ANDREW JACKSON POTTER Early Preacher and Presiding Elder
Rev. Potter was an Army Chaplain stationed at Camp Verde during the Civil War. When he heard that DeVilbiss was to be in Kerrville, he got permission from his commanding officer to attend the conference. Rev. DeVilbiss asked Rev. Potter to take turns with him in preaching during the series of services. Rev. Potter said, “The good Lord poured out His Spirit upon us and we had some glorious seasons of divine grace.” There was no preacher that year on the Kerrville circuit because of the war. The only preaching the people had was when the quarterly meetings were held. Rev, Potter said the Kerrville quarterly conference meeting was truly a happy occasion for him. He said that a friendship developed between him and Rev. DeVilbiss that lasted the rest of their lives. The two men were so different. Rev. DeVilbiss was described as a mild, gentle person who never carried a gun as he traveled the circuit in Indian occupied territory. He was fortunate that he never encountered Indians on his trips. On the contrary, Rev. Potter was a fiery, aggressive person who had been a gambler, a horse racer, and an Indian scout before he was converted and became a preacher. He was never found to be without his gun, whether it was to be used in hunting game or as a protection against wild animals, Indians, or outlaws. Even when preaching, during times of danger, his gun was always within reach.
Rev. Potter had many friends in this area. He owned a place and lived on Mason Creek in Bandera County for several years. He was known by friend and foe alike as “Fighting Jack” Potter. Many stories have been told about his experiences during his life time.
He was a brave, courageous, dedicated person who preached anywhere he could get an audience, whether it was in a home, school, church, store, saloon, or on a street corner. He knew how to handle tough characters and outlaws and many times had them listening to his preaching instead of being involved in mischief and wrong doing.
While stationed at Camp Verde he preached to prisoners, soldiers, and inhabitants of the surrounding area. Having only one song book to use in congregational singing, he decided to teach some of the songs to a group of soldiers. They memorized the songs and sang them quite well. Sometimes they would accompany him on his preaching missions to neighboring communities and would assist with the singing. This added a great deal to the services and pleased the congregations immensely.
After the war was over, Rev. Potter was assigned to the Kerrville circuit which Included the Bandera and Medina area. He organized the Bandera Methodist Church in- 1867 with fourteen charter members. Two of the charter members, Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Stevens, who lived on Hicks Creek near Medina, traveled to Bandera by wagon pulled by oxen in order to attend church services. They had to use oxen because the Indians stole all horses brought into the country. Mr. Stevens stated that he had all of his horses stolen on two different occasions and had to resort to the use of oxen.
Youth Group in J. T. Stevens’ Hack, Driven by Homer Stevens
Ida Stevens, Vannie Shuptrine, Lee Walker and an unidentified person at Church Picnic in 1924
From 1867 to 1871, Rev. Potter served the Bandera Mission, which included all of the surrounding territory. He never missed an opportunity to visit in homes and carry the message of God to the frontier people. Usually, in those early days, the preacher would spend the night when visiting a family. The mode of travel, the distance traveled, and the threat of being attacked by Indians made this necessary. Through these visits, a close Christian fellowship usually developed.
Rev. Potter was the local minister when the Harvey Stanard family moved to Laxson Creek in 1871. Soon after their arrival, Rev. Potter called on the family. Years later, Mrs. Stanard told of that first visit by Rev. Potter. She said that in the evening prayer before retiring for the night, he asked for “God’s blessing upon the poor widow and her orphan children.” It being such an impressive prayer, she waited until the next morning to tell the parson that she was not a widow; that her husband had gone to San Antonio to get supplies. She said that first visit was followed by many more in their home, and that Brc. Potter was always a welcome guest.