White Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church
Ruby A. Samuel
Through genealogical research on family lineages it is an established fact that White Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church was in existence in the year of 1868. Newspaper accounts of birthday celebrations, obituaries and memorials of members substantiate this fact.
Such records have been preserved by the late Miss Sarena Clark, daughter of Squire (Billy) W.J. Clark who is said to have given the name De Ann to the community where the White Oak Grove Church was organized some hundred years ago.
It was though however, by one of the early members who is now deceased, that this church was organized in 1848, and that the first building of worship was a log cabin with split logs covering the dirt floor.
After several weeks of research and a thorough search of Hempstead County Court records, it was found that the deed for White Oak Grove Baptist Church was recorded September 27, 1872. The Church Trustees purchasing this property were Willis Ray and Woodson T. Harris and the land was bough from Mr. John C. Clark and wife, Elizabeth T., for the sum of one dollar. Stamps and seal were affixed to show that money was passed for the property. Evidently the deed has been lost and only the Court records remain as proof.
The cemetery land, which is also considered the White Oak Grove Baptist Church property, was purchased from William H. Carruth and wife, Mary A. Carruth in 1872, and the Trustees to whom this deed was made were Willis Ray and John C. Clark. This deed also has seal and stamps affixed but had not been recorded. After ninety-six years, the deed was recorded on September 4, 1968.
From the memory of an early member it was recalled that likely the first pastor, or among the first preachers to serve as pastor of this church was Elder England, and the following are thought to be some of the charter members:
John Clark and wife, Elizabeth T.
Willis Ray and wife
George B. Terry and wife, Elizabeth
Jasper Breed and wife
Will Clark and wife, Dee Anna
Woodson T. Harris and wife, and
Harriet Brazille King Samuel
According to the memory of the same member, the first deacons were Mr. Johnie Clark, Jasper Breed, Will Clark, Willis Ray and Woodson T. Harris.
A record dated 1875 states that White Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church is strictly Misssionary in Principle and Baptistic in Doctrine in keeping with the principle set forth by our Land in the New Testament when he established His Church.
The rules of Decorum are found listed in the Church Roll Book as follows:
Article 1. First the officers of the church shall consist of Moderator, Deacons, Clerk, Clerk Assistant and Treasurer; each of which shall perform such duties as are usually performed in similar offices in all well regulated organization.
Article 2. Second, Order of Business:
1. Inquire into the state of the church
2. Invite visiting brethren to sit in council
3. Extend an opportunity for membership
4.Read and adopt minutes of previous conferences
5.Dispose of references
6.Calls for acknowledgements
7. Matters of dealing in gospel order
8. Miscellaneous business
Article 3. Third, any brother making a move, or speaking in the debate shall rise from his seat and address the moderator and shall not be interrupted while speaking until he departs from the subject or uses unbecoming language.
Article 4. Fourth, no member shall be allowed to speak on the same subject more than once without leave of the body except the mover and shall not until all have spoken who desire to speak on the subject. No one shall worry the church with lengthy speeches.
Article 5. A motion having been seconded shall be taken up unless withdrawn by the mover.
Article 6. Any male member failing to attend a regular stated meeting of the Church without an excuse shall be marked as absent and failing three such meetings in succession shall be cited to show for such absences.
Article 7. Private offences shall be treated as our Savior has taught us in the 18th chapter of Matthew.
Article 8. Public transgressions receive public acknowledgement.
The earliest known record, according to the Roll Book states that Mr. J. J. O’Steen was elected to serve as Church Clerk in 1875. Then there is a lapse of twenty years, up to the year of 1895, before minutes are recorded. It is logical to presume that prior to the date all records have been lost.
In 1895, the minutes list Elder C. T. Wilson as pastor and the church as having Saturday and Sunday worship service regularly each week. The records show the church was active by regular elections of delegates to Associations, District meetings and Fifth Sunday meetings.
The members were actively supporting Home Missions, Foreign Missions, Orphans Home, Associational High School, Minute Fund and the pastor’s salary.
