The Work Begins
In December 1881, in response to “pressing calls” from Arkansas, the General Conference sent Elder Joseph Garner Wood from Missouri for an evangelistic tour there. In the spring of 1883, Enos Washington Crawford, a native of Fayetteville, canvassed in Fayetteville and Springdale. As a result, quite an interest was awakened, so he appealed to James White in Battle Creek to send help. In response to this appeal, Elder Dolphus Austin Wellman along with James W. Scoles, a very talented musician and singer, came by train from Michigan to Springdale, where there was a population of about 500. Their wives came with them and on June 10, 1884, a forty-foot tent that seated approximately 200 people, loaned to them from the Chicago Mission, was pitched on the ground where the church building later stood (Wellman, 1884; Record, 1915). Townspeople, expecting a circus, became excited but soon learned that the tent was for religious meetings and that the men in charge were Seventh-day Adventists. The tent was filled by curious listeners that first night, and as the nightly meetings continued, the crowds increased (Paap, 1979). In early July 1884, thirty-one Sabbath keepers met at Springdale and signed a Covenant to “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” and “to help sustain Sabbath School and Sabbath meetings” by their “presence and influence” (Wellman and Scoles, 1884). By August 12, there were fifty-two signatures and before long, seventy-eight had signed the covenant (Scoles, 1884).
The Sabbath Covenant
August 13, 1884
Zachariah and Rachel Swearingen and their three children still living at home, Emma, Nicholas, and Franze, were among the seventy-eight Sabbath covenant signers in Springdale in 1884 (See History page for more information on the Swearingen family).
Rachel Swearingen’s obituary (Review, 1906)
Evangelist Dies Before He Can Organize Church
Sadly, Elder D. A. Wellman, who had led out in the meetings and expected to organize a church on August 2, 1884, contracted typhoid fever the day before (Scoles, 1884), which was followed by pneumonia. Elder Wellman died at the Swearingen’s home four miles from Springdale on September 2, 1884 (Review, 1884). Elder Wellman’s funeral was preached by J. W. Scoles and Elder Wellman’s father-in-law, Elder Van Deusen from Michigan, came to help finish the meetings (Van Deusen, 1884).
Elder Wellman’s death noted in the Review and Herald on September 9, 1884.
Springdale Church Organized in 1885
Elder J. G. Wood arranged his evangelistic tour so he could come to Springdale on Friday, January 2, 1885. While there, he baptized five new members in Stultz Mill Pond north of town, better known as Shiloh Springs (Wood, 1885; Paap, 1979). He also taught practical duties such as health reform and tithing, and held two business meetings. On or about Sabbath, January 10, 1885, Elder Wood organized a church of thirty-nine members, ordained an elder and two deacons, and appointed a church clerk (Wood, 1885). The Springdale church was the second church organized in Arkansas, and is the earliest organized SDA church that is still in existence in the Arkansas-Louisiana conference.
FIRST SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH BUILT IN ARKANSAS IN 1885
The group had been renting a building in the northwest part of town and services were held regularly, but by mid-January the members had already laid the foundation and assembled most of the lumber for a twenty-six foot by forty foot church building, and it was soon completed. This was the first Seventh-day Adventist church built in Arkansas (Rees, 1893). According to an article in the Springdale News dated July 1, 1979, this was only the second church building to be built in the city of Springdale (News, 1979).
Springdale Church Dedicated in 1886
In July 1885, Elder Wood again came to Springdale and met with the church members. He described their new church building as “neat and convenient” and went on to say that the membership had grown to sixty (Wood, 1885). Elder Wood dedicated the Springdale church on March 27, 1886 (Wood, 1886). By 1888, the Springdale church membership had grown to 100 (Beamesderfer, 2000). In 1890, an exciting event took place for the church — Ellen G. White was coming as one of the speakers at meetings to be held March 27 to April 1, 1890, in Springdale. A large crowd was expected and visitors coming from other areas to attend the meetings were asked to bring provisions with them, if possible, so they could stay in tents and a few unoccupied houses. The members at Springdale were mostly poor and it would be a burden to feed and house the many guests. The leaders did not want anyone to miss the meetings by having to prepare food for large crowds (Conference Committee, 1890).
The Springdale church still has the pulpit which was in use at the March 27 to April 1, 1890, meetings when Ellen White came to speak at their church.
Photo courtesy of the Southwestern Union Record.
Small but faithful
Although Springdale was at one time an area of strong influence for the Seventh-day Adventist message, by 1906 many of the members had moved away, leaving a small but faithful company still meeting in the church built in 1885. With the help of Elder Bender, conference president, the members reshingled and repainted the little church and made some much-needed repairs (Bender, 1906).
The Church is Moved
The members found that conducting worship services in the main business district which had grown up around the church, was somewhat difficult, so in 1945 the original lot was sold and the church building moved to 612 West Grove Street, a quieter section of town. At this site, two schoolrooms were added. In 1955, the inside of the building was remodeled and updated and in 1961 a building program saw the completion of a new school and a community service room with a strong program in operation (Knight and Hutchinson, 2001).
A New Church in 1980
By 1969, realizing the membership was outgrowing this building, the church property was sold and a lot was purchased on East 68 Highway. By 1971, a new brick building was completed to accommodate a two teacher church school with a large gymnasium and a kitchen. Church services were held in the gym until the new church was ready in 1980 (Knight and Hutchinson, 2001). On Labor Day 1979, over 100 volunteers from twenty-six churches came to help build the sanctuary (Bragg, 1980). On May 21, 1983, the new church was dedicated (Carner, 1984).
Springdale Adventist Fellowship
Over the years, continued growth and the addition of a shopping mall next door made it necessary to move again. In February 2000, the property was sold and ten acres were purchased on West Don Tyson Parkway, where the members would build a new facility to house a school, fellowship hall, multi-purpose gym, community outreach center, and sanctuary. Having to vacate the premises on March 12 didn’t allow them much time, but on March 11, 2000, a final baptism took place in the sanctuary on East Highway 412. Church members and community friends gathered on April 23, 2000, for the groundbreaking of the new Springdale church (Beamesderfer, 2000). Volunteers worked together to build the church and school facility and the first worship service in the new sanctuary took place August 11, 2001, with 130 people in attendance (Knight and Hutchinson, 2001).
(1884, Sep. 9). Review and Herald, p. 592.
(1997, Aug. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 14.
Arkansas Conference Committee. (1890, Mar. 11). Review and Herald, p. 13.
Beamesderfer, Bly. (2000, Jul. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 18.
Bender, U. (1906, Mar. 20). Ibid., p. 2.
Bragg, Peter. (1980, Jan. 10). Ibid., p. 12G.
Carner, Joe. (1984, Apr. 12). Ibid., p. 12E.
Cook, J. H. (1877, Dec. 6). Review and Herald, p. 182.
Knight, Mary and Hutchinson, Ruth. (2001, Sep. 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 5.
Paap, B. E. (1979). History of the Springdale Church. Unpublished.
Scoles, James W. (1884, Sep. 2). Review and Herald, pp. 572, 573.
Van Deusen, E. (1884, Sep. 16). Ibid., p. 602.
Wellman, D. A. (1884, Jun. 24). Ibid., p. 412.
Wood, J. G. (1884, Dec. 16). Ibid., p. 799.
Ibid. (1885, Jan. 27). p. 60.
Ibid. (1886, Apr. 13). p. 236.
Ibid. (1890, Apr. 22). p. 252.