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Tenney, Samuel Fisher (1840–1926)

John R. "Pete" Hendrick Biography Entry

S. F. Tenney, Presbyterian minister, the son of Samuel T. and Margaret (Colt) Tenney, was born in Athens, Georgia, on March 26, 1840. He received a B.A. in 1861 from the University of Georgia and a B.D. in 1868 from Columbia Theological Seminary. He was ordained a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) by the Presbytery of Eastern Texas in 1869. After serving briefly at Marshall and Elysian Fields, he accepted the pastorate of the Crockett Presbyterian Church and served there from 1871 until his death in 1926. During the first twenty years of his ministry he labored against the prevailing opinion of the times for "the evangelization and enlightenment of the freed people." His congregation in 1871 established a Sabbath school for black children, which led to a parochial school, the Moffatt African Academy. In 1886 the Mary Allen Academy (see MARY ALLEN JUNIOR COLLEGE) was established. Tenney's missionary activity led to the founding of the black Texas Presbytery in 1888 with seven churches and five ministers. In Houston County Tenney helped organize seven churches, three black and four white. He organized seven other churches, including the Presbyterian church in Beaumont. With others he revitalized the Presbyterian church in San Augustine, said to be one of the first Presbyterian congregations organized in the Republic of Texas. At his initiative the Presbytery of Eastern Texas established mission work among the Alabama-Coushatta Indians in Polk County, which led in 1884 to the founding of a church and school. For thirty years Tenney served his presbytery as clerk and treasurer. In addition, he was moderator on numerous occasions and represented the presbytery on eight occasions as a commissioner to the General Assembly. In 1887 he was moderator of the Synod of Texas. Against the position of many of his former professors and friends, Tenney worked for the restoration of fraternal relations with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Northern). He was an ardent supporter of home and foreign missions, of the Sabbath school, and of the sale and distribution of religious literature. His congregation was a consistent leader in benevolence for religious undertakings in Texas and throughout the world. In the prohibition campaign of 1887, he stumped the state debating some of the major politicians in support of prohibition. From 1861 to 1865 he was in the Confederate Army, first as a foot soldier with Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia, then as a lieutenant and ordnance officer with the brigade of Gen. Ed Thomas of Georgia. Of his considerable correspondence during this period a significant number of letters have been published. From that early period until the end of his life, he opposed the Ku Klux Klan. In 1868 Tenney married Sarah Mills of Mayesville, South Carolina. They had seven children. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Austin College in Sherman. Tenney died on July 2, 1926, after serving the Crockett Presbyterian Church for fifty-five years.

Christian Observer, August 18, 1926. E. B. Duffee, Jr., ed., "War Letters of S. F. Tenney, a Soldier of the Third Georgia Regiment," Georgia Historical Quarterly 57 (Summer 1973). History of the Presbytery of Eastern Texas of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (San Augustine, Texas: Historical Memorials Committee of Presbytery, 1914). Ministerial Directory of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1898, 1942–). Inez Moore Parker, The Rise and Decline of the Program of Education for Black Presbyterians of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., 1865–1970 (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1977). William Stuart Red, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Texas (Austin: Steck, 1936). Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South (3 vols., Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1963–73).


  • Religion
  • Presbyterian

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

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

John R. "Pete" Hendrick, “Tenney, Samuel Fisher,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 24, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.