written by Helen Harrison
(see note at end by Ken Parker!)
The present Presbyterian-Methodist-Baptist church at Antioch, located on Hwy.
31, 5 miles northwest of Beebe, is a product of several churches in the past.
The Presbyterian Church is the oldest active group conducting services in almost
the same location.
Tornadoes & fires have played havoc with local church records & only one sheet of the Cumberland Presbyterian "Minutes of Session" dated Oct. 25, 1890, is available. In this meeting Bro. Jas. Wortham & wife were taken into the church by "letters of dismission & recommendation". The session agreed that "we take up a collection the following Sunday for ministerial relief" & adjourned with prayer by Bro. Jno. H. Moore. It is signed by J. E. Martin, Moderator, and Dr. W. A. Smith, Clerk. On the back is another "Minutes of the Session" dated Mar. 21, 1891, in which Rev. J. E. Martin & Elders, Nolin, Kipper, Moore, Jenkins, Price, & Smith are listed as present. This is signed by J. E. Martin, Moderator, and W. M. Smith, Clerk.
The oldest documented record is in Deed Book D, page 370, recorded Aug. 19, 1881, at the White Co. courthouse. "From William Gwinn to Deacons of Missionary Baptist Church & Church of Christ, for $5, one acre of the SW 1/4 of NE 1/4 of Section 24, Township 6 North, Range 9 West, for building a Union Church. Conditions: Baptists to have 1st & 2nd Lord's day in each month with Saturdays before."
Another deed was recorded Aug. 25, 1877... "From William Gwinn to J. P. Russell & others (J. P. Russell, E. P. Skinner, J. A. Pemberton) trustees of the Searcy Presbyterian Church & their successors, 9.13 ac. for the consideration of $45. Deed book DD, pages 590-591.
A clipping, first printed in 1928 & reprinted in The Beebe News Mar. 10, 1949, states that Rev. J. E. Martin had been pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for 40 years. From interviews with Mr. & Mrs. Alva Gilliland, Mr. & Mrs. Tommy Liles, Mr. Ed Gasaway, Mrs. Dollie Belew, Mrs. Fannie Akin, Mrs. Effie Harrison & Mr. & Mrs. Jim Mash, the following information has been screened, and verified by drawings from A. P. Strother's Abstract Office.
The first church was a log structure across the road & a few hundred yards behind the present store (near the old gin site) and was built on the 9.13 ac of the land owned by the Presbyterians. This church was called Macedonia. The old part of the Antioch Cemetery is also a part of that plat.
Although the deeds read so, the older citizens of the community do not refer to the Church of Christ as such. Always in their conversation it is referred to as the "Christian Church" or the "Campellite" Church. They are pretty correct. A number of years ago the Christian Church & the Church of Christ were one. Later, the Christian Church was established as a separate denomination.
The first recording of a Methodist Church in the community is found in Deed Book 69, page 466, and was recorded April 13, 1901. The above documentation reads: J. H. Moore & Lucrecy Moore, his wife, to A. M. C. Moore, A. N. Nelson, P. Y. Bomar, N. Y. Smothers & J. H. Moore, Trustees of the Free Methodist Church, 1 square acre in the SE corner of SE 1/4 of Sec. 13, Township 6 North, Range 9, West. (This is erroneously called a Baptist church in a brief history reprinted Mar. 10, 1949, and places the date of construction 1881 - the same year that the Baptis & Church of Christ was established.
The church, known as Mt. Zion, was located directly across the road from Tommy Liles, who is 80 years old. He said the Free Methodist had held services there as far back as he could remember & were still holding services there after he was married. The church was later torn away & a Methodist Church South established at Bartlett Springs by a Mr. Wyatt, who owned property at the time. Some of the Free Methodist joined the Nazerene Church in Beebe, but others held services for a time in the Wyatt building. Wrecked by time & winds, it too, was finally torn away.
The church that was destroyed by fire in 1927 was a two-story structure with a somewhat mixed ownership. It had been started in the late 1800's on the first one acre of ground deeded to the Missionary Baptist Church & the Church of Christ after the Presbyterian USA claimed the part of the 9.13 ac. not included in the cemetery.
According to Mr. Gilliland, the church building was started by the Christian & Presbyterian Church & built a church approximately 1/2 mile north at the next cross-roads. It was damaged by a tornado, but services were held there until 1926.
In 1902 the Missionary Baptist Church inactive & the Baptist Church separated itself from the Presbyterian Church & built a church approximately 1/2 mile north at the next cross-roads. It was damaged by a tornado, but services were held there until 1926.
With the Christian Church inactive & the Baptist Church withdrawal, only the Presbyterians were left. The Methodist church members had been attending the services, but owned no part of it until Nov. 4, 1920, when the trustees, J. B. Gilliland, J. C. Williams, and A. P. Price paid to J. W. Peterson & his wife, Arvie, $100 for the Church of Christ 1/3 undivided interest & to 1 acre in SW 1/4 of NE 1/4 of Section 24, Township 6 North, Range 9 West. (Deed book 119, page 531).
On the Sandy Ford road, near the Clint White place, there was another Methodist Church called Grace Church. When the church was established is unknown, but Mrs. Gilliland's mother attended services there when she was growing up. Grace Church was wrecked in 1912 & the members had also come to the larger church.
When the two-story structure burned (1927) a movement for a community church was sponsored by several community leaders. The churches joined forces & individual contributions totaled approx. $4,000. Anothe $500 was contributed from persons outside the community. The old Baptist building was sold & the money added to the fund. (A sizable building fund for 1927.) A community church with 3 distinct denominations was erected in the fall of 1927. Dedication services were set for April 29, 1928, but were postponed because of a smallpox epidemic.
