A Brief History of Little Rock, Arkansas
The work begins
In March 1884, Elder Dolphus Austin (“D. A.”) Wellman came from Michigan to hold meetings in the Little Rock area. His work was centered in Argenta (North Little Rock), where a gentleman who had a copy of Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation which he had read through four times, was thoroughly convinced of the truth. He offered Elder and Mrs. Wellman a room in his house to occupy free of charge for as long as they were there. At the close of the meetings, one person was baptized and Elder Wellman reported that several were keeping the Sabbath in Argenta (Wellman, 1884).
Little Rock Church Organized in 1889
Dan T. Jones, Missouri Conference president, reported in the May 17, 1887, Review and Herald that tent meetings were going to begin in Little Rock (Jones, 1887). In the summer of 1887, after a lot of labor in Little Rock, a few had accepted the truth and Elder Jones was able to organize a small company (Henderson, 1888). In August 1887, Benjamin Franklin Martindale began preparing a group of canvassers to go throughout Argenta and Little Rock to continue gaining interests (Martindale, 1887). A church of twenty-six members was organized in February 1889, when the conference headquarters were moved to the Little Rock area (Henderson, 1889).
Little Rock Church Reorganized in 1901
When the conference office moved to Van Buren in 1890, the Little Rock church floundered, but the opening of the Little Rock Sanitarium finally brought strength and stability. There were only two Adventists living in North Little Rock by this time, Mrs. Strange and Mrs. Potter. On December 26, 1900, Dr. and Mrs. William Clare Greene came to Little Rock from Battle Creek Sanitarium to take charge of treatment rooms which Greene’s brother and sister-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Rawson Jacob Greene, had established. In April 1901, a young physician just out of medical school, Dr. A. W. George, came to work at the sanitarium. This small group of people organized a Sabbath school in Little Rock. A colporteur, Charles F. Parmele, and his wife also came in 1901 and were joined by another colporteur, Alex D. Valentine (Lewins, n.d.). On October 12, 1901, the church in Little Rock was reorganized with twelve members (Parmele, 1902). They met in the parlor at the Little Rock Sanitarium until the group built a church on Jefferson Street in 1908 (Gregory, 1908). On May 27, 1902, Charles Parmele’s younger brother, Rufus W. Parmele, held tent meetings in Little Rock hoping to have some good interests who would attend camp meeting in July (Field, 1902).
An advertisement for the Little Rock Sanitarium (Record, 1906). In 1908, the sanitarium was moved to Wolfe Street.
A New Church in 1908
The first Adventist church built in Little Rock was located on Jefferson Street. This church was sold in 1923 (Record, 1924).
A New Church in 1921
Property with an existing church at 1213 Marshall Street in Little Rock, was purchased in the fall of 1921. A house next door was remodeled to house the Conference headquarters (Taylor, 1921). In 1925, a baptistry was added to the church (Record, 1925). For years, the rear section of the Little Rock church had been a disorderly makeshift construction. Finally in 1942, they were able to tear away and reconstruct the back of the building and include several large and attractive rooms in time for several new members to join the church at the conclusion of an evangelistic effort that fall (Record, 1942b). Tent meetings were held in the summer of 1942. The attendance was about 700 white people and 500 blacks on the night the Sabbath was presented. Although they had a large tent, about 250 people had to sit outside the tent. The members were busy visiting the homes of over 300 people who requested literature (Garrett, 1942).
Soldiers Attend The Church
In September 1940, the United States instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which required all men between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five to register for the draft. By 1942, fifty Seventh-day Adventist soldiers were located at Camp Robinson in Little Rock. These men were receiving Sabbath privileges and made a large addition to the Little Rock church attendance each Sabbath. The church was very open-hearted and every soldier had the opportunity of sharing the church’s hospitality throughout each Sabbath. The soldiers were very appreciative of this kindness and many of them took an active part in church services and set an example of courage and faith for the entire membership (Record, 1942a). In 1943, the conference executive committee voted to make a twenty-five dollar appropriation to the Little Rock Church to “assist in the entertainment of our soldier boys on the Sabbath” (Minutes, 1943).
