Histories of Communities:
Marysville, Midway, Spotsville, Bethlehem, Ebenezer

from Magnolia Banner News, July 19, 2000
Dates are uncertain for the histories of the early Methodist churches in Columbia County, but Ebenezer may have been the first. Established in 1879, three years before there was a town of Magnolia. The church is located 4.2 miles north of Highway 98 from Village. One of the larger cemeteries is located across the road from the church. A grave of Robert Akrel Crumpler, believed to be the first grave, dates back to 1858. Ebenezer Church was organized originally at the New Hope Schoolhouse, which was two miles southeast of the present site, as a Methodist Protestant church, with the Rev. John L. Wells as its first pastor in 1849 with seven charter members: A.J. Wells, Mary Wells, L.P. Wells, Mr. & Mrs. Beaufort Carteric, and Mr. & Mrs. Eldridge Myatt.

The first pastor, John L. Wells, was the great-grandfather of the church's oldest living member, John Harper Wells (now deceased). In 1852, 16 new members joined the congregation when a new location and the present site convenient to "Liddysdale" (now Lydesdale) community was chosen and given by W.D. Miller.

A new church building was erected out of logs with split-log slabs for benches and pegs for legs. Heating in the winter months was provided by a huge stick and mud chimney and fireplace and a huge log. It was "air conditioned" in the summer by removing the mud from the cracks in the logs. This building, as was the usual case for buildings, was located near a perennial spring of cool, clear water. This spring still flows under the hill back of the church.

The name "Ebenezer" meaning "the rock" was suggested by Elizabeth Rogers Wilson. She named it for a church at her old home in Autauga County, Alabama, near a place called Wee-Tump-Sah.

The 16 members of the 1852 congregation were considered charger members upon reorganization: W.W. Wilson, Elizabeth Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Baker Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Almer Crumpler, James Crumpler, Ben Crumpler, William Franklin, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Shannon, Mr. & Mrs. Albert Allen, Mr. & Mrs. Dickson [sic] Allen, and William Crumpler. The first Sunday School class was organized and taught by Mary Wilson. Six members of the early congregation did not return from service in the Confederate Army from 1861 to 1865.

A weather-boarded house was built in 1870 and wide, solid benches were made. It wasn't until 1877 and Mrs. Lottie Miller Owens Wilson, the grandmother of Daulton Wilson, deeded the land to the Ebenezer Church. This second building burned in 1892. That summer, the revival meeting was held under a brush arbor on the church property. Later in the year, another building was built under the leadership of the pastor, J.F. Nesbit. In 1935, this building was torn down and in the same year another [the present building] was built just 12 feet north of where the former church stood. At that time there were more than 200 members. This building was built under the leadership of pastor W.O. Tisdale.

In 1939, Methodist churches began to unite and in 1968 it became Ebenezer United Methodist Church. By 1972, inside and outside had been completely remodeled and a new brick sign was erected out by the road. .Later in 1974 the kitchen area and bathrooms were added with water pumped from the spring. Then a well was drilled. In 1985, the Magnolia Water System reached out to the Ebenezer Community. Many of the current members are related in some way to the original membership of the first Ebenezer. [Homecomings are held the first Sunday in May.] Source: Ebenezer UMC Sesquicentenial Celebration, May 4, 1986; and a prior, undated news clipping.
Compiled by Fonda Smith Dugal, May 1991. Published in the SoWeAr Genealogical Society journal, Fall 1991. (daughter of Excel Smith, granddaughter Marcus and Emma Williams Smith)
In the preface [of the Methodist Episcopal Church South roll of September 1884].the name of the church given is PLEASANT GROVE CHURCH located in WILKS, Arkansas.[1] George Dallas Williams and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Melton, both of whom were members of the church by 1868, had several children. On the birth certificate of their son, George Dallas, his place of birth is recorded as Wilks, Arkansas. There is a small oil field containing just a few wells located east of the Don Vinson houseplace that is named the Wilks Field. Before 1857 there was a store by the name of Wilks Store. One of the original organizers of the church, Isham Melton, bought the store in 1857 from Mr. Wilks. The building housing the store was located on what is now known as the Dan Davis place, which is on the Marysville Cemetery Road. I have found no mention of the Wilks name in the early rolls of the church members.

