Bloys, William Benjamin (1847–1917)

By: Deborah Bloys Hardin

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

William Benjamin Bloys, Presbyterian minister and founder of the Bloys Camp Meeting, was born on January 26, 1847, in McClemoresville, Tennessee, the second of seven children, to Mordecai Dowel and Amelia Patterson (Yergan) Bloys. The elder Bloys was a farmer and saddlemaker. Since they were Unionists, the Bloyses moved to Illinois in 1862. William attended an academy in Salem and then worked for ten years as a teacher and farmer. In 1876 he entered Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati to become a Presbyterian minister and foreign missionary. He graduated on May 7, 1879, and was ordained shortly thereafter. He married Isabelle Catherine Yeck on May 22, 1879. They had seven children.

Bloys's missionary desires were thwarted by a lung ailment that disqualified him for assignment overseas. He applied to the Presbyterian Home Mission Program of the Northern Presbyterian Church and was accepted. His first assignment was in Coleman, Texas. In 1879 he established several churches there and in the surrounding communities. In 1888, upon his doctor's advice, he moved to Fort Davis, Jeff Davis County. There he soon established Presbyterian congregations throughout the Davis Mountains and in the Big Bend. He served voluntarily as chaplain to the army post at Fort Davis until it was closed in 1891. He regularly conducted services in churches, homes, and even cow camps for all who requested them, regardless of religious affiliation. In 1890, with the encouragement and aid of people from the area, Bloys founded the Cowboy Campmeeting at Skillman's Grove; its annual meetings continue. In 1910 Bloys helped to petition for and found the Presbytery of El Paso. He served as its clerk-treasurer from 1910 until 1917, except for the year 1914, when he served as moderator. He died on March 22, 1917, at Fort Davis. After his death the Cowboy Campmeeting was renamed Bloys Camp Meeting, and a marble monument was erected there in his honor. Nearly a century later, Bloys is remembered and revered as the "Little Shepherd of the Hills."

Clifford B. Casey, Mirages, Mysteries and Reality: Brewster County, Texas, the Big Bend of the Rio Grande (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1972). William F. Evans, Border Skylines: Fifty Years of "Tallying Out" on the Bloys Round-up Ground (Dallas: Baugh, 1940). Carlysle Graham Raht, The Romance of the Davis Mountains and Big Bend Country (Odessa, Texas: Rahtbooks, 1963).
  • Religion
  • Presbyterian

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

Deborah Bloys Hardin, “Bloys, William Benjamin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

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