Gentry Seventh-day Adventist Church

A Brief History of Gentry, Arkansas

Gentry Church Organized in 1902

A camp meeting was held in Gentry, Arkansas, August 8 – 17, 1902 (Record, 1902). The church was organized sometime within the next year, although the exact date is not known*. Volney B. Watts and Dr. Jacob A. Sommerville held tent meetings September 1903, so although the membership had been twenty-six, fifteen were baptized as a result of the meetings, making a total of forty-one members. A young people’s missionary society was organized in October (Record, 1903a; Record, 1903b; Watts, 1903).

A New Church in 1904

John A. Oppy (1846-1931) (Ancestry, 2013).

In January 1904, John Amandus Oppy held meetings near Gentry, and soon, eight or ten more were planning to keep the Sabbath (H., 1904). It was also stated that it was the intention of the company to erect a church building soon (Hoopes, 1904), and they began building the third week of March (Record, 1904a). Elder Watts held meetings five miles from Gentry beginning March 4, 1904, baptizing eleven in May, and reporting that twenty-five had been added to the Gentry church since the fall of 1903 (Watts, 1904). D. S. James, elder of the Gentry church, sold his farm so he could contribute towards building a church (Record, 1903a). He reported in November 1904, that they were just completing the church (Record, 1904b). It was dedicated Sunday, May 13, 1906 (Santee, 1906).

A New Church in 1913

Flint Creek crossing (Melton, 2004)

In 1911, the property in town, worth $700 or $800, was sold with plans to build a combined church and school building next to Flint Creek (Eastman, 1912). The new church with a basement classroom was completed by October and school began on October 7, 1912. This church was called the Flint Creek church. It was dedicated on Wednesday, November 19, 1913, by Elders Baxter and G. F. Watson, who were holding meetings there (Journal, 1913). Twenty-five more members were added to the church as a result of the meetings (Watson, 1913). On May 15, 1915, while holding a Sabbath School convention in the Flint Creek church, the members decided they needed to add another room because it was very crowded and they planned to have a two teacher school that fall (Baxter, 1915), but it wasn’t until 1920, that the room was added to the church to accommodate the school (Wilcox, 1920). In 1925, church membership was about fifty members but by 1927, had grown to 110. A second wing was added to the church to provide an additional 24′ x 30′ school room in time for the 1926-1927 school year. That year they operated a ten-grade, three-teacher school with about fifty-five students (Shafer, 1927).

Spring 1923 Flint Creek School students, teacher, and church members in front of the church. One classroom wing had been added (Melton, 2004).
Flint Creek church and school built in 1912-1913 with both school rooms added. Photo ca. 1930 (Melton, 2004)..
The Gentry church and school in 1947 (Flintonian, 1948).
Children’s Sabbath school classes in 1948. Photo courtesy of Lois Morley.
Baptism in Flint Creek in September 1949. These baptisms were the result of the work conducted by Elder Wilson and Brother Kretz (Sanders, 1949).

A New Church in 1949

Breaking ground for the new church across the road from the old church (Flintonian, 1944).

In the fall of 1947, the Gentry members began building a two-story church. The Sabbath attendance had grown to nearly 300 with the two church school rooms and the church auditorium crowded to capacity, with some standing, when the student body were all present (Wilson, 1948). The new church was built across the road from the old one, on land donated by Joe and Opal Rogers (Wilson, 1975). The total cost for labor was less than $150 because everybody helped. (Wilson, 1949a). A seating capacity of 500-600 provided for the growing student body and church family (Sanders, 1951), and yet not more than $10,000 was spent on the building. Even though it was not completed, they held a weekend camp meeting in the basement of the new church July 28-31, 1949 (Sanders, 1949), with over 400 in attendance (Wilson, 1949b). The church continued to be used for other meetings as well, despite the fact that pews were not purchased until April 1951. The church was dedicated on May 26, 1951 (Sanders, 1951). At the end of 1952, the Gentry church had the second largest membership in the conference, with Shreveport being the largest (Sanders, 1953).

