Pictured: Luke McCraw, Michelle Calderon, Raul Leija, Perla Guzman, Vanessajane Bayna, and Neida Perez.
By: Dr. Andrew Yox, Honors Director
There were only two priests to cover 90,000 square miles of territory. Missionaries who tried to slip through from the outside were threatened, robbed, and arrested.
The Stalinist Soviet Union in 1937? Mexico in 1920, after the Calles Law attempted to undermine the Roman Catholic Church? The answer is . . . Texas, in 1829. At that time, the Baptist minister, Joseph Bays languished in prison, and lead empresario, Stephen F. Austin argued that one Methodist in the province would “be worse than a dozen horse thieves.”
How this situation changed is the subject of the newest Honors Northeast/ Webb Society film initiative on the “Traveling Preachers of East Texas.” From 31 May to 2 June six NTCC scholars journeyed to SMU for research at the DeGolyer archives in this field.
The group included four coming sophomores and two incoming freshmen. Sophomore Luke McCraw will be the key film scholar, and Michelle Calderon the Director. Raul Leija brings two years of film experience to the task, and Neida Perez an upper-division, second-in-the-state Caldwell Award for research in Texas history. Incoming first year Presidential Scholars Perla Guzman, and Vanessa Bayna ranked #2 and #4 in this year’s graduating class at Mount Pleasant.
For the first time in the twelve-year series, a member of the local community initiated the film topic for the NTCC scholars. The Reverend Dan Hoke of Franklin County appeared before some of the researchers before they departed on 25 May in a special dinner in Mount Vernon. Dressed as a Traveling Preacher, of the kind that changed Texas history, Hoke acted the story of his research for the scholars.
The 25 May dinner also included an aspiring local film director Allen Herald, of Pittsburg, and his associate, Hannah Goldblum. Goldblum, from South Africa, met Herald at Stephen F. Austin University while Herald was studying film, and Goldblum art. Both Herald and Goldblum are interested in helping NTCC’s scholars this summer with their film on the traveling preachers.
The research at the DeGolyer library of SMU introduced the scholars to several key traveling preachers who founded the first protestant churches in Texas. The task for this June is to assemble the story of the leading missionaries into a script. As sophomores, Michelle Calderon and Monse Rivero will serve as co-directors, they will in July assemble the film’s executive committee, cast the parts, and establish the film crew who will handle the equipment. Filming will occur during an intensive week in August, 7-12.
The film effort is beholden to the patrons of Honors Northeast, and special institutional support at NTCC. Among the patrons, Jerald and Mary Lou Mowery of Mount Vernon, in particular, have supported the series for ten years straight.
Anyone interested in helping this film initiative on the traveling preachers of East Texas this summer is welcome to contact Dr. Yox at firstname.lastname@example.org.