When Kara Haile Spence, a director of the White County Historical Society, was cleaning out old files at St. Paul United Methodist church in Searcy in the spring of 2002, she found the following newspaper article. The date, author and publication are unknown but the “present pastor” mentioned, T.C. Chambliss, served the congregation in 1923-24 and again in 1938.
The early settlers of that part of White County known as Searcy Valley brought with them profound religious convictions as well as a keen appreciation of the importance of making the church the center of the community life. The first half of the 19th century was so sparsely settled it was necessary to erect buildings for Union Religious purposes. The first building of this kind of which we have any record was located a mile northeast of what is now known as Center Hill. For many years the Baptists occupied it one Sunday, the Presbyterians one, the Methodists one, and the fourth in each month was open for those of other religious beliefs. Good fellowship prevailed until one Sunday in the year 1856, at the close of a good revival a certain preacher undertook to air his own particular religious views and doctrines, attempting as far as he could to shut the door of hope to the Heavenly Home to all others who did not think and practice as he. When the benediction was announced, closing this particular service, a certain man, with clear voice and determined purpose called all Methodists to meet him immediately at the north door of the building in which they had just been holding service. They came promptly and the first thing this particular man said was “I think it is time, brethren, for all of the Methodists to swarm.” Thereupon, a public subscription was taken, forming the nucleus for the erection of a new church, afterwards called Smyrna. Those present, contributing, as far as we can learn, were T.B. King Sr., Joe Grammer, William C. Pettey, Douglas Armstrong, James Haney, T.B. Ellis, Tom Key, William T. Dowdy, John Herrington, Albert Gilliam, John J. Peebles, Nelson Black, William Irwin, W.T. Key and others. The location of Smyrna church was a very happy one, about halfway between Joy Mountain and Searcy, which was at that time only a mere village.
In addition to the cash subscriptions the people gave liberally of their time towards the construction of the building, which was completed and dedicated in 1857.
For about a half a century, it was known as Smyrna circuit, there being joined to it from one to six other churches. During that period of time it commanded some of the outstanding preachers of the White River conference, such as John W. Boswell, R.G. Brittain, George A. Dannelly, J.M. Talkington, Z.T. Bennett, Dr. John H. Dye. It is now a part of the West Searcy charge, Rev. T.C. Chambliss is the present pastor. Dr. Bennett was called to preach while a member of this church and quarterly conference records show that he received his license to preach by the official board of Smyrna. This church has stood as a bulwark of strength for better Christian living for over 80 years and remains yet a gathering place for religious service in that community. Many of the original donors and early settlers are sleeping in the graveyard near it. After the passing of the early members of this church, the responsibility fell on such men as G.W. Dobbins, T.B. King Jr., who still live in the community, and many other such men.
A good Sunday school was maintained under the superintendency of Miss Euna Dobbins and others. vvv