Adkins Memorial Methodist Church Social Hill
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By Mrs. Joseph E. Finch

Social Hill: click to enlargeSocial Hill is a beautiful rural community in Hot Spring County on the old Military Road, seven miles southwest of where the Military Road crosses the Ouachita River at Rockport, on Highway No. 84.  This picturesque elevation is shaded by beautiful old oak trees and is large enough to include farms, churches and a schoolhouse.  This beautiful location attracted settlers of a high type who lived together in neighborliness and good will, all of which has made Social Hill a cherished memory to those who have called it "Home.

  In 1874 the Pisgah Methodist Church was organized in Social Hill, but that name was changed to Lone Hill Methodist Church and it has since been changed to Social Hill Methodist Church. Before this church was organized, the Methodist and Baptist congregations had met for worship on alternate Sundays in the little log school house on Haw Branch which was about one-half mile down the road from the present Methodist Church.

Haw Branch was a beautiful shallow stream with pebble bottom, where all the children gathered to play and they delighted to wade in its rippling water, especially when haws were ripe, for there were many haw trees on its banks.  As this stream wended its way westward toward Prairie Bayou, which was called Sharp Creek, and the Ouachita, there were deep places good for fishing and swimming and Haw Branch was a delightful summer playground.

When the Methodist church was organized, Mr. John C. Vantrease gave two acres of land for the church and for a cemetery.  In the deed Mr. Vantrease provided that the Masonic Lodge could build lodge rooms above the church, for the Masonic Lodge was very active there at that time and Mr. Vantrease was a leader of both church and lodge.

The church members united their efforts and, with little cash, they built a beautiful church with Masonic Lodge rooms on the second floor above the church.  This building was painted white and its setting on the brow of the hill with a background of oak trees made a beautiful picture that could be seen far down the old road from both directions.  The lawn was an ideal place for revivals which were held out in the open air every summer under an arbor.

Lumber for the church was cut by Mr. Frank Haltom and Mr. Dick Stribling, who was later sheriff of Hot Spring County. Mr.  Andrew Jackson Burnett, a fine carpenter and cabinet maker, was in charge of the building.

Mr. Vantrease deeded this church lot and cemetery to the trustees of the Methodist Church who were: Mr. L. Berry McMillan, Dr. Thomas M. Joyner, Mr. Thomas Fisher, Mr. J. B. Tisdale, Mr. L. Henry Wall, Mr. William Vantrease and Mr. John C. Vantrease.

The Social Hill Methodist Church had a large roomy auditorium with good acoustics and a well-planned pulpit, furnished with substantial hand-painted furniture. The seats were substantial, hand painted and from the belfrey a beautifully toned bell rang that could be heard far over the community to call its people to worship.

The spiritual influence of the church led its people to live in brotherly love and peace and Christianity and led some of its young men to go out as preachers

The names of the preachers this church has sent out are:  William B. Fisher, Charles V. Holiman (who is now serving his fourth year on that circuit); and Reverend John C. Vantrease, who later founded the Vantrease Memorial Church at El Dorado, and J. J. Colon.  Revered Elrid Blakely volunteered from this church and is now pastor of the Methodist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Henry Hansford, Henry Hughen and Homer Ault volunteered from Midway Methodist Church in the same district.

Miss Laura Simmons was the organist and trained the choir to render the highest type music. She always had a choir of well-trained voices.

Miss Simmons also taught music and was allowed the use of the Masonic Lodge rooms above the church for her music classroom.  This upstairs room was entered by a stairway on the outside of the church which was the stairs by which all the Masons entered their lodge rooms.  Miss Simmons' classroom was the second door of the main Lodge room when they went to their music lessons.  Going up and down stairs and by that door to the Masonic Lodge was a severe ordeal,  for each little music pupil, always expected the goat to "get" her before she could reach the music classroom, and the music pupils always arrived for music lessons panting and out of breath and with shadows of fear still in their eyes.

The little log school house on Haw Branch was soon too small to accommodate the school pupils so the school was moved to the Methodist Church where there was plenty of room and a good playground.

Early founders of the Church: John C. Vantrease was born 1827 in Tennessee and in 1848 married Miss Nancy Hicks in that state, coming to Social Hill in 1851.  He was a fine Sunday School teacher and Rev. John C. Vantrease was his nephew.  His son William H. Vantrease, married Miss Margaret Kirkman, daughter of Mr. Lem Kirkman who was an old settler.  Another son, Charles Vantrease, married Miss Ada Stribling whose father, R.M.(Dick) Stribling and Mr. Brantley Haltom owned a lumber mill west of Social Hill near Antioch where this lumber was cut.  Mr. Brantley Haltom was the father of Frank Haltom, who married Miss Sarah Tabitha Vantrease and their home was one mile southeast of Social Hill on the south side of Ouachita River.  The Stribling farm was two and one-half miles south of the church on the Military Road.  The Vantrease farm by the church is still owned by the descendants of the founders of the Vantrease family in Social Hill.

Wm. H. Vantrease was superintendent of the Sunday School its first fifteen years.  He and his wife lived on the old Vantrease farm by the church which was inherited by their only son, Robert Vantrease whose widow lives there.

