Stevenson, William (1768–1857)

By: Walter N. Vernon

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

William Stevenson, pioneer Methodist preacher, the son of James and Elizabeth Stevenson, was born on October 4, 1768, near a station called Ninety-six, South Carolina, on the Cherokee line. He was schooled in Methodist doctrine and polity in Tennessee under bishops Francis Asbury and Richard Whatcoat, Rev. William McKendree, and other leaders near Nashville. He also taught school for a time, served on juries wherever he lived, and was county magistrate in Arkansas. In Missouri he ran unsuccessfully in 1815 against Stephen F. Austin for the office of representative in the General Assembly of Missouri Territory. In Arkansas, Stevenson served as the Hempstead County representative in the first General Assembly of Arkansas Territory in 1820. He was elected speaker of this assembly when it first met, but soon resigned that post due to health problems. He opened the house's daily sessions with prayer. Stevenson was in charge of all Methodist activities in Arkansas from 1815 to 1825, and in this capacity he held the first Protestant service of record in Texas at Pecan Point in what is now Red River County. He continued supervising Methodist activities there until 1825. He also negotiated with Stephen F. Austin between 1824 and 1827 regarding the possibility of Protestant preaching in Mexican Texas. Stevenson married Jane Campbell in Green County, Tennessee, in 1794, and they had eleven children. In 1826 Stevenson moved to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, and continued his preaching, serving as pastor and presiding elder for some years before his death, on March 5, 1857. He was buried in Bossier, Louisiana. Three historical markers have been erected to Stevenson: an official state marker on Interstate Highway 30 near Mount Vernon, Texas; an Oklahoma state marker on U.S. Highway 259, a few miles north of the Red River; and a Red River County Historical Society marker on the square at Clarksville, Texas.

New Orleans Christian Advocate, March 13, 20, 27, April 3, 10, 17, 1858. 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). Walter N. Vernon, William Stevenson (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1964).


  • Religion
  • Methodist

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

Walter N. Vernon, “Stevenson, William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 29, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995