College documents key Methodist figures
By Mike Haynes
Asbury, Coke, Wesley.
If you keep up with Christian denominations, you know which one counts those three among its founders.
Having grown up in a Methodist church, I certainly know and respect those names. So while on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas with Amarillo College journalism students a few weeks ago, I visited the Bridwell Library, part of the Perkins School of Theology. On display were books and documents associated with those iconic Methodist names as well as many others – including Carhart.
If you’re familiar with Clarendon, one of the Texas Panhandle’s first towns, you might recognize that name. I have a cousin who lives on Carhart Street, in fact, in the Donley County seat.
We’ll get back to Carhart. First, I have to tell you how glad I was that I walked across the gorgeous SMU campus to that library. One of the first documents I encountered was a yellowed piece of paper with a circular, bright red, wax seal on it – signed “John Wesley.” The 1770 signature of the founder of Methodism was at the bottom of the manuscript in brown ink.
It was his last will and testament, in which the 67-year-old preacher entrusted James Rouquet with many of his Methodist duties, such as making payments to the Kingswood School and allowing other ministers to use his personal library.
Rouquet died in 1776, 15 years before Wesley, so the will later was revised. But 12 inches in front of my eyes was the signature of one of the most well-known preachers in history.
The Bridwell collection also includes a May 14, 1765, letter from Wesley explaining his theory of “Christian perfection.” Who did he send it to? John Newton. You may have heard of Newton, too; the Anglican vicar wrote “Amazing Grace.”
There’s a Bible bought in 1806 for the Methodist church in Coeymans, N.Y. The renowned Francis Asbury used it when he preached at that New York church. But just as interesting to Panhandle residents is the fact that it later was owned by John Wesley Carhart (1834-1914), another Methodist minister, writer, physician and inventor who was the cousin of Clarendon’s founder, the Rev. Lewis H. Carhart.
Lewis Carhart, who established the town in 1878, had gotten J.W. Carhart, living in Oshkosh, Wis., to print Clarendon’s first newspaper. For a while, it was mailed from Wisconsin to Texas.
Clarendon began as a Methodist community and was known as “Saints’ Roost.” For the full story, see “Panhandle Pilgrimage,” a book by Pauline Durrett Robertson and R.L. Robertson.
Still excited to see the Clarendon connection in the SMU library, I made a quick descent to the Bridwell basement to be sure I didn’t miss anything in this building where so many pastors have studied.
In a hallway were three library carts with signs that read, “Free Books.” Not able to resist, I scanned the carts for books that looked old. I picked J.B. Phillips’ “Letters to Young Churches” from 1948, Evelyn Underhill’s “Worship” from 1937 and, mainly because it was printed in 1856, “Life of Rev. John Clark” by the Rev. B.M. Hall.
It wasn’t until that night, back in the hotel, that I discovered this in the Clark book, written in brown ink:
“J. Wesley Carhart’s Library.”
The minister and printer of Clarendon’s first newspaper was born in Albany County, N.Y., and the book has a sticker that says it was sold in “Albany.” He would have been about 22 when it was published.
I’ll have to do more research to confirm that one of the Carharts inscribed his name in that now-fragile book, but it sure looks like it.