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Smith Creek Missionary Baptist Church
Garland County, Arkansas

By Anita Haley Millard

Smith Creek Missionary Baptist Church lies a mile north from Smith Creek, a small creek running east along the south fork of the Saline River in Garland County, Arkansas. Officially the address is Smith Creek Road which is off of Highway 128. Local history refers to the highway as the Lonsdale Cutoff.

Smith Creek Church was founded circa 1836. The original building was a single-pen log structure built by the early descendants of the Garner and Huchingson families.

The earliest pastor of record was Wilkins Tate who served in 1858. Church records indicate the temporary closing of the church as the Union Army passed through the area. Legend tells of a union payroll stolen and hidden in the area. To date the hiding place of the “Smith Creek treasure” is undiscovered.

During the post war Reconstruction Era, this area of the state was re-surveyed. At that time it was discovered that the building was not located on the actual intended church property. Legend has it that the man who owned the property where the building lay wanted the structure for a barn. Not wanting to give up their building, the men of the church brought their mules in the middle of the night and hoisted the building onto log rollers. The building was moved onto its present location which was well within the Garner property.

Samuel M. Garner served as secretary of the church 1870 - 1880. In November 1886 a committee was appointed to petition the Garner family for the deed. Church records indicate that a deed to the property was granted from Stephen Garner at a conference of members on December 31, 1886.

The “regular” Baptist Church at Smith Creek was disbanded by vote of the 10 members on April 21, 1894. In September 1897 it was reorganized as a Missionary Baptist Church under abstract of the Saline Association. The charter members of the “new” church were: J. H. Richardson (clerk), S.T. Funk, J. M. Johnson, W. M. Cain, H. M. Warford, Luhamia Huchingson, Laura Rigsby, and Ann Richardson.

The original log structure stood until the 1950s when a new masonry building was constructed by Samuel Woodrow Garner, grandson of Samuel M. Garner. The building consisted of a porch, belfry, auditorium and classrooms. Later a block building was constructed next to the church to house a well and bathrooms.

In the late 1900, the church experienced a period of growth. The original building was expanded to include a pastor study, two classrooms, a fellowship hall and kitchen. The members continue to hold regular services at this place. A “homecoming” celebration including “dinner on the grounds” and afternoon gospel singing is held each year on the third Sunday of July.

Smith Creek Cemetery is located on land adjacent to the church. Also donated to the community by the Garner family, the cemetery contains markers as early as 1861.