Malvern Seventh-day Adventist Church

A Brief History of Malvern, Arkansas

Background: Shockeys Become Seventh-day Adventists

John Shockey family in 1891. L to R: Robert L. Atwood, Eva V. Atwood (baby), Hannah Ada Shockey-Atwood, Flora Elizabeth Shockey, Lewie Newton Shockey, John Lincoln Shockey, Charles Homer Shockey (behind John), Minnie Leota Shockey, Henrietta Belle Shockey (front of John), Lydia A. Bartholemew-Shockey and Winnie Lenora Shockey (Ancestry, 2014).

John Lincoln Shockey, born April 27, 1846, in Ohio, married Lydia Bartholomew on March 13, 1872, and they moved to Seward, Nebraska. In the fall of 1874, Elder Charles L. Boyd held three weeks of tent meetings at nearby Stromsburg (Boyd, 1874). The Shockeys attended and became Seventh-day Adventists. In 1878, the Shockeys moved back to Ohio, and several members of John’s family became Seventh-day Adventists, including his younger brother, Phillip, who became an evangelist.

The Work Begins

Phillip Calvin Shockey and his family. Back row: Verna, Gertrude, Myrtle, Isaac; Front row: Philip Calvin, Bertha, Plezzy. Photographed by Phillip ca. 1904 (Ancestry, 2009).

In the fall of 1883, Elders J. N. Bunch and J. H. James came to Arkansas and worked hard around the Magnet Cove area to spread the Sabbath message (Vincent, 1883). The following summer, Phillip Calvin Shockey, an evangelist, farmer, and photographer, visited the area in hopes of moving there, and found six Sabbath keepers, some of whom had been keeping the Sabbath for many years before they knew there were other Sabbath observers. In Phillip’s words, “One of them is the most influential man in the vicinity. He is an educated Swiss, understanding six or eight languages. He may be of use in this cause when he finds his place” (Shockey, 1884).

Move to Butterfield

John and Phillip’s father, Isaac Calvin Shockey, who along with his wife and sons’ moved to Butterfield, Arkansas, ca. 1885-1886 (Ancestry, 2016).

In 1884, Phillip Shockey and his family, including his parents and his older brother, John L. Shockey, moved from Ohio to four miles from Butterfield, near Malvern, where Phillip filed for a homestead of 160 acres (Land Office, 2008). Phillip was almost immediately asked to be the denominational evangelism agent for Arkansas (Yearbook, 1885). Phillip’s three youngest children were born in Butterfield, as was John’s youngest, Henrietta Belle Shockey. The families made the acquaintance of a Seventh-day Church of God family and the two families met together for services in their homes, with others gradually joining them (Cate, 2001). The Shockey families helped build up the Seventh-day Adventist church and when the Arkansas Conference was organized in 1888, Malvern was one of the ten existing churches that was recognized. John was elected as the evangelism director for District #3 which covered nine counties. By 1893, however, many of the people had moved away and there were only the two Shockey families of Adventists left (Rees, 1893). John died in 1897 at fifty-one years of age, leaving Lydia with seven children to care for. Lydia continued to meet with her friends and neighbors for Sabbath services, and just after John’s death, they held a barn raising for her (Heritage, 1971).

Lydia Shockey’s friends and neighbors held a barn raising for her in 1897, shortly after John’s death. Their property was on what is now S. Main Street (Hwy. 9), Malvern (Heritage, 1971).

Butterfield Church Organized in 1903

In spite of the small numbers, a school was started in Butterfield for the 1902-1903 school year (Record, 1902). Phillip Shockey began placing advertisements in the Southwestern Union Record for families to move to his 160-acre farm and attend the school (Shockey, 1902). In June 1903, Elder Jacob A. Sommerville organized a church of fifteen members at Butterfield (Heerman, 1903), and this later became the Malvern church. Phillip Shockey and his family moved to Harlingen, Texas, in 1909, where Phillip set up a photography studio, but Lydia Shockey and her children remained in the Malvern area (Ancestry, 2019).

Meetings in Malvern

Elder and Mrs. Isaac Baker. Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.

