Friday, September 7, 2018

Grace Reese Adkins, Fred D. Huckelbury, and the Rise and Decline of Fayetteville's Christ's Church, 1938-1981

(Note this blog entry is a long paper. To read it off line, you can download it as a word file (without pictures) at this link: )

When the Fayetteville Library bought the old City Hospital complex, it acquired a former church building located on West Rock Street, just south of the present library. The building and the parsonage next to it had been purchased in 1981 by the hospital, which had then filled in the tree-lined ravine separating the former church grounds from the hospital grounds, destroying City Hospital Park and its sea of buttercups.[1] The hospital then paved everything.
Former Christ's Church building viewed through the
southern windows of Fayetteville Public Library, 2015 
Made of light-colored bricks with a glass cross embedded in its front exterior, the old church building merited little notice as part of the hospital. During the three-plus decades the hospital owned it, the building served many mundane purposes. When it was torn down this summer, its fate was mostly unlamented. However, its destruction was a sad occasion for those of us who remember it as it was in the 1950s when it housed Christ’s Church and vibrated with the fervor of its pastor Fred Huckelberry. And we recall with equal sadness the missing wood-frame house just west of the church where Grace Reese Atkins, the church’s former minister, eminence grise, and soul, had lived.
            With the demolition of the former church building, the repository of many memories disappeared. The church’s ghosts are now homeless. However, even with the old church building gone, the church’s story should be preserved to fit into the mosaic of Fayetteville’s history. Toward that end, the following is a short history of the church known from 1952 to 1964 as Christ’s Church and the people who breathed life into it.

