Freeman Smalley, the first Baptist minister to preach in Texas, was born to William and Prudence (Hoel) Smalley on March 3, 1790, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and grew up near the site of present-day Clarksville, Ohio. He married Catherine Trader on July 31, 1808, in Miami County, Ohio; they had ten children. Smalley fought for six months in the War of 1812. He had been a member of the Baptist church in Clinton County, Ohio, since 1808, and after his discharge from the army he began to preach to his friends and neighbors. He was ordained by his church in 1817. Smalley's first trip to Texas was to visit relatives. His aunt, Mary Smalley, and her daughter Rachel had moved with their husbands, William Rabb and Joseph Newman, to Pecan Point, Texas, in 1819. In 1822 Smalley traveled to New Orleans by boat and walked to Pecan Point, where he visited his cousins and preached to the community, thus evidently becoming the first Baptist minister to preach in Texas. About 1832 he moved his family from Ohio to Higginsville, Illinois, where he established a Baptist church in his home in 1834. His son Freeman Smalley, Jr., moved to Brushy Creek, south of the site of present-day Round Rock, Texas, in 1846; Smalley sold his land and followed him to Texas about 1848. Smalley preached wherever he could, but his audiences were small because of his abolitionist views. He organized Union Baptist Church in Williamson County, the first antislavery Baptist church in Texas, in 1849. He took a Unionist stand during the Civil War and endured threats and robbery. At the request of his children he sold his land in Texas and moved to Bourbon County, Kansas, with two of his sons in 1866. Smalley died on October 31, 1874, and was buried in Bourbon County, Kansas.
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James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). Paul C. Wilson, Jr., A Forgotten Mission to the Indians (Galveston: Letter Shop, 1965).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Samuel B. Hesler,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
June 1, 1995