FRIENDS (QUAKERS) IN TEXAS: A SHORT HISTORY
19th Century Quakerism in Texas: West Texas Quakerism and Friendswood
Few members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) lived in Texas until after the Civil War, as Friends (Quakers) were opposed to slavery. Despite the absence of Quaker communities in Texas during this time, the Quaker opposition to slavery was so well-known in Texas that a proslavery newspaper, the Anti-Quaker was published in Austin, Texas (only one issue seems to have been published).
The history of Quakers in Texas began in west Texas near modern-day Lubbock. In 1879, a group of Friends (Quakers) became the first permanent white settlers of the High Plains of Texas. The settlement of this Quaker community was the work of Paris Cox who was a Friend originally from North Carolina (b. 1846) but who had moved to Indiana during the Civil War and, sometime thereafter, had travelled in west Texas with a group of buffalo hunters. Cox had moved to west Texas in 1878 to near Lubbock, Texas, having a community well dug with which to irrigate the fertile plains to support the Quaker community. Despite some hardships, the Quaker community in west Texas had ten families by 1882.
The Quaker meeting was known as Estacado Monthly Meeting and belonged to Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends, which was part of the evangelical Gurneyite Quaker tradition. In addition to the Quaker meeting, the Friends community also established a Friends school, which began in a dugout in 1882 under the instruction of Emma Hunt. By 1884 the Friends school had been moved into a permanent Quaker meeting house, and by 1890 the school had evolved into the first college on the Llano Estacado (high plains of Texas).
The Quaker college, known as Central Plains Academy, was co-educational, eventually enrolled over 100 students and was led by Jesse H. Moore (Ph. D., Johns Hopkins University; M.A. Harvard University). His wife, also a graduate of Johns Hopkins University taught music, voice, and violin at the college; other teachers included E.C. and Elva Lewis who had masters degrees from the William Penn College associated with Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends. (The founder of the Methodist McMurry College in Abilene, Texas, as well as the President of the (now closed) Methodist Stamford College in Stamford, Texas was the Methodist minister James W. Hunt who was one of the only 18 who graduated from Central Plains Academy).
The town founded by the Quakers was known as Estacado, Texas (and was located near the current northern Lubbock County/Crosby county border), and by 1890 had a population of 200. However, several events undermined the town. First, Paris Cox died from throat cancer (aged 42) in 1888, and, then, a grasshopper invasion and drought in 1892-1893.
In 1893, most of the Friends began leaving Estacado (though a few families remained behind, as did the non-Quaker residents of Estacado) for Galveston County, Texas where they intended to farm figs and oranges. There they established Friendswood Monthly Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends, as well as the town of Friendswood, Texas. The Friendswood Quaker community was the first successful Quaker community in Texas. Both the Friendswood meeting and town are still flourishing, though, excepting some historical markers and grave sites, nothing of the earlier Quakers community in west Texas remains.
20th Century Quakerism in Texas: Quaker Diversity and Expansion in Texas
In 1910, the Friendswood Monthly Meeting re-organized itself to become part of the Kansas Yearly Meeting of Friends rather than Iowa Yearly Meeting. The nearby League City Monthly Meeting was already a part of Kansas Yearly Meeting, which, like Iowa Yearly Meeting, belonged to the evangelical Gurneyite tradition of Quakerism. Kansas Yearly Meeting expanded to include meetings in Bayshore, Northshore, and South Houston, as well as two meetings in San Antonio (San Antonio Monthly Meeting and Friends Chapel Monthly Meeting). Kansas Yearly Meeting also sponsored a Friends School in San Antonio as a ministry for emotionally disturbed children rejected by child-care agencies. Friendswood became headquarters for the Central African Broadcasting Company (CORDAC), which operated a missionary radio station in Burundi (broadcasting in five languages to an audience as large as 10,000,000). Although the evangelical San Antonio Quaker meetings and Friends school of Kansas Yearly Meeting no longer exist in San Antonio, the evangelical Quaker community in the greater Houston area is well established. Eventually, Kansas Yearly Meeting was re-named Mid-America Yearly Meeting and, then, renamed again Evangelical Friends Church Mid-America. It is affiliated with Evangelical Friends Church International, which is an umbrella organization of evangelical Quakers.