Grace Reese Atkins and Central Christian Church: 1933 – 1950

The church that later became Christ’s Church started on June 11, 1938, in the home of Emma Lehman where a small congregation held “cottage services” until January 1939, when it rented a meeting room on Center Street, just off the town square, and adopted a church charter that created Central Christian Church.[2] Like the First Christian Church on College Avenue, established in 1848, the new church adhered to the principles of the Disciples of Christ, but Central Christian did not officially affiliate with it.[3]
As part of the American Restoration Movement, Central Christian Church declared itself to be non-denominational and non-sectarian. It was part of no organizational hierarchy. Its charter stated that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that Jesus is the son of God, and it pledged to “follow the pattern of the New Testament Church” in all matters. Members of the church were expected to make decisions about the plain meaning of words in the New Testament to govern the church and guide its doctrine. 
The driving force in creating the new church was Grace Reese Adkins (1884-1973), who had moved from Mondovi, Wisconsin to Fayetteville in 1902 with her recently widowed father, Edwin Reese; four brothers; and four sisters. She had been a precocious child, learning to read before she started school (“though no one knew how or when”) and writing poetry when she was eight. She later recalled, “My childhood seemed to revolve around books, scissors, and pastepots.”[4]
In her first years in Fayetteville, she worked as a teacher, and she also sometimes attended the University of Arkansas.[5] She joined First Christian Church, where Nathaniel Madison Ragland was the pastor. During those years, she furthered her deep belief in and zeal for the Christian Church at least in part through her interactions with H. S. Mobley, the district evangelist of the Christian Church of Northwest Arkansas.[6]
In 1909, she married Ary Archer Atkins (1886–1964) of Winslow, and the couple lived there until returning to Fayetteville in 1920. While in Winslow, she and Ary had a daughter, Mildred Grace (1910–1991) and a son, Harold Reese (1914–1986).[7] The 1920 census showed that she, Ary, and their two children lived at 234 Block Street in Fayetteville. She listed her occupation as a magazine writer. Ary worked as a manager of Budd’s Department Store.[8]  
Mrs. Atkins used her extraordinary energy, drive and intelligence in work related to her three main interests: religious education of young people, writing, and the Restoration Movement. Her efforts in youth religious education were evident in 1917 when she was president in the district Sunday School Association. In 1919, she became secretary of the Washington County Sunday School Association and, as head of the section addressing Sunday schools for children, helped planned its annual conventions at the University of Arkansas.[9]  After moving back in Fayetteville, she rejoined First Christian Church and was for many years the superintendent of the children’s division of its Sunday schools.[10]
Mrs. Adkins not only sought to improve religious instruction for youth locally, she also used her skills as a writer, poet, and composer to produce instructional and inspirational materials for students and teachers nationwide. While living in Winslow, she had written a book with the racy title, The Sex Life of Girls and Young Women, that the Standard Publishing Company, a religious publisher, issued in 1919. The book focused on biblical teachings of what girls and young women should know and what they should not do. An academic reviewer writing for the journal Social Hygiene, described the book as “A very unscientific, stupid, and well-intentioned book.”[11]
Mrs. Adkins also wrote didactic fiction and non-fiction for magazines, mainly those affiliated with the Restoration Movement, such as Christian Standard, The Lookout, and The Restoration Herald.  For example, she had a serialized novel, titled “The Challenge,” published in the Christian Standard magazine in 1921 and an article on education. “What We Must Do About Johnny,” published in 1923 in the same magazine.  During that time, she was also composing music. Two of her early songs, The Bumblebee and Lullaby, were published in the September 1919 issue of the Progressive Teacher and Southwestern School Journal.
Some of her activities in the late 1910s and 1920s were outside the church. With her interest in writing and music, Mrs. Adkins joined the Author’s and Composer’s Society of Arkansas. A bulletin issued by the organization in 1918 noted that she was expanding a serial novel she had written, titled The Girl of the Ozarks, and it would be published as a book.[12] At a 1921 meeting of the Society, she recited her new poem, “The Ozarks.”[13]  Also during the 1920s, she also was active locally in organizations such as the Jefferson School Parent-Teacher Association and the Fayetteville chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, of which she was elected chapter president.[14]
In the late 1920s, Mrs. Adkins became unhappy with the First Christian Church. She later recalled, “Old historic First Church had long since lost its candlestick…. It had become a place of departed glory, which wrung the hearts of those who loved the Gospel. I worked actively there for 13 years, seeking in every way short of fruitless strife to lure it back to Scriptural ways, but to no avail.”  She decided, she said, “[T]o quietly slip away,” adding, “There was no strife, no cleavage, I just slipped out quietly, to do what I could where I could.”[15]
            In 1927, while still attending First Christian, she initiated an annual summer bible camp. Its purpose was to assemble young people in a rural setting for a week or two of religious instruction and fun activities. She named the gathering the Bethany Bible Camp.[16] During the same summer, a church in Willowby, Ohio also held its first bible camp for the same purpose, and that camp, the Erie Side Bible Conference, is credited in a history of Disciples of Christ bible camps as being the church’s first. The Bethany Bible Camp is not mentioned. In the years that followed these pioneering efforts, bible camps became regular and important features of Christian Churches.[17]   
As Mrs. Adkins was quietly slipping away from her church home in Fayetteville, she began working in the early 1930s as a “community missionary in rural centers,” assisting small groups and churches in small towns and rural parts of northwest Arkansas.[18] She wrote about those days,
“…I began working out through the rural districts, as opportunity offered, ministering to small, discouraged groups, and drawing the youth into camp fellowship. I was ordained as a Christian worker and found many open doors – which men were making no effort to enter. But always I was hampered by the lack of home base here in Fayetteville to work out from, which would stand for the Book and the Gospel.“[19]

            To remedy the problem of lacking a proper home church, Mr. Adkins helped found the tiny Central Christian Church.  She described the early days of the church:
The evangelist-leader I had so persistently prayed for failed to come. So, at long last, we started services in a home [in 1938], with just two widows and their small families to help. The depression still had the country in its grip. My husband was the only man we had for many years…. But somehow we carried on…. After a few months of services in a home, we moved to a hall, and were hard pressed to pay the rent. Few attended…. We lost one of our best charter members, and almost our only paying member, because we would not take a sectarian position on holiness. But we held on.[20]

