Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 128
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
day of the convention, Grassmeyer and Armstead Carter were hired to begin removing the
raft. Within weeks, they were at work.23
As the advocates of navigation worked to achieve their goals, with only
intermittent success, so too did the advocates of religion. Methodists had been accumulating
in Texas even when it was a part of Mexico and citizens were required to be Catholic. Just
when the first Methodist avowed his religion in the Colorado County area is open to
question. Two Methodist ministers, Henderson D. Palmer and John Wesley DeVilbiss,
were assigned to Egypt, then a part of Colorado County, in 1843. They arrived in the
county, apparently on Friday, February 3, just in time to encounter the river at flood stage.
The intrepid ministers, determined to cross the flooded river and preach in Columbus the
following Sunday, went to the home of Leander Beeson some two miles downriver from
their destination, acquired a number of logs from him, and constructed a raft. DeVilbiss
thought the craft entirely seaworthy, but Palmer was not so sure. Before he could be
persuaded to embark on it, word arrived that a man named Williams had been drowned that
morning while attempting to cross the river. The two ministers decided not to proceed on
their raft, and instead occupied themselves building a coffin for the unfortunate Mr.
Williams. They buried him on Sunday, and preached to a few people on the east side of the
river, prevented by nature from keeping their appointment in Columbus.24
DeVilbiss and Palmer abandoned any idea of going to Columbus, and on
February 6 they went to their base, Egypt, which they could reach without crossing the
river. For the next year, the newly-arrived ministers traveled their circuit, visiting the
settlers and preaching in what are now Colorado, Lavaca, Jackson, Wharton, and
Matagorda Counties, and helping conduct a camp meeting at nearby Spanish Camp. They
were replaced by two more ministers the following year. In 1845, their replacements got
23 Texas Democrat, July 7, 1849, August 4, 1849; Texas State Gazette, September 8, 1849.
24 H. A. Graves, comp., Reminiscences and Events in the Ministerial Life of Rev. John Wesley
DeVilbiss (Galveston: W. A. Shaw & Co., 1886), pp. 33-34 which reproduces part of a reminiscence attributed
to DeVilbiss. That the ministers arrived on February 3 must be deduced from allusions in several sources. First,
one must realize that Palmer and DeVilbiss were appointed to the Egypt circuit for 1843 (see Macum Phelan,
A History of Early Methodism in Texas 1817-1866 (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1924), pp. 207, 212). DeVilbiss
says that they arrived on a Friday (see Graves, Reminiscences and Events in the Ministerial Life of Rev. John
Wesley DeVilbiss, p. 33). DeWitt Clinton Baker reports that the Colorado River flooded in February 1843 (see
Baker, comp., A Texas Scrap-Book (New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1875) p. 327). Jean Marie Odin confirms
that the flood was in the first week of February, by writing, on February 7, that he had heard of it (see Letter
of Jean Marie Odin, February 7, 1843, Episcopal Collection, Papers of Jean Marie Odin, Catholic Archives
of Texas, Austin). The only Friday in February before February 7 in 1843 was February 3. Similar detective
work must be performed to fully identify the man from whom the ministers acquired the logs. DeVilbiss gives
only Beeson's last name. It can be deduced that he was Leander Beeson rather than his brother Abel, for it was
Leander who inherited the land that his father, Benjamin, had owned on the east side of the river, and who
certainly lived on that land in December 1844, when the final division of the estate was made (see Colorado
County Probate Records, Final Record Book B, pp. 428-431).
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996, periodical, September 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151398/m1/16/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.