Sneed, Joseph Perkins (1804–1881)

By: Norman W. Spellmann

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: January 27, 2021

Joseph P. Sneed, pioneer Methodist preacher, son of James and Bethenia (Perkins) Sneed, was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, near Nashville, on January 10, 1804. He ranks among a small group of men who laid the foundations of Methodism in the Republic of Texas. He also devoted a decade of his ministry--far more than any other White preacher during the development of Texas statehood--to black slaves. He was converted at a camp meeting in 1824 and joined the Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1829. After serving his probationary period on circuits in Mississippi and Alabama, he was ordained a deacon in 1831, admitted into full connection, and appointed to a circuit in Louisiana. He was ordained an elder in 1833 by Bishop John Emory. In the summer of 1834, during his ministry in Louisiana, he assisted Rev. Henry Stephenson in a famous revival at Samuel Doak McMahan's place near San Augustine, Texas. As a result of that experience, Sneed volunteered for service in the newly established Texas Mission in December 1838. Bishop Thomas A. Morris appointed him to Brazoria in the Texas Mission District of the Mississippi Conference and sent a letter by him to Littleton Fowler, the superintendent of the mission, declaring: "We have sent you Brother Sneed, a man who is not afraid to die or sleep in the woods." Traveling by horseback, Sneed entered Texas at Gaines Ferry on February 8, 1839, and reported to Fowler at McMahan's. Fowler changed Sneed's appointment to the Montgomery Circuit, which comprised all the territory between the Brazos and Trinity rivers from San Felipe on the south to the site of present-day Waco. Four months later, Fowler increased Sneed's labors to include the Washington Circuit, thus adding the territory from Houston and Texana to Bastrop and Caldwell. Sneed's succeeding appointments included the following circuits: Nashville, 1839–40; Victoria, 1840–41; Liberty, 1841–42; Washington, 1842–43; and Rutersville, 1843–44. Sneed took an honorable location for ten years, while he farmed near Gay Hill in Washington County and subsequently above Port Sullivan in Milam County. In December 1855 he was readmitted to the Texas Conference and began his unique ministry to black slaves at the Port Royal African Mission (1855–61, 1862–65). He served the Lampasas-Florence Circuit in 1861–62 and the White Rock Circuit in 1866–67. He superannuated in 1867 and lived the remainder of his life on his farm. Sneed married Achsah Bond Harris on October 12, 1842, in Nashville, Tennessee, and they had three children. She died on January 15, 1860. He died on November 21, 1881, at his son's home in Milam County and was buried in the family graveyard.

Oscar Murray Addison Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Macum Phelan, History of Early Methodism in Texas, 1817–1866 (Nashville: Cokesbury, 1924); A History of the Expansion of Methodism in Texas, 1867–1902 (Dallas: Mathis, Van Nort, 1937). Homer S. Thrall, History of Methodism in Texas (Houston: Cushing, 1872; rpt., n.p.: Walsworth, 1976). Walter N. Vernon et al., The Methodist Excitement in Texas (Dallas: Texas United Methodist Historical Society, 1984).


  • Religion
  • Methodist

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

Norman W. Spellmann, “Sneed, Joseph Perkins,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 05, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
January 27, 2021