From 1939 until 1950, Mrs. Adkins served church minister, although others briefly stepped into the role at different times. During those eleven years, she was Fayetteville’s only full-time female minister. An article published on January 27, 1940 in the local paper observed, “Central Christian Church is the only local church with a regularly employed woman pastor. By preference she omits the title ‘reverend.’”  Her guiding principal as minister was stated in the church announcement published weekly in the local paper: “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things, charity.”
Northwest Arkansas TImes, Feb. 4, 1938
As minister of the Central Christian Church, Mrs. Adkins continued directing the annual Bethany Bible Camps, and she started holding each June an annual vacation bible school at the church. The bible camps continued under her direction until 1950, and she managed the church’s vacation bible schools until 1960.[21]
Even as she was preaching, organizing Bible camps and vacation bible schools, and conducting her own bible training courses in the 1930s and 1940s, Mr. Atkins continued studying, writing, and composing. A scholar of the Restoration Movement, she intensely studied the writings of one of its founders, Alexander Campbell, and kept close watch on its development. She sometimes wrote serious articles based on her research. One example is her article in the December 1948 issue of The Restoration Herald titled “Who Are the Church?” She also continued to write fiction: Her favorite was titled, “Bread Alone,” that was serialized in The Lookout, a Christian magazine for young people, in 1933.[22]  Another serialized story, “The Choice,” was published weekly in the The Outlook, from April 30 to June 25, 1950.  In addition, Mrs. Adkins wrote materials for special church services. Her program for celebrating Mother’s Day was published in a small book in 1949 by Standard Publishing Company.[23]  
Her poetry gained some attention outside of church channels through a column titled “Ozark Moon” that appeared regularly in the local paper from 1935 into January 1940. The column was written by Walter Lemke (“Uncle Walt”), the chair of the University of Arkansas journalism department, and it featured poems submitted by local poets. Mrs. Adkins, using the pseudonym Priscilla, regularly corresponded with him, and he had high regard for her poetry. He wrote:
Priscilla has been sending in verses from time to time which are distinguished by vivid vocabulary, expert construction and other earmarks of good verse. One quality of Priscilla’s poems, however, defies analysis. She sees things that we don’t see. Of if we do, we’re not aware of them.…We don’t know Priscilla except through the column…. She must be a grand person, so we’ll her a grade of “A” on her poetry and an “A-plus on her faith…”[24]  

            Mrs. Adkins' poetry was -- like her -- pithy, austere, and efficient, usually with short sentences in short paragraphs. She often wrote poems in bunches. For example, she wrote series of short poems on, among other topics, birds (“Notes on Ornithology”), jobs (“Vocational Lyrics”), her childhood (“Leaves from Childhood’s Diary”), and musical instruments (“About Musical Instruments”). Mrs. Adkins viewed writing poetry for “Ozark Moon” as “pleasant relaxation in a strenuous life.”[25]  
In 1938, a small press in Gilbert Arkansas published a short volume on her poetry titled Fragments of a Song.  Also, some of her poems were published in a 1941 book featuring the short bios of writers in the Ozarks and examples of their work. One of her poems in that book was titled “Housewives”:
Your problem, which no mere man understands,
Demands consummate art —

The endless Martha tasks upon your hands,
When you’ve a Mary heart.[26]

Beyond her articles, stories, and poems. Mrs. Adkins also wrote numerous hymns. Six of those were published in different hymnals.[27] A version of one, “I’ll Wish I Had Done More,” published in 1948, has been adapted for choirs and featured in recent years in several European churches.[28] One performance with over 300,000 views on YouTube is located at this link:
Even as Mrs. Adkins ventured into the arts, her focus remained on her ministry. After meeting from 1939 through 1941 at the old Woodman Hall building, located at 112½ Center Street, Central Christian Church moved in January 1942 to a tiny building at 203 S. School Street, near the City Hospital, that had previously been used at different times as a barbershop and as a restaurant. As the move was made, church members also were progressing toward having their own church building. They purchased land nearby on West Rock Street in 1943. Even with meager resources, the church was able to build a basement on its West Rock Street land, starting it in late 1945 and completing it in 1946. When it was finished, they began holding services there while planning to build an auditorium over it.[29]

