Beginnings of the Movement

Page from Wavell's Roll of Colonists, 1830

Arthur Goodall Wavell and Ben Milam teamed up in 1826 to recruit colonists to an area on the Red River (now Lamar, Red River, and Bowie counties, along with parts of Fannin and Hunt counties and Miller County across the Arkansas border). For a number of reasons, the colony never really got off the ground. The territory was disputes by Mexico and the United States. Settlers were also discouraged by Mexico's opposition to slavery, which ruled out cotton farming, and by a phenomenon called the Red River Raft, a huge log jam that stretched for 165 miles and prevented easy access to the colony. Milam was able to clear the raft, but only 140 colonists had been recruited before Mexico pulled the plug on the venture.

Among those colonists were Collin McKinney, his wife Elizabeth Leek, two of their children, and eleven slaves. The McKinneys are believed to be the first members of the Church of Christ to settle in Texas, living proof of the westward movement of the Second Great Awakening. McKinney himself had been moving steadily westward all his life, from New Jersey to Kentucky to Tennessee to Arkansas, before finally arriving at the Red River colony at age 64. Considered a patriarch in the church, McKinney preached frequently and held worship services at his home. Like McKinney, many of the early American immigrants to Texas were from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, where the evangelistic spirit was strong, and the Church of Christ expanded rapidly in Texas. The church was noted for combining a literal interpretation of the Bible with a tolerance for frontier individualism.

In addition to his religious leadership, Collin McKinney became well-known in public life. He represented Red River at the Convention of 1836. At age 70, he was the oldest man to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. He served on the committee that produced the Constitution of the Republic of Texas and later served three terms in the Congress of the republic.

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Wavell's Red River colony list

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Page from Wavell's Roll of Colonists, 1830, Wavell's Red River Colony Papers, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

 

Page last modified: August 24, 2011