As Mr. McCrosky started this movement, they gave him the pleasure of naming the church – which he called Bethlehem, after his home church back in Tennessee.
They worshipped in this building for about nine years with 14 to 20 in number. They had Sunday School every Sunday with only the Bible as their literature. They were not connected with conference and didn’t have a pastor.
They held their regular mid-week prayer services and I have been told you could often hear shouting at these meetings.
About 1880, the attendance had grown to some 65 members. They purchased two more acres of land and erected a frame building. About this time the church was admitted to the Little Rock Conference and was put on the Austin Circuit, then later the Hickory Plains Circuit and now Woodlawn Circuit.
The first pastor of record was Rev. Doak in the 1880s. Others are: J.K. Glass, B.F. Scott, A.R. Snodgrass, J.R. Rushing, Rev. Hill, J.H. McKelvy, L.M. Powell, E.L. Beard, H.H. McGuire, J.M. Cannon, W.L. Glover, J.P. Plummer, C.B. Davis, V.A. Higgs, J.C. Johnson, W.W. Meres, W.J. Whiteside, Emmett McKay, Charlie Simpson, C.L. Bearden, Orie Thompson, F.C. Cannon, J.W. Martin, Wesley Ruets, J.L. Hoover, Albert Oliver, Robert Vanlandingham, Fred Arnold, Christ Vanzant, Gene Atkins, W.P. Fiser, Herbert Joyner and Ed McCulloch.
By 1916 the church was growing so fast it was necessary to have more room and a better building. When the present building was erected, the roll had grown to over 200 and by 1920 it had almost reached the 400 mark. There were 180 on the Sunday School roll at this time. Joseph D. McCrosky, son of Eligah McCrosky, was superintendent of Sunday School, and S.T. Baugh and Clem Baker were field workers. They were a great help to the Sunday School and the church.
Nine men have gone out from this Sunday School and church into the ministry – John Glover (retired), Rev. Roy E. Fawcett (retired pastor but still serving in the Trinity Church in Little Rock), Herman Genther (deceased), Leroy Tedford (deceased), John Abshure in California, Carlee Lansford, Dewey Rogers (retired), Rev. O.R. B aldwin, nbow pastor of Landmark Baptist Church of Rose City in North Little Rock, and Robert Lewis Moore at Duke University, North Carolina.
Our young people meeting was organized in 1913 and was called the Epworth League, later changed to the Methodist Youth Fellowship. This was carried on until about 1965, the young people now so few. The older people joined them and now we have a Sunday evening program with everyone taking part.
In 1920 we organized what was then known as the Ladies Aid Society. It was carried on until 1940, when it was reorganized as the Woman’s Society of Christian Service. This Society has done much in helping Bethlehem to keep going. There are many phases of its work reaching into the heart of the church, providing spiritual development and leadership.
The fourth Sunday in July each year was the beginning of the Revival meeting. Late in the afternoon you could hear the cluck of the wagons from every direction coming to church. They would always come early for grove meetings. Some of the greatest results were from these grove meetings.
Sometimes when it was real hot, they would build brush arbors and move out in the open for these meetings.
One of the greatest events of the year was the old-fashioned Children’s Day with each child in Sunday School taking part on the program and dinner on the ground.
We still have once a year an all-day meeting (fourth Sunday in May) – our Homecoming and Decoration Day. People who have gone out from Bethlehem to all parts of the United States come home for that day and we still have dinner served on the ground.
The Little Rock District Conference was held at Bethlehem July 21-22-23 in 1920 with Bishop E.D. Muzon and Presiding Elder James Thomas in attendance.
In 1965 the
Woodlawn Circuit consisting of three churches – Smyrna, Providence and Bethlehem – was formed and a new parsonage was built under the direction of Ralph Clayton, then district superintendent.
Mrs. A.B. Tedford was elected secretary of Woodlawn Circuit. She had been secretary of Bethlehem Church for 25 years.
The committeemen whose names are on the plaque at the parsonage are Alfred Tedford (deceased), Wesley Hays and Reece Stewart. In the early 1960s we redecorated our church inside and out. We also purchased a new Hammond organ, which will be a memorial to those who helped to make Bethlehem and have now passed on.
With Church Superintendent Luther Glover, Assistant Superintendent Robert L. Glover, Secretary Mrs. Clifford Duncan and Treasurer Doyne Tedford, we still have hopes of doing great things for the cause of Christ at Bethlehem.
(The author was the daughter of Joseph D. McCrosky, granddaughter of Eligah H. McCrosky, and a member of Bethlehem Church for more than 67 years. She was the second wife of Daniel Wesley (Lane) Smith of Smith County, Tennessee, who moved to Lonoke County, Arkansas, shortly after 1900. He had married Mary Etta Boulton of Smith County in 1891. She died September 19, 1910, of “swamp fever” and was buried in a rural cemetery near Lonoke, Arkansas. Dan remained single for almost 21 years after her death. He was 60 years old and Lela 42 when they married July 12, 1931. It was Lela’s first marriage. Dan died at 78 on May 24, 1949, and was buried near Lonoke but not in the same cemetery where Etta rests. Lela died at 80 on January 1, 1970, and was buried in Salem Cemetery, Lonoke County.)