THE LONOKE BAPTIST CHURCH-- OUR PAST.
By W.P. Fletcher.
(Read by W.P. Fletcher, Jr in absence of W.P. Fletcher, who was ill at the Breaking of Dirt for the new Church building Sunday afternoon April 6, 1924)
My subject suggests a few events leading up to the organization of our church.
The Caroline Baptist Association was organized at Old Austin (then in Prairie County) about the year 1852 and was named for the political township which received its name from the early settlers who came there from South Carolina.
My brother, J.D. Fletcher and I came to Prairie County (now Lonoke County) in May 1868 and worked for Grandpa Crutcher on a farm of W.H. Eagle now situated on the Lonoke-England Pike about 10 or 12 miles south of Lonoke. There were very little improvements either in the town or surrounding country at that time.
During the summer Eld A.M. Russell, Missionary of Caroline Association, who lived at Jacksonport, Jackson County, Arkansas, preached in the section south of here and assisted by Bros. James P. Eagle, J.M. King and Moses Green organized and built the Richwoods Baptist Church and established a burial ground at what is now known as the Pettus or Weeden Graveyard on the Pettus Place. These faithful Men of God through their untiring efforts brought about a large church organization and great ingathering of souls.
I came to Lonoke in the fall of 1868.
ORGANIZATION OF LONOKE BAPTIST CHURCH.
It was organized by Missionary A.M. Russell, our first pastor, assisted by Bros. James P. Eagle and J.M. King in the school house upon the ground where our present school building is located, in the year 1869 or 1870.
The Council consisted of Bros. James P. Eagle, J.M. King, A.M. Russell and Moses Green.
MEMBERS IN ORGANIZATION.
1-James P. Eagle, 2-Mrs Charity Eagle, 3-W.H. Eagle, 4-R.J. Eagle, 5-Mrs. Linda Eagle, 6-Mrs. Mattie Boyd, 7. A.J. Legate 8-Mrs. A.J. Legate, 9-Henry Haggard, 10- Mrs. Henry Haggard, 11-John Pollock, 12-Mrs John Pollock, 13-Dal Dunnaway, 14-Mrs Sallie Martin and 15-Miss Della Robinson. As I remember 16 in all. I was present but not a member till 1871, about 53 years ago and have been a member since that date.
The first Church Building was erected in 1871 on the South West Corner of Block Twelve (12) Wrights Survey, Lonoke, Arkansas. Our first Parsonage was erected later in the year 1887 on the same block and est of the church building. These buildings were afterwards sold, since then were destroyed by fire. Our second Church Building was erected in 1894 on South east corner of Block Eight, Wrights Survey, Lonoke, Arkansas, the present site of our New Church Building. Brother W.H. Harrison, who is now one of our oldest memebers was the Contractor. this building was destroyed by fire on saturday Februrary 25, 1922 at about 2.30 A.M. Our present Parsonage, located on the Northeast corner of same block was erected during the year 1905 or 1906.
This Church has had pastors who served for full time for a greater number of years than any other Baptist Church in Arkansas. This question was investigated and reported to the Church, the Association and our State Convention several years ago by our lamented brother James P. Eagle. Our first pastor A.M. Russell only served half time.
1- A.M. Russell 2- James P. Eagle
3- J.M. King 4- Harmon
5- M.D. Early 6- J.J. Taylor
7- W.A. Forbes 8. J.D. Fletcher
9- J.B. Perminter 10-J.W. Lipsey
11-O.P. Miles 12-Frank White
13-R.P. Bain 14-J.B. Alexander
15-G.L. Boles 16-B.L. Ayers
17-W.A. Whittle 18-R.A. Eddleman
By request we have sent Councils to different churches with our Association and rendered our assistance in the settlement of disputed and doctrinal questions and have, on many occasions sat in council in the organization of churches, ordination of ministers and deacons.
Since its organization this church has never failed to be represented in every meeting of Caroline Association, practically each year at the State Convention and generally at the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of our members have served on the State Mission Board, Denominational College and other Boards and Committees and have, in many other ways, helped towards the carrying on of the Baptist work in the different departments in our Southland. Brother James P. Eagle was Moderator of Caroline Association for many years. He also served as President both of our State and Southern
Baptist Conventions for years. His influence was felt for good by reason of his great character and the LONOKE BAPTIST CHURCH was known far and wide by reason of her two Governors of the State of Arkansas, James P. Eagle and W.K. Oldham and her other men of State J.J. Doyne Superintendent of Public Instruction, President of the State Normal etc, H.T. Bradford as Commissioner of Mines, Manufacturing and Agriculture and others who have filled positions of honor and trust in political, social and religious activities. Other members of our church have served our Association as Moderator, Clerk, Treasuruer and also being members of the Mission and other Boards which have had the carrying of the work during the session of the Association and the period between the annual meetings of that body. (W.P. Fletcher was Moderator of the Association for thirty years). No wonder the Association has looked upon our church as a leader.
Our Church has done more financially for Caroline Association as a Church and its individual members offerings than all the combined contributions from all the stronger churches of that body and have had a great influence for good not only locally but throughout the bounds of the Association and State. The larger churches in Little Rock which were formerly members of our Assoication (until Pulaski County Association was organized) were only Mission Churches when our Church was going with full time
work and we have seen them grow and even go beyond us and its right and natural that they should by reason of their location and surroundings.