Fannie McDowell Hunter was there at the beginning, conducting revivals and mentoring younger women preachers. She assisted Texas Holiness University’s early development, labored for the Nazarene Bible Institute at Pilot Point, Texas, and then . . .vanished in 1912 from the historical record.
Born in Missouri in about 1860, she was the granddaughter of a circuit-riding Methodist preacher to Native Americans. She was raised in Fulton, Kentucky, and converted at age 12. Her father, John McDowell, supported the Holiness Movement.
At 19, she married W. W. Hunter, a college graduate. He died 3 years later, leaving Fannie with a daughter and stepson. Bereavement plunged her into a deep spiritual crisis, but the outcome—so painfully purchased—was a renewed faith. She became a music evangelist and later a revival preacher.
Her path frequently crossed Robert Lee Harris’s, founder of the New Testament Church of Christ. Occasionally she shared in Harris’s revival work, and after his death in 1894 she became a mentor to his widow, Mary Lee Harris, until Mrs. Harris was established in her own ministry. Mrs. Hunter joined the New Testament Church of Christ (NTCC) in about 1897, after evangelizing with its other pioneer preachers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri.
She devoted the summer of 1900 to conducting revivals with Mrs. Harris and Trena Platt in Texas, where the NTCC was expanding rapidly. She was present at Mrs. Harris’s wedding to Henry Cagle later that summer at a West Texas camp meeting.
Fannie McDowell Hunter accepted President A. M. Hills’s invitation to be matron of women at Texas Holiness University (near Greenville, Texas), a parent institution of Southern Nazarene University. She remained on staff there from 1901 through mid-1903, counseling young women and sometimes preaching in chapel.
Mrs. Hunter’s ordination date is uncertain, but she was listed as an ordained minister in 1903. She pastored the NTCC congregation at Rising Star, Texas, for nearly two years. There she was host pastor to the union meeting in 1904 that merged her denomination with the Independent Holiness Church of C. B. Jernigan and J. B. Chapman. At this meeting, the Holiness Church of Christ was born. Pilot Point, Texas, became its headquarters.
She was working on a unique book—Women Preachers—published in 1905. Its early chapters marshaled biblical, theological, and historical arguments supporting the public ministry of women. The later chapters each had a call narrative written by a different female minister, including Hunter. A. M. Hills supplied the introduction. On the cover, under the title, were these words: “Who Gave Thee This Authority?”
Mrs. Hunter moved to Dallas around 1905, resuming evangelistic work, often on behalf of the Rest Cottage (Pilot Point) and Berachah Rescue Society (Arlington, Texas) homes for unwed mothers. She married Edgar Strang, a layman, and in 1907 they moved to Pilot Point, where Fannie became matron at Nazarene Bible Institute. She was present at the 1908 General Assembly held there.
She was an elder on the Dallas District through 1911, but her name is gone from the 1913 district journal. Here the mystery begins.
The 1912 district journal does not survive. The Pentecostal Advocate, serving southern Nazarenes, was suspended in early 1912 as the transition was made to the Herald of Holiness; and the early Herald, launched in the spring of 1912, did not carry obituaries for several months. No other district received her credentials by transfer.
Did Fannie McDowell Hunter die during this interim? Did she retire and move to the West Coast, as some of her associates had done? Did she remarry (assuming her husband’s death) and continue her ministry under a different name?
Several researchers have tried to answer this question, but without success. Whatever happened to Fannie McDowell Hunter?
Stan Ingersol is manager of the Nazarene archives at the International Headquarters of the Church of the Nazarene.
Ingersol, S. (n.d.). Nazarene Roots; Whatever happened to Fannie McDowell Hunter? Herald of Holiness, 18.