the Center Hill Baptist Church
By ERMA WELCH
White County Historical Society 1962-63 White County Heritage
The Center Hill Baptist Church located 10 miles west of Searcy, just off Highway 36, had its beginning on August 29, 1853, when a group of men and women met in the Union Meeting House located a few feet from the site of the present building and organized a church founded upon the principles, doctrines and precepts of the New Testament as interpreted by Missionary Baptists. The presbytery was composed of two members, Elder James Bell and Elder W. H. Lea. The rules of decorum were read and adopted. Elder James Bell served the church as its first pastor. Sam Critz was the first church clerk and served in the capacity until 1860. The organization started with 34 charter members as follows:
Joshua Wood, Joel S. Redus, Samuel Critz, Willie B. Holland, William Burkett, George W. Lewis, William D. Neal, David, M. Pettus, William Stracener, A. L. Pettus, Lewis A. Clay, James Barnett, James H. Morgan, J.W. Bassham, Seth Morgan, David S. Wood.
Elizabeth Barnett, Mary Wood, Rachel Burkett, Sarah A. Stracener, Susan J. Redus, Nancy A. Critz, Minerva N. H. Critz, Lucinda Holland, Elizabeth Lewis, Sarah Bassham, Nancy Morgan, Mary Ann Walker, Elvira Joslin, Francis Hart, Sarah Noland Sr., Serah Noland Jr., Martha Noland, Polly Stacy.
For a number of years the old Union Meeting House at Center Hill was used for worship service for three denominations of the community -- Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist. In 1861 the Methodists built the church at Smyrna, about three miles east of Center Hill on the Rose Bud road, leaving the old building to the Baptists. It was used by them until 1903 when a new building was erected on the same grounds under the direction of a building committee composed of the following members: H. D. Mullins, Jim Redus, G. M. Crow, J.H. Morgan and Mr. Royston.
Records show there were nine colored members during the 1850s. They are as follows: Bob, servant of Sam Critz; John, servant of Susan J. Redus; Mary, servant of R.C.R. Pettey; Andy, servant of William Grander, Lucinda, servant of William Grander; Charlotte, servant of Sam Critz, Mariah, servant of D. M. Pettus; Sabra, servant of T.W. Hart; Mariah servant of Robert Overy.
The only records available during the Civil Mar period are from April 1863 to September 1864. Only six conference meetings are recorded between 1860 and 1866. The first Sunday School of the body was organized in May 1889 with the following officers: W. H. Welch, Superintendent; H. D. Mullens, Asst. Supt., and E. F. Smith, Secretary.
On November 11, 1951, the church voted in conference to raze the 50-year-old frame building and erect a new modern building. A building committee of seven was elected to make plans. This committee vas composed of the following members: Elder John A. Pettus, Pastor G.H. Hall, W.E. Baker, Mrs. W.E. Baker, C. L. Bradberry, Glen Butler and W.C. Welch. Work was done by donation with Glen Butler, foreman, and C. L. Bradberry, assistant foreman. The new building was dedicated on the first Sunday in June 1953, on the centennial year of its history. Elder Leo A. Causey, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist church in Little Rock delivered the dedicatory sermon.
Following is a list of the pastors during the 110 years of the history of the church:
James Bell, N. P. Moore, John Goard, T. P. Boone, P. W. Stark, R. J. Coleman, J. I. Martin, J. G. Doyle, M. T. Webb, E. Sosebee, J. L. Brown, W. A. Crutchfield, G. S. Gibson, W.E. Sherrill, J. Pendergraft, J. E. Sherrill, J. A. West, C. A. Rogers, G. L. Richardson, A. D. Gray, E. C. Pearrow, Walter Griffin, Floyd Pettus, John A. Pettus, Sidney Cook, Leo A. Causey, Edward Byrd, Franklin Shepherd, Carthel Wyatt and Herman Bonner, the present pastor.