History of Washington County, Arkansas Churches

Early churches played a pivotal roll in the early development of communities with Washington County, Arkansas. The following are histories of the various churches as known by us:

Cumberland Presbyterian Church One of the first religious organizations to enter Washington County was the Cumberland Presbyterian. The first Cumberland Presbyterians to locate in Arkansas were the Pyeatts and Carnahans, who, in 1812, emigrated from Northern Alabama, and located at Crystal Hill, fifteen miles above Little Rock. The party consisted of James and Jacob Pyeatt and James and Samuel Carnahan. The next year the father of the Carnahans, Rev. John Carnahan, removed to Arkansas, and, in the house of Jacob Pyeatt, preached the first sermon delivered in what is now Arkansas by a Cumberland Presbyterian. He formed a circuit, and was placed on the roll of Elk Presbytery. In 1814 he was licensed, and in October, 1816, was ordained.

Methodist Episcopal Church, South The Fayetteville Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized about 1834 or 1835 at the home of Lodowick Brodie. Among its first members were Mr. Brodie and wife, Martin Frazier, Dr. Adam Clark and wife, David Reise and wife, a Mr. Avard and wife, a Mrs. Anthony, Mr. and Mrs. John Skelton, and a Mr. Cardwell and wife. They held services in Mr. Brodie’s house, and after the completion of the first court-house used that as a place of worship. Their first church, which was afterward burned during the early years of the war, was built in the spring of 1840, and it was about 1868 that their present brick structure was erected. David Reise was the first class-leader, and among their earliest ministers and circuit riders were Rev. John Havel, Rev. Bump, Rev. Avery, Dr. Adam Clark, Rev. Custer, Dr. John Hunter, Dr. Sanders, Rev. William Cobb, Richard Cardwell and Rev. Carlyle. After 1840, among those who preached here were Revs. Young, Ewing, Lively, Thomas Stanford, Benona Harris, and Rev. Danley.

Christian Church

The West Fork Christian Church is probably the oldest organization of the followers of the teachings of Alexander Campbell in Washington County. It was organized in 1837, with the following officers and members: Elders, William Robinson, Stephen Strickland and Alfred Arrington; deacons, Levi Combs and Shelby Conner, and members, Mrs. S. Strickland, Mrs. A. Arrington, Mrs. Shelby Conner, Thomas Wilson and wife, Mrs. W. Robinson, Benjamin Miller and wife, Samuel Alexandel and wife, Daniel Conner, Eli Bloyd and wife, John Wilson, Joseph Lewis, Betsy Conner, Christopher Harness and wife, Joseph Miller, Sr., and wife. They were first organized under an elm tree, and held services there until soon after the ruling elders built a church of hewed logs. Elder Stephen Strickland seems to have been the first pastor, and among others who held services there afterward were Rev. John Robinson, the well-known Rev. Robert Graham, Rev. Elijah Northam and Rev. Eli Baker. The present membership numbers about thirty persons.

Presbyterian Churches, Washington County, Arkansas

The Presbyterian Churches in Washington County are members of the Presbytery of Washbourne, named in honor of the Rev. Cephas Washbourne (or Washburn), who was an early missionary to the Indian nations, and who was probably the first Presbyterian preacher to hold services in Washington County. The presbytery was first ordered by the Synod of Arkansas, convened at Pine Bluff, Ark., in 1883, and met on October 24, 1884, in the Presbyterian Church at Fayetteville. Rev. S. W. Davies, D. D., opened the meeting with a sermon from Numbers XI, 10-17. Those present were Rev. S. W. Davies, W. A. Sample, J. L. D. Houston and S. B. Ervin, and Ruling Elders O. C. Gray, of Fayetteville; M. G. Hearn, of Mount Zion; T. P. Allison, of Big Springs; J. D. Reinhardt, of Alma; J. C. Clift, of New Hope; J. F. Nolen, of Prosperity; S. W. Dinsmore, of Bentonville; J. A. Dibrell, of Van Buren, and John Smith, of Fort Smith. Revs. W. M. Crozier and D. C. Boggs were also among the number. Rev. W. A. Sample was chosen moderator.

