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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

New Preacher

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
For newly-ordained H.G. Horton, a journey of more than a thousand miles started not with a single step, but a firm if figurative hand on the shoulder.

Horton and other Methodist ministers were gathered in Columbia, Ga. for their annual conference when the bishop approached him and another young preacher and said he wanted them to carry the Gospel to a place needing it badly - Texas. More specifically, a frontier settlement called Uvalde.

"The Lord knew where Uvalde was but I did not," Horton later wrote. "I could not find it on the map, but the Bishop told me it was somewhere west of San Antonio. I had on shoes, otherwise I would have trembled in my boots."

Horton and a fellow minister assigned to San Antonio went via Montgomery to Mobile, Ala. From there, they took passage on a steamer to New Orleans and finally, Galveston. From Galveston they traveled to Houston.

"At that time (1858)," Horton later wrote, "there was not a telegraph wire in the State and only a few miles of railroad. Passing the Brazos, our long route to the west was by stage, the male passengers usually having to walk and carry a rail to help prize the wheels...out of the mud."

When they got to San Antonio, the two Methodists parted company.

Presiding elder Ivey H. Cox told Horton he needed a pony, saddlebags, lariat, Bible and hymnal. Firmly believing in the teaching that the Lord helped those who helped themselves, Cox also advised Horton to purchase a six-shooter and a Bowie knife before taking his new post in Indian country.

"When the pony came," Horton continued, "he [Cox] asked me if I knew which side of the horse to get up on. I told him the outside."

The elder rode with Horton as far as Hondo Creek, then told him "to just keep straight ahead and look out for Indians in four different directions at the same time."

Reaching the Sabinal River settlement of Patterson in December, Horton found that the people of his new mission feared the Comanches much more than the wrath of God.

"My predecessor, I.K. Harper had not yet left, and he walked out of a log cabin and met me with a big six-shooter around his waist and a 'hallelujah' in his eye," Horton recalled.

The newly-arrived circuit rider conducted his first service the following Sunday in a log school house with a dirt floor.

"Everybody came armed and the corners of the house were stacked with rifles and shotguns," Horton wrote. "I laid my pistol on the floor of the pulpit. The brethren kept theirs around their waists. I tried to preach but it was a rattling affair. Sister Dillard shouted and Newman Patterson kept glancing out the door to see if any Comanche brethren slipped off with a horse while the services were going on."

Indians did not stop Horton's first service on the Sabinal, but they disrupted a camp meeting in August 1859 worse than a sudden thunderstorm.

"In the midst of the meeting," Horton continued, "just at the close of a late night service, a scout dashed into camp shouting, 'Indians!' Some of the sisters had been making a racket over the conversion of one or two cowboys and one good sister had gone into a trance. The shout of 'Indians' hushed everything else and soon recalled the sister from the spirit land."

Most of the men at the revival put down their Bibles and picked up their rifles to ride after the Indians, who had stolen horses within a mile of the camp ground.

That fall, the Indians came back, sweeping into the area under a full moon to collect horses and scalps. The day after learning that Indians were in the area, Horton saddled up to travel to Goliad for that year's church conference.

He had not gone too far on the road to San Antonio when he encountered a party of Comanches.

"I quickly dismounted, tightened my saddle girth, mounted again, seized the bridle in my left hand, drew my dragoon pistol with my right, patted my pony on the shoulder with the end of the weapon, and said to him, 'Now show your mettle,' Horton wrote. "Away we went, the Indians after us, I whirling my pistol aloft....My prayer was not, 'Now I lay me down to sleep,' for I had no thought of yielding my scalp."

Horton kept his scalp. And in a figurative sense, he kept riding the circuit for most of his life. He later preached in Brazos County, Rockport, and Seguin. In his old age, he contributed to the Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly and wrote letters to newspapers, including one in 1912 in which he described his Uvalde County experiences.

Comforted in the early days of his ministry by his Bible and his six-shooter, Horton must have figured if he could not preach the gospel into someone, he could shoot the Hell out of them.
Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" January 8, 2019

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    Mike Cox's "Texas Tales" :

  • A Coffin Just in Case 1-2-19
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  • Wyatt Brothers 12-12-18
  • Time 12-5-18
  • Texas Speak 11-28-18

    See more »



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