Outgrowing the church
In the fall of 1953, Stanley Harris and Henry Barron held an evangelistic crusade in Little Rock. As a result, nearly sixty people were baptized and joined the church. Among this group was a former Pentecostal minister and his family. Several other individuals were preparing to unite with the church. The Little Rock church had already reached its capacity, and were making preparations to build a new house of worship (Record, 1954).
A New Church in 1956
Early in 1954, some of the new members began holding evangelistic meetings, growing the church even more. That year the Little Rock church purchased a beautiful two-and-one-half acre plot of ground at 3400 South Hayes Street (later renamed University Avenue), immediately across from the Little Rock Junior College (now University of Arkansas). On September 21, 1955, the grading of the property began for the new Little Rock School and Evangelistic Center. The building was to have a large auditorium with seating for 700 (Thurmon, 1955). The members needed to raise $35,000 before they could begin building so on January 9, 1956, a representative from a Seventh-day Adventist professional fund raising group flew in from Los Angeles to conduct a canvass of the church district. Just three weeks later the membership of the Little Rock church had willingly pledged $38,858.75 for the new church building program. On Sabbath, October 6, 1956, the members met for the first time in their new evangelistic center. Beginning the next day and continuing October 7 – 9, 1956, the conference ministers’ meeting was held in the new church (Scott, 1956). In 1959, it was voted to sell the church and property on Marshall Street (Minutes, 1959).
A New Church in 1970
Groundbreaking for a new Little Rock church on Rodney Parham Road was held December 23, 1969. A building with a seating capacity of 400 was planned for the plot that had been purchased three years before. Building the school had been the first phase and now the church was added to the eight-and-a-half acre property (Clark, 1970a). Members met in their new church for the first time on June 27, 1970, with 350 people enjoying the grand opening celebration (Clark, 1970b). The dedication of the new church was held on December 11, 1976. The church property on University Avenue was sold in 1977 (Richey, 1977).
Little Rock church on Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock, Arkansas.
(1906, Apr. 24). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
(1924, Jan. 15). Ibid., p. 2.
(1925, Oct. 20). Ibid., p. 1.
(1942a, May 27). Ibid., p. 3.
(1942b, Sep. 9). Ibid., p. 3.
(1943, Jan. 12). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(1954, Feb. 10). Southwestern Union Record, p. 1.
(1959, Jul. 8). Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Conference Association. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(1970, Mar. 28). Southwestern Union Record, p. 5
Ancestry Family Trees. (2012). Dr. William Clare Green. Retrieved from ancestry.com.
Clark, Ernest D. (1970a, Jan. 24). Southwestern Union Record, p. 15.
Ibid. (1970b, Jul. 25). pp. 7, 8.
Field, A. E. (1902, Jun. 2). Ibid., p. 5.
Garrett, M. R. (1942, Aug. 26). Ibid., p. 3.
Gregory, M. H. (1908, Jun. 30). Ibid., p. 2.
Hearthstone Legacy Publications. (2012-2017). My Genealogy Hound. Retrieved from mygenealogyhound.com.
Henderson, J. P. (1888, May 22). Review and Herald, p. 332.
Ibid. (1889, Mar. 5). p. 155.
Lewins, Thomas Martin. Historical notes undated, unpublished.
Martindale, B. F. (1887, Aug. 16). Review and Herald, p. 526.
Parmele, Chas. F. (1902, Jan. 21). Ibid., p. 44.
Richey, Mary Margaret. (1977, Feb. 26). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 7, 8.
Scott, Betty. (1956, Oct. 24). Ibid., p. 7.
Sherrill, E. Frank. (1970, May 23). Ibid., p. 9.
Taylor, J. I. (1921, Oct. 25). Ibid., p. 3.
Thurmon, Roy B. (1955, Oct. 5). Ibid., p. 3.
Wellman, D. A. (1884, Apr. 22). Review and Herald, p. 268.