Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 1


14--Section 1, Centennial Edition                                                                                                                       Paragould Daily Press, Monday, August 29,1983




First United Methodist: February 1883

   The First United Methodist Church celebrates its 100th year in Paragould this year. The congregation occupied its present building at 404 W. Main St. on Nov. 21, 1926. It currently has 987 members, and the Rev. James D. Keith is pastor.
   In February 1883, the Rev. F. E. Taylor, pastor of the Greensboro circuit in the Jonesboro district, came to Paragould and preached in an unfinished store building on the south side of West Main Street. According to Dr. F. M. Scott, this was the beginning of Methodism in Paragould. The minister continued his visits twice a month to the new and growing town of Paragould, conducting his services in a small boxed building on West Emerson Street where the Capitol Theatre is now located. In the summer of 1883 he formally organized the First Methodist Church with 13 members.
   On Aug. 18, 1883, W. S. Pruett deeded to the church a lot on which a building was immediately erected. The congregation soon occupied the building, even though it would not be finished until the following winter. It was a frame structure and stood on the southwest corner of West Emerson and Second Streets, facing north, where the First National Bank parking lot is now located.
   The congregation rapidly outgrew the original frame structure and in 1893 a new location was secured at the corner of Third and Emerson Streets and an elegant brick structure was begun, un the pastorate of the Rev. John C. Ritter. Lots for the new enterprise were contributed by H. S. Trice and M. H. Glasscock. At the end of the year, Ritter retired because of poor health. He was succeeded by the Rev. Z. T. Bennett, under who leadership the new church was completed.
   Under the ministry of J. B. Evans (1923-1926) the present building was erected at Fourth and Main Streets. The lot was contributed by Sarah Wyse Cook. She also gave the church the parsonage property at 330 W. Main St. The cost of the new church, including the $10,000 pipe organ, was $125,000. Members of the building committee were R. W. Meriwether, chairman, C. A. Mack, H. S. Trice, Louis Linke and L. U. Stedman. The new church was first occupied in November 1926. The formal laying of the cornerstone of the new church was on April 17, 1931. Church membership had grown from 13 members to more than 800 during the first 50 years.
   During the Depression, the church was padlocked and turned over to the bond holders when the members were unable to make payment. Minutes of Oct. 23, 1935, note, "After turning the keys of our church over to the receiver, appointed by the court at the request of the bond holders, we have accepted the offer of the First Christian Church to use their building temporarily." The temporary move lasted seven months. The church property was redeemed from the bond holders and the building was reoccupied during the week of May 5-9, with regular services held on Mother's Day, May 10, 1936.
   During the devastating flood of February, 1937, 565 refugees from the St. Francis and Little River bottoms area were housed in all parts of the church building, except the sanctuary. In November of that year, the church bell from the old Methodist Church off Court Square was sent in, melted and recast into the new bell, which today hangs in the bell tower over the chapel area.
   Air conditioning came to First Methodist Church in 1954 when the sanctuary units were installed at a cost of about $10,000. The quarterly conference report of Oct. 27 said, "During the weeks following, when the heat was so extreme, our attendance increased one-third of that during the same period last year. We believe this has been a very favorable project for the church."
   On July 24, 1976 at a called session of the Charge Conference, a proposal was presented by the church building committee. On Feb. 26, 1978 ground was broken for the addition of the fellowship hall, kitchen and chapel to the existing church building. Total cost of the addition was approximately $475,000.
Finishing touches to the new building were completed in June, 1979 and the service on consecration was Aug. 12, 1979. On July 13, 1980 the church organist was honored with "Wirta Potter Day," commemorating 50 years of Christian dedication and service to the church. Among the tributes given was the naming of the new chapel, "The Wirta Potter Chapel." She is still the church organist.


Caption: St. Mary's Catholic Church photograph above right:  St. Mary's Catholic Church, school and convent, probably about 1892. The congregation has had two churches, this frame building dating from about 1890 and the present brick structure built in 1936, and three schools, this frame one built about a year after the church, a stone one built in 1906 and the present brick building. The convent pictured here was built about 1890 by the Olivetan Benedictine order.                                                                                                                                                                 Photo courtesy: The Diocese of Little Rock

Article: St. Mary's Catholic: December 1883

   St. Mary's Catholic Church also celebrates its 100th year in Paragould. The church was organized in December 1883 by Monsignor John Eugene Weibel. Since there was no church Paragould, the first mass was celebrated in the Commercial Hotel.
   After completion of a building in Paragould for a Protestant denomination, the board of directors refused to pay more than $400 for it because of numerous flaws in the contract. The builder had invested more than $600 in the project. After he was informed that the Catholics wished to erect a church, he approached several Catholic men and offered them is church. The building was purchased for $625.
   The building stood on land owned by the Protestant congregation. Because the Catholic parish owned land in the vicinity, the priest proposed to exchange the two plots and pay a bonus of $100, but the proposal was not accepted. Finally, the congregation found a man who guaranteed his contract to move the church for $170. Might rollers and wheels were fastened under the building, it was jacked up and then, like a huge wagon, pushed forward. Despite uneven terrain and a pond between the two plots, the church was in its new location within three days.
   Services were conducted in it for the first time in May 1890. At that time, only 73 Catholics lived in Paragould. The church had services in its present building at Second and Highland streets for the first time in 1936.
St. Mary's now has 420 members, and the Rev. James L. Walters is the pastor.


Caption: Center Hill First Baptist photograph below right: This building is thought to be the Center Hill Baptist Church that was destroyed by tornado in 1947.

Article:  Center Hill First Baptist:  September 1883

  Center Hill First Baptist Church, celebrating 100 years in existence this year, began on September 16, 1883 with the Rev. Ed Cooper as the pastor.
The church has had 35 pastors since its beginning on West Kingshighway.  Former pastors included:  D. C. Applegate (1941), Carroll Gibson (1947-48), J. H. Hughes (1949), John McCollum (1952-58) and Leonard Williams (1978-81).
The Rev. Frank Stewart is now the minister of the church, which has 338 members.
   A tornado destroyed the building in 1947 and it was rebuilt that year. Additions were added in 1963 and 1972. In 1979 the old building was torn down and a new sanctuary and classrooms were built.


Page 15 Section 1


Transcribed from the 1983 Centennial Edition by : PR Massey

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