In the almost total absence of official papers giving information on the subject, it is necessary in attempting to gather together fats for record connected with the early history of the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church of Monticello to rely very largely on the memory of some who were present at the time that this church was organized. It may be expected that such a record will not be exact in all points as to the time when, or order in which events occurred. Of those who entered the organization when first formed and are still living (in 1883) Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Wilson alone retain their connection with it. Mrs. S.I. Dickson has connected at Saline. Mr. A.N. Allen is in connection with the Presbyterian Church of Monticello, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Lyle with Mount Zion (Presbyterian). It is mainly from these and the Minutes of the Memphis Presbytery that the statements given in this sketch were obtained. Some few others furnished valuable information.
In the latter part of the year 1853 Dr. R.B. Harper, Hugh Wilson, Richard Wright and Samuel Dickson with their families emigrated from Salem Church, Tipton County, Tennessee and settled in Drew County, Ark. These families formed the nucleus of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Monticello. During the autumn of the following year they were joined by others among whom were W.M. Allen, Thomas Lyle and W.N. Fee with their families. The first preaching that these families obtained, as well as can be learned, was from the Rev. J.K. Boyce, who by the appointment of the Memphis Presbytery, visited some families then in Hempstead County and spent two or three Sabbaths preaching in Drew County during the summer of 1854. During the latter part of the winter of 1854-55, Rev. John Wilson, pastor of Salem in Tipton County, Tennessee, paid a visit to his friends in Drew County, remained perhaps three Sabbaths and organized the Associate Reformed Church of Monticello. This was probably in the month of February, 1855. This statement is made according to the most reliable testimony now to be obtained but the accounts maven by different ones do not agree in all points. The number of members at the first organization is not known. Dr. R.B. Harper, W.N. Fee and Thomas Lyle were chosen elders, W.M. Allen, Deacon. This was the first A.R.P. Church organized in the Southeastern part of Arkansas. It is probable that a church had been organized in Pope County sometime previous to this, where Rev. John Patrick had formed a settlement and was preaching the Word. The newly organized church soon took active steps to secure a house of worship. The Commissioner of the County deeded to the Elders of the church a lot in Monticello, April 12th, 1855. They proceeded immediately to raise money by subscription to build on the lot thus secured. The house still used by the congregation was erected during the following summer and fitted for use, but not finished. It remained in this unfinished condition until the year 1869 when it was ceiled and painted.
Rev. John Patrick visited the Monticello Church and preached a few Sabbaths during the summer of 1855. He may have visited this locality previous to that time and continued to pay occasional visits for some time afterward. Rev. James N. Moore came by appointment to supply this church. He reached Monticello in July 1855 but was sick at the time and died very soon without being able to preach a single sermon. In September of that year Rev. J.A. Sloan came by appointment of the Memphis Presbytery and preached three or four Sabbaths.
Rev. John Miller supplied the Monticello vacancy awhile in 1856 and an unsuccessful effort was made to secure his pastoral services. He settled in Wilcox County, Alabama. During the following winter Rev. J.H. Strong began preaching at Monticello and continued to supply the church for several months, but declined a settlement as pastor. He was succeeded in the fall of 1857 by Rev. W.S. Moffatt who continued his labors here for at least twelve months. The Memphis Presbytery at its spring meeting in 1858 instructed Rev. John Wilson to visit Drew and Bradley Counties and hold communions. This was done during the summer of that year. Several families had settled in the neighborhood of Mr. Thomas Lyle, twelve or fourteen miles north of Monticello. It was thought best to organize them into a separate church, which was accordingly done, in the summer of 1858, and this church, at first known as Providence, was afterward called Mount Zion. This was the first off-shoot from the Monticello church. Mount Zion prepared a call for the services of Rev. W.S. Moffatt and forwarded it to the meeting of the Memphis Presbytery on September of that year. The Monticello church however had not joined in the call. For this reason and because of some informality in the preparation of the call and the inadequacy of the support offered, the Presbytery declined to sustain it.