Either the church had not previously sponsored a Sunday School before 1897 or this type of worship had ceased to function because on Sunday, April 25, 1897, the church agreed in conference to begin a Sunday School. The collection for literature was one dollar. At this time the membership totaled around seventy.
During the year of 1897, this church elected one of its members to serve as Trustee of the Baptist High School located at Bodcaw, Arkansas. This Trustee was to represent this association. Elder M. D. Armstrong was pastor during this period.
It is evident from the records that the church was having protracted meetings from one to two weeks annually, and August was the favored month. This practice was due to the fact that in this farming area, crops were “laid by” and Harvest was not begun until after August.
In 1898, the minutes mention for the first time that the church had taken or observed the Lord’s Supper. However, there are numerous accounts of individuals joining the church and Baptismal Services at the water’s edge.
Beginning in 1900, the minutes are faily complete and at the time there was a movement to improve and ceil the church building. A collection was taken for this purpose with nineteen dollars as a result. Members gave a note to Hope Lumber Company for $33.00, payable in ninety days at 10% interest. Thirty-three hundred feet of dressed lumber was purchased for $33.00 and a keg of a hundred pounds of nails for $3.25. The project was complete.
It is presumed that this improved building was the second house of worship to have been built in the grove of large white oak trees. It is logical to believe that the name, White Oak Grove, preceding Missionary Baptist Church, originated from these trees.
During this period the church was very strict, both with its members and officers; there was a great deal of public acknowledgment, dismissals accounts of fellowship being withdrawn and absenteeism being looked into concerning individuals. Church members who participated in intoxicating, drinking, dancing, breaking the Sabbath, or using profane language were visited by a Committee. This group adhered to a strict dose of behavior, in church and out of church.
The year 1903 records the first set salary of $50.00 being paid to the pastor for the full year. In 1904, the salary was raised to $75.00. An organ was purchased for the church, and in 1905, new benches were built at a cost of seven dollars. During this same year a pastor was called for half time with an agreement to pay the sum of $150.00 for his salary.
Elder J. W. Brockman served as pastor from 1904 to 1908, after which Elder M. D. Armstrong again served for the next two years; then Elder Brockman again served.
In February of 1910, the matter of building a new church house was discussed in conference. A committee was elected to build during the summer. This project was completed by December of the same year. The carpenter was W. E. Samuel and the cost of the new church was $486.05. A committee had been selected to dispose of the old church, which was sold for $35.50. A committee of six ladies, who had comprised a part of the financial committee, was retained to raise money and purchase two large lamps for the new church.
In 1911, this church with Elder J. H. Brockman as pastor, and in conference adopted a church covenant. Elder T. H. Carter preached during a few services after Elder Brockman resigned due to poor health, then the church called Elder T. L. Epton who served in this capacity off and on for nineteen years.
In 1912 the church met and in conference appointed Brothers W. J. Clark, T. J. Hartsfield, and J. E. Chambless to aid the Clerk in transferring the Church Roll from the old record to the new book. A motion was made to have the church Covenant read each quarter. Throughout the entire records the church seems to be having difficulty in determining the correct membership. So many pages have been deleted from the Roll Book; it is impossible for the writer to make any kind of estimate.
Again there is a lapse of time; five years to be exact, in the recording of the minutes, or these records have been lost. In the year 1919, Elder Ben J. Smith was pasturing this church and Brother A. M. Clark was serving as Church Clerk. Before the year had come to a close, Elder D. N. Jackson was called by unanimous vote as pastor for the balance of the year. A collection of $29.50 was sent to the Baptist College in Sheridan, Arkansas; State Missionary Elder S. C. Sweeny was given $4.75, and $3.90 was collected for other missions. During this period the church had gone from coal oil and Coleman lamps to a Colt-carbide system at a cost of $76.48.
By 1922, the church had agreed in conference to select three additional deacons; those chosen were Brothers T. T. Wilson, J. M. Arnold and G. S. Samuel. Brother J. W. Boyett was elected to serve as spokesman in the ordination service of said deacons.
Also during this same year this church endorsed Brother Davis as manager of the Baptist Orphanage in Texarkana and pledged her support.
