Batesville Seventh-day Adventist Church

A Brief History of Batesville, Arkansas

Batesville Church Organized in 1901

Volner Brockway Watts

In 1901, camp meeting was held at Batesville. Volner Brockway (“V. B.”) Watts, a young farmer from Nebraska, along with his wife and two young sons, had come for a year to help in Arkansas (Field, 1902). Watts had secured a nice grove handy to town, and had the tent all ready for meetings. The meetings began on time, with a fair attendance. There were about forty Adventists who had traveled to camp there, in addition to those who lived in Batesville. Sunday, the last day of the meeting, eight were baptized. Elder Asa E. Field remained there until Thursday, September 12, 1901, when they met and organized a church of fifteen members. V. B. Watts was elected and ordained as the elder. There were several who desired baptism, but on account of rain this was postponed to be done later by Watts (Field, 1901).

A New Church in 1902

Urbanus Bender

As a result of the work of V. B. Watts and another young man, Urbanus Bender, Batesville had a strong church and a new church building that was dedicated March 9, 1902 (Field, 1902). The September 5, 1905, Conference proceedings dropped Batesville from their list of churches, “there being no member living at that place” (Review, 1905). In January 1906, however, Urbanus Bender reported that he visited a few that were still faithful at Batesville (Bender, 1906).

Batesville Church Revives

Batesville church. Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.

In 1950, the Sabbath schools at Mt. Pleasant and Batesville merged and began meeting at the Mt. Pleasant Church (Kretz, 1950). Elder Kretz held a tent series at Batesville in 1951, but it wasn’t until 1958 that the little group revived when William M. Ashton, a retired postal worker from Texas, along with his wife Olga, moved to this area of Arkansas to dedicate their lives to missionary work there. They began showing temperance films to the community. This effort gained community support and rallied the church members in the whole area (Evans, 1960).

Batesville Church Reorganized in 1961

William and Olga Ashton. Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.

In 1960, someone donated a lot on Highway 11 where William Ashton could build a community service center (Jones, 1963). He also built a church and on January 21, 1961, the church was organized and the members were in their own building (Evans, 1961). Sabbath, January 4, 1964, the church at Batesville was dedicated. Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. William Ashton, who had worked so faithfully, there was a beautiful place to worship (Evans, 1964).

Church and community service center built in 1960 (Evans, 1960)
Three of the charter members L to R: Louise Howard, Olga Ashton, and Lola Lewis (Record, 1982)

A New Church in 1982

Those who took part in the ground breaking, from left, Pastor Charles Kohley; Frank Forshee, in charge of construction; Barbara Swaim, charter member; Weldon Fivash, church treasurer; and Doyle Shaver, in charge of electrical work (Rucker, 1981)
Leonard Forshee, building superintendent, surveying his crew (Fivash, 1982)

In January 1981, the Batesville members ended a long search for a suitable building site. May 17, 1981, the members held a ground-breaking ceremony to begin construction on a new 7,000 square-foot facility to be built on the two-and-a-half acre plot located on Highway 69 East and Gap Road (Rucker, 1981). The first church service was held in the new building on January 9, 1982, although the sanctuary was not yet completed. In April 1982, the church celebrated moving into their new sanctuary by having special events three weekends in a row, and by giving a special plaque to Olga Ashton, whose husband had been so instrumental in reviving the church family in Batesville (Fivash, 1982). The Batesville Church was dedicated debt free on October 12, 1991 (Record, 1991).

Batesville church on Gap Road in Batesville, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of Stephen Burton.

Citations

(1905, Sep. 5). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.

(1991, Oct. 1). Ibid., p. 12.

Bender, U. (1906, Jan. 30). Ibid., p. 2.

Evans, I. M. (1960, Dec. 14). Ibid., p. 4.

Ibid. (1961. Jan. 4). p. 3.

Ibid. (1964, Jan. 15). p. 2.

Field, A. E. (1901, Oct. 15). Review and Herald, p. 675.

Ibid., (1902, Feb. 25). p. 122.

Fivash, Marilyn. (1982, Apr. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 8F.

Ibid. (1982, Aug. 19). p. 12F.

Hancock, J. Wayne. (1982, Apr. 1). Ibid., p. 8E.

Jones, Mike A. (1963, Jan. 28). North Pacific Union Gleaner, p. 1.

Kretz, R. L. (1950, Feb. 22). Southwestern Union Record, p. 4.

Rucker, Estell. (1981, Jul. 9). Ibid., p. 12F.