The respective pastors at the time of the dedication were: Methodist - Rev. Silas Russell of Ward, Baptist - Rev. J. K. Jackson of Butlerville, Presbyterian - Rev. John E. Martin of Austin. At the time there were 120 enrolled in the Methodist Church, 60 members of the Baptist Church, and 60 members of the Presbyterian Church.
The Maple Springs Presbyterian Church organized in the 1880s consolidated with the community church in 1929.
Excerpts from the Beebe News, Mar. 10, 1949 follow:
"The Antioch Union (sic) Church located approximately 6 miles northwest of this city was completely destroyed by fire last Saturday near noon when a grass fire spread to the church & it is undestood that the shingles ignited, which spread to the rest of the church & it is understood that the shingles ignited, which spread to the rest of the church. The fire continued to spread after the church fire & it was only by the passing of several persons through from Floyd and their quick work that the A. T. Liles store & gin nearby were saved from destruction.
Services were held in the Antioch School last Sunday, and at that time donations amounting to approx. $2,500 were given toward the rebuilding of the structure."
These faithful & determined people had been faced with this situation before. Other contributions were made & work on the present church were soon completed.
It is a stone structure built on the same site. It even has the same "T" shape except the main entrance is in the north center. The previous building was entered from the north by the right & left wings.
Now, 1967, 40 years after the consolidation, the 3 denominations still work loyally together yet retain a separate identity.
On the first Sunday of each month the Baptists have their pastor, Rev. Verl Johnson of Beebe.
On the second & fourth Sundays the pulpit is filled by Rev. Harry Price who lives in the Methodist parsonage at Antioch.
The Presbyterian pastor is Rev. H. M. Yandell of Pine Bluff, and delivers the 3rd Sunday message as he has for 15 years. When weather conditions, "etc." prevent Rev. Yandell from coming, Rev. Verl Johnson substitutes.
In Antioch, as in all rural communities, the changing trend has taken many people from the farm to seek employment elsewhere. From the community have gone many preachers, teachers, nurses, workers & supervisors in the Dept. of Agriculture, and many more worthwhile professions. The school, once the center for sports, holiday parties, club and community meetings, has consolidated with Beebe.
Twenty years ago the average church attendance was 100. It dropped 25% with only 15 active Presbyterian members. It is not because people are less interested. There just aren't as many living in the community & not as many young people to take the place of the older ones who have passed on.
To keep from making this too detailed only the transactions that brought the churches together have been recorded. The following is a drawing of the orig. plat & the numerous transactions that were necessary to secure a clear & binding title. (drawing was included)
Deed records of White Co., Ark.
Vol. DD - page 590 - Warrenty Deed - from W. M. Gwinn - to J. P. Russell, E. J. Jenkins, J. A. Pemberton, Trustees for Searcy Presbytery of Cumberland Church - 9.13 ac. #1 on plat. (dated June 6, 1877)
Vol. MM - page 370 - Aug. 19, 1881 - Warrenty Deed - from W. M. Gwinn to Deacons of Missionary Baptist Church & Church of Christ. #2 on plat.
Vol. 119 - page 531 - Nov. 4, 1920 - Warrenty Deed - from J. W. Peterson, Etux. sole survivor, Treasurer of Church of Christ - to Methodist Episcopal Church south, J. B. Gilliland, J. C. Williams & A. P. Rice. Undivided 1/3 interest in #2.
Vol. 139 - page 179 - Dec. 5, 1927 - Warrenty Deed - A. C. Webb, R. N. Harrison, J. G. Mash, J. R. Pruitt, J. F. Phillips & M. S. Webb, Elders of Antioch Congregation Church South - to Missionary Baptist Church of Antioch. Undivided 1/3 interest in #1A.
Vol. 139 - page 178 - Dec. 5, 1927 - Warrenty Deed from same group as Vol. 139 - page 179 - to Antioch Methodist Episcopal Church South, J. B. Gilliland, J. C. Williams & J. F. Cable, Trustees. Undivided 1/3 interest in #1A.
Vol. 149 - page 420 - Jan. 15, 1935 - Warrenty Deed - from Commissioners of Little Rock Burrow Presbyterian Church, O. D. Mullins, J. D. Hudson, & M. L. Benson - to Antioch Baptist Church, Antioch Cumberland Presbyterian Church & Antioch Methodist Church. #1A corrected & #1B.
Vol. 151 - page 203 - Oct. 18, 1935 - Warrenty Deed - from C. B. White, Etux. - to Methodist Episcopal Church South, J. C. Williams, J. A. Gilliland & Rola Belew. 1 square acre - East of road & south of church lot.
Vol. 169 - page 580 - April 28, 1944 - Warranty Deed - from A. T. Liles - to H. E. Talkington, Trustee of Community Church. All NW, NE, W of Beebe-Antioch Road.
Vol. 247 - page 281 - June 29, 1958 - Warrenty Deed - from V. O. Washburn, Etux. - to Earl Liles, E. L. McCall, Trustees of Antioch Community Church. #3.
ADDED NOTE FROM KEN PARKER!
In your history of Antioch churches, there is a mention of a Grace Methodist Church and the comment that its history is not known. I don't know if it is the same church, but my great-grandfather, Samuel Anthony Hutchison (who is buried in Antioch Cemetery), started a nondenominational church called Grace Church in 1889. I am told it was located two miles west of Antioch.
Samuel Anthony Hutchison felt when he was 19 years old that he had been called to preach, but he decided to become a teacher instead. When he was 50 years old, he attended the baptism of three of his children and, at that time, rededicated his life and started Grace Church.
It was also said of him that he could shout louder in church on Sunday and swear louder in the field on Monday than any man in the county!