In 1860, Berry E. and Sarah A. Williams, their married daughter Elizabeth Jane and her family – husband Jepthy H. Brasier and their children, Elizabeth Jane and George – left their homes in Talladega County, Alabama, traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, and came up the Ouachita River, disembarking at Alabama Landing near Marion, Louisiana. They then traveled overland to Spirit Lake near Garland City, Arkansas, where they spent the winter of 1860.[2] They were on their way to Texas, but sickness and the severe winter of 1860 claimed the lives of Berry and their eight-year-old son, Jasper Plesent. Both were buried in a small cemetery near Spirit Lake where they spent the winter of 1860. [3] The family remained at this location and made one crop in 1861. Because of flood conditions and probably other reasons, Sarah and the family decided to return to Alabama to be near her family. When the Civil War began in 1861, they had traveled from Spirit Lake to "the old Lane Place" located about two miles north of Village, Arkansas, where they were living in 1862. The family remained in this location for several years, until after the crops were gathered in 1867, making their living by farming. According to grandchildren of Sarah's, Della Smith Allen and Anna Smith Richardson, who were fortunate to have known Sarah, soldiers took their mules, cows, and four bales of cotton. The battle of Poison Springs near Camden was fought in 1862, so there could have been soldiers in the area. Most likely these people were bushwhackers or Jayhawkers, a lawless band of men who rode back and forth in the unpatrolled regions, living off the land. Many did so in the name of the Confederate Army.

Another story, told to me as a child by Sarah's daughter Mandy, was of a small group of these men who visited a neighbor of theirs who they thought had some gold. It was wintertime. The man was sitting before the fire in the bedroom/sitting room. When they broke into the house, they asked the man for his gold. He said he did not have any. They put his feet close to the hot coals, hoping to make him tell. He still protested that he did not have any gold. They continued this process of questioning him and burning his feet for sometime. He told them each time that he did not have any gold. Finally convinced that he was telling the truth, they decided to leave. On the way out they walked by the bed where the man's small son lay. One of the men shot the child and killed him. Then they left.

Two of Sarah's sons, William Thomas and James Polk, as well as her son-in-law, Jepthy Braiser, fought with the Confederate Army. Jepthy Brasier saw his brother-in-law, William Thomas, fall in battle [at Corinth, battle fought Oct. 3-4, 1862; last paid Aug. 31, 1862. Enlisted 18th AR Infantry about 3 months before death.]. When the fighting was over, he returned to the scene to try to find him but was unable to do so. William Thomas Williams is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi [?].

By 1867 the family had moved to Wilks, Arkansas, now known as Marysville. In 1868 Sarah and four of her children – George Dallas, James Polk, Caroline Mathilda, and Elizabeth Jane Brasier – joined the Pleasant Grove Church. Two other children, Emma and Martha, joined in 1869. The other daughter, Amanda, did not become a member of the church until 1923.

Sarah's son, George Dallas, and Isham Melton's daughter, Adeline, were married in 1868. After Adeline's death in 1881, he married Adeline's sister, E. (Elizabeth) Jane. George Dallas and his wife assumed the operation of the store, probably near this time. Both George Dallas and Isham Melton died in 1896. According to Ruth Wooley Andress, Elizabeth Jane, her grandmother, operated the store for a time. The store was then sold to Mary and G.I. Braswell. The store was relocated just west of the site of the Marysville Cemetery. George Dallas, his mother Sarah, and a sister, Elizabeth Jane, are buried there, too.

The present name of the community is thought to have come from Mary Braswell's name. Originally it is thought to have been Mary's Ville – two words. At some later date the two words became one, hence Marysville, as we know it today. Sometime after 1884, after the community's name was changed from Wilks to Marysville, the Marysville Post Office was established. By the early 1920s, the mail to the community was delivered through the Village Post Office.

Surnames of the early settlers remind many of us that those people were our ancestors – Braswell, Melton, Smith, Williams, Rushing, Johnston, Ainsworth, Babb, Bishop, Morgan.[4] At least three of these families brought slaves to this "New Land." Most of these families were farmers. One would not have problems finding locations of the land claimed by the early settlers. In many cases, descendants of these early people continue to live on the land or retain title to the land.

