William Milton Tryon, Texas Baptist leader, was born in New York City on March 10, 1809, the son of William and Jane Eliza (Phillips) Tryon. His father, a descendant of the famous Loyalist governor William Tryon of eighteenth-century New York, died when Tryon was eleven. Young Tryon, who was frequently in ill health, learned to tailor and supported his widowed mother. At the age of seventeen he was converted to the Baptist Church and baptized by Charles G. Sommers. In 1832 he moved to Georgia, where in December he was licensed to preach by the First Baptist Church in Augusta. Tryon entered Mercer Institute in Penfield, Georgia (now Mercer University in Macon), in 1833 and served as a student instructor during his final year of enrollment in 1835. He became the general agent of the Georgia Baptist Convention in January 1836. He was ordained to the ministry in 1837. After serving as a pastor in Alabama at the Irwinton Baptist Church and the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Barbour County, he moved in 1839 to Wetumpka, Alabama, where he pastored the local Baptist church. He married Louisa J. Higgins on April 14, 1840. The couple had four children, the last born after Tryon's death. All of the children were born in Texas.
Tryon was the second missionary appointed to Texas by the American Baptist Home Mission Society (James Huckins was the first). He arrived in Texas on January 18, 1841, and served as a circuit rider in Southeast Texas. In 1841 he revived the church at Washington-on-the-Brazos, previously pastored by Z. N. Morrell. That same year he and Robert E. B. Baylor led a revival at Washington-on-the-Brazos, which added more than thirty members to the church. Also in 1841, Tryon began his first of five terms as moderator of the Union Baptist Association in Texas (1841–44, 1847). In the second session of the Union Association at Clear Creek Church, Fayette County, which began on October 7, 1841, he suggested the formation of the Texas Baptist Educational Society and was joined by Baylor in support of a Baptist college for Texas. Tryon and Baylor drafted the petition for a charter for the university, which they presented to the Texas Congress on December 28, 1844. The charter was approved by the government of the Republic of Texas on February 1, 1845. Judge Baylor and others expressed their wish that the new Baptist college be named Tryon University because they believed that Tryon had been the prime mover in getting Baptists to establish it. Tryon, however, wanted the institution to be named for Baylor. He was elected the first president of the Baylor University Board of Trustees and served from 1845 to his death in 1847. He also served as chaplain of the Texas Senate during the Seventh and Eighth sessions in 1843 and 1844. In 1844–45 he was corresponding secretary of the Texas Baptist Home Mission Society. He was called as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Houston on December 1, 1845. In 1846 Tryon was named a missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was involved in the early development of the Texas Baptist State Convention at the eighth session of the Union Baptist Association in 1847 in Houston. He also served as treasurer of the Texas Literary Institute (1846–47) and as an officer in the Texas Baptist Educational Society. In 1847 he contracted yellow fever. He died in Houston on November 16 of that year.
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Robert A. Baker, The Blossoming Desert-A Concise History of Texas Baptists (Waco: Word, 1970). James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). Dan Ferguson, "Forerunners of Baylor," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 49 (July 1945). Texas Historical and Biographical Magazine, 1891.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Travis L. Summerlin,
“Tryon, William Milton,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 23, 2019