In July 1923, Elder Isaac Baker and his brother-in-law, N. R. Hickman, came to Malvern and pitched a tent across from the court house. After the meetings, Elder Baker met with the little group of interested persons whenever possible, preaching and encouraging them, although he was busy holding meetings in other areas throughout the conference (Beem, 1956).

A New Church in 1926

In 1925, this small company of believers consisted of nine women who were members of the church, and sixteen children and youth. They were still meeting in private homes, but circumstances were making it imperative that they have a church building. The husbands of some of these women, not being members and some being very bitter, were making the task of erecting a church difficult. It was planned to put up only an $800 bungalow. Some of the material and most of the labor would be donated. Lydia Shockey, who had been a faithful Adventist for fifty years with no church home, gave the first donation, then visited businesses to ask for more donations (James, 1925; Cate, 2001). In May 1925, the construction on the Malvern church building was started. Elder Baker helped to find the lot on the corner of Berger and Hot Springs Streets and he was there to help with a shovel when the first dirt was dug for the foundation. He worked with the others until the last nail was driven (Beem, 1956). The first services were held in the little white church on June 1, 1925, with twelve charter members (Cate, 2001). The Malvern church was dedicated April 14, 1928. Although it was rainy there was a good attendance and all were glad that the building could be dedicated entirely free from debt (Montgomery, 1928). Almost one year later, Lydia Shockey died on March 14, 1929 (Arkansas Death Index, 1914-1950).

Enlarging the Church

When Elder Baker retired in 1945, he and his wife, Ruby, returned to Malvern to make their home on the four-acre plot where Ruby had been born. They found a very small group of Adventists still meeting in the little church he had helped to build. Elder Baker began encouraging and shepherding the little group and the Sabbath school membership grew from five to sixty-five in five years. Now the original building was much too small. Elder Baker, with the help of his brother, Enoch, started improving and enlarging the church facilities by adding a basement. A celebration was held May 12, 1956, to honor Elder Baker and the contributions of his work to the Malvern church (Beem, 1956).

Malvern church as it looked in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Richard Hall.

The little church on Hot Springs Street served the congregation for about sixty years. In 1981, the Malvern church purchased eleven acres and a house on Division Street in the city of Rockport to build a new church and a school (Elder, 1982). The congregation began worshiping in their new church in 1985. In 1987 the old church was sold and a new wing was added to the new church to house a church school (Cate, 1996).

Malvern church on Division Street in Malvern, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Burton.


(1885). Yearbook of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination. Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, p. 9.

(1902, Oct. 27). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.

(1971). The Heritage. Hot Spring County, Arkansas: Historical Society, Volume II, pg. 100. (2008). U.S. General Land Office Records, 1776-2015. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc.

Ancestry Family Trees. (2009, Jan. 11). Phillip Calvin Shockey. Retrieved from

Ibid. (2014, Jul. 5). John Lincoln Shockey.

Ibid. (2016, Jul. 3). Isaac Calvin Shockey.

Ibid. (2019, Mar. 29). Lydia Ann Bartholomew.

Arkansas Department of Health, Division of Vital Records. Arkansas Death Index, 1914-1950. Arkansas: Arkansas Genealogical Society. Microfiche.

Beem, Mrs. Raymond. (1956, Jun. 6). Southwestern Union Record, p. 6.

Boyd, Charles L. (1874, Oct. 20). Review and Herald,

Cate, Leora. (1996, Jul. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 18.

Ibid. (2001, Sep. 1). p. 4.

Elder, W. H. (1982, Jan. 21). Ibid., p. 12G.

Heerman, F. E. (1903, Jul. 27). Ibid., p. 2.

James, M. M. (1925, Jun. 23). Ibid., p. 2.

Rees, J. M. (1893, Jul. 18). Review and Herald, p. 459.

Montgomery, R. P. (1928, May 8). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.

Shockey, P. C. (1884, Jul. 22). Review and Herald, p. 476.

Ibid. (1902, Sep. 29). Southwestern Union Record, p. 8.

Vincent, N. W. (1883, Nov. 27). Review and Herald, p. 749.