Academy students walking across the road to the Gentry Church in 1958 (Flintonian, 1958).

In the spring of 1958, the Gentry church was remodeled (Miller, 1958). Unanimous approval to pave the roads in and around Ozark Academy was given in October 1958, with the conference paying for half of the cost and the Union paying the other half (Minutes, 1958).

Photo of the Gentry church taken September 23, 1964. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference.

A New Church in 1974

Groundbreaking for the Gentry church on January 14, 1973. Shown above L to R: Dr. Don Weaver, chairman, building committee; Elder P. I. Nosworthy, secretary-treasurer, Arkansas-Louisiana Conference; Elder E. Frank Sherrill, president, Arkansas-Louisiana Conference; Mr. Railey Steele, mayor, Gentry, Arkansas; Elder E. E. Johnson, pastor, Gentry Church; and Elder Dean Kinsey, principal, Ozark Academy (Kostenko, 1973).

Groundbreaking services for a new Gentry church were held on January 14, 1973 (Kostenko, 1973), again on land donated by Joe and Opal Rogers (Wilson, 1975). On August 10, 1974, the new Gentry church was dedicated. The church sanctuary, with normal seating capacity of approximately 750 with overflow accommodations for up to 1,000, is in the center of an octagonal building with nearly twenty rooms of various sizes built around it. Construction proceeded only as money was available and was completed debt free in two years (Kostenko, 1974).

Adding the steeple (Flintonian, 1974).
Gentry church on Dawn Hill East Road in Gentry, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of Don Hevener.

*Note: The exact date of the organization of the Gentry church is not known. It occurred after the 1902 Gentry camp meeting ended on August 17, and before September 26, 1903, when the church held their communion service.

Citations

(1902, Jul. 28). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.

(1903a, Oct. 5). Ibid., p. 2.

(1903b, Oct. 19). Ibid., p. 2.

(1904a, Mar. 21). Ibid., p. 2.

(1904b, Nov. 28). Ibid., p. 2.

(1913, Nov. 28). Held Revival Meeting. The Journal-Advance, p. 1.

(1944 – 1975). The Flintonian. Gentry, AR: Ozark Academy.

(1968, Oct. 14). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.

Ancestry Family Trees. (2013, Jan. 12). John Amandus Oppy. Retrieved from ancestry.com.

Baxter, W. E. (1915, Jun. 8). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.

Eastman, C. N. (1912, Feb. 27). Ibid., p. 5.

Griffin, H. Clay. (1906, May 22). Ibid., p. 2.

H., F. E. (1904, Jan. 11). Ibid., p. 2.

Hoopes, L. A. (1904, Feb. 4). Review and Herald, p. 21.

Kostenko, Peter A. (1973, Feb. 10). Southwestern Union Record, p. 6.

Ibid. (1974, Sep. 28). p. 7.

Melton, June. (2004, Spring). A Pictorial History of Ozark Adventist Academy. Retrieved from ozarkacademy.org.

Miller, Cyril H. (1958, Jun. 11). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.

Sanders, F. O. (1949, Jul. 27). Ibid., p. 3.

Ibid. (1949, Sep. 14). p. 3.

Ibid. (1951, Jul. 11). p. 4.

Ibid. (1953, Feb. 4). p. 5.

Santee, Clarence. (1906, May 22). Ibid., p. 5.

Shafer, S. T. (1927, Nov. 15). Ibid., p. 2.

Watson, G. F. (1913, Dec. 11). Review and Herald, p. 11.

Watts, V. B. (1903, Oct. 15). Ibid., p. 20.

Ibid. (1904, May 23). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.

Ibid. (1904, May 26). Review and Herald, p. 17.

Wilcox, Lorena E. (1920, Nov. 30). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.

Wilson, J. O. (1975, Aug. 23). Ibid., p. 10.

Wilson, M. L. (1948, Jan. 21). Ibid., p. 3.

Ibid. (1949a, Jun. 22). p. 4.

Ibid. (1949b, Aug. 17). p. 2.