Rev. Reuben Sanders



From Mon Apr 12 08:11:20 2004
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 2004 22:02:15 -0500
From: stitchn2 <>

A History

Submitted By:
Patricia Self Mills

After the Texas war for Independence from Mexico many Americans and others began to settle in Texas. Limestone County wasa favorite location as the land was good and water was plentiful. One of those early settlers in Tehuacana was my great, great grandfather, Rev. Reuben Sanders, originally from Missouri. He was an ordained minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and much that I have learned of him is from documents written by early church leaders. Major John Boyd, a Tennessee native, came to Texas in the fall of 1835 and immediately cast his lot with the Texas army and received a league of land for his services. He located his land on a range of hills called Tehuacana Hills (originally spelled Tywacana), named after a tribe of Indians, the first known inhabitants of this area of the state. At that time his land was in Robertson County, but later was cut off into a new county, Limestone. Major Boyd moved onto his land in 1845 and settled at the Boyd Spring, near what is now known as Barry Springs. At that time the nearest settlement was old Fort Parker.  Major Boyd took an active part in state and county affairs and when the time came for Texas to select a state capital site, he named Tehuacana as a candidate and rode from settlement to settlement advocating the advantages of Tehuacana Hills. Tehuacana lost by a narrow margin to Austin.

In the winter of 1821-1822, Finis Ewing established a divinity school at his home at New Lebanon, Cooper County, Missouri, for the education of the candidates for the ministry in McGee Presbytery. This was the first movement toward a Theological School in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church west of the Mississippi River. While no proof has been found to date, it is reasonable to believe that Reuben Sanders received his early church education here.

Reuben E. Sanders, pioneer preacher in the Tehuacana region, was born in Cooper County, Missouri on March 17, 1822, and professed religion at age six and joined the church age seven. He was received under the care of Lexington Presbytery in 1844 and licensed in 1846. He came to Texas early in the year 1848 and joined the Colorado Presbytery, which ordained him.

Major Boyd was not a Christian, though he had the highest respect for Christianity and sought every opportunity to aid any minister of the gospel who passed that way. He induced Reuben Sanders to locate on his league of land. He also advocated and aided in building a log schoolhouse where, under the leadership of Reuben Sanders, residents from far and wide gathered for worship. They came on horseback and in ox wagons and on foot, bringing their guns with them and stacking them in the chimney corner with one man being appointed as a picket to watch for the Indians while services where held.

Rev. Reuben Sanders had met a young man by the name of Andy J. McGown, who had been a soldier under Andrew Jackson, and was ordained as a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination. McGown's parents were living in Texas. When McGown heard that Texas had declared independence, he left school and hurried to Texas to cast his lot with his people. He was met by people of Texas fleeing from the Mexican Army in what is known in Texas history as the "Great Stampede.  McGown joined the Texas armies and fought in many battles, including the great battle at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

When McGown arrived in Tehuacana to aid Rev. Reuben Sanders in the camp meeting, the whole community flocked to hear this famous preacher. Major John Boyd was drawn to McGown and soon after the meeting began, when McGown made one of his famous appeals for penitents to come to the mourners bench, Major Boyd responded. After this, Major Boyd joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church under the pastoral care of Rev. Reuben Sanders. Rev. Sanders was described as a man of the one book kind, and that book was the Bible. He was a slow speaking and earnest talker. He endured the hardships of those pioneer days and raised a good size family.

On one occasion, Rev. Sanders and one of his elders were on a horseback journey from the hills to Southwest Texas to his presbytery. They stopped on the way to spend the night with a family, and on departing the next morning, asked to know the bill for the night's lodging. The man replied that the elder was a foreman and stock raiser and worked for a living and there was no charge for him, but the preacher did not work and made an easy living so charged him one dollar and a quarter. This was all the money Rev. Sanders had, but he pulled out his purse and paid him without a word of protest. This was an unusual case as most every family in that time was glad to entertain a minister.

In 1866, the three synods of Texas began negotiations to build a college of high order. Prior to the Civil War, three schools were sponsored by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Texas: La Grange Collegiate Institute, Chappell Hill College and Larissa. All of these schools were closed during the war. The movement to establish a school to serve the three synods began. In 1867 committees were appointed by the Texas, Brazos, and Colorado Synods for the establishment one central school.

These early preachers must have done their work well because one of the reasons for choosing Tehuacana as the site of Trinity was that it was "free from the temptations of vice abounding in the various towns of the country."  It was also noted that the springs there furnished an abundance of living water and the fertile countryside promised prosperity. A major concern among those Cumberland Presbyterians was that this "rural setting would afford protection from influences which might hinder the moral and spiritual development sought for its students."  Ultimately Major Boyd and others provided 1,700 acres of land for the University.

The school actually began on the old Boyd home on 50 acres of land that had been given to the school. On top of the hill southwest of this early building, Major Boyd donated 130 acres of land for a town site, of which 17 acres were reserved for a future administration building of Trinity.

The foundation was laid in the shape of a capital T for Tehuacana and Trinity. The bar of the T was built first and was two stories with a large chapel on the second story. The building was of stone with a smooth face. Just after the foundation was laid, a young Welshman, William Rees came along and proved to be a man of great sterling worth. Rees became fast friends with Dr. William Beeson, Trinity's first president. Rees was a fine stonemason and was ultimately put in control of the construction of the building. Rees married Miss Georgia Ann Sanders and built a home in Tehuacana and raised a large family there.

Sometimes it was the practice of Trinity to sell some of the school property for building lots. In order to protect the character of the school's clientele and to assure the students being surrounded by people of high morality, the contracts of sale provided that whenever "any lot is devoted to drinking or any kind of gaming purposes, it reverts to the university."

Trinity University opened September 23, 1869. The first president was Dr. W. E. Beeson. In 1902, Trinity was moved to Waxahachie. In 1942, it was moved to San Antonio, where it continues as a school of the United Presbyterian Church, U. S. A.


A Short History of Tehuacana Texas by Rev. J. W. Pearson

Voice in the Wilderness, A History of the Cumberland Presbyterian by R.
D. Brackenridge

A History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church by Thomas H. Campbell

The Cumberland Presbyterian, Obit of Rev. R.E. Sanders, Vol. 53, p 511,
by Rev. J. S. Groves

Dedication of William Rees Historical Marker, Tehuacana, Texas, June 1,
1969 by James W. Laurie, President of Trinity University

Also, much thanks to the Trinity University, Coates Library/Archives in
San Antonio for locating so much information on this topic.