Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 130
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
congregation numbered 27 members, one of whom was a slave. On December 14 of the
following year, their pastor, John C. Kolbe, engineered the purchase of a lot on Front
Street, facing the river and some four blocks south of the courthouse, on which to build a
church. However, at the annual session of the Texas Conference held January 3, 1849 at
La Grange, "on account of pecuniary embarrassment," Kolbe was not given an appoint-
ment. However, he apparently remained in Columbus, for eight months later, on August
14, 1849, when the local Methodists bought the lot next to the lot on which they intended
to build their church, Kolbe was named as one of the church's trustees. He was reappointed
to serve as the Columbus minister in 1850. By that summer, the church had been built. Soon,
it would come to be known informally as the Yell Chapel, named such by local wags in
honor of Kolbe's replacement in Columbus, Mordecai Yell.27
The move toward religion also manifested itself in the formation of perhaps the
earliest secular society of Colorado County citizens, the Rechabite Division No. 55 of the
Sons of Temperance in Columbus, which was formed July 30, 1849. In ceremonies on their
first anniversary, they celebrated their effectiveness in transforming the city. Two women,
Mary Townsend and Louisa Cunningham Ijams, made speeches as they presented, in turn,
a banner and a Bible to the division. Townsend claimed that whereas a year earlier there
had been "a house to retail spirituous liquors on every corner, and daily scenes of bloodshed
and blasphemy, " a year of coexistence with the Sons of Temperance had drinkers slinking
off to dark, secluded corners to imbibe. Within months, the division would be shaken by
the death of one of their members in, presumably, a non-alcohol related murder. On
November 24, 1850, Samuel Crabtree, was stabbed to death on a Columbus street by a man
named William P. Gray. Nothing is known of Gray's motive. Gray, it seems, was quickly
arrested and sentenced to a term in the state penitentiary for a crime he had committed in
Galveston. In February or March 1851, he escaped from a boat on which he was being
transported from one jail to another, but was, apparently, soon recaptured. He appeared
in court in Columbus on November 3, 1851, whereupon the judge ordered that he complete
his sentence in the penitentiary before being tried for the murder of Crabtree.28
27 Macum Phelan, A History of Early Methodism in Texas 1817-1866 (Nashville: Cokesbury Press,
1924), pp. 295, 297, 323; Colorado County Deed Records, Book G, pp. 38, 41, 137; Seventh Census of the
United States (1850), Schedule 6, Colorado County, Texas; Texas Monument, June 30, 1852. The precise
location of the church in Columbus was subdivided lot 15, block 22. The adjacent lot, which they purchased
on August 14, 1849, was subdivided lot 16. Further supporting the idea that the two Methodist churches in the
county listed by the federal census takers in 1850 were those in the German settlement and Columbus is the fact
that the only two ministers they listed were Thomas and Kolbe (see Seventh Census of the United States (1850),
Schedules 1 and 6, Colorado County, Texas).
28 Texas Monument, September 4, 1850, November 6, 1850, December 4, 1850, March 5, 1851;
Criminal Cause File No. 688: State of Texas v. William P. Gray; Minute Book C, pp. 855; William Bluford
Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler of Texas (Louisville: Morton & Griswold, 1852. Reprint. Waco: Texian
Press, 1968), pp. 307-308.
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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/m1/18/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.