Gum Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church

History - 1852-1952

Written and delivered by Hubert Smith, Sr., 1952

It is rather unique and interesting that while we are this date dedicating the new church building of this community we also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Gum Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

We havenít had a separate congregation at this place for the 100 years but it is true that those of the Cumberland Presbyterian faith of this community did unite with the Searcy Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1852, that church having been organized in 1850 and therefore considered the parent church. But at the same time, due to slow and inconvenient modes of travel in that day, services were held on Sunday afternoons and certain other special occasions in the old log building which stood on this very spot and was used for all public gatherings and also as a public school building. Therefore, Gum Springs Congregation was for nearly 20 years a Wing Church or Congregation of the Searcy Church.

The Search Church was organized July 16, 1850, by Rev. J.P. Wilson and Rev. Alex Stevenson, regularly ordained ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the former of Memphis and the latter of Hopewell Presbytery, Tennessee. The following were charter members of the Search church: R.F. Steele, William Burrow, Job Siddalle, John M. Meek, Phebe A. Steele, Francis E. Burrow, Caroline E. Burrow, Sarah I. Meek, Lucinda Wilks, Livina Siddalle and Pleasant I. Burrow.

The following Preamble was adopted, which I think is quite interesting and contains many well-worded thoughts:

"Whereas the promotion of Religion and Morality is a subject worthy of the consideration and attention of all men, Resolved therefore that we the citizens of Searcy and vicinity, White County, Arkansas, whose names are herewith subscribed and being members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, living within the bounds of White River Presbytery, of said church unite ourselves into church capacity, to be known as the Searcy congregation of the aforesaid church. Resolved furthermore that we bind ourselves to live strictly in accordance with the word of God and discipline of the church; to enforce the precepts thereof; to contribute of our substance for the support of the gospel, as God in His providence may prosper us, and also pray for this Presbytery to take us under her maternal care and supply us with the words and ordinances of Godís House."

By further looking into the records we find more facts pertaining to this particular church, and that the names of many families that some of us remember were added to the church rolls, namely: Clay, Britt, Crisco, Fortner, Wilks, Burrows, Griffin, Holt, Stevenson, Strayhorn, Baldridge, Baldock, Walker and Smith. It was also of special interest to me to find in the records where William and Priscilla Smith and W.B. Walker and Malinda Walker were included in the list and that both couples were members of the same congregation in Tennessee, Mt. Carmel, Fayette County. John W. Holt and W.B. Walker were added to the eldership when their letters were received, the former having been ordained in Tennessee in 1840 and the latter in Tennessee in 1844. When this congregation was made a separate one they also served as elders in the Gum Springs Congregation. We find in the records at a later date the entry of the Booth family who have played such an important role in this church and community. According to the records in 1855, Robert Booth and Minerva Booth, his wife, were received into the church on examination, they being the senior members of the Booth family we have all known so well. A little later many other members of the Booth family cast their lot with this church and community and have continued in an important role in developing the same.

Beginning in the early 1850s, certain lands were purchased for the express purpose of school and church purposes and from time to time certain other lands have been acquired until now it constitutes a total of 7.67 acres. Originally a part of it was designated as school property which is the south part of the tract and adjoining the Gum Spring, and the north part of the tract for church purposes with certain right-of-way privileges so as to have access to the spring. Since the south part of the property is no longer used for school purposes it has been acquired as church property.

It is interesting to find the familiar names of the original Trustees as follows: James Neaville, John H. Humphries, W.B. Walker, John W. Holt and William Smith. You will note that both the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church are represented on this list of Trustees, since this property was originally procured and has continued to be used as joint property of both denominations.

In 1871 plans were laid to build a Church Building, the original log building having become inadequate and outmoded, and the building with which we were all familiar was erected shortly thereafter as a Union (Cumberland Presbyterian and Methodist) Church and was used continuously as such until it was destroyed on March 21 of this year.

The records from the minutes of the Gum Springs Session Book reflect that the following petition was presented to the Presbytery as follows:

"Whereas part of the members of the Searcy Congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church living in the vicinity of Gum Springs petitioned the Presbytery for the organization of a church at Gum Springs from the members of the Searcy congregation, and whereas said Presbytery ordered Rev. R.B. Cavette to organize said congregation and to supply them with monthly preaching for one year."

On Monday September 16, 1872, Rev. D.F. Coffey by request of Bro. Cavette proceeded to organize said membership into a church to be known as Gum Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the following members entered into the organization: W.B. Walker, John W. Holt, Greenwood Booth, W.B. Walker Jr., Mary Holt, Malinda Walker, Joseph A. Walker, James Baldock, Stephen Barnett, Robert Walker, Richard Walker, Elizabeth Barnett, J.W. Trull, James C. Holt, Mary B. Walker, Martha J. Holt, Mavinda Baldock, Lucy C. Holt, Sarah J. Smith, Julia A. Booth, Julia A. Shoffner, Martha J. Archer, Ann Smith, Margaret Fuller, William Smith, Priscilla Smith, A.C. Shoffner, Letha A. Baldock, Annie J. Baldock and Robert Tettleton.

The records are not entirely complete, but with such records as are available reflect that the following pastors have served this congregation since it saw fit to cast its lot with the Search Church and afterwards when it came into its own as follows: Alex Stevenson, Robert Scott Bell, D.P. Coffey, E.W. Edwards, James M. Smith, R.B. Cavette, F.M. Wylie, J.T. Buchanan, Finis M. Wylie, G.H. Weaver, W.T. Sullivan, F.Z. Nesbitt, J.S. Hall, J.M. Russell, J.E. Edwards, W.W. Rudolph, J.L. Price, G.F. Carter, Russell Tatum, W.R. Reid, Mrs. Maybelle Reid, W.C. McConnell, and for the past few years the pulpit has been filled by Miss Esther Marsh, licentiate who has wholeheartedly supported and worked untiringly for the replacement of the church building which we now occupy and which affords us so much pleasure to come to the hour of dedication which section of the service will follow this immediately and as we come to this hour of dedication may we all resolve to re-dedicate our lives for the continue upbuilding of this community that we all love and appreciate, and that a reflection of our lives will not only shine in this community but in the Kingdom of God, is my prayer.

(From the archives of the White County Historical Society, P.O. Box 537, Searcy, AR 72145)