My great, great grandfather, Archeles Smith [or Archelus (1800-1871)], was in the area probably by 1844.[5] According to Bethel Church records in the possession of Ida Lewis Crumpler, he was the first person to have been buried in the Bethel Cemetery located on Highway 57. His date of death was 1871, and the cemetery was opened in 1871. His grave and that of his wife, Martha [Jane Warwick, 1805-1873], have been ‘lost,' but these spaces in the ‘Smith Row' have not been used as gravesites. Archeles Smith, his wife and seven children are listed in the 1850 census of Van Buren Township, Union County, Arkansas.

The Home Guard of Minute Men was established in 1861. The County Courts of the state were empowered to appoint and raise, semi-annually, a Home Guard of Minute Men whose term of service shall be three months, with officers elected by the companies respectively. Among their duties were: to see that all slaves are disarmed; to to prevent the assemblage of slaves in unusual numbers; to keep the slave population in proper subjection; and to see that peace and order are preserved; to arrest all suspected persons and bring them before some justice of the peace, without warrant, for trial by civil authorities. The guard was to be armed and equipped by each county. In 1861 Archeles Smith was a member of the Guard of Minute Men for Van Buren Township, Union County, Arkansas. His oldest son, James Madison Smith, was a Guard Member for Garner Township, and his second son, Albert Lafayette Smith [1831-1885], was a Boone Township member.

In 1857 seven men gathered to organize a church. .The original members of this new church were: G.I. Braswell (class leader), B.R. Braswell, I.S.T. Braswell (single), M.E. Pearson, A.J. Keen, I. (Isham) Melton (alternate leader), and W. McBride. Fifteen probationers were admitted to the church in 1859. .The roll for 1860 includes the original seven men, seven women (most of the women were wives of the original members), two colored members – Braswell's Ike and Pearson's Mina – and one black probationer, Melton's Richard.

When the church was organized in 1857, it was known as Brazel's (Braswell's) Society or Brazel's Class. In the 1861 conference notes it is referred to as Brazel's Church. I suppose the name given in the record depended upon who was writing the record. The earliest reference to the church as Pleasant Grove probably came from the grove of large trees surrounding the meeting place.

A deed for the church property including the cemetery was made on June 4, 1863, from George I. Braswell and wife Mary to I. Melton, R.C. Huntley, W. McBride, E. Pearson, W.H. Braswell – Trustees in Trust.[6]

The membership in 1861 totaled 20: 16 white, 3 colored, 1 newly baptized. .in 1862 the membership had grown to 35. .By 1872 the membership had grown to 63. .

The church and school met in the same building for many years. The church was called Pleasant Grove and the school was called Marysville. This log structure as described by older members of the community was a one-room building. Seats were planks supported by blocks of wood, very typical of school buildings of the time. .The log building burned in 1915 and was replaced by a "wooden plank" building. School was in session four months in winter and two months in summer. A photograph exists that indicates a rather small and primitive clapboard building. The picture, property of Ruth Wooley Andress, great granddaughter of George Dallas Williams, wa made March 26, 1897, of a group of students of the Marysville School. Through the efforts of my dad (C.E. Smith), his brother (C.C. Smith) and other members of the community, the Marysville School was consolidated with the Mt. Holly School in 1928. The Marysville School operated one more year. In 1929 it was closed.

Formal local law enforcement was in the hands of the Justice of the Peace. Among the early JPs were: J.M Smith, J.R. Bishop, J.A. Morgan, W.W. Morgan, and my grandfather, Marcus d. Smith.

It has been said of my grandmother, Emaline Eliza Williams [known as Miss Em], Sarah's daughter, that the doors of the church were never opened for services that she was not present. Her husband, Marcus D. Smith, always accompanied her, although he didn't join the church until 1921. Since he came from a family of Presbyterians, this could have been his reason for not becoming a Methodist. All of their children became members of the Marysville church and remained so until they married and moved to other communities. In 1919 my dad married Nannie Nall of the Bethlehem Community. Of course she became a member of the Marysville Church. She was kidded about her Methodist membership and her Baptist beliefs. Her reply was that she had no choice – this was a Methodist family. In 1915 Carl Excel Smith, my father and son of Emaline Eliza Williams and Marcus D. Smith, was elected to his first office in the church. He had become a member of the church in 1912. By 1925 he was named Secretary of the Charge Conference. He served in this capacity and as keeper of the records until 1964. For 40 years he served as member of and chairman of the official board, and for most of this time, teacher of the adult Bible class. .

