Stewart the preacher
Though his main field was Texas – organizing and pastoring a number of churches in East and Central Texas – Stewart scattered the gospel seeds widely. “The life’s work of Mr. Stewart extended over many States, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Colorado, yet Texas was his principal field of labor.” Georgia, the place of his nativity, could be included on the list, with West Virginia being a possibility (The Stewarts’ son McAllister Franklin was born in WV in 1888). In 1907 he pastored Champlin Free Baptist Church in Champlin, Minnesota, affiliated with the Hennepin Quarterly Meeting of Free Baptists.[i] His ministry in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma remain a mystery undiscovered at this time. It is not hard to imagine ministry in Oklahoma could have occurred while he resided in Dalhart, Texas, which is only about 30 miles from the Texas-Oklahoma state line.[ii] Campo, Colorado is only about 75 miles from Dalhart, which is less than half the distance of his travel between Beckville, Texas and Bryan, Texas. Some of Stewart’s ministry in other states might well have been as an evangelist rather than as a pastor.
A. M. Stewart labored extensively as an evangelist. Much of his early labor in Texas of necessity was that of a missionary and evangelist, but such labor seems part and parcel of his ministry. His successes as an evangelist have been captured in brief newspaper reports, such as these [bold type added by this author]:
“A very successful meeting, conducted by Revs. Sandel of the Methodist
church and Stewart of the Free Baptist church, closed here [Wellborn,
Brazos Co., Tex., rlv] last night, resulting in thirty-two accessions to the
two churches…” – “Methodist and Baptist Revivals,” The Galveston Daily
News, Vol. 55, No. 132, Monday, August 3, 1896, p. 2
“Bryan, Texas, May 17.—The tent revival conducted by Rev. A. M. Stewart
closed Sunday night. There were twenty-six accessions to the church, twenty-
one by experience and baptism and five by letter. The new converts were
baptized Sunday afternoon in Carter’s creek, about three miles from town.
It was a glorious revival.” – “Successful Revival,” The Temple Times, Vol.
17, No. 24, Friday, May 20, 1898, p. 7
“Rev. A. M. Stewart closed a meeting at Brightlight Free Baptist church
Sunday in which he was assisted by Rev. W. T. Wood and Rev. Hughes.[iii]
There were twenty-one accessions to the church, seventeen being by
baptism. The ordinance was administered Sunday morning at 10 o’clock
at D. P. Cole’s tank by Rev. A. M. Stewart the pastor.” – “Meeting at
Brightlight,” – Bryan Morning Eagle, Vol. 3, No. 221, Tuesday, August
16, 1898, p. 3
Stewart cooperated ecumenically with other denominations in ways consistent with his own beliefs, as shown in the 1896 revival at Wellborn and other union meetings in which he participated. But for his part, the accessions for the Baptists were quickly followed up with immersion baptism of the converts – often in creeks and stock tanks in that day.
In August 1910 an unspeakable tragedy invaded the Stewart home. While living in Dalhart, Texas, the Stewarts’ son McAllister Franklin committed suicide. According to the census and a newspaper article, “Mack” was a law student. He had developed paranoia and was under a doctor’s care. The intent was to place him in the sanitarium on Friday, but he fatally shot himself on Thursday. His mother Emma was at the home when the tragedy occurred.[iv] This event no doubt colored the rest of their lives with grief, perhaps introduced misgivings of whether they had “done enough,” and may have precipitated their move back “home” to Panola County, Texas.
There is no extant record of A. M. Stewart pastoring after moving back to Carthage, but he remained active in the ministry.[v] He performed weddings and assisted at funerals. He preached “at the Christian Church at the 11 o’clock hour” on March 3, 1912.[vi] He preached the commencement sermon at the Beckville school,[vii] gave the invocation and pronounced the benediction at the High School graduation exercises in Carthage,[viii] led the devotional exercises at the Panola County Teacher’s Institute in August,[ix] occupied the pulpit of the M.E. Church in Timpson in October,[x] delivered a sermon at a community Thanksgiving service,[xi] and hosted Z. F. Griffin, a missionary from India.[xii] He even had cataract surgery in Dallas![xiii] His activities were not only civic and ecumenical. Stewart moderated the 1912 Texas Free Will Baptist Association.[xiv] He “filled his regular appointment in Clayton” in April,[xv] and “attended the Southern Free Baptist convention in Earlsboro, Okla…Bro. Stewart says he had a most enjoyable trip.”[xvi] He conducted revivals in Ore City and Bryan.[xvii]
[i] The Bryan Eagle, Friday, March 15, 1907, p. 5 and Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Monday, June 10, 1907, p. 5
[ii] According to Wikipedia, “Dalhart is located closer to six other state capitals than to Texas’ capital of Austin.”
[iii] J. M. Hughes of Waller County had been a member and minister of another denomination. He was admitted to membership in the Free Will Baptist Church at Bryan and “regularly ordained” to preach just prior to helping in the revival. – The Bryan Eagle, Sunday, August 7, 1898, p. 3
[iv] “Ends His Life With a Bullet,” El Paso Herald, Thursday, August 11, 1910, p. 9. The article calls Stewart a Presbyterian minister – which may just be in error, or perhaps indicates that he was filling the pulpit at a Presbyterian church. The article also says that “the family came from Bonham, Texas,” intimating that the Stewarts were living there before moving to Dalhart.
[v] Stewart’s “regular appointment” at Clayton – mentioned a few times in the Panola Watchman newspaper – implies that he may have been the pastor at Friendship Free Will Baptist Church.
[vi] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 39, No. 31, Wednesday, February 28, 1912, p. 1; The August paper describes his having a “regular appointment” there – The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 3, Wednesday, August 14, 1912, p. 8
[vii] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 39, No. 42, Wednesday, May 15, 1912
[viii] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 39, No. 44, Ed. 1 Wednesday, May 29, 1912, p. 4
[ix] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 4, Ed. 1 Wednesday, August 21, 1912, p. 6
[x] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 10, Wednesday, October 2, 1912, p. 8
[xi] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 17, Wednesday, November 27, 1912, p. 1
[xii] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 15, Wednesday, November 13, 1912, p. 16
[xiii] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 36, Wednesday, April 16, 1913, p. 5; The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 37, Wednesday, April 23, 1913, p. 8; The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 39, Wednesday, May 7, 1913, p. 8
[xiv] I do not have access to the 1912 minutes, but this is implied in the 1913 minutes.
[xv] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 39, No. 38, Wednesday, April 17, 1912, p. 8. Though not clarified, one would assume this is the Free Will Baptist Church in Clayton.
[xvi] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 40, No. 16, Wednesday, November 20, 1912, p. 10. This is the Southwestern Freewill Baptist General Convention. Stewart was one of 112 licensed or ordained ministers from Texas who attended the convention in Earlsboro that year (From the Red to the Rio Grande, pp. 13-20, 261-262; See also The Free Will Baptists in History, pp. 261-262).
[xvii] The Panola Watchman, Vol. 39, No. 52, Wednesday, July 24, 1912, p. 8; The Bryan Daily Eagle and Pilot, Vol. 18, No. 148, Friday, May 16, 1913, p. 2. The meeting in Bryan was a three-week tent revival “with great results accomplished.”