Baptist Churches, Washington County, Arkansas The Baptist Churches in Washington County belonged to Bentonville Association until 1871, when the Fayetteville Baptist Association was organized. The Bentonville Association is now in its forty-eighth year.

Methodist Episcopal

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Springdale was organized at Liberty, a defunct village two miles from Springdale, and the property there was sold and the congregation established at the latter place in 1870. The time of its organization at Liberty is approximated as 1852. The original congregation included Joseph Holcomb and wife, Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Smith, Mr. J. B. Banks and wife, and Mrs. Wagoner. After the removal they united with Shiloh Baptist Church to build a union church. In 1884 their present church, a frame building 32×50 feet, was built. Their membership has increased to about 100. Among the pastors in charge have been Revs. J. M. Clayton, Thomas Smith, J. R. Tydings, J. A. Walden, Hall, W. H. Corley, Summers, Williams and B. C. Matthews.

Fayetteville Methodist Episcopal Church, North, was organized in 1866, by Rev. W. L. Molloy. There were few members, who were under the successive pastoral charges of Rev. Molloy, Revs. H. G. Hopkins, C. L. Howell, A. W. Fields and W. H. Gillam. Under the aid of the Church Extension Society a church was built by Rev. Fields, but about 1874 the Rev. Gillam was compelled to see the church sold as the only means to extricate the body from a lamentable financial situation, and the congregation was disbanded.

Primitive Baptists

Shiloh Church of Primitive Baptists at Springdale, Ark., belongs to the Washington Association. It was organized August 22, 1840, with the following members: William Graham, Levi Graham, Nancy Graham (the only one alive at the present writing), Moses Lee, Lucinda Graham, James Owens, Ellen Owens, Margaret Wolf and Sarah Graham. Elders Samuel Wheat, of War Eagle Church; William Poston, of Union Church; John Holcombe, of West Fork Church, and Deacons John Wood and Berry D. Graham, of West Fork Church, were the presbytery who established it. Elder James Mayfield was the first pastor, followed by Elder John Holcombe, until his death in 1876; then Elders A. G. Smith and Norman F. Goodrich were elected jointly, but since the death of Elder Smith his colleague has served. The records of the first four years are lost, but the church, it is known, was established three miles east of its present location; on its removal, however, to Springdale a log house was erected within a few rods of the site of the present building, which is a neat frame structure, erected in 1871, at a cost of about $1,000. The present membership of the church numbers about 100. This denomination figured largely in the growth of Springdale.

The Catholics

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, of Fayetteville, was first organized by Father Curry, of Little Rock, about forty years ago. This generous priest bought a section of land near the site of Fayetteville, and sold it at a merely nominal rate to a company of Rhode Island Catholics, among whom were William Flynn, Patrick Hennessy, Philip McCoy, Charles Healy, Albert Byrnes, Maurice Coffey and Peter Smith, the original members of the congregation. The next visiting priest was Father Lawrence Smythe. The congregation soon felt able to build and support a church, and through the active work of Patrick Hennessy and others, the present neat frame building on the corner of Willow Street and La Fayette Avenue was completed by a Fort Smith carpenter named “Bill” Sullivan. The edifice cost about $2,500, and in June, 1878, was dedicated by Bishop Fitzgerald. The priests located here have been Fathers Thomas O’Rielly and Joseph Phillip Maurel, the latter being the present incumbent. They have a membership of 120, and is the only congregation of that denomination in the county.

Protestant Episcopal

St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church is one of the oldest churches in Washington County, and the only one of this denomination. It was organized May 23, 1848, by Rev. W. C. Stout, and the following officers were chosen: C. W. Deane, M. D., as S. W.; J. W. Chewas, J. W.; John Campbell, William McIlroy and Charles W. Washington, as vestrymen. On February 3, 1854, the corner stone of their first church was laid, and on October 29, following, the neat frame structure was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Freeman. Their present edifice is of brick, and the date of erection is 1872, the corner-stone being laid on October 26. The dedication was not made until April 8, 1888, when the Rt. Rev. H. N. Pierce, D. D., LL. D., bishop of Arkansas, performed the ceremony. Under the charge of the following rectors the church has increased the number of its communicants to 112: Revs. William Scull. W. C. Stout, C. C. Townsend, Otis Hackett, J. Sandels, C. M. Hoge, T. M. Thorpe, and J. J. Vaulx, the present incumbent.

