Winter 1979 - Volume 2 - Number
Powhatan Methodist Church History
By Evelyn and Darlene Flippo
The earliest records of the Methodist Church in Powhatan appear in the Methodist Conference Journals in the year 1858. In 1858 Powhatan was part of the Jacksonport District, Arkansas Conference, with 284 members and four local preachers. William R. Foster was the assigned pastor. In 1859 the Churches were rearranged on the Powhatan Circuit for they reported 181 white members, 49 "probationers," and 13 "colored" members as they were called. From 1860 to 1864 Powhatan was served by pastors F. W. Thacker, J. M. Clayton, Moses C. Morris, and William R. Foster. Records show Powhatan and Pocahontas Station in 1871 with 31 members and T. Robinson as pastor. Tradition has it that the church members met in worship services down on the river front (Black River) No records can be found as to what type of building these worship services were held in. As was the custom in the early days, a log cabin was used for church and school. Perhaps a log buiiding was used for the early Powhatan Methodist Church.
Records from the Arkansas History Commission show the present Powhatan Methodist Church Building was established in 1872. The deed to the property the present building is on dates July 14,1874. On this day John A. Lindsay and Martha A. Lindsay, his wife; Asa T. Lindsay and Sallie W. Lindsay deeded the property for the sum of $10.00 to Champ T. Stuart, Frances M. Wayland, William T. Rainey, Henry T. Wickershaw, and Charles A. Stuart, as Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
Colonel George Thornsburgh, one of the greatest laymen Arkansas Methodism every produced, was superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School at Powhatan around 1890. While living at Powhatan, he practiced law and was identified with every phase of church work, sometimes serving in the absence of the pastor to conduct a funeral. Colonel Thornsburgh served in prominent positions in the Batesville District Conference and the White River Conference and in 1899 assumed the business management of the ARKANSAS METHODIST. Elisha Theodore Wayland, son of Jonathan Wayland for whom Wayland Springs near Imboden was named, followed Thornsburgh as superintendent of the Sunday School and served until 1895.
Powhatan Methodist Church served as the only church in Powhatan up until the mid 1880's. Until that time citizens of all faiths, sinners, and non-sinners attended church at Powhatan. The church was the focal point of the town. Weddings, baptisms, and funerals of outstanding citizens of Powhatan were held in the church. It was also the scene of many quarterly conferences. The church was the setting for the marriages of Clay Sloan and Kitty Matthews and Ethel Maude Matthews and Ashley G. Saffell. The Methodist Missionary Society was an active organization and served the town as well. In 1868 the Powhatan Methodist Church was presented a Bible from the John P. Morton and Company, Louisville, Kentucky. (The Bible is still in the church).
Church members traveled by foot, in wagon, and on horseback to attend church in the Methodist Church. A wooden board walk on the Northwest side of the building led many people up the wooden steps into the church building. Two small cloak rooms on each side of the entrance foyer served to hang cloaks, shoes, and hats. Later these cloak rooms served as Sunday School classrooms. Two antique bronze chandeliers held four coal-oil lanterns and were used to illuminate the church until electricity became available. Two pump organs and a piano provided music for the worship services. Later a church bell was purchased and used to summons the beginning of the worship services. The wooden steps were replaced by cobblestone steps. Except for these latter changes, the Church building appears the same as it did when first constructed.
Some of the early members of the church included B. F. and Mary Matthews, Colonel George and Margaret Thornsburgh, Elisha T. Wayland, E. T. Wayland, F. M. Wayland, Henry T. Wickershaw, George O. and Mary Jung, Charles A. Stuart, Champ T. Stuart, William and Luvenia Matthews, J. R. Wells, Tom Cravens, Ashley and Maude Saffell, Beulah Matthews, Bessie LeMay, Marjorie Rowsey, William T. Wayland, Clay and Kitty Sloan, J. A. Martin, William T. Rainey, Mrs. L. B. Poindexter, and Luther and Ida Belle Flippo.
E. T. Wayland, son of Elisha T. Wayland was appointed Presiding Elder of the Paragould District in 1928 and was able to pastor and hold Quarterly Conference in the church at Powhatan. As the Methodist Church in Arkansas changed in organization the Methodist Church in Powhatan changed its name from Methodist Episcopal Church, South to Powhatan United Methodist Church. This beautiful old building continues to serve the town of Powhatan and Arkansas Methodism with worship services still held in the building. It stands proud as a reminder of the contribution religion played in the rural life of Arkansas.
This article was taken from the Lawrence County
Historical Society Quarterly,Winter 1979, Volume2, Number 1. The information
on this page may be used for historical and genealogical purposes and not
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Jeri Helm Fultz
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