In 1923 the old church was about to fall down. Dad decided his young children needed a church, so he launched a drive to repair the old building. Largely through his efforts and the support of others – many of whom were not members – the project was completed and the church began to grow again. . The church building was remodeled again in the early 1950s. .On December 29, 1963, the last service was held in the old church building; on January 3, 1964, the first service was held in the new church building [on Highway 82]. .

Then the Church roll was transcribed September 1884 . the name [of the church was given as] Pleasant Grove Church, Wilks, Arkansas. George Dallas and Elizabeth Jane Williams had several children; on the birth certificate of George Dallas, their son, the place of birth is recorded as Wilks, Arkansas.
Note: Ann Braswell had the original photo of the Williams family, from her Aunt Fronie Williams Braswell. There was a lot of crossing at Spirit Lake, which is near Lewisville, AR.
Fonda Smith and Curtis Allen, 1991, as told to P. Sue Allen
Marcus Smith was a Justice of the Peace. His wife, Emma Williams Smith, was the sister of George Dallas Williams and daughter of Berry Williams. Franklin Williams was a son of George Dallas Williams and therefore Marcus' nephew by marriage.

Franklin was said to be mean; he beat his wife and ran around on her. Marcus was "working on Franklin to change his ways" and was with him at a spring near the church to cool him off one Sunday at the Midway Church (about half way between El Dorado and Magnolia on what is now Highway #82).

When the two came up from the spring, Dave Childs, brother of Franklin Williams' wife, shot Franklin in the back. Marcus was easing him to the ground when he, too, was shot in the shoulder.

Scott Childs, a second brother, then picked up a breastchoke (tied on shoulders of mules to hitch to a wagon) and beat Franklin's brains out. Dave went to the pen for the shooting. He later told Curtis Allen that he was wrong and was sorry for the shooting. It was said that Franklin would have killed both men if confronted, because he carried a gun and was a good shot.

Marcus Smith, as the JP, was there to keep the peace. A nerve injury from the shoulder wound resulted in nervous palsy and shaking from then on. He was 62 in 1910. Children had to be quiet around him. Granny (Della Smith Allen, his daughter) would never discuss this incident afterwards. She was very partial to her father and the affair really upset her. Proceedings of the trial are available at the Columbia County Courthouse.
by Ruth Terrell (undated)
Spotville is a small community, five miles long north and south, and three miles east and west. It is situated 15 miles southeast of Magnolia and five miles southeast of Village, has a population of approximately 150 white people in 33 families.

With the exception of a few squatters, the community was settled between 1850 and 1860 by J. M. Hollensworth and Dick Allen, who came in and homesteaded a vast acreage from the government and with the help of their slaves and young wives began farming. [Dick Allen never owned slaves.] Later came David Hendricks. These three families reared large families, and the community is largely composed now of direct descendants from these three pioneer families.

The community derived its name from the name given the post office established here back in the eighties. When the people here sent in the name of Stockville, they were informed that there was a post office in North Arkansas by that name, and the name Spotville, not Spotsville, was suggested to the government. This name was accepted.

The school, a two-teacher school, was formerly named Concord, but is known very little by that name. Since consolidating with Center School, three miles east, it is generally known now as Spotville-Center School and is situated just across the road from the church.

At the present time the chief industry is farming, and the people here believe in living at home, as there is very little food bought that can be raised at home, and a large surplus is sold every year.

The community has a live Baptist church, Bethlehem, which has preaching once a month, a large Sunday School and B.Y.P.T.C. The community is about equally divided between Methodists and Baptist, who cooperate in all things.

