Harrison Seventh-day Adventist Church

A Brief History of Harrison, Arkansas

The Work Begins

In the summer of 1887, Elders Joseph Garner Wood and James A. Armstrong held tent meetings for eight weeks in Harrison. The book Bible Readings had been distributed in that area so when the tent was set up, it was filled to capacity and Elders Wood and Armstrong visited with twenty-four families who had a strong interest in the messages. Three other denominations held meetings for a week, then went door-to-door to induce people not to attend the Adventist meetings. This dropped attendance to between forty to seventy-five each night. At the end of the meetings, seventeen people signed the Sabbath keeping covenant. Following these meetings, Elders Wood and Armstrong were urged to travel to Hilltop, eleven miles from Harrison, where a Seventh-day Adventist family had been living for four years. Wood and Armstrong set up their tent at Hilltop and held twelve meetings over the next ten days. Although there was only one house in sight, people came from all over the mountain, as many as one hundred to two hundred per night (Armstrong, 1887).

Cheeks Families Become Seventh-day Adventists

William C. Cheek (1850-1932). Photo courtesy of the Review and Herald.

In 1887, Adon Bampton Cheek moved his family from Gainesville, Georgia, to Harrison, Arkansas (Ancestry, 2019). They attended the meetings held by Elders Wood and Armstrong in the summer of 1887 and became Seventh-day Adventists. Adon was so excited about his new-found faith that he went back to Georgia to share it with his four brothers, then returned to Harrison and began canvassing. One of Adon’s brothers, William Chelsey Cheek, and his wife, Rutha, were interested in the Adventist message and with their eight children (Davidson, 2001), moved to Harrison in the spring of 1890 (Ancestry, 2019). They kept their first Sabbath in December that year (Review, 1920). William began canvassing in Arkansas soon after this and continued until 1896, when his wife died shortly after having twins, which also died (Ancestry, 2019). This made it necessary for William to stop canvassing, take up farming, and care for their eight children for the next fifteen years (Review, 1920). In 1911, he entered the canvassing work again and in 1920 he commented, “I have now devoted [the last] nine years to the colporteur work, and am in a better condition financially than I have ever been before in my life” (Review, 1920).

Harrison Church Organized in 1888

Meanwhile, in March 1888, Hilltop and Harrison, in Boone County, united in forming a church of twelve members, while the same number of others signed the Sabbath covenant. A tract society of nine members was organized, and nearly all signed the teetotal pledge. This was the result of the tent meetings by Elders Joseph G. Wood and James A. Armstrong in the summer of 1887 (Henderson, 1888).

Harrison Church Reorganized in 1935

Elder H. C. Hartwell

From 1900 to 1934, there was little activity in the Harrison area (Beeler, 1996), but in 1934, J. D. Smith held a short series of meetings at Harrison and ten new members were added (Hartwell, 1934). In 1935, Ralph E. Cash held a short series of meetings, and on Sabbath, May 25, 1935, Elder H. C. Hartwell reorganized the church with eighteen members (Hartwell, 1935). The membership gradually dwindled and in July 1939, it was voted to disband the Harrison Church (Minutes, 1939).

Harrison Church Reorganized in 1943

Essie Lee Davidson in 1947. Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.

On November 13, 1943, Elder F. D. Wells, his wife, and Elder Isaac Baker met with the Harrison members at the home of Brian and Dennie Davidson (Wood, 1997). Brian was a grandson of William C. Cheek. There were thirty people in attendance and Elders Wells and Baker reorganized them into a church of twenty-three members (Wells, 1943). Some of the charter members included Dennie Davidson, her daughter, Essie Lee Davidson, Minnie Mae Davis, Mona Bell, Myra Osborn, and Verna Baker (Wood, 1997).

A New Church in 1952

In 1951, Lee J. Meidinger and his wife moved to Harrison. The church was laying plans for an evangelistic meeting as soon as weather conditions permitted. Almost immediately the attendance at Sabbath services increased so that they had to find more seats or else find another place to meet where they had more room. They were meeting in a schoolhouse, but were planning for the erection of a church and a school on lots that had already been purchased (Meidinger, 1951). This first Seventh-day Adventist church built in Harrison, erected by Mr. McWilliams, was dedicated August 16, 1952 (Davidson, 2001). After the Meidingers moved away the Davidsons continued to lead an active church consisting of Sabbath school led by Mr. Eaton and missionary work under the leadership of David Wilson. The Wilsons donated an organ to the Harrison church and Mrs. Wilson, an accomplished organist, led out in the church music (Green, 1959).

Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.

In March 1978, it was voted to sell the church and purchase property on Highway 392 West to build a new church (Minutes, 1978).

Harrison church on Highway 392 West in Harrison, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of Staci James.

Citations

(1920, Jul. 15). Review and Herald, p. 13.

(1939, Jul. 26). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.

(1978, Mar. 13). Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Conference Association. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.

Ancestry Family Trees. (2019). Adon Bampton Cheek. Retrieved from ancestry.com.

Ibid. (2019). William Chelsey Cheek, Jr. Retrieved from ancestry.com.

Armstrong, J. A. (1887, Aug. 23). Review and Herald, p. 539.

Beeler, Charles R. (1996). A History of Seventh-day Adventists in Arkansas and Louisiana 1888-1996. Keene: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, p. 117.

Davidson, Essie Lee. (2001, Sep. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 8.

Green, George. (1959, Apr. 29). Ibid., p. 7.

Hartwell, H. C. (1934, May 30). Ibid., p. 4.

Ibid. (1935, May 29). p. 3.

Henderson, J. P. (1888, Apr. 10). Review and Herald, p. 236.

Meidinger, Lee J. (1951, Feb. 21). Southwestern Union Record, p. 8.

Wells, F. D. (1943, Dec. 1). Ibid., p. 3.

Wood, Sandi. (1997, Sep. 1). Ibid., p. 21.