The Work Begins
In December 1889, the General Conference sent a group of eight canvassers led by A. F. Harrison, to the Shreveport area although there were no known interests there (Harrison, 1889). About three years later, in the summer of 1892, Elder Robert M. Kilgore visited churches in the south and included a visit with the Rose family, who were the only active Sabbath keepers in the Shreveport area (Kilgore, 1892). Two years later, in 1894, when Smith Sharp visited, he reported a company of fourteen who were meeting together for Sabbath school. Elder Sharp baptized a lady while he was there (Sharp, 1895).
Shreveport Church Organized in 1903
Elder Henry Johnson from Iowa arrived in April 1902, to hold tent meetings in the area. He gave a report about a Sabbath school that was meeting west of Jewella, in the community known locally as Taterville* (Johnson, 1902; Gifford, 2020). Some of these early members were John Stephen and Elizabeth Gifford, Perry C. and Fannie Sibley, and H. S. Roach, his wife, and daughter, Ruby. Ruby later served as the Educational and Young People’s Secretary for the state, and taught at the Shreveport school. There were four other families as well (Record, 1986). Elder S. B. Horton, the conference president, organized the Shreveport church on February 14, 1903 (Beeler, 1996), and it was admitted to the conference at the 1903 conference session held in Hope Villa, Louisiana (Orrell, 1903).
A New Church in 1906
A church had been built on land that is now part of the Red River Bowmen Archery Club, but it had burned down (Gifford, 2020). In 1906, a structure was built on South Roach Drive just west of where the Pathfinder clubhouse now stands. It served as both church and school. Every Friday afternoon the desks were moved outside and the benches put in place for Sabbath services. The furniture for this building was made by Perry C. Sibley. Later, a floor was added by the men of the church, fashioned from lumber paid for with $25.00 advanced by the school teacher (McLennan, 1915). Elder E. L. Maxwell visited the Shreveport area in 1908 and reported that the church was among the most alive of any in the state and he was glad to see such a “vigorous” church (Maxwell, 1908).
Shreveport Church Reorganized in 1914
Elders W. P. McLennan, Caldwell, and Rufus W. Parmele began meetings in Shreveport on April 5, 1914. Elder McLennan, the new pastor, had been there for several weeks, engaged in personal work in the homes of the people, and meeting with some very encouraging results. The evangelistic team secured the use of the city hall auditorium for Sunday night services, and held cottage-meetings during the week. Attendance at the city hall meetings averaged about one hundred and twenty-five. As a result of the meetings, a church was again organized in the Taterville area near Shreveport on Sabbath, May 2, 1914 (Parmele, 1914). Elders McLennan and Caldwell again held tent meetings later that year with plans to continue holding meetings through the winter but November 16, 1914, at 10:30 p.m. the house next to the tent caught fire and blew burning shingles onto the tent, burning it in many places. They were able to get the organ and some other supplies out but the meetings came to an abrupt end. Taking up the work again, some meetings were held in the city hall until a tent-maker could repair the tent, but attendance dropped off significantly (Frank, 1914).
A New Church in 1917
Most of the church members lived closer to Shreveport and traveling over Greenwood Road, which was a wagon trail, to get to the country church in Taterville, was difficult. In 1915, the members living in Shreveport held a meeting without inviting anyone who might vote against moving the church closer to Shreveport. These members voted to disband the church in Taterville and organize the work in the city (McLennan, 1915). They obtained the privilege of holding their services in the council chamber of the city hall. Elder W. P. McLennan immediately started plans which developed into the erection of a church (Sanders, 1917). On February 25, 1917, Elder C. N. Sanders, who was now conference president, visited Shreveport for the dedication of the new church on the corner of Missouri and Frederick Streets (Sanders, 1917; McAnally, n.d.). The church was equipped with a church school room in the rear of the building, and they planned to have school there the next year. By placing chairs in the aisles and opening the doors to the school room, the church could seat about 200 (McLennan, 1916). There was a baptistry and two rooms for the kindergarten and intermediate classes of the Sabbath school. The church was nicely decorated and electrically lighted instead of the former gas lighting (Sanders, 1917).
Meetings and Church Growth
In February 1920, Elder E. G. Huntley and his wife moved to Shreveport and held four series of meetings within their first year. Their first meetings were held in the church. The Shreveport membership by that time was fifty-six, many of whom had been won by the efforts of the church members (Huntley, 1920). The Huntley’s second series of meetings was held in a forty-foot tent on a different side of the city. Their third series began on Wednesday, November 21, 1920. This was a sixteen-week series of meetings held in a fifty-by-sixty foot tabernacle built just for the meetings, which they continued to use for ten months following the meetings, then sold (Huntley, 1922). This series was on the book of Revelation (Melendy, 1921). Elder T. G. Bunch was the guest speaker from the Southern Union, L. S. Melendy and his wife sang, and Mr. Vreeland painted pictures as Elder Bunch preached. November 27, 1920, twenty-four new Sabbath keepers kept their first Sabbath. The weeknight attendance at these meetings was three to four hundred with weekend attendance generally six hundred. At the close of the first eight weeks a call was made and sixty people signed the Sabbath keeping covenant. Some had already started keeping the Sabbath while others were trying to arrange their work so they could as well (Melendy, 1921). By the end of the meetings on March 13, 1921, the church membership was one hundred forty-two (Bunch, 1921; Huntley, 1922). For their fourth series of meetings the Huntleys built a thirty-by-sixty tabernacle for $480.00 in Cedar Grove and held meetings for three months (Huntley, 1922).
