Her Majesty's Texans: Two English Immigrants in Reconstruction Texas

Article excerpt

ROBERT J. ROBERTSON. Her Majesty's Texans: Two English Immigrants in Reconstruction Texas. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1998. Pp. xi + 172, bibliography, index. $25.95.

Robert J. Robertson, a great grandson of Will Johnson, who with his cousin John W. Leonard are the two English immigrants of the title, has carefully mined a small collection of personal letters written by Johnson and Leonard, along with other useful local history sources, and produced a well-researched family history. Readers of this journal may wonder about this book's relevance to church history, however. Only in chapter eight do we find out more about the Anglicanism of the major characters of this local study of Beaumont, Texas, and about the Episcopal Church in Texas. In terms of numbers, Texas Episcopalians were of minor consequence but, following the U.S. pattern, a disproportionate number were prominent and influential citizens.

There was no Episcopal Church in Beaumont or even occasional worship services until, and this is not surprising either, the point of Beaumont's history when redevelopment and expansion of the railroads and sawmills indicated a revived post-Reconstruction boom. In 1876 Bishop Alexander Gregg had made an official visit to the town and returned the same year, accompanied by the Reverend Edwin Wickens, an English native himself. John Leonard credited American-born Joanna Curds as "the prime instigator of the Beaumont Episcopal Church." The Leonards, Johnsons and Lambs (Leonard's married niece and husband) were early supporters of the new parish, but more information about the role Curtis and other women had in the hands-on task of launching it would have strengthened the account.

The Beaumont church, officially organized in January 1880, had congregants who were, as expected, clerks, teachers, a newspaperman, accountant, lawyer, and a merchant. According to Robertson, the parish retained a strong English flavor. Beaumont's English families acted as catalysts for church growth, establishing an amateur acting company as a fund-raising strategy, and producing "light comedies from the Victorian stage. …