Mr. Frank Haltom who helped furnish lumber to build the church, and his wife, Sarah Tabitha Vantrease Haltom, had daughters Flora, who married Dr. George W. Blakely; Claudia, who married Dr. W. A. Carroll; Fannie Lovelace, who married Dorn Langley and is now a widow living in Camden; and Josie who married Mr. J. O. Hardy.   Mr. Jim Haltom married Miss Fannie Kirkman, a sister of Margaret Kirkman Vantrease.

Mr. L. Berry McMillan's home and farm was one and one-half miles southwest of the Social Hill Methodist Church on the Military Road and on Ouachita River where he owned and operated the ferry across the river.   March 29, 1857, he married Miss Elizabeth Victoria Lee, a cousin of General Robert E. Lee.  Late in life they moved to Ben Franklin, Texas, where they are buried.  Their children were: William Henry, who married Miss Maude Morrison; Robert Seymour who married Lula Hardy, daughter of Joseph Hardy; Cora, who married Mr. Sanford McMillan of Malvern; Ida married Mr. Ned Means of Malvern; Minnie married Mack Hughes of Bonham, Texas; Charles of Duval, Oklahoma; Florence married Othos B. Briggs, of Denton, Texas; James M., married Miss Belle Ridling and lives in Ben Franklin, Texas, where they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary, October 15, 1952.

William Henry McMillan married Miss Maude Morrison, daughter of Colonel Daniel Morrison who came from Georgia in 1838 and homesteaded his farm on Morrison Island in the rich bottom land of the Ouachita River, sometimes called Watermelon Island.  Here he built a spacious colonial home and furnished it in keeping with the wishes of his beautiful young wife whom he brought from Georgia.  Colonel Morrison was very hospitable and delighted to entertain but was a little unguarded in his language, for which his wife had remonstrated with him and asked him to be more careful of his expressions.  Mr. Maude Ward Phillips remembers one large party the Morrisons were having in honor of some distinguished guests when there was square dancing and "fiddlers" and refreshments and Colonel Morrison forgot to guard his words and used some very strong profanity, but at once put his hand over his mouth and, with twinkling eyes, said, "Oh excuse me!, I like to cussed."   This Morrison home is four miles South of Social Hill on the island in the Ouachita River and is owned and occupied by the William Henry McMillan's youngest son, Fay H. McMillan, and family who are members of the Midway Methodist Church.  Their oldest daughter, Clara, is Mrs. Oliver Weis of Scott, Arkansas who is the family genealogist.  Will Henry and Maude Morrison McMillan are buried in the Rockport cemetery near Malvern.

Dr. Thomas M. Joyner was born in Wilson County, Tennessee in 1812, but the family moved to Haywood County when he was a boy and that is where he was educated.  He came to Rockport, Arkansas in 1851, where his doctor's office and drug store were located between the courthouse and the Ouachita River.  After the decline of Rockport, Dr. Joyner moved his family to Social Hill where his home was a short distance east of the church and where he continued to practice medicine until his death from pneumonia in 1885.  The death of his wife, Mrs. Emily Sharpe Emerson Joyner, occurred soon after his death and both are buried in the Social Hill Cemetery.  Dr. Joyner was a highly-educated physician and served in that capacity with the Army of the Confederacy.  During the Civil War, two of his young sons were shot by Union soldiers at Rockport.

Mr. Thomas Fisher's farm was one mile south of the Methodist Church on Ouachita River.   His wife was formerly Miss Elizabeth Day and they had two sons to enter the ministry: Reverend Elbert Fisher and two of his brothers moved to Texas and Reverend William B. Fisher married Miss Jennie Burnett, whose father built the church in 1874.  A grandson, Thomas Fisher, was sheriff of Hot Spring County for many years.  This farm is now owned by Mrs. Rosa Richardson.  Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, the pioneers are buried in the Social Hill Cemetery where their graves are surrounded by concrete coping with their names inscribed thereon.  All of their sons moved to Friendship or to Texas.

Mr. J. B. Tisdale lived two miles north of the Social Hill Methodist Church, near Lone Hill Baptist Church and graveyard.  His descendants have scattered but many of the family became teachers.<

It was at Lone Hill that Jesse James held up the stage coach and robbed its passengers, about the time that the Methodist church was built at Social Hill.

Mr. L. Henry Wall, who was born in North Carolina, married Miss Mollie Vantrease and both of them are buried in Social Hill Cemetery.  Mrs. Wall died in 1934, after living to see her "children's children have grandchildren," five generations in all.  Their oldest daughter, Mrs. Etta Wall Horton, who owns the old family Bible, lives in Little Rock.  Other children are: Charles E. Wall, Mrs. Catherine Wall Dean and Mr. Fred Wall of Wilmington, California; and Martin Luther Wall.  Mrs. Nancy Wall Quick and Mrs. Clara Wall Baker Wilson are buried with their parents in the Social Hill Cemetery and another son, Levie Wall is buried in California.

These early trustees of the church lived their lives near the Social Hill Methodist Church, which they founded and served. 

Submitted by: Mary Penwell Bish
 

Hot Spring County, AR - Coordinator - Jeff Kemp