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TEXAS BAPTIST [1855-61]
TEXAS BAPTIST. When the Texas Baptist Convention was organized in 1848, its first report urged initiation of publications including a state newspaper. Initial suggestions were that a press operated at Independence might rally support for the young, poor Baylor University. The location was too far off the main roads of Texas to attract much statewide support, however, and during the next six years, while Texas was being served by Methodist and Presbyterian newspapers, the Baptists continued to pass annual resolutions. In 1854, at Anderson, George Washington Baines, Sr., who had participated in much of the fruitless committee work, finally took a leadership role and began, almost singlehandedly, to get a Baptist newspaper going. Anderson was a crossroads of north-south and east-west routes of commerce. Baines arranged with R. A. Van Horn, publisher of the Anderson Central Texian, to print the paper. After beginning in January 1855 with the local press facilities, Baines added the support of an assistant editor, former Baylor professor J. B. Stiteler. Together they published the Texas Baptist, a religious family newspaper devoted to the religious and educational interests of the Baptist denomination in Texas. Baines continued his pastoral duties. The paper had about 1,000 initial subscribers. It continued in rented facilities until, in 1858, Baines and a new business manager, John H. Wilson, and others (possibly including Sam Houston) formed a joint-stock company called the Texas Baptist Publication Society. The enterprise purchased a building, a steam-powered press, and a book-sales location and gave space for the Baptist State Mission Society.
In 1858 Stiteler resigned because of ill health (he died a year later) and was replaced by Justin A. Kimball, who became editor in 1861, when Baines left Anderson to assume the presidency of Baylor University. However, the paper's masthead continued to list the publishers as "Baines and Wilson." The circulation grew to about 2,600 by the early 1860s, when war-produced newsprint shortages forced the paper to close. In 1869 the plant of the Texas Baptist was bought at public sale by P. A. Smith. The four-page weekly format used by most church newspapers of this time was also used by the Texas Baptist. Liberal amounts of uplifting fiction, poems, and devotionals were laced with church-association news, theological debates, accounts of mission work, secular news, editorials, and letters to the editor. As subscriptions grew, ads began to take the majority of pages three and four. Although it seems clear that neither Baines nor Wilson profited much from their publishing efforts, indications are that their venture received better financial support from readers than other antebellum Protestant newspapers in Texas. Indeed, Baines's efforts surely provided a foundation for post-Civil War Baptist publishing.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). Texas Historical and Biographical Magazine, 1891.
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.