The Work Begins
In about 1883, a young man named George Washington Winn, left his home in Marthaville and went to Texas, looking for a job. He found work with a Seventh-day Adventist farmer. After some time, the farmer announced that he and his family were going to attend camp meeting, and invited George to go along. The result was George’s conversion and baptism, and of course, he wanted to go home to Marthaville, and tell his family and friends about his new faith. Back in Marthaville, George Winn organized a group of four or five canvassers who would go to a place, camp in the woods, and canvas the community. When George married in 1889, he and his wife provided a home for the colporteurs (Review, 1961). In 1897, hearing of the new Adventist school at Keene, Texas, George moved there with his wife, Mary Alice, and their six children. One of the children, Ella (Winn) Hart later served several years as office secretary in the Arkansas Conference office in Little Rock and when Arkansas and Louisiana were united as a conference in 1932, she was secretary-treasurer of the conference (Beeler, 1996).
Marthaville Church Organized in 1887
Meanwhile, Elder Thomas H. Gibbs, who was working in New Orleans, was asked by George Winn if he would go to Marthaville and hold meetings if George would pay all the expenses. Elder Gibbs agreed, and in 1886, he, along with his wife and a recently converted young lady, went to Marthaville and held meetings for six weeks (Gibbs, 1886a). After three weeks, sixteen adults took a firm stand for the Sabbath. Elder Gibbs reported that interest was still good and he hoped for more soon. (Gibbs, 1886b) At the close of six weeks of meetings, Elder Gibbs organized a company of twenty-one members and a Sabbath school of thirty-one. The usual officers were chosen and everything was done to make the work permanent. Elder Gibbs then returned to his work in New Orleans (Gibbs, 1886c). Elder Gibbs returned to Marthaville and on January 9, 1887, he organized a church and ordained an elder (Gibbs, 1887a). In the fall of 1887, Elder Gibbs and his wife spent a few days at Marthaville where he reported that “we have a small church of our people. They are all holding on firmly to the truth. Two young sisters united with the church at the close of our meetings” (Gibbs, 1887b). When Elder Robert M. Kilgore visited in the summer of 1892, he reported that the few Sabbath keepers were settled and were content with just their own few members (Kilgore, 1892). They were not witnessing to friends and neighbors.
Marthaville Church Reorganized in 1900
The third Louisiana camp meeting was held July 13-22, 1900, at Marthaville. Elder M. G. Huffman, who had been working in Florida and Georgia, along with Elder S. B. Horton, held meetings for two more weeks following camp meeting. They reported organizing a church of twenty-four members at Marthaville, because the little church organized in 1887 had disbanded (Huffman, 1900). By 1913, the church had broken up by the death of some of the prominent members and by other people moving away. Elder Oscar F. Frank held meetings in Marthaville and other small communities in the spring of 1913, and found that Marthaville had a little Sabbath school still meeting with about fifteen in attendance each week including children (Frank, 1913).
Marthaville Church Reorganized in 1953
During the years 1931-32, Elder M. L. Wilson, then Shreveport district pastor, took a great interest in this little community, baptizing several and reorganizing a Sabbath school (Wilson, 1932). In 1952 Elder Perry Green held meetings in this small town, which had a population of 121 in 1950. On the opening night, there were 380 in attendance (Sanders, 1953). From that time on Elder Green felt a burden to have a strong church in Marthaville. The following summer in 1953, the tent was pitched on the spot where the church now stands, and Elder Green, assisted by E. J. McMurry, a colporteur evangelist, conducted tent meetings. On December 19, 1953, a church of twenty-five members was organized (Green, 1955) on the very spot where a camp meeting had been held fifty-three years before (Sanders, 1954). The newly organized church met in members’ homes until a church building was completed in 1954.
A New Church in 1954
Bessie Locke, the lady who so kindly permitted them to pitch the tent on her lot in 1953, accepted the message and donated the ground for the church building. The building was begun before the church was organized, and shortly thereafter, regular services were held in it. In the summer of 1954, Elder Green and E. J. McMurry again conducted a tent meeting, and the church membership was raised to forty-three. The church building was dedicated on July 9, 1955, with the Marthaville members and many friends from surrounding churches attending (Green, 1955).
A New Church in 1980
This church building was in use until a tornado took a large portion of the roof in 1973. Rains did so much damage that repair seemed almost impossible and a new construction was necessary. In 1977, Melvin B. Swena and his wife, Eleanor, were sent to Natchitoches to begin evangelistic work. He devoted his efforts, however, toward re-establishing the church in Marthaville and in September 1980, work was begun on the present structure. The church held its first service in December 1980. The building project was made possible by the Adventist Lay Church Builders, as they donated many hours of labor in the construction of the new church and loaned the funds needed for materials to the congregation, which completed the payments in 1985. On Sabbath, September 28, 1985, the Marthaville church was dedicated, debt free (Schneider, 1985).
(1961, Sep. 7). Review and Herald, p. 25.
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. 78.
Frank, O. F. (1913, Apr. 24). Southern Union Worker, p. 140.
Gibbs, Thomas H. (1886a, Oct. 5). Review and Herald, p. 615.
Ibid. (1886b, Oct. 19). p. 652.
Ibid. (1886c, Nov. 9). p. 699.
Ibid., 1887a, Feb. 1). p. 69.
Ibid. (1887b, Oct. 18). p. 652.
Green, Mrs. Perry. (1955, Aug. 17). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 3-5.
Huffman, M. G. (1900, Sep. 25). Review and Herald, p. 620.
Sanders, F. O. (1953, Aug. 26). Southwestern Union Record, p. 6.
Ibid. (1954, Jul. 14). p. 8.
Schneider, Don. (1985, Nov. 28). Ibid., pp. 16D, E.
Wilson, M. L. (1932, Jul. 20). Ibid., pp. 2, 3.