Virginia Avenue Church
The church membership continued to grow until a larger meeting place was needed, and the church sold its building in January 1938. Four lots on the corner of Bessie Street and Virginia Avenue were purchased. Sunday, May 8, 1938, Elder I. C. Pound, the conference president, came to Shreveport for a meeting with the church to study plans for their new church building project. He reported that the members were ready to begin “in real earnest” to solicit funds for their new church (Record, 1938). Until a new building could be built, the Mangum Memorial Methodist church on Stonewall and Missouri Streets granted the members the use of their building on Sabbaths for two years. The church construction began on June 17, 1940, and within two months the shell of a church building was being used. Mid-week services were held on the lawn at the building site (Record, 1940). Not one penny of indebtedness was incurred (Wilson, 1940). The dedication for the completed church was held March 8, 1941 (McAnally, n.d.).
Beginnings of the shreveport south Church
At the end of 1952 the Shreveport Church was the largest one in the conference, with Gentry as a close second (Sanders, 1953). When the facilities at the church on Virginia Avenue became too small and consideration was being given to expanding, a group of members decided to move to another part of the city and begin a new church. With conference approval, a new congregation of thirty-nine members branched off on October 19, 1963 (Martin, 1976). This congregation became the Broadmoor church and eventually the Shreveport South church, while the congregation that remained at the Virginia Avenue church became the Shreveport First Church. In 1964, the church on Virginia Avenue was sold and the Shreveport First church met for four years in the gymnasium of the new school that had been built on Gifford Drive in 1960 (Elder, 1966).
A New Church in 1968
Sunday, May 1, 1966, the ground was broken for the new Shreveport First church. The site for the new church was on Westport Avenue, the service road next to Interstate 20 West. Over eight acres of land was purchased to provide adequate space for parking and landscaping (Elder, 1966). In the fall of 1968, the congregation began meeting in the new building. On December 8, 1979, the church was dedicated debt free (McAnally, n.d.).
Groundbreaking on May 1, 1966. Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.
*Note: Jewella was a small suburb two miles from the Shreveport city limits (Journal, 1902). At one time it had its own school and church, and was the voting precinct for the small communities in the surrounding area. Jewella was known for its premium agricultural products. John Monkhouse, for whom Monkhouse Road is named, was a major fruit and vegetable grower in the area. A railway station was built in Jewella for the Katy Flyer railroad line, to handle the shipping of the produce from this area to cities such as Chicago (Journal, 1908). Local residents referred to the area west of Jewella as Taterville because of all the potatoes grown and shipped from that location (Gifford, 2002).
(1902, Feb. 9). Will Worship Today in a New Home. The Shreveport Journal, p. 1.
(1908, May 10). Jewella Has Rate Same as Shreveport: Katy Carries Car Potatoes to Chicago. The Shreveport Journal, p. 13.
(1917, Mar. 15). Southern Union Worker, p. 4.
(1924, Sep. 18). Adventist Review Anniversary Edition, p. 9.
(1938, May 18). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
(1940, Jun. 26). Ibid., p. 2.
(1962, Apr. 18). Ibid., p. 4.
(1968, Jul. 27). Ibid., p. 3.
(1986, Aug. 8). Ibid., p. 9.
Beeler, Charles R. (1996). A History of Seventh-day Adventists in Arkansas and Louisiana. Keene: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, p. 90.
Bunch, T. G. (1921, Mar. 31). Southern Union Worker, p. 3.
Elder, W. H. (1966, May 28). Southwestern Union Record, p. 8.
Frank, O. F. (1914, Dec. 10). Southern Union Worker, pp. 396, 397.
Gifford, Glenn. (2020, Jan. 11). Personal interview, Shreveport, Louisiana.
Harrison, A. F. (1889, Mar. 12). Review and Herald, p. 172.
Huntley, E. H. (1920, Nov. 25). Southern Union Worker, p. 2.
Ibid. (1922, Jan. 5). p. 5.
Johnson, Henry. (1902, Apr. 29). Workers’ Bulletin, p. 166.
Kilgore, R. M. (1892, Jul. 26). Review and Herald, p. 476.
Maxwell, E. L. (1908, Apr. 7). Southern Union Worker, p. 62.
McAnally, Don. (No date). Church History. Photocopy given to Rebecca Burton in August 2019 by Dr. David Farmer, pastor of the church.
McLennan, W. P. (1915, Feb. 4). Southern Union Worker, p. 38.
Ibid. (1916, Mar. 30). p. 109.
Melendy, L. S. (1921, Feb. 10). Ibid., p. 4.
Orrell, Mrs. E. V. (1903, Sep. 3). Review and Herald, pp. 14, 15.
Parmele, R. W. (1914, Apr. 30). Southern Union Worker, p. 140.
Sanders, C. N. (1917, Mar. 8). Ibid., p. 1.
Sanders, F. O. (1953, Feb. 4). Southwestern Union Record, p. 5.
Sharp, Smith. (1895, Jan. 8). Review and Herald, p. 28.
Sherrill, E. Frank. (1967, Jul. 8). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
Wilson, M. L. (1940, Aug. 28). Ibid., p. 2.