It is evident that White Oak Grove Baptist Church sponsored a Bible School beginning December 25, 1922. A committee was appointed in conference, to furnish notices of the Bible study to the county papers. The same committee was instructed to meet trains and entertain all those who attended.
A committee was appointed to council with churches at Sweet Home and Union Grove in 1923.
An outstanding event of the year 1924 was the ordination service of Elder L. R. Samuel whose ordination had been requested by Battlefield Baptist Church. This service took place in February with Elders Winters and Barham assisting.
During the protracted meeting in 1924, twenty-six joined this church in view of Baptism and eight joined by letter. Elder T. L. Epton was pastor at this time.
A large number of ministers were invited to preach at White Oak Grove during the 1920’s. Several were student preachers from Sheridan Baptist College. Among these were Elders O. C. Miller, C. M. Miller, L. Shoptaw and Kelly.
The Austin Bible Class from Hope, Arkansas, worshiped with this church January 1926.
By 1927 the pastor’s salary had risen to $300.00 annually. The Orphan Home, under the leadership of Brother Ritcherson had presented a program at the church and a collection of $63.90 was taken for them.
This church wanted to go on record in 1928 as having a Bible discussion each month. Brother Elbert O’Steen was elected to arrange the first program. Later, in the same year, the church agreed in conference to buy a piano if funds could be raised to purchase the instrument. A few months later this group voted to sell the old church organ to the Battlefield Baptist Church.
It is noted that White Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church went on record as taking a firm stand on liquor question during this era.
In conference they voted to oppose any change or alteration of the 18th Amendment. Ministers and churches were actively supporting the crusade to prevent open sale of whiskey in this county and state. This church endorsed the stand the Religious Press was taking in the publication of the Baptist and Commoner, The Arkansas Baptist Advance, and the Arkansas Methodist.
Messengers were elected to represent this church when a prohibition meeting was held in Hope, Arkansas at the City Hall. During the long, hard struggle concerning the repeal of the 18th Amendment, commonly called the prohibition law, this church never wavered in her stand. Members recall the “civil-war” on a miniature scale, when this church waged her battle against the bordering community to prevent the sale of liquor. Although it was kinsman against kinsman, White Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church stood against great opposition. Out of the situation great the practice of taking a ballot to the old and the infirm of the community during an election. Their vote was needed to keep whiskey out of the county.
But times were changing and at the rapid pace it was going, the church was soon to feel a new code of ethics practiced among its group. Members were less strict concerning church rules and very soon a depression was on. The church was meeting regularly and having conference, preaching services and protracted meetings but the minutes list very few new members. The church was having difficulty in raising money for the pastor’s salary.
In 1931 the church voted in conference to liberate Elder M. P. Timberlake to preach the gospel. Elder Timberlake had joined White Oak Grove in view of a letter from Abeline Baptist church the previous week.
Most of the minutes throughout the twenties and thirties followed very nearly the same pattern; the church convened in conference, elected messengers to the various associations and meetings; held protracted meetings and had baptismal services. There are statistics concerning the number who united with the church, those dismissed by letter and those visited by a committee. White Oak Grove had a large share in entertaining the various associations and meetings and a lion share in spreading “dinners on the ground” which was usually a two day affair.
In 1932 the church agreed in conference to adopt a resolution extending the right for preaching service to be held in the home of Dr. Wood who was an active member. Dr. Wood lived some four or more miles away in an area called the Chambless Community and this community was being extended an arm of the church by White Oak Grove.
Elders W. Rister, Bracy and D. M. Samuel preached a series of sermons there and forty-three joined the church in view of baptism. This resulted in and was the origin of Hickory Shade Baptist Church, which organized soon after this revival. Hickory Shade Church is now extinct.
In 1935 the writer finds, according to the minutes, that White Oak Grove Church has again extended an arm to a bordering community called Strouds Chapel where Elder Clarence Ross was preaching. No record was found of another organized church branching off from the main body so this could well be one reason why White Oak Grove has many members whose where-abouts are unknown.
