Histories

The Polk Archives attempts to have a file folder for each Methodist church that has ever existed in Arkansas, and each Methodist pastor that has ever served in Arkansas. We also have bound histories of about 100 different local congregations in Arkansas. These are available for viewing at the Winfred D. Polk Archives at Hendrix College.

History of Methodism in Arkansas

Horace Jewel – 1873
This is the first published attempt to tell the story of Methodism’s birth in Arkansas. In 1869, the Little Rock Conference passed a resolution to see a well written history of Methodism in Arkansas, although nothing came of this. Rev. John Steele of the White River Conference began the undertaking a collection of materials, but he was called away by death before it was finished. Rev. Horace Jewell gathered this material along with district, quarterly and annual conference records. Jewell added stories from the preachers, letters from friends, verified dates and endeavored to present a connected history of Methodism in Arkansas. Rev. Jewell wrote, “If this History of Methodism in Arkansas should inspire our people with a greater love for Church and a greater zeal for Christ, by recounting the noble deeds of those who planted the Church in the early days of our State, I shall feel that my labors have been richly repaid.” This book can be found here (PDF).

Centennial History of Arkansas Methodism: A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in the State of Arkansas, 1815-1935

James Arthur Anderson – 1935
James A. Anderson began his ministry in Arkansas in 1879. He was a pastor and later became the editor of the Arkansas Methodist newspaper. Along with his ministry in Arkansas he rendered valuable service as a trustee of Hendrix College and Galloway College. Anderson was considered a close observer with keen knowledge, and always fair with controversy. By formal invitation from the Little Rock Conference and the North Arkansas Conference, he wrote this history of Arkansas Methodism. This Story of Methodism’s first hundred years preserves the memory of heroic and splendid accomplishment of our church. This book can be found here (PDF).

Methodism in Arkansas, 1816 – 1976

Walter N. Vernon – 1976
Walter N. Vernon, Jr., historian and minister, was born in Oklahoma. The son of a Methodist pastor, the family spent many years moving around in Oklahoma and Texas. The Vernon family spent the first three years of young Walter’s life moving to different Methodist congregations. After pastoring a large Methodist church in Dallas, Vernon became an assistant editor at the General Board of Education of the United Methodist Church. He was promoted to secretary of the curriculum committee, and his duties expanded to include responsibility for all of the church’s school publications. Vernon also devoted considerable time and energy to documenting and preserving the history of the Methodist Church in the United States. He published several books, along with his “Methodism in Arkansas.” This book can be found here (PDF).

The History of the Negro and Methodism in Arkansas and Oklahoma

Woodie D. Lester – 1979
The Little Rock – Southwest Conference 1838 – 1972: W. D. Lester saw a need for a history of the Black Methodists in the State of Arkansas. Never before had anyone attempted to record the affairs of black Methodism. This book is the first attempt to deal directly with the origin and development of black people in the M.E. Church, South, the M.E. Church, the Methodist Church and the U.M. church from the days of slavery. Rev. Lester worked for three years seeking facts and traveled for many miles without compensation. He tells the stories of district superintendents unpaid for their work, gratefully accepting food. He tells of the aid of the American Red Cross when river bottom land was flooded and they were forced to flee to higher ground. The Southwest Conference no longer exists, but with much gratitude to W.D. Lester, its story will not be forgotten.​ This book can be found here (PDF).

Two Centuries of Methodism in Arkansas: 1800-2000

Nancy Britton – 2000
Nancy Britton is the first layperson and the first woman to write a comprehensive history of Arkansas Methodism. A historian, genealogist, and seventh-generation Methodist, she lives in Batesville, Arkansas, and is a member of the Central Avenue United Methodist Church there. The book was a labor of love. Along with many stories and anecdotes, the 423-page book begins with some of the earliest known Methodist preachers who traveled around the state in the first decades of the 1800s. There are stories about worshipping in brush arbors and at campgrounds. Later narratives tell of Methodist orphanages, hospitals, and schools and colleges. The book includes eight appendices detailing early pastoral appointments, a glossary of terms peculiar to Methodism, and lists of church leaders and award winners. The book is full of photographs, many never published before, and the most extensive appendix features mini-histories of more than 800 local Methodist churches in the state.

This book can be found here (PDF). If you would like to purchase a copy of Nancy Britton’s “Two Centuries of Methodism in Arkansas,” contact the Arkansas Conference Archives at arkmethodist@hendrix.edu. This hard-cover book is a bargain for $16, which includes postage.

Additional Volumes of History Related to Arkansas Methodism

Catechism for the Use of Methodist Missions

William Capers – 1853
Dr. Josh Williams reports that this is the version used in Arkansas, prior to the Civil War in the Methodist missions to slaves. This book can be found here (HTML, external site).

Builders of a Kingdom: A History of the Little Rock Conference Women’s Missionary Society of Arkansas, 1873-1923

Coralee Gannaway Williams – 1923
This book can be found here (PDF).

The History of the Little Rock Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1890-1929

Charles Henry Giessen – 1933
Rev. Giessen served Geyer Springs MEC, South, while he was a student at Hendrix College, and graduated Hendrix in 1930. After completing seminary at Duke University in 1933, he continued to serve in the Little Rock Conference. Then from 1954 until his death in 1972 he held appointments in the Louisiana Conference. This thesis was written while he was a student at Duke Divinity School. This book can be found here (PDF).

History of the Evangelical United Brethren Church
(merged with the Methodist Church in 1968)