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First Baptist traces history

Published on May 18, 2012 by in History Q&A
Question: Please settle a discussion: What church was located across from the Hotel Seville in the 1930s and 1940s?
Answer: The church that stood for many years on the corner of North Vine Street and Ridge Avenue (across from the Seville) was the First Baptist Church of Harrison.
Much earlier, the first building housing a Baptist congregation in Harrison was of frame construction located on a steep hill just west of the northwest corner of the Harrison square. The white building was visible from its hillside location all over the downtown portion of the village.
Original First Baptist Church building Harrison’s First Baptist Church was originally located in a white building on a steep hill just west of the northwest corner of the Harrison square.
The little building, with first services held in 1892, was adequate during horse and buggy days, but as automobiles became popular and the town began to spread out, the need for a new church location was evident. In 1923, the trustees found a parcel where the Connerley Hotel had once stood. For $2,500 the lot was purchased from Mary E. Connerley.
Soon the church occupied its second home in a building called the “tabernacle.” Built on the east part of the church lot and from materials taken from tearing down the old building, it was only a temporary structure.
In 1929, a completely new church building of buff brick became the home of Baptists in the town of Harrison. It took many years to pay for the structure due to the Depression which hit about the time the building was completed. This building served as home to the church until 1979.
Second home of Harrison's First Baptist Church Harrison’s First Baptist Church moved into a new home, just north of the downtown square, in 1929. The building held the congregation until 1979.
June 1, 1932 marked the beginning of an important era of growth in the life of the First Baptist Church. On that date, E. E. Griever Sr. of Star City began his pastorate here. He served for more than 21 years. During his tenure, Rev. Griever baptized more than 660 persons and the church grew from a membership of 431 to 765.
As the need for another church became apparent, First Church established a mission church in 1945, a church that would become Eagle Heights Baptist Church. It grew rapidly and became independent in August of 1949. In November of 1955, another mission church, called Emmanuel Baptist Church, was started. Pat Murray, son of Woody and Clara Murray, was called as its first pastor.
To the sadness of many and the excitement of others, the buff brick building that was the home church for years was sold to the Security Bank and a new $1.1 million facility was built along the banks of Crooked Creek near the end of South Pine Street. It stands today as one of Harrison’s most energetic and vital churches.
Memories of the beautiful old buff brick building are vivid in the minds of many Harrison residents – weddings, funerals, baccalaureate services plus other events, bring to mind the beauty of this old church. Most can remember Mary Ezell at the organ; Ben Beene sitting on the front row; and Earl and Sally Offenbacker always being the first to arrive at Sunday services.
The Heritage Museum located on the corner of South Cherry Street and Central Avenue, has information on many churches in the area and welcomes any old literature or pictures you are willing to share. Museum hours are from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
This column appears Fridays in the Harrison Daily Times. Mail questions to Boone County Heritage Museum, P. O. Box 1094, Harrison, AR 72601. Marilyn Smith can be contacted at bchm@windstream.net
 
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