Early Texas Baptist Preacher
It seems highly probable that Joseph Bays was the first preacher who ever preached in Texas. He came as a very young man from Missouri in 1820 and stopped for a while at Camp Sabine in Louisiana just across the river from what is now Sabine County. While waiting for an official permit to enter Texas, he preached in various communities in Louisiana. After a few months sojourn in Camp Sabine the permit came and Bays went across the river into Texas and preached in the home of Joseph Hinds about eighteen miles from San Augustine. In the course of time he went further west and preached in San Felipe, the headquarters of Austin’s colony. The Mexicans and Roman Catholic authorities resented his missionary activities and had him arrested and put in custody of a strong Mexican guard who were instructed to take him to San Antonio for impeachment. While camped at the head of the San Marcos river, the guard was busy with the duties of the camp, and Bays encountered them at an unsuspecting moment clubbed them into insensibility with their own weapons and made the escape, returning to his former residence in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. After several years’ residence in Louisiana and following Texas independence, he removed with his family
back to Texas and continued his ministry for several years preaching in the homes of the people to small but eager groups of listeners.
He was not an educated man. His educational advantages were very primitive and sadly limited, but he made much of the Bible, studied it constantly and committed large portions of it to memory. He usually recited his scripture lesson from memory and seldom opened his Bible while preaching. His first baptism in Texas was that of Billie Cook, a Universalist preacher.
The last years of his life were greatly saddened by the conversion of his wife to Mormonism. She and their oldest son forsook their home and followed some Mormon elders to Utah. Bays never recovered from the strange misfortune, but dejected and discouraged spent the few remaining years of his life in the home of his daughter in Matagorda County where he died in 1854.
[From Centennial Story of Texas Baptists, 1936, pp. 79-80. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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