During 1936, Brother A. M. Clark was again serving as Church Clerk in which capacity he remained for the next five years. May individuals, both men and women, had served as church clerks but it is thought that Brother J. H. O’Steen and Brother A. M. Clark served for the greatest period of time and in that order.
The outstanding service of 1939 was the ordination service of Elder Noel O’Steen. The brother of Noel, Elder W. Elbert O’ Steen delivered the sermon. Elder E. S. Ray led in questioning the candidate, Bro. F. E. Hartsfield offered the prayers, and Elder L. R. Samuel presented the Bible and delivered the charge to the candidate. Elder Delbert Garrett delivered the charge to the church, and brother C. M. Burke was spokesman.
Throughout the forties, church service was moved from the first and third Sundays to the second and fourth, and back again; sometimes having afternoon services rather than morning due to the convenience of the pastor and on cooperation with the near-by church. The minutes followed very closely the same pattern.
During the latter part of 1947 a committee from this church raised money to buy a loudspeaker to be used by associational missionary Elder Noel O’Steen. Prayer meeting was being held regularly each week.
A resolution was adopted by the church to take a stand in preventing the desecration of Sabbath by playing baseball on Sunday and instructed its members to regrain from taking part in such practice.
In 1948 a commit of three was appointed to see about new benches for the church. Pastor Noel O’Steen and Charlie Smith build the pews and the old benches were stored in the vacant schoolhouse nearby.
The Church Roll records a membership of 186 in 1949, but the exodus from the rural community to the urban center had begun and a large number throughout the following years called for their letters to be transferred to other churches.
In 1951 a motion was made in conference to set aside the first Sunday in each month for regular church conference. Church Officers and Sunday School Officers were being elected annually. However, regular Saturday night service had long ago been discontinued.
In 1954, the annual Revival was postponed from August until September in order for Elder Suskey, who was a converted Jew, to preach the sermons.
A Bible Training Course was organized in 1955, and new songbooks were purchased.
The matter of building a new church, or repairing the old one, was being discussed in conference. Finally it was agreed that September 4, 1955, be set aside for a building fund collection.
With the exception of one deacon, Elder B. M. Samuel, the others had passed away, so the church elected five additional deacons in 1957. This Ordination Service was held November 3rd of that year.
Interest was revived in building a new house of worship and a committee was appointed to adopt plans for the structure. A collection was taken for the building, which totaled $3,500.00. The old building was torn down and the new one was ready for worship services in 1958. Elder J. A. Brewer was pasturing was pasturing the church at this time.
For the next several years the minutes again follow a very similar pattern with associational letters, delegates, elected to associations, calling a pastor and electing church and Sunday School officers.
The new church was again painted in 1961, and in 1964 this church, by means of a resolution and approved in conference, went on record as opposing integration of the races. Also in 1964, certain members signed a Quitclaim deed releasing Liberty Missionary Baptist Church’s property from the White Oak Grove Baptist Church. This procedure was necessary because Liberty Church had made White Oak Grove a co-owner in case the newly organized Liberty needed a loan to complete their building.
In 1966 White Oak Grove Baptist Church had come a long way from the small log cabin to the attractive pinepaneled building with two Sunday School rooms. Now air conditioners were being installed to cool the building and a butane gas heating system had been installed when the church was newly build in 1958.
Records were not found which mentioned other than the two ordination services as stated in the Church History but it is recalled from the memory of many members that Brother T. J. Harsfield, Sr. and Mr. J. J. O’Steen were active deacons during the early years. Also Brother C. B. O’Steen was named in the ordination service.
At the present time, 1968, the membership of DeAnn White Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church totals 122; deacons are T. J. Hartsfield, Jr., J. D. Reynolds, Richard Arnold, Herbert Chambless, Monroe Samuel and Devon Samuels.
The pastor is Elder Neal Calley and church services are held the first and third Sunday of each month.
A special thanks goes out to Bro. Thomas Burke and Sis. Kaley Orr. Bro. Burke helped provide us with the information on our church history and Sis. Orr helped by taking the time to type it up for us. Thanks to the both of you!