|The Louisiana conference for 1898 was held
in January of that year. Martin Hebert (of St. Martinville) asked to be
sent to the French. He was admitted on trial to the French Mission for
1898. Armed with two sermons in French, he began his first year in ministry
to the French. There were still 57 members and no church. By the end of
the year, the membership had dropped to 43, but there was now a church
(at Isle Aux Cannes) in the Mission. He only accepted two people on profession
of faith. A local "Creole" was licensed to exhort during the third quarter.
Looking back, Rev. Hebert said that his biggest accomplishment that first
year was meeting and marrying his wife, Nettie. His salary for this first
year was $210.
The church built in 1898, which measured 28' by 38', should
have been built twenty years ago when Rev. Picot was in the area. He had
gotten the cypress lumber to build the church, but it was never built.
Some of the lumber was even used to build a dance hall.
Rev. Hebert stated that his biggest problem was not the
Catholic Church, but the drinking and dancing. The Methodist Church opposed
drinking and dancing, which were an important part of the lifestyle in
south Louisiana. To join the MethodistChurch meant that they had to give
up drinking and dancing. To many, this was harder than turning away from
The French Mission was left to be supplied by Joseph Berwick
in 1899. Though they didn't tell him why, Rev. Hebert was moved to the
Plaquemine/Brulee Circuit. No one was appointed to the French Mission for
1900. But the next year, Martin Hebert was back.
||Martin Hebert was born in Bell City, Louisiana on May
29, 1874. He grew up in the Catholic church. As a youth, he was converted.
He went to Lake Charles College and taught for a while. He heard the call
to preach, but didn't have the money for an education to prepare him for
the ministry. He and his brothers raised a crop and used the proceeds to
pay for their schooling (his brother Willie became a minister in the Methodist
Episcopal Church). He was licensed to preach at age twenty-three and was
admitted on trial in 1898.
He married Miss Nettie Clarissa Kingsbury, of Missouri
Valley, Iowa, on July 18, 1898. The two of them had seven children, all
of whom were born in parsonages. Nettie was a talented teacher and musician,
and would always lend a hand when needed. She was the model pastor's wife
... maintaining a Christian family while still supporting her husband's
ministry. When accolades were poured on Rev. Hebert, he knew that he was
able to accomplish what he did due to the efforts of his beloved wife,
Approximately two-thirds of his ministry was dedicated
to the French people of south Louisiana. He traveled across the bayou country
by horseback, boat, buggy, wagon, on foot, and by bicycle. He often came
to Terrebonne Parish by train. He served the French Mission for much of
the first quarter of the 20th century. He filled in as the Houma pastor
for half of 1916. He was the presiding elder of the Houma and French
Mission District form 1920-1923. He also served a variety of charges in
other parts of the state.
Simply put, Martin Hebert WAS the French Mission in Louisiana.
He was the "emblem of the Protestant French" in south Louisiana, as Dr.
B. Joseph Martin once said. He recognized the need to bring the Methodist
message to the people in their own language. Many of the Methodist churches
in south Louisiana owe their existance to his efforts.
The message that Rev. Hebert preached was simple and straight-forward.
He wasn't interested in theological subleties and fancy religious opinions.
He offered the Gospel to everyone and offered it to them equally.
Rev. Hebert passed away on October 9, 1961. He left behind
a legacy unequalled in south Louisiana Methodism.