Lavaca Baptist Church 1886

Submitted by Jack W. James
Taken from his book, "The History of Lavaca Arkansas-Military Road, Oak Bower and Beyond."

History of Lavaca First Baptist Church

The First Baptist Church was organized on the third Sunday of June in 1860. In 1872, the people of Oak Bower came together to build a simple box house church. The land for the church and the Lavaca City Cemetery was donated by W. W. Woodruff. This structure was used by both the Baptist and Methodist worship services. This same building was also used for the school house in town.

The Oak Bower Baptist Church entered its very own church building in July 1886, moving from the shared building with the Methodist Church. They hired their first full time pastor in 1918. The First Baptist Church began having services in their own building in the 1880 when they built this new larger sanctuary.

Oak Bower Baptist Church was the scene of one of Arkansas' greatest revivals in 1927. It was estimated that nearly 1725 people attended. There were 142 cars carrying 994 people, 58 wagons with 480 people, 3 trucks with 75 people, 6 buggies with 12 people, 10 people came on horseback, and 50 on foot. The Baptist minister reportedly baptized 108 people in only 63 minutes.

The look and the skyline of downtown Lavaca was changed forever in the 1990s. Properties, including the post office, insurance office, gas station, car wash, the Dooly and Kaylor properties, were purchased to prepare for a new, larger facility to house the growing congregation of over 1800 members.

In 2005, the Lavaca Baptist Church opened H20, a youth center for the youth, not only of the Baptist Church, but for all youth from the River Valley. This ultra-modern building boasts two-stories of entertainment areas, indoor basketball court, computers and study areas as well as an auditorium and fully-staffed cafe. Lavaca and the surrounding areas have never seen anything like this facility.

A complete list of the pastors serving at the First Baptist Church of Lavaca appears in this book. Pastors served for a time period of several months to almost six years until the present pastor, Dr. Grant Ethridge, came in 1989.

In October of 2005 the doors opened to a new youth center called H20. The centers was built by the Baptist Church and is dedicated to the youth of the River Valley and open to students in grades seven through 12, regardless of denomination. The center's name, the chemical symbol for water, is an acronym for Win, Accept, Team, Equip and Reproduce.

The modern, glass-walled, multilevel building is located on Main Street in the same area of the former Meat Locker building east of Steffey's Pizza. There is no other center like it in the state of Arkansas.

The building boasts an auditorium with sophisticated light and audio systems, 22 Xbox and Playstation video systems, eight computers for use by the students, a snack bar, pool, air hockey and foosball tables. There is no charge for admission or any feature of the center with the exception of the snack bar.

Activities are held to engage teens in church ministry and to educate the youth on important issues that they face in today's world. The center is closely monitored and represents the vision of the church for the young people of Lavaca and the surrounding area. The H2O youth center, built by the Lavaca Baptist Church in 2005, offers a safe environment to all 7th through 12th grade students in the River Valley.

The newly constructed Lavaca First Baptist Church can seat 1300 members. The sermons are broadcast several times weekly on local television fulfilling its claim of being "a lighthouse for the river valley."

The following is a list of the pastors serving the Lavaca Baptist Church from 1870 to the present:

1870-1873 Wm. Greenlee
1877-1878 J. M. Clevenger
1878-1879 F. L. Kregle
1880         William Bridgmann
1880-1881 J. M. Clevenger
1881-1882 A. L. Brown
1883         P. C. Mays
1883-1884 Nathan Marshall
1884-1886 T. H. B. McCalister
1886-1887 P. C. Mays
1887-1889 J. D. Rasbury
1889-1891 T. H. B. McCalister
1891-1897 A. L. Brown
1897-1898 E. M Beals
1898-1899 A. L. Beals
1899-1901 J. F. O’Neal
1901-1907 A. L. Brown
1910         P. C. Mays
1911         W. E. Kimbrow
1914-1917 Nathan Keller
1917-1920 J. F. Brewer
1920-1921 P. C. Mays
1921-1922 A. L. Brown
1922-1923 Karl McClendon
1925         J. F. Crawford
1927-1930 A. P. Elliff
1931         J. F. Brewer
1932         Robert Scales
1932-1933 Harvey McGraw
1933-1935 James Brewster
1935-1937 Houston Grayson
1937-1938 A. F. Muncy
1939-1942 John M. Bassinger
1943-1947 F. R. Sawyer
1948-1953 O. M. Stallings
1953-1955 C. D. Peoples
1955-1959 W. R. “Jack” Hull
1959-1962 Claude Stewart
1962-1968 Doyle Lumpkin
1968-1969 Charles Holcomb
1970-1973 Bob Ebersold
1973-1975 Charles Holcomb
1976-1979 Curtis Smithson
1980-1981 Dennis Sewell
1982-        Harold Dean Law
1989-2006 Grant Ethridge