Rev. J.M. Brown began supplying the church in Drew County in December, 1858. The churches, anxious to obtain the services of a pastor, soon began to take action on this subject. It was with some of the people their third effort, and with others their fourth, to get a pastoral settlement among them since they had located in Arkansas. A call for the services of Mr. Brown was consequently prepared by them at the Spring meeting of Presbytery in 1859. In this call Mount Zion was to take only one third of his time. Mr. Brown accepted the call and Presbytery ordered Rev. John Patrick "to install him as soon as convenient". This was done June 18, 1859. The same year, the Monticello Session was strengthened by the election and ordination of A.J. McQuiston, Elder and Washington McKinstry, Deacon. Mr. Brown continued his work as pastor of that branch of his charge only a short while. Thinking that the labors in this extensive field were too great for one man, he withdrew at the close of the year 1860, in favor of Rev. J.A. Dickson, who had been invited to come to his assistance. it was not until the spring of 1861 that the pastoral connection between Mr. Brown and the Monticello Church was formally severed.
Rev. J.A. Dickson reached Monticello in November, 1860 and very soon began the work of preaching the gospel. In those exciting times that soon followed throughout the entire country some of the formalities of church courts were of course overlooked, but it is probable that he was installed pastor at Monticello some time during 1861. At that time the session was composed of Dr. R.R. Harper, William N. Fee and Samuel Allen, Elders; W.M. Allen and Washington McKinstry, Deacons. Mr. W.M. Allen died about the year 1865. In 1861 there were between 50 and 65 communicants in the church. A year or two later the Saline church was organized eight miles west of Monticello, carrying off from the parent church 20 or 25 members. This was the second off-shoot from the Monticello church. The war took the men away from home and the influences of those times brought discouragement on all the enterprises of the church. But, at the close of the Civil War and upon the return of those who had survived it in the defense of their country, which should have been a time of joy and rejoicing throughout all the land, a still greater discouragement came on the church at Monticello. In the year 1865 about one half of the congregation, led by the pastor, connected with the Presbyterian church. It seemed for a time that A.R. Presbyterianism in this portion of the state had received its death blow. But not so. Samuel Allen and Dr. R.B. Harper still maintained the existence of the Session. Dr. Harper soon transferred his membership to Mount Zion. About this time Mr. William M. Allen, the first deacon of the church died. In the confusion that accompanied this change of church connections the book containing all the records of the Session and of the congregation was lost, hence the absence of any papers connected with the early history of this church. (It may be proper to state that the clerk of the Session, who had these papers in possession, followed the pastor in this change of church connection.)
In the spring of 1867 Rev. John Wilson of Tipton County, Tennessee paid a visit to Monticello, preached and gathered together the scattered members so as to revive the organization. The church had been without a supply for three years. The Elders weres Samuel Allen (died March, 1872) and A.J. McQuiston. Hugh Wilson and William A. Craig were elected and ordained Deacons. The entire membership numbered 29. After all the bitter trials through which they had so lately passed these few faithful ones were very greatly encouraged with the prospect of enjoying again the ordinances under the ministrations of so tried and faithful a friend of the church as Rev. John Wilson. During that year (1872) he moved from Tenn., and settled in the bounds of this congregation and began preaching regularly one half of the time at Monticello. He gave the remainder of his time to other vacancies. He preached at Saline and Hickory Springs and in a few years began to give a portion of his time to Ebenezer. It was apparently through his agency that these churches were saved to the A.R. Synod of the South. During the year 1869, the Monticello church made an effort to secure his services as pastor, but the other vacancies declining to cooperate in it, the movement failed; yet all the churches seemed to appreciate and desire his ministerial services. The membership of the Monticello church soon began to increase but the growth was slow. In 1874 there were 38 names on the roll. The Elders were Hugh Wilson, A.J. McQuiston and W.M. Allen. The Deacons were D.P. Craig and W.H. McQuiston. Rev. John Wilson continued to minister regularly to this congregation very acceptably for about thirteen years. Some of the members entered the Ebenezer church at its organization, others removed to other bounds and eventually feeling the infirmities of age coming upon him and judging it to be best for the church to secure a settled pastor, he retired from his work as stated supply of this congregation in February, 1880.
