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 and Malvern Church Organized about 1886

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, Mr. and Mrs. John Nuesch Sr., in Magnet Cove, 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, and John was the delegate. While in Minneapolis for the session, he was privileged to hear Ellen G. White speak. John was elected as the evangelism director for District #3 which covered nine counties. By 1893, many of the people had moved away from the Malvern area 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

Elder Jacob A. Sommerville

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). On July 7, 1903, Elder Jacob A. Sommerville organized a church of fifteen members at Butterfield (Heerman, 1903), and this later became part of 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).

Malvern Church Reorganized 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 August 8, 1925, with twelve charter members (Cate, 2001). On June 26, 1926, the group was organized as the Malvern Seventh-day Adventist Church, with twelve charter members: Mrs. Lydia Shockey, Mrs. Flora Battreal, Mrs. Belle Dyer, Mrs. Ruby James, Mrs. C. B. Hall, Mrs. Pearl Daughty, Mrs. J. W. Hall, Mrs. J. H. Sullivan, Mrs. Roy Thweatt, Mrs. Unice Thweatt, and Mr. J. E. Thweatt (History, 1993). The new Malvern church building 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). Over the years the membership varied greatly. Many times the youngest daughter of John and Lydia Shockey, Mrs. Belle Dyer, and her nine children were the only ones in attendance. Twice the conference wanted to sell the Malvern church property, but Belle Dyer had someone drive her to Louisiana to talk to the leaders and the church was saved.

Elder Mattison’s Story

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

Elder Howard Mattison who had been the pastor of the Little Rock district from 1943-1945, told this story at Belle Dyer’s funeral in April 1977. He said, “I was called to be pastor of the Malvern church. There were five churches and two companies in the district when the president of the conference, Elder Wells, briefed me on what I would find. I noticed he didn’t say much about the Malvern church. He did say that I would go to Benton church for morning service and on to Malvern for the 2:00 service. I went without anyone to introduce me. I found a congregation that afternoon. Mrs. Dyer and her sixteen year old twin daughters, Lenora and Leora. And there they sat waiting for the service to begin. We had full service. Sabbath school first followed by the church service. I felt like anyone who would come and sit there with her daughters alone deserved it all. In the course of conversation I found out that she had walked five miles to that church in the middle of the day, and it was a very hot day. That moved me very much. I felt like suggesting something that would not have matched her faith at all. I felt like saying wouldn’t it be better for me to drive to your home in my car on Sabbaths and we could have our Sabbath services there, but that would not have met with her approval at all. She believed that Christians should keep God’s Sabbath day and honor His sanctuary, and to her His sanctuary was that little church. And there is where she wanted to be on His Sabbath day. Finally I found a few other members who were still living in Malvern, but were not attending: Mrs. Myrtle Lowry, Mrs. Ada Harris, Mrs. J. W. Hall, and Mrs. Charlie Shockey. They started coming some, but one congregation I knew I would always have was Mother Dyer and the twins. To honor a faith like that, I came down and held a short series of meetings which brought a few more in. One I remember was Roxie Burris.

Raymond and Anna Beem

On one of my trips to Malvern, Anna Beem wanted to come along, after she heard of the little group and of Mrs. Dyer’s faithfulness. She began coming to Malvern and soon Arthur and Tina Beem changed their membership from Little Rock to Malvern. A little after that I was called to the mission fields in India. When I came home on furlough I made a visit to the Malvern church. I found Mother Dyer and the twin girls and some of her older children I had never met before who had come back to church. I was so pleased to see the nice group that was meeting there” (History, 1996).

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

As the Beems drove to the Malvern church each week, instead of driving down the highway, they would drive the dirt roads and pick up everyone who wanted to go. The Beems were like a miracle happening to the church. Anna and Tina Beem were both school teachers, so they were put in as Sabbath school teachers and Arthur Beem was asked to be head Elder and did a wonderful job. The whole Beem family was a great inspiration to the church for many years.

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.

(1996). History of the S. D. A. Church in Malvern. Unpublished. (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.

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