Charlotte Phelan

PHELAN, MACUM (1874–1950). Macum Phelan, minister and writer, son of David S. and Elizabeth (Cail) Phelan, was born on a farm near Trenton, Tennessee, on February 22, 1874. He was orphaned in early childhood and lived with relatives in Tennessee until he was sixteen, when he traveled to Waco, Texas, to join two older brothers. He worked as a cowhand on a McLennan County ranch to earn money to attend the University of Texas. After receiving the required certificate, he spent six years teaching in one-room McLennan County schools and returning to the university for summer sessions. Phelan bought the Moody Courier in 1900 and spent two years as editor of the weekly newspaper, thinking he had settled into a career as a small-town publisher. However, as he later recounted, the "call to preach" became so insistent that he sold the newspaper and returned to the University of Texas, this time to study for the ministry. His first appointment in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was to the Westbrook circuit in 1904. On November 9, 1905, he married Mrs. Bonita Robertson Brennand, widow of a Mitchell County rancher and the mother of two young daughters; they had four children.

Phelan was ordained a deacon in 1907 and an elder in 1909. He served pastorates in Roscoe (1906–08), Baird (1912), Chillicothe (1913–15), Childress (1920–23), Big Spring (1924–25), Sacramento, California (1926), Yuba City, California (1931), Hamilton, Texas (1932), Crawford (1936), and Haslet (1937–39). At intervals during the same period he was presiding elder of the Vernon, Texas, district (1916–19) and the Sacramento district (1927–30). He was business manager of Stamford College (1909–10), Conference Missionary Secretary (1911), and field editor and later assistant editor of the Southwestern Advocate, Dallas (1932–35). He was a member of the summer school faculties of Southwestern University (1913–16) and Southern Methodist University (1917–23), and he also taught at the Epworth League Assembly in Mount Hermon, California (1926–27). Beginning in 1917 he researched and wrote a two-volume history of the Methodist Church in Texas-History of Methodism in Texas: Early Methodism in Texas, 1817–1866 (1924), and History of Methodism in Texas: The Expansion of Methodism in Texas, 1867–1902 (1937). He was also the editor of A Handbook of All Denominations, first published in 1915, revised and expanded in the sixth and seventh editions (1930 and 1933) into A New Handbook of All Denominations. Phelan was an honoree and one of the principal speakers at the convocation celebrating the Methodist centennial in Texas at San Antonio in 1934. He was a member of the Texas State Historical Association, a Mason, and a Republican. Failing eyesight and eventual blindness forced the curtailment of his ministerial assignments and his writings. He retired from the church in 1939 and died of a brain tumor in Fort Worth on August 25, 1950.

Archives, Travis Park United Methodist Church, San Antonio. Jules Caesar Schwarz, ed., Who's Who in the Clergy (New York, 1936).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Charlotte Phelan, "PHELAN, MACUM," accessed June 17, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox