Irving Meek Evans was born on March 12, 1897, in Belmont, Ohio, to Anna May and William Clark Evans. He was the fifth of ten children, four girls and six boys. On September 15, 1915, Irving was united in marriage to Estella Mae Long. They had two daughters, Dorothy Virginia Evans and Mary Louise Evans (Ancestry, 2020).
Years of Ministry
For more than forty years Elder Evans served in various fields of leadership including field secretary in Ohio, New York, and the Southern Union, president of the Georgia-Cumberland conference and the Alabama-Mississippi conference, coming to the Arkansas-Louisiana conference in September 1954, where he served for the next nine years. During his administration many buildings and churches were erected. At Ozark Academy the dormitories known as Baker Hall and I. M. Evans Hall were completed. A new office building was completed and the headquarters of the conference moved from Little Rock to Shreveport (Times, 1975).
Retiring in 1964, Elder Evans was the longest-serving Arkansas-Louisiana conference president up to that time. Elder Evans and his wife moved to their place of retirement in Asheville, North Carolina (Minutes, 1963). Following a brief illness, Elder Evans passed away at his home on November 8, 1975.
(1947, Feb. 14). Conference Officers Elected by Adventists. Asheville Citizen-Times, p. 9.
In about 1871, Andrew Barnabas McAlexander and his wife, Elizabeth, moved from Missouri to Hindsville, Arkansas (Ancestry, 2005). In 1872, DeWitt C. Hunter, founder of the town of Nevada, Missouri, and the Seventh-day Adventist church there, began sending Adventist publications to his friend, Andrew B. McAlexander. Andrew and his wife began keeping the Sabbath in the spring of 1873, making the McAlexanders quite probably the first Sabbath keepers in Arkansas (Norwood, 1910). The McAlexanders also laid the groundwork for the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Arkansas.
In December 1881, the General Conference placed Arkansas under the watch care of the Kansas Conference. Elder Joseph Garner Wood was sent for an evangelistic tour of Arkansas. Elder Wood traveled first to Hindsville, a town of about 100 residents nearly twenty miles east of Springdale. He met Mr. and Mrs. Andrew B. McAlexander and reported that “their consistent Christian life had a good influence on their neighbors. Some had nominally commenced to keep the Sabbath” (Wood, 1882).
That winter Elder Wood held a nine-week meeting at Hindsville. At the end of the first two or three weeks of meetings, Elder Wood reported, “[A]bout thirty arose to testify that they believed all the commandments of God ought to be kept just as the Lord wrote them including the Seventh-day Sabbath. Ten signed the covenant. Some others are keeping the Sabbath…I baptized three” (Wood, 1882). Soon after, “from the result of this meeting nine persons took their stand for the truth, after which they were organized into a church, — the first Seventh-day Adventist church in the State” (Norwood, 1910; Rouse, 1906). A new, unoccupied log house with a fireplace at one end was arranged as a church. In March 1885, thirteen more members were baptized following a week of meetings held by J. P. Henderson.
Several years later, W. T. Martin and L. C. Sommerville, both canvassers, spent Sabbath, February 10, 1894, with the church at Hindsville. They stated that they “had, a pleasant time with them. . . . While this church has a good-sized membership, the attendance at meetings is small, as most of them live at quite a distance from their place of worship. We were detained here on account of high water” (Martin, 1894).
Although the church at Hindsville no longer exists, these early families and ministers laid the groundwork for the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference and over 13,000 members today.
Ancestry.com. (2005). U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
Martin, W. T. (1894, May 1). Review and Herald, p. 284.
Norwood, J. W. (1910, Jan. 4). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 4, 5.
Rouse, J. S. (1906, Nov. 20). Obituary. Ibid., p. 2.
Wood, J. G. (1882, Feb. 21). Review and Herald, p. 123.
In the 1930s, the church’s work was suffering from severe reductions in tithe and other income brought about by the Great Depression. The 1931 Fall Council of the General Conference Committee that met in Omaha, Nebraska, suggested extensive administrative and territorial changes in several unions across the United States. These changes reduced the number of Union conferences in North America from twelve to eight and the number of local conferences from fifty-eight to forty-eight (Record, 1932). It was at this time that Louisiana and its members and churches were transferred to the Southwestern Union Conference and joined Arkansas on February 23, 1932 (Ruf, 1932). Leaders in the Southern Union had visited about eighty-five percent of the Louisiana members, explaining the change to them. Although the members said they were willing to accept it, the change was still very difficult for them (Review, 1932). Elder R. P. Montgomery who was the Arkansas Conference president was designated president of the new organization until he took a call to Texico in June 1932, and Elder W. H. Heckman was called to take his place. Elder Heckman presided over the process of making the two states into one conference. In the new Arkansas-Louisiana Conference there were thirty-three churches, with 2,078 members, nine ordained ministers, three licentiates, eighteen teachers, and eleven colporteurs (Yearbook, 1933).
Arkansas-Louisiana Conference Rally Song
(1932, Mar. 2). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 1-4, 9, 12, 14-20.
(1932, Apr. 7). Review and Herald, p. 17.
(1933) Yearbook of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination. Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
Hartwell, Mrs. H. C. (1936, Feb. 19). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
Mrs. Boling Williams, Miss Margaret Chilton, and the Roach family began meeting in the home of Mrs. A. V. Roach in Mansfield, Louisiana, in 1897 (Buecker, 1985). This led to the organization of the Mansfield SDA church on October 6, 1900, by Elder S. B. Horton following a series of tent meetings (Review, 1901). On November 17, 1902, a lot was purchased on College Street (now Louisiana Avenue) and a church was built. It was later found that part of the property belonged to P. C. Fair who lived on the corner lot. A letter from him demanded removal of the church building. The problem was resolved by an exchange of land made July 10, 1911. In 1912 the church building burned to the ground and the church records from 1897-1912 were destroyed in the fire. The lot stood vacant for two years but some of the charter members, Ruby Hill Roach, Margaret Chilton, and Edith T. Buecker, led in the purchase of an 1869 Methodist church building for $500 and for an additional $300 had it moved to the empty lot in 1914. An additional $80 was paid to cut 23 feet off the back end of the building so it would fit on the lot. The title was transferred from the Methodist church to the Louisiana Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists on August 25, 1915. In 1944 it was transferred to the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (Review, 1915 & 1951;Buecker, 1985).
By August 1989 the congregation had dwindled to very few members after several had moved away, and older members had passed away. The building was sold to a Baptist congregation. At that time, Edith, by then one of the oldest members, joined the Shreveport First SDA church and donated the offering plate and the platform chairs, which were very ornate wood with red velvet upholstery, from the Mansfield church to the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
(1901, May 28). Review and Herald, p. 14.
(1915, Mar 25). Ibid, pp. 16, 17.
(1951, Dec 27). Ibid, p. 22.
(1969, Apr 26). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 6, 7.
Buecker, Bill. (2022, Jan 11). Phone conversation with Rebecca Burton.
Buecker, Edith Taliaferro. (1985, Nov). History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mansfield, Louisiana.
Buecker, Melvin. (2022, Jan 11). Phone conversation with Rebecca Burton.
William Harold “Bill” Elder was born on January 14, 1917, on a farm in Salina, Kansas to William Henry and Una Elizabeth Elder. Bill grew up as one of eight children. He was the third oldest of six boys and two girls (Ancestry, 2019). Bill attended public school in Saline County, Kansas. When he was around sixteen years of age he decided he wanted to be a pastor, but he didn’t have money to go to school. He worked as a cashier at a grocery store for two years and drove a taxi for a year to earn money for college. Elder waited a few years before going to college, then spent three years at Southwestern Junior College in Keene, Texas (Elder, 2018).
Bill met his wife, Mary Lee Eaton, in Keene, Texas, at Southwestern Union College. They married on September 6, 1942, in Sebastian County, Arkansas. After they married, he attended Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and then graduated with a bachelor’s degree in religion from Pacific Union College in Napa Valley (Elder, 2018). The Elders, had two daughters, Donna and Mona. Bill and his family moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, where their ministerial work began (Record, 2010).
Years of Ministry
After Louisiana, the Elders moved to Arkansas and then to Pueblo, Colorado, and Lincoln, Nebraska. The Elders were invited to the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference to head the Departments of Sabbath School, Religious Liberty and Communications (Record, 2010). Five years later, they moved to Pennsylvania for six months, and he was departmental director in the Northern Union Conference. From that position he became the president of the North Dakota Conference. He moved from North Dakota to Shreveport in 1974 to become the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference president. In 1982, Elder Elder, as he was called, decided it was time to retire (Elder, 2018).
The Elders moved to Redlands, where he spent four years as the wills and trust director of the Quiet Hour. After leaving the Quiet Hour, Elder began writing the first of two books, in 1988. The book, Hearts in Harmony, centers around Samuel, Jonathan and David, from the Bible.“It’s a trilogy and how their lives intertwined and intersected,” Elder said. “It makes a wonderful story.” A second book was written in response to author Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a book called God Is Not Great. I read it twice and I decided to answer it,” Elder said. He wrote his book God Is Exceedingly Great, in two years (Elder, 2018).
The Elders, celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary in September, 2018. They had been members of Banning Seventh-day Adventist Church for sixteen years. Bill preached a sermon in the Banning SDA Church on his 100th Birthday and also on his 101st Birthday (Elder, 2018). Elder Elder passed away on December 22, 2018, in Loma Linda, California, just three weeks short of his 102nd birthday (Ancestry, 2019). He served a total of twenty-two years in the Arkansas-Louisiana conference.
On Sunday, April 27, 1980, ground was broken and construction began (Hancock, 1980). The old office sold for more than had been budgeted and the new office was built for less than budgeted, thanks to many hours of volunteer labor. The beautiful 15,000 square-foot office at 7025 Greenwood Road was designed inside and outside to look like an old colonial home. The move to the new building was made in the fall of 1980. An open house was held December 20, 1981, followed by a dedication service (Griffin, 1981). Meanwhile, the northeast corner of the property had been designated for the Book and Bible House (later Adventist Book Center). It opened for business in 1981. A house on the northwest corner of the property, which was not part of the original land purchase, was offered for sale by the owner. In 1981, it was voted to purchase this house on eight-tenths of an acre (Minutes, 1981).
Around 1889, a church was organized east of Hardy by Elder James P. Henderson and Mr. Divelbiss. By 1908, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Smith were the only members left, although several who used to attend the church still believed the Sabbath truth (Littell, 1908).
SPRING RIVER CHURCH ORGANIZED IN 1991
The Spring River church was organized in 1991. In November 2001, the congregation purchased some property with an existing structure to renovate in nearby Williford. Pastor Bill Sorenson worked tirelessly in heading up the project of renovating and building a new addition (Sorenson, 2006).
A NEW CHURCH IN 2001
In spite of challenges — a tire blow-out on a trailer loaded with cement blocks, and a strong wind blowing over a stacked wall of blocks — God blessed their project. He sent the help of a pastor’s son and friend from Dallas, when it was needed. The beautiful new church included rock decor to enhance the structure (Sorenson, 2006).
(2001, Oct. 15). Minutes of the Arkansas Conference Association Board. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
Littell, Leslie. (1908, May 5). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
The work in this area really began when Joseph Franklin McCoy moved from Louisville, Kentucky, to Lucky, Arkansas, in 1878. There, Joseph married and raised his family. Joseph, had begun keeping the Sabbath from reading his Bible. He then sent for Adventist tracts, papers, and books, and accepted the third angel’s message. Joseph was arrested and persecuted for violating the Sunday laws that were in effect at that time. Following that, he and his wife with their three boys, organized the first Sabbath school in this area. They brought in their neighbors and friends with their children and studied the Bible together. Soon Charley Ewing and his family began keeping the Sabbath. Seventh-day Adventist ministers would visit occasionally, among whom were Elders Beckner and Ellington Beck Hopkins (McCoy, 1910).
LUCKY CHURCH ORGANIZED IN 1906
In the fall of 1906, Elder Henry Clay Griffin and H. L. Parker held meetings at Lucky, and in November, Elder Griffin baptized some and organized a church of seven members, mostly from the McCoy and Ewing families. The members had already built a little church in a pine grove between the two families, which was not quite finished but they were meeting in it (Griffin, 1906). The church continued to prosper and grow rapidly and at the twentieth annual session of the Arkansas Conference in July 1907, Lucky was admitted as a church (Record, 1907). From 1909 to 1912, Elder Volney B. Watts did pastoral evangelism especially around Lucky and Fort Smith. By 1910, Lucky was the second largest church in the conference (McCoy, 1910). The little community of Lucky no longer exists, but by 1931 the church became known as the Bonnerdale Church (Hopkins, 1931).
A NEW CHURCH IN 1941
In 1941, the Bonnerdale members completed a new church that was quite large and accommodated more seating than their previous building (Record, 1941). The church was dedicated on November 29, 1941.
A NEW CHURCH IN 2005
At the end of 1976, Irvin and Evea J. Bainum donated property on which to build a new church and school. The school and Ewing Auditorium were built first. The congregation met in the new auditorium for the first time on December 22, 1979, and the school opened for the 1980-1981 school year (Record, 1979). In 2003, Bonnerdale finalized plans for a new 10,176 square foot sanctuary with the old sanctuary to be razed. They began work on the foundation in June (Shafter, 2003; cf. Minutes, 2002). In November 2005, members formally moved into their new facility. At the end of November 2006, they celebrated the congregation’s first 100 years (Winton, 2006).
(1907, Aug. 13). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
(1941, Nov. 11). Ibid., p. 3.
(1976, Dec. 17). Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Conference Association. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(1979, Dec. 13). Southwestern Union Record, p. 12F.
In 1887, a Texarkana family began reading Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation sold by a canvasser, and within a year, they embraced the Adventist message. Many others were greatly interested. By May 1888, there was an unorganized company of six, who had formed a tract society and Sabbath school. One canvasser was at work in the vicinity, and was having good success (Henderson, 1888).
TEXARKANA CHURCH ORGANIZED IN 1889
In July 1889, Elder James P. Henderson held tent meetings in Texarkana, Arkansas. He stated that, “Many discouragements have militated against us in our work at this place—several weeks of almost incessant rain, opposition meetings, and general worldly influences, some of the worst I have ever met.” He went on to say, “But the Lord has been good, and several precious souls have accepted the truth.” As a result of these meetings, their number increased to ten, and a church was “thoroughly organized.” In addition to this, ten others signed the Sabbath keeping covenant, making a company of twenty Sabbath keepers, with still others interested. A room was located in which to hold regular services, but a church building was needed and strongly talked of, and they hoped to build that fall. However, there does not seem to be any record showing that they were able to build a church. The Texarkana church was admitted to the conference at its annual constituency meeting which was held on August 21, 1889, in Rogers, Arkansas (Henderson, 1889a; Henderson, 1889b).
From May 16 to June 10 of 1890, Elder Joseph G. Wood held meetings in Texarkana. The Disciples of Christ church allowed him to use their building, but the pastor was very derisive of the ten commandments, saying they had been done away with and making fun of them. Elder Wood spent some time showing that the commandments were still binding, concluding that if there are no commandments, then there is nothing to transgress, no sin and no need of the gospel–no need for a pastor! A family of three signed the Sabbath covenant and three others were baptized before Elder Wood left (Wood, 1890). On April 6, 1897, Elder John A. Holbrook and his wife arrived in Texarkana, holding meetings for seventeen days. As a result seventeen people were added to the church (Holbrook, 1897).
In January and February 1903, Elder Asa E. Field held two meetings a day in a private house in Texarkana. Elder Field reported that he found a few Sabbath keepers there and expected to again organize a Sabbath school and baptize some before he left (Field, 1903). On May 29, 1903, Elder Volney B. Watts and Urbanus Bender began holding meetings in Texarkana. They did not have very many who attended, however (Watts and Bender, 1903). Beginning on September 2, 1903, Urbanus Bender, along with his wife of eight months, returned to Texarkana and again held meetings (Bender, 1903). As a result of these meetings, five people signed the Sabbath keeping covenant (Sommerville, 1904). In 1904, the Houston family moved to Texarkana and started the Sabbath school again with the small group of believers meeting in each other’s homes (Bender, 1905). Unfortunately, Mrs. Houston became quite sick in August 1904, and died in April 1905 (Record, 1905). In January 1905, when Elder Urbanus Bender visited Texarkana to look after the few Adventists still meeting together, he reported that there used to be a good little company meeting there a year ago but some had moved away and the Sabbath school was broken up. Elder Watts visited in 1908 and found that some were still working to advance the truth there (Watts, 1908).