Rev. J.L. Young, by Presbyterial appointment, began in March 1880 to supply the church regularly twice a month. On August 8 of that year W.H. McQuiston (I), J.B. Wilson and D.P. Craig were ordained to the office of Ruling Elders J.C. Craig and A.Q. Boyd to the office of Deacon. Saline united with Monticello in preparing a call for the pastoral services of Rev. J.L. Young, which being presented at the spring meeting of Presbytery, 1881, was accepted. The installation took place at Monticello, April 23, 1881. Rev. J.S.A. Hunter addressing the people and Rev. W.L. Patterson the pastor. At that time there were 31 names on the roll of the church as communicants. The following were the officers: A.J. McQuiston, Hugh Wilson, W.H. McQuiston (I), J.B. Wilson and D.P. Craig, Elders; and J.C. Craig and A.Q. Boyd, Deacons. During the two years that had passed since that time the church has received several additions and some had removed from our midst so that our membership now (1883) numbers 37 while the officers continue the same. The church holds semi-annual communions and the Session meets quarterly.
Rev. John Wilson, after his retirement from the work of supplying this congregation, still continued to make his home in our midst, always ready and willing to encourage every good work in which the congregation would engage. The sweet savor of his godliness and zeal was not without its effects on the entire church. He quietly entered upon his rest Jan. 26, 1883 at the good old age of 77 years, 6 months and 13 days. (His ashes lie in the family burying ground near us. Faithful unto death we believe he has received a crown of life.)
(This record was written August 22, 1883)
A new church building was completed in 1889 at a cost of $1415.00. It was dedicated May 25th of that year. The deed to the church lot was transferred to the "Trustees of the A.R. Synod of The South". A manse was erected in 1895 and occupied by the pastor in November. The cost of this improvement was about $1000.00 and other improvements on the lot amount to about $100.000. A.J. McQuiston contributed $500,00 of this amount. An organ was introduced into the praise service during the year 1899. Rev. J.L. Young died June 2l, 1904 having served the congregation as pastor and supply for 24 years.
Rev. J.A. Smith accepted a call from the Monticello Church and began work the first of January, 1905. He supplied Ebenezer in connection with Monticello, giving one fourth of his time to Ebenezer and three fourths to Monticello. Owing to some irregularity in making out the call Rev. J.A. Smith was never installed although his work at Monticello was successful and he was greatly esteemed by all. At a call meeting of Presbytery in June, 1906 he asked for and was given a certificate of transfer to the United Presbyterian Church. The Monticello Church in a few months secured the services of Rev. S.J. Patterson, who preached his first sermon as pastor in October 1906. In July 1907 a contract was let for the erection of a new church building, which was completed September 1, 1908. The first sermon was preached by Rev. W.H. Millen of Rosemark, Tennessee. (His text was Psalm 104:34.) The cost of building and furniture was approximately $8800.00. Rev. S.J. Patterson resigned the pastorate in February 1915 to accept work in the United Presbyterian Church at Fort Morgan, Colorado.
Rev. G.K. Rodgers came as a supply in June 1915 and was called as pastor shortly afterward. His pastorate continued till Dec. 15, 1919 when he resigned to take a pastorate at Wordword, Oklahoma in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Rev. J.N. Leslie began his work as pastor Dec. 1, 1920 and resigned as pastor February 1924 to accept work at Bartow, Fla.
Rev. J.R. Edwards began work as Synod's supply June 28, 1924 and resigned from the pastorate Sept. 9, 1945 after 21 years of a most successful ministry. (In 1932 the minute book of the Session prior to 1893 was sent to Montreat, N.C. for safe keeping. During the fall and winter of 1940 improvements were made on the church property. These improvements consisted of repairing manse, removing the church tower and building and furnishing an educational and recreational annex and making a tennis court. The cost was approximately $8,000.00. The educational and recreational building was a gift to the church by Mr. and Mrs. W.H. McQuiston. This building was dedicated June 22, 1941. Rev. R.T. Karr preached the dedicatory sermon.
Rev. J. Calvin Smith took up the work as pastor February 3, 1946. He was installed July 28, 1946. Rev. C.C. Boegel, the pastor of our Memphis church addressed the pastor and Elder H.W. Houston the congregation.
Rev. J. Calvin Smith resigned the pastorate on Nov. 26, 1950, to accept a call to the ARP Church of Bartow Fla. Mr. Pressly Love, a first year student in the Due West Theological Seminary, arrived in Monticello on June 1, 1951, and served as supply pastor to and including Sept. 9, 1951.