In the mid-1940s, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) opened an office in Austin, Texas. This began the movement into Texas of Friends from outside the evangelical Quaker tradition to which the established Friends in Texas belonged. By the early 1950s, small groups of non-evangelical Friends were meeting in other cities in Texas, and contact between these Friends (and those in cities in Louisiana and Arkansas) was facilitated through the AFSC and the Friends Fellowship Council. This was part of a larger development in the Society of Friends known as the “New Meetings Movement (NMM),” which had begun earlier in the 20th century and was occurring throughout the country. The NMM meetings were established mostly in college and retirement-oriented towns across the country where Quakers were moving to attend or teach college or retire. The Friends moving into these areas came from different regions of the country, different Yearly Meetings of Friends, and, often, different Quaker traditions. Joining together, these Friends de-emphasized theology, the differences among Friends, and potentially divisive traditional Quaker practices (such as recording ministers and elders and maintaining separate business meetings for men and women) and, instead, emphasized freedom of individual religious belief, social liberalism, political activism, and the traditional Quaker practice of unprogrammed (silent) worship. These Friends in Texas meetings began cooperating with one another (and those in Louisiana and Arkansas) in a more formal manner in the mid-1950s, adopting the name “Friends Southwest Conference.” (As part of the New Meetings Movement tradition of Quakerism, rather than evangelical Quakerism, the Friends Southwest Conference operated parallel with and independently of the evangelical Texas Quakers). The Friends Southwest Conference became affiliated with the national Friends General Conference in 1957. In 1961, the Friends Southwest Conference was re-named as South Central Yearly Meeting of Friends, which continues to this day. Texas meetings belonging to South Central Yearly Meeting include: Friends Meeting of Austin, Coastal Bend Friends Meeting, Dallas Monthly Meeting of Friends, Fort Worth Monthly Meeting, Galveston Friends Meeting, Hill Country Friends Meeting, Houston Live Oak Friends Meeting, Lubbock Monthly Meeting, Friends Meeting of San Antonio and other meetings located in smaller towns around the state.
Most Quaker meetings in Texas belong either to South Central Yearly Meeting of Friends or the Evangelical Friends Church Mid-America. However, a few Quaker meetings do not.
El Paso Monthly Meeting belongs to Intermountain Yearly Meeting, which includes meetings in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. As a meeting established during the New Meetings Movement of the 20th Century, El Paso Monthly Meeting and the meetings in South Central Yearly Meeting would have substantial similarities, though Intermountain Yearly Meeting, unlike South Central Yearly Meeting, does not belong to the Friends General Conference. (It is an “Independent” (also known as “Beanite”) Yearly Meeting, belonging to none of the larger Quaker umbrella organizations: Friends United Meeting, Evangelical Friends Church International, or Friends General Conference).
Three informal Quaker meetings in Texas belong neither to any yearly meeting or larger umbrella organization of Friends. The Amarillo Friends Worship Group has met for unprogrammed worship for over a decade but, in its current format, has no connection with other Friends in Texas. (At an earlier time, Friends in Amarillo were related to South Central Yearly Meeting but not presently). The Austin Christian Friends worship group and the Caprock Friends Christian Fellowship (in Lubbock) also meet for unprogrammed worship and have no formal connection with any of the yearly meetings in Texas, but do have informal relationships between them in terms of personal relationships, a shared history, and each group including members of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative).
Paris Cox: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/CC/fco86.html
Estacado, Texas: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/EE/hne27_print.html
Central Plains Academy: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/CC/kbc12.html
James Hunt and Methodist Colleges in Texas: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/HH/fhu30.html
Religious Society of Friends in Texas: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/RR/iqran_print.html
Evangelical Friends Church Mid-America: http://www.efcmaym.org/
South Central Yearly Meeting: http://www.scym.org/Conference_history.html
Friendswood Friends Church: http://www.friendswoodfriends.org/
Quakers in Amarillo: http://www.prytaneumpress.com/amarilloquakers.html
Caprock Friends Christian Fellowship: http://www.texasfriends.org/
Intermountain Yearly Meeting: http://www.imym.org/
Evangelical Friends Church International: http://www.evangelicalfriends.org/
Friends General Conference: http://www.fgcquaker.org/
Friends United Meeting: http://www.fum.org/
Caprock Friends Christian Fellowship
Conservative Quakers in Lubbock, Texas