Stephen F. Austin State University

The preacher foretold 1894 violence (December 2018)

The preacher foretold 1894 violence

By Van Craddock

Before the turn of the century, Abe Mulkey was considered one of the great Christian revival preachers of the Lone Star State.

But when an 1894 revival in Longview turned sour, the Methodist evangelist angrily told the locals to go home. He then predicted some of them might soon die "a sudden and perhaps violent death" on the very site of the downtown revival.

Less than a week later, on May 23, 1894, three men died and four others were wounded when Bill Dalton's outlaw gang held up the First National Bank of Longview.

Honest, folks. I'm not making this up. The shootout occurred at Fredonia and Bank streets with dozens of bullets whistling across the vacant lot where Mulkey's revival tent had sat only days earlier.

Abe Mulkey was born April 14, 1850, in Arkansas. He moved to Texas in the 1860s, settled in Corsicana and worked as a grocer.

In 1885, Mulkey became a Methodist preacher and soon earned a reputation as a fine evangelist. Over the next three decades he conducted revivals throughout Texas and across the South.

Mulkey's wife, the former Louisa Kerr, played the piano and pipe organ at the reverend's gospel gatherings. Over his preaching career, Mulkey held 619 revivals and raised almost $900,000 for religious purposes. At every revival the Mulkeys devoted one night to raise money for the Methodist orphanage in Waco.

After an 1885 camp meeting at Brownwood, the paper there called Mulkey "the classical exhorter" and "the most entertaining revivalist who has ever been in this part of Texas."

Mulkey also preached a successful 1885 revival in Longview, filling pews night after night at the local Methodist church.

The preacher's 10-day 1894 Gregg County revival got off to a good start on May 8. Mulkey had set up a large tent on the vacant downtown.

The local paper declared the first sermon "a great success … When the call for penitents was made, a great many readily came up" to be saved. The next morning, all "business houses and saloons promptly closed and everybody assembled to listen" to Mulkey's 10:30 a.m. second session.

However, on May 10, Mulkey provided a fire-and-brimstone evening sermon to Longviewites. The Fort Worth Gazette reported he told those assembled, "I see no workers, and even the preachers are not at work. I dismiss the audience. Goodnight!"

The following morning, Mulkey "flayed the churches alive and poured vitriol in their wounds. He charged the leading church officers with all manner of sins, specifying the deeds plainly."

The Longview revival ended on May 17. Abe and Louisa folded their tent and headed to Meridian (Bosque County) for another tent meeting.

Six days after Mulkey left town, his ominous prediction of "violent death" came true.

On May 23, outlaw Bill Dalton and his bandit pals, Jim Wallace and brothers Jim and Judd Nite, exchanged gunfire with locals attempting to thwart a bank robbery. The gunfight took place along Fredonia and Bank streets. Wallace lay dead when the smoked cleared.

"It is interesting to know that the battle ground of the bank robbers and officers was where Abe Mulkey's gospel tent was so recently erected," the Gazette reported. "Near where (Mulkey) stood and preached, City Marshal Matt Muckleroy was desperately wounded and 100 bullets passed over this vacant lot.

"The dead robber lay close to where the seats were situated and Deputy Will Stevens killed the robber across the lot."

The two local men killed in the shootout, George Buckingham and Charles Learned, died within yards of the revival site.

Abe Mulkey died April 5, 1919, at age 68. All these years later, we still don't know what prompted his dire prediction for Longview 25 years earlier.

At his death, the Corsicana paper quoted a Methodist pastor who had this to say of Mulkey:

"Some of the methods he adopted were most unique and original, but they were the kind that always produced results."