The voting precinct is known as Nall's Mill, which was in early days an old water mill, later becoming a steam mill, saw mill, and gin. There are two gins and sawmills here at the time. There have been two schoolteachers and one preacher who have gone out from this community.
from Curtis Allen
Water propelled mills were on Hurricane Creek just north of the bridge this side of the creek – toward the Allen Homeplace. Parts of the levee are still visible. Village Creek, one mile west of the Allen Homeplace, also had a mill. Nall's Mill could have been on Big Cornie Creek. The Nall land was on the western side of Spotsville. Cornie Creek is two miles west of Village Creek. A spring comes out of Mr. Charlie Byrd's pasture in Village that begins Village Creek. They all run into Big Cornie Creek, which runs into D'Arbonne in Louisiana. Curtis Allen fished all three creeks all his life until he moved to El Dorado; mostly Hurricane (which he called Harrican) and Big Cornie.

People voted at Nall's Mill a long time, even after it was called Spotville. The African Americans in the area called Spotsville "Allentown" when Walter Allen was running his store. There were lots of blacks living there, near Will Nesbit at Gum Springs and on the Lower Place. Four families lived on the Lower Place
news clipping, undated, circa 1966
On August 16, 1866, Elders John Aaron and William [Dick] Smith met by request and previous appointment for the purpose of organizing a church to be known as Bethlehem Baptist Church.

After a sermon by Elder Smith, they read the Articles of Faith, and the church was organized, and her delegates J.M. Hollingsworth, H.T. Britt, and W.R. Morgan were seated at the Columbia Baptist Association held with Antioch East Baptist church, October, 1866.

The pastor for 1866 was John Aaron, clerk was W.R. Morgan, deacons were J.M. Hollingsworth, J.M. Britt, and W.R. Morgan. The church statistics show that there were 19 members, 14 whites and 5 blacks, and that the money spent for all purposes was $2.00 for that year.

It is not recorded, but it is believed that this organization took place in western Union County where there is a small cemetery known as Old Bethlehem Cemetery.

The church was moved to Spotsville Community in 1870. A new building was erected in 1918 and another in 1948. This building was demolished by a cyclone on April 18, 1962, but was immediately restored.

We find that the Columbia Baptist Association met with Bethlehem Baptist Church on October 9, 10, and 11, 1935, with the introductory sermon delivered by Elder Martin Tomlin from I Cor. 14:8. Pastor for the church this year was W.F. Moore, and clerk was J.T. Cheatham, who had the honor of serving this church in this capacity for 40 years. At this session there were 37 churches represented and 4548 members of the Association listed.

As recorded in the annual minutes of the Association, the following ministers have served the church as pastors from 1866 to 1966: Elders John Aaron, L.W. Baker, J. Bishop, G.G. Wise, C.R. Newton, J.D. Waller, J.H. Hughes, J.T. Crawford, J.W. Hudson, L.F. Barnett, A.J. Wharton, T.J. Brasher, J.H. Baker, C.P. McGraw, Alford Worthington, .

Note: Land was transferred to the church on June 17, 1870 from William Wood of New York to J.M. Hollensworth and J.M. Britt, trustees of the Bethlehem Church, Baptist denomination."

According to Curtis Allen, the land transferred was not the land where the church is now located, but was altered in the deeds some 50 years later (or 50 years ago). Curtis Allen also maintained that his grandfather never became a member of the church. Apparently, Dick Allen's understanding with J. M. Hollensworth and J. M. Britt was that the church would be non-denominational, as the Allens were all Methodists. During the actual building of the church, Dick Allen learned this was not the case, and he took his hammer and went home. The Allens continued to attend the Methodist churches at Village and Ebenezer.
*Thanks to Phoebe Sue Allen for sharing her history on these communities & some of the early settlers. Email: phoebezink at gmail.com
[1] Pleasant Grove Church Record Book
[2] Anna Smith Richardson, daughter of Marcus D. Smith and Emaline Williams Smith.
[3] C.E. Smith, son of Marcus D. Smith and Emaline Williams Smith, who quoted the story his mother had told him. He put a marker at the grave.
[4] Original Brazel's Society Records.
[5] Their last child, Lucinda Smith, was born in Arkansas in 1844.
[6] Recorded in Book K, page 45, El Dorado, AR, Union County, Aug. 8, 1863.