TEXARKANA CHURCH REORGANIZED IN 1926
In November 1925, the North Texas Conference reported that Texarkana had an organized Sabbath school of about twenty members led by H. A. Goldsberry (Record, 1925; Perry, 1925). In March 1926, F. L. Perry met with the Sabbath school that was using the Odd Fellows Hall for their meeting place. The believers there were quite insistent that the work needed to be stronger in Texarkana (Perry, 1926). Up until this time, Texarkana had been under the North Texas Conference but in 1926 became part of the Arkansas Conference (Montgomery, 1926b). That fall Elder R. P. Montgomery pitched a tent in Texarkana and started meetings on September 5, 1926, with about 150 to 200 in attendance each night. On October 31, 1926, Elder Montgomery held a baptism at Texarkana and organized the little company of believers into a church of fourteen members (Montgomery, 1926a).
A NEW CHURCH IN 1930
Elder E. G. Crosier held eight weeks of meetings in 1930. The attendance started with eight people, but by the end of the meetings, 204 attended on Sabbath, August 30. Fifty-two new members were baptized and the next Sabbath twenty-five more were baptized. (Crosier, 1930). The new church on County Avenue was completed and ready to open October 4, 1930. It was a brick building that would seat two hundred and had two rooms for a church school. One hundred forty-five new Sabbath keepers were attending the Sabbath school each week and over 100 joined the church (Van Kirk, 1930). By the spring of 1933, they had landscaped around the church and added a church sign (Record, 1933). The church was dedicated on October 19, 1935 (Record, 1935).
A NEW CHURCH IN 1959
By 1953, the church was termite-riddled and the brick wall on one side was about to fall (Minutes, 1953). The Texarkana members purchased two lots at 26th and Texas Boulevard in Miller County, Arkansas, on which to build a church. By July 1954, the old church building had been sold and construction on the new one had begun (Record, 1954). By May 1959, the church was nearly complete. The floor was covered with grey vinyl asbestos tile. The rostrum and center aisle were carpeted in a soft green. The church furniture was purchased from the Brandom Manufacturing Company at Keene, Texas. It harmonized with the natural oak paneling of the rostrum and piers. A Wurlitzer piano and a new Hammond organ were purchased as well (Balser, 1959). Sabbath morning, December 28, 1964, the church was dedicated (Evans, 1964).
A NEW CHURCH IN 2001
In 1977, it was voted to sell the property in Miller County, Arkansas, and in 1979 it was voted for the Texarkana church to purchase property in Bowie County, Texas (Minutes, 1977 & 1979). A groundbreaking ceremony was held Sunday, May 2, 1999, for the new Texarkana church and school on Pleasant Grove Road, Texarkana, Texas. (Prindle, 1999). Church services were held for the first time on Sabbath, September 8, 2001, in the new school gym, which served as a temporary sanctuary. This new location moved the Texarkana church from Arkansas to Texas. Over 200 people attended the consecration ceremony for the new church held on August 24, 2002. To begin the ceremony, the local United States Marine Corps Color Guard raised an American flag that had been flown over the White House. Many years ago, Congressman Wright Patman had given the flag to Tom Martin. Martin’s wife, Marie Martin Prindle, was one of the charter members of the Texarkana church (Johnson, 2002). On Sabbath, July 12, 2008, a special ceremony was held as the Texarkana church was dedicated and the mortgage burned (Johnson, 2008).
Elder Eusebio Prieto began pastoring the Glenwood, Little Rock, Hot Springs District, on September 9, 2004. A year and a half later, Elder Prieto and Pastor Leonardo Castillo held a crusade in the Hot Springs area, resulting in several baptisms.
HOT SPRINGS SPANISH COMPANY ORGANIZED IN 2006
From that campaign was born the vision of planting a new congregation in Hot Springs. On October 21, 2006, that dream was realized when forty-six people signed as charter members of the newly organized Hot Springs Spanish company. They worshiped in the Community Center and began raising money to purchase their own place for worship and outreach (Newsletter, 2006). In 2014, it was approved for the Hot Springs Spanish members to move into the former building of the Hot Springs Fellowship church which had been disbanded several months earlier (Minutes, 2014).
(2006, Dec. 1). Newsletter, Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, p. 3.