Bradley County Churches, Hickory Springs Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and Cemetery

Bradley County, Arkansas Churches

Hickory Springs Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and Cemetery

Hickory Springs A. R. P. Church Sign

Hickory Springs A. R. P. Cemetery and Church

Photos courtesy of Nora Johnson

History submitted by Vicki Patrick by permission of Wilmot Green, an elder at the church.


The Hickory Springs Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church was formally organized in 1859 by Rev. J. M. Brown with 15 members. However, persons who organized the church began meeting for worship soon after their arrival in 1853 from Neely’s Creek in York County, South Carolina, in a log house across the road from the entrance to this church known as the Stewart Place. This is why in 1953 we claimed it as our 100th anniversary. However, the first actual record in our old church book reads as follows: “The first sermon preached at Hickory Springs was by Rev. Thomas D. Davis in May 1858.” The name Hickory Springs was chosen because there was a good spring nearby, encased in a section of a large hickory tree. This was located under what is now the paved highway where the culvert is found directly west of the church. In 1860 a small log church was erected during the latter part of 1859. Six more members were received during the Civil War years, and until 1867, the church was without a pastor, but it appears there was some growth in members even then. In 1868 Rev. John Wilson began preaching once a month and membership grew to about 48, and by the end of 1871, there were close to 75 members.

During the next 8 years, a few members were dropped and dismissed by certificate, but it appears they neared the 100 mark. Under date of June 3, 1879, we find in an old record book this simple notation “New Church Dedicated.” Some of the names known that worked on this church and helped in the making of the hand-hewn pews were T. L. Brown, Elder, whose son Webb Brown was an Elder until his death March 10 __; Dunham Leslie, whose son Dr. Hunter Leslie is an elder of the Monticello, Arkansas, ARP Church; Barnett Leslie; and I. D. McFadden, who was Clerk of the Session for approximately 20 years. This building was occupied until August, 1952, when it was torn down and began building a new one.

From 1879 until the next 18 years, the records as to the membership are not clear, but it seems a safe estimate from then that it reached the 175 mark, but at the turn of the century, the old timers were rapidly passing to their reward. Transportation was slow and difficult then and not what it is today. Some had moved too far away to come to church, and the younger ones of those left were scattering to other places, so a decline in membership began. This trend was not reversed until some 12 or 13 years ago. Now we have about 45 very active and working members and some 30 that might be classified as inactive as well as a number of friends who work and worship with us. To those ministers who have helped us in this revived interest, we want to give tribute: the late beloved Dr. J. R. Edwards, Rev. J. Calvin Smith, Rev. G. A. McPherson from the Warren Presbyterian Church, and Rev. W. F. Mitchell. On August 11, 1952, workmen began tearing down the old church that had served us so faithfully for the past 70 years, to start making room for the new church building. Work on the new building began on August 18, 1952. The men of the church and our good neighbors turned out in a goodly number nearly every day during the wrecking of the old church and the construction of the new building. The building committee consisted of Rufus Green, James H. Leslie, Will Lathan, and J. L. Leslie. The building fund was started some few years before the new church was thought of as being an actual reality. The first Sabbath of each month was set aside as building fund day. There was a total of $7,245.00 paid out for labor and materials; labor and materials donated and the lumber salvaged from the old church added to this makes a total value of the new church building $11,035.00. The Southern and Bradley Lumber Companies were very generous with their gifts of materials and money. People from all over the county and state sent us love gifts, and former members all over the U. S. sent us love gifts.

During the rebuilding of the new church, we had tent services, and our attendance was excellent during this time. One member passed away during the construction of the new church, and his funeral services were held in this tent. We had an outstanding indebtedness of $1,350 remaining to be paid when the church was completed, but within a short time, this was paid. More of our good friends and our church members and former members and their children sent in love gifts of money.

We have a modern frame building that will seat 275 people. The kitchen is fully equipped. There is a combination classroom-dining room and two additional classrooms.

The first wedding in our church was held on July 23, 1953. Rev. W. F. Mitchell united Thelma Chambers and Wilmot Green in holy matrimony. Wilmot is the son of elder Rufus Green.

The first funeral held was that of one of the building committee, Mr. Will Lathan, deacon. The church was not completely finished. This was held on October 18, 1952.

The new Hickory Springs ARP Church was dedicated on Sabbath Day, March 15, 1953. The building was presented by Deacon Samuel McFadden Leslie, and the dedicatory prayer was by Rev. W. F. Mitchell. The Rev. J. Calvin Smith read the scripture and delivered the sermon. Special music was by Mr. James H. Leslie, soloist; Ray Shipley, violinist, and Margaret Edwards, soloist, and a daughter of the late Dr. J. R. Edwards.

A note-burning service was held by the Rev. W. F. Mitchell, Minister. The note was presented to Mr. Mitchell for burning by Jess Shipley, representing the board of deacons, and Samuel McFadden Leslie, another deacon, lighted the fire.

The Hickory Springs Church has adopted the New Life Movement Program insofar as possible and has always taken a part in all of the A.R.P. Programs and interests. It has a young people’s society and a small Jr. Society and a Ladies Missionary Society, which is very active. The Journal is available to each member of the Society, and the A. R. Presbyterian is in most every home. During the past several years, we have had delegates to the spring and fall Presbytery, and we have also been represented at the Mississippi Valley Presbyteries and on several occasions attended the Synodical Union Meeting.

In the spire of the church is an old locomotive bell that was donated by the Missouri Pacific Railroad. This bell calls the people of the community to worship.

After the completion of the new church and all bills paid, it was decided to obtain new pews. We now have memorial pews, all paid for. These pews were given in memory of dear, departed loved ones, or as living memorials to families. Each pew has a small brass marker on it. The church has also purchased a new pulpit, Bible, a new Baptismal Cup, which was given by the former minister, Rev. W. F. Mitchell. Two dozen new Bible song books and an extra communion tray with cups, and has recently air conditioned the sanctuary. We have received several love offerings on this, and a check of $100 was received from Mrs. Hattie McFadden Drummond, a former member of the church and whose ancestors were always active in the church. Mrs. Drummond has recently written a book called Hoot Owls and Orchids in which the Hickory Springs Church is mentioned. She is 90 years old. Her living nieces who are still members of the Hickory Springs Church are: Mrs. Effie Leslie, Mrs. Ellie Pennington, Mrs. Jess Shipley, and a nephew, Rufus Green.

	Ministers of the A.R.P. Church since 1858 (as the record shows):

	Ministers		Elders

	Thomas D. Davis		Isaac D. McFadden (Clerk of Session 28 years)
	John M. Brown		C. M. Lathan
	A. Mayn			J. H. Davis
	David Herr		J. W. Pierce
	John Wilson		Hugh T. Bruce
	J. P. Marion		J. L. Davis
	J. S. A. Hunter		W. T. Barry
	W. M. Wilson		W. H. Leslie (Clerk of Session 27 years)
	J. P. Ervin		W. J. Leslie (Ruling Elder 46 years)
	J. L. Young		T. L. Anderson
	L. G. Boyce		Webb Brown
	W. A. M. Plaxco		Milton Pennington
	T. B. Stuart		Rufus Green
	J. M. McCain		James H. Leslie
	A. H. Griffith		J. L. Leslie
	E. B. Hunter		Ross Pennington
	J. P. Snipe
	Roy L. Davis
	Dr. T. H. McDill
	Dr. A. B. Love
	W. M. Willis
	W. H. Quinn
	J. B. McFarrin
	J. R. Edwards
	J. Calvin Smith
	W. F. Mitchell
	G. I. Williamson
	W. W. Parkinson
	Thomas M. Morris

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