Evangelical Lutheran

The Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church is a part of the English Conference of Missouri, and was organized in 1879 by Rev. I. E. Rader. The original members were I. D. Rader and wife, D. M. Linebarger and wife, W. F. Renner and wife, C. S. Hawn and wife, J. H. Bird, Mrs. Jacob Mason and Mrs. I. E. Rader. Mr. Linebarger and I. D. Rader were the elders, and Mr. Renner and the first mentioned elder were trustees. In 1880 they built their first church in Springdale, but have since replaced the frame structure by a brick edifice costing $4,800. Their parochial school has an enrollment of eighty-eight scholars, in charge of two instructors: and their Sunday-school, managed by a superintendent and three teachers, is attended by seventy-five persons. Of the 140 in connection with the church fifty-six are communicants. Since Rev. I. E. Rader’s pastorate Rev. A. Sloan Bartholomew has been in charge.


The Seventh Day Adventists are represented in but one portion of Washington County, namely, at Springdale. One feature of their faith, however, the observance of Saturday as Sabbath, has created no small degree of interest in political circles, and this gives them a prominence that their comparatively small numbers would hardly justify otherwise.

The Springdale Seventh Day Adventists Church began with the following officers: Elder, J. A. Armstrong; deacons, Z. Sweringen and William Martin; trustees, William Martin and P. M. Ownbey. In 1886 they built a good frame church at a cost of, probably, $800, situated not far from the “Frisco” depot. The new house of the society was dedicated by J. G. Wood, and since then the work has been in the charge of the following pastors: Revs. J. G. Wood and J. P. Henderson. The pastor who, in company with D. A. Wellinsin, organized the church was Rev. J. W. Scoles. The society belongs to the Arkansas Conference. Their members at present number 106.


The Congregational Church of Fayetteville (colored) was organized in 1883, under the auspices of the American Congregational Missionary Association of New York City. The church now used was a school-house on College Street, and was bought by the society that year. Their membership is seventeen, and they have been under the charge of the following pastors: B. F. Foster, J. M. Shippen, W. R. Polk and L. B. Moore.

Bible Society

The Washington County Bible Society was a pioneer institution. Its first meeting was held in March, 1831, when the following officers were elected: Rev. A. Buchanan, president; John Truesdale and Robert McCarny, vice-presidents; Maurice Wright, recording secretary; Lewis Evans, corresponding secretary; James Coulter, treasurer; C. M. McClellan, depositary; John Carnahan, Thomas Garvin, John Alexander, Joseph Reed and Jesse M. Blair, directors. The entire amount collected for the first year was only $63.47½. The society appears to have gone down about 1839, and was not revived until about 1850, when James Orr was elected president; Rev. John Buchanan and Robert W. Mecklin, vice-presidents; Rev. Cephas Washbourne, secretary; Maurice Wright, treasurer; Rev. Andrew Buchanan, James Crawford, Pressly R. Smith, Samuel Carnahan and Rev. Guilford Pylant, managers. This society continued in existence until the war, the last record being the report of Rev. John Buchanan, secretary, on June 14, 1860.

Y. M. C. A

The Fayetteville Young Men’s Christian Association was organized March 22, 1887, through the exertions of Mr. Ellis Duncan and Mark Dean. The original members were S. W. Barnett, R. S. Curry, W. N. and A. W. Crozier, Mark Dean, Messrs. Ellis, N. L., Garnett, Robert W. and Thomas G. Duncan, W. M. Flynn, W. McBride and Morton Milburn. The society is now in a prosperous condition, with parlor, reading room and hall in the post-office block. They have lately secured a general secretary, Mr. H. W. Hutchins, who devotes his entire time to the work, and is rapidly establishing all the various departments of Y. M. C. A. work. The following is a list of presidents since organization: W. McBride, Lee Treadwell and C. A. Davies, the present incumbent.

Back to: Washington County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.

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