On Oct. 18, 1948, a meeting of the officers of the church authorized the demolishing of the old manse, which was erected in 1895, and the building of a modern brick manse. The building committee appointed at this meeting consisted of John Boyd, S.M. Boyd, Guy Echols and Russell Dozier. The contract was let to J.L. Higgason, a local contractor] for $14,123.00. Some additional work ran the final cost to $15,685.00. The minister and family moved into the new manse on Feb. 14, 1949 and open house was held on Feb. 28, 1949. At an officers' meeting held on Feb. 21, 1949, a motion was passed naming the new building the "H.M. and Fannie B. Wilson Manse", the building being built principally with money left to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. The new manse was, dedicated on Feb. 5, 1950 at a ceremony in the manse yard following the morning services. (The dedicatory ceremony was opened with prayer by the pastor, Rev. J. Calvin Smith, and closed with prayer by Rev. R.T. Kerr.)
Rev. W.F. Mitchell of Stony Point, N.C. took up the work as pastor of the Monticello church in January 1952, preaching his first sermon on Jan. 27th, using as a text Acts 10:29, "I ask therefore for what intent you have sent for me." He continued as pastor till Apr. 18, 1954 when he resigned to accept the pastorate of the Sunset Hills Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, N.C.
At a congregational meeting held on Aug. 22, 1954, a call to the pastorate of the Monticello church was extended to Rev. G.I. Williamson, a United Presbyterian minister of Fall River, Mass. The same was accepted and Rev. Williamson began work as pastor in October, preaching his first sermon on Oct. 3, 1954.
February 27th, 1955 the Church celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. An appropriate program was held throughout the day. The Lord's Supper was given, and the sermon by Rev. J. Calvin Smith, a former pastor. The Luncheon was held in the dining hall of the Elementary School across the street from the church. The afternoon consisted of speeches and reminisces from former members and pastors. Over two-hundred members, friends and some past ministers attended the Centennial.
Rev. G.I. Williamson served the church until December 1955. The Rev. W.W. Parkinson assumed the pastorage May 5th, 1956 and served until his sudden death July 20th, 1957. While pastor of the church he also served the churches in Hickory Springs and New Edinburg.
Rev. Jack Heinshon, Synod's Evangelist held a meeting the following spring. During this meeting strong winds of tornado force hit the church, striking out most of the large colored windows on the west and south side of the church, Considerable other damage was done to the church including the hymnals.
During our search for a pastor following the death of Rev. Parkinson, Rev. William J. Boyd was called to Monticello, due to the illness of his father John Boyd, and consented to serve our congregation until a minister could be located.
Rev. Thomas G. Morris of Pottsville, Arkansas was called and assumed the pastorate of the chruch April 1st, 1959.
New Hymnals had to be purchased due to the storm damage so a secret ballot was taken as to continue the use of only Psalms or include other religeous songs in our hymnals. The congregation voted to have hymns and Psalms. 41 for and 12 against. Rev. Thomas Morris served until October 30th, 1960, resigning to return to the Pottsville church.
Rev. William A. Macaulay, Jr. assumed duties as pastor August 1st, 1961 and served until August 15th, 1966. In 1965 Mrs. Una Stubblefield, a devout member, donated a new sound system to the church.
Rev. Mark Grier became our pastor in June 1967 and continued his wonderful work here until his retirement in June 1973. He and his wife will long be remembered by the entire congregation. The Mississippi Presbytery was held in our church in March 1968. A Homecoming celebration was held the last Sabbath in July 1970 with over one hundred attending. Rev. Thomas Morris preached the sermon. Lunch was served by the ladies of the church in the basement of the church.
Rev. William B. Everett assumed duties as pastors of the church June 1st, 1973. On November 12th, 1973 the Board of Deacons with Ronnie Echols as chairman made the second request to change the name of the church from A.R.P. Church to WOOD AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. This motion was brought up before the congregation, with pros and cons discussed and a secret ballot was taken. The majority vote was to have the name changed and so it was done. New signs were erected to read Wood Avenue Presbyterian church.
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