that the
theological faculty not be affiliated with any particular denomination, though it was
suggested they be Protestant.33
That the charter mentioned religion at all is somewhat remarkable, for it was
not until the late 1840s that organized religion got a firm foothold in the county. It must be
assumed that prior to that, like the great majority of the citizens of the United States at the
time, most of the citizens of Colorado County were completely unconcerned with religion,
and that most of them had never set foot in a church. Probably, the first minister who had
any success in the county was Martin Ruter, who conducted services at the home of William
Jones Elliott Heard in Egypt on December 9 and 10, 1837. On the 10th, he actually
conducted two services, the first for whites and the second for slaves, of whom twelve
attended. Egypt, which after the revolution was augmented by the arrival of William
Menefee, who was Heard's uncle, and Dr. John Sutherland, who had achieved some fame
for his role at the Alamo, and whose brother was married to Menefee's sister, was, at the
time, the most hospitable place in Colorado County for non-German-speaking promoters
of religion. The people of Egypt (one hesitates to call them "Egyptians") were apparently
led to their religious orientation by Ann Nancy Thompson Mercer, a staunch Baptist and
the wife of Eli Mercer. Ruter, after his initial success, returned to Egypt in March 1838.
Though he died two months later, the people of Egypt continued to practice their religion.
Over the next four or five years, four weddings, featuring various Heards, Menefees,
Mercers, and Sutherlands as the bride or the groom, were conducted by ministers.
However, the great majority of the marriages in the county until at least 1850 were
performed by civil officials. The few preachers who attempted to instill religious fervor in
the locals outside Egypt, like the Cumberland Presbyterian Fenis Ewing Foster, found
infertile soil for their seeds. William B. Dewees remarked that most of the people treated
Sunday like every other day, and that he had been in Texas for fifteen years before he heard
33 Petition of Sundry Germans for the incorporation of Hermans University, Memorials and Petitions,
Texas State Archives, Austin; Gammel, ed., The Laws of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 2, pp. 948-950. The university
was named after Arminius, or, as the Germans called him, Hermann, whose defeat of the legions of Publius
Quinctilius Varus in the Teutoburg Forest in the summer of AD 9 prevented the conquest of most of what would
become Germany by the Romans.
34 C. C. Cody, "Rev. Martin Ruter, A. M., D. D.," The Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly, vol.
1, no. 1, July 1909, pp. 20, 21,27, 33, which quote from journals and letters written by Ruter; Colorado County
Deed Records, Book A, p. 259, Book E, pp. 330, 549; Colorado County Marriage Records, Book B (the Egypt
weddings appear on pp. 13, 20-21, 30-31); Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler of Texas, pp. 137, 307;
Zachariah Nehemiah Morrell, Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1872), p.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996, periodical, May 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151397/m1/22/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed March 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.