The Arrival of Fred Huckelbury and the Rise of Christ’s Church
While meeting in the West Rock Street basement in 1949, the congregation began searching for a full-time minister to replace Mrs. Adkins, but it had difficulty finding one because the small church could pay only a pittance from its collected tithes. In all practicality, the church needed a minister who could attract enough members to pay his salary and its other costs.  
Fred Huckelbury at Christ's Church, mid 1950s
On July 31, 1950, a 37-year-old business man from Fort Smith came to conduct evening services at Central Christian Church, and wowing its members, he was invited back to preach at the next Sunday morning service.[29] The man, Fred Donald Huckelbury (1912–1987), had been born near Van Buren into a large family. He had followed the path of his father, a salaried laborer, and, after finishing three years of high school, had worked at Lauck Lumber Company in nearby Mena. He had been elected to represent the company’s Sawmill and Timber Workers Union, and in that capacity had negotiated with the mill’s owner during a 1937 strike.[30]  
Huckelbury, who married Indianola Faye Branham of Fort Smith in 1932, had moved with his family to California in the late 1930s. The 1940 census showed him and Faye, plus three children, living near Los Angeles. According to his draft board information, he worked as a finisher for the Air Light Venetian Blind Co. and was never drafted.  
Sometime in the post-war 1940s, Huckelbury and his family had moved back to Van Buren, where he worked for the Sun-Tilt Venetian Blind Co. in Ft. Smith. (He may have owned the firm.) While earning a living by making and selling venetian blinds, he had apparently prepared himself for the ministry. However, he was not the minister of any church in the Fort Smith – Van Buren area in the late 1940s and early 1950s.[31]
Fred Huckelbury with Faye Huckelbury in Christ's Church. mid 1950s
Whatever training for and experience as a minister Huckelbury had before he visited Fayetteville in 1950, they were more than enough: it turned out that he was very good at it.  This thin, tall (6” 2”), intense man with wavy hair impressed listeners with his talents as an orator and dazzled them with his musical abilities as he played different instruments.[32]
Huckelbury was not a hell-fire bible thumper and jumper like those found in many fundamentalist churches at the time; he spoke clearly, firmly, and eloquently, delivering a reasoned message in a smooth, deep voice. His scripture-based sermons appealed as much to the listeners’ intellect as to their gut, even as they delivered a firm message of right and wrong.
Many Central Christian Church members, especially its spiritual leader, Mrs. Adkins, thought Huckelbury was a good fit for the church, and church members hired him to be their minister. Mrs. Adkins later observed, “[I]n the time of our greatest need, [God] sent Fred Huckelbury, a young businessman from Fort Smith to help us.”[33] 
Huckelbury took over the ministry in early 1951, though he continued to commute from Fort Smith for some months after that. The first year of his ministry was difficult, but the Church had started growing. Mrs. Adkins described the first year as follows: “Satan sent every device to hinder – sickness, broken bones, business difficulties – everything. But under his ministry, after months of grueling, heartbreaking effort, the tide began to turn.”[34]
Central Christian Church took a big step forward on November 11, 1951, when it held its first church service in the newly completed auditorium that had been built over the West Rock Street basement. It continued to expand and improve the building during the next few years, adding an organ, a baptistry, and a back wing. In 1952, the church’s name was changed to Christ’s Church, likely to emphasize its strictly non-hierarchical, non-denominational character.
Newly Built Christ's Church, December 1952
 Fueled by the tireless evangelizing of the charismatic preacher, who was supported by the prodigious work of Mrs. Adkins, Christ’s Church rapidly increased its membership, adding 77 new members from September 1951 to August 1952, 33 by baptism and 44 by transfer. Part of the church resurgence was stimulated by a lively multi-night revival that Huckelberry held in November, 1951.[35]  
As the menu of activities offered to church members of all ages grew, new members continued to join the church week by week. For example, the Church Bulletin for March 21, 1954, reported that in the previous week the church had added nine new members, four through transfers from a Baptist church and five through baptism.[36]
A picture of the church building published in the local paper on Dec. 24, 1952, included the claim that Christ’s Church had more baptisms in the preceding year than any other Christian Church in Arkansas. That claim was evidence of the growing success of the small church.
Through the efforts of Mrs. Atkins, who resided in the house just west of the church at 429 West Rock Street, Christ’s Church had multiple programs for children. In 1952, the church’s daily vacation bible school, directed by Mrs. Adkins, enrolled 61 children and it continued to grow each year that followed during Huckelberry’s ministry[37]  Aside from programs for children, the church had special programs for teenagers (including a harmonica club) and college age adults, plus it had a men’s group, a women’s group and bible study for all adults. The church even offered “university-level bible courses” through the Arkansas Bible Institute it created in 1954.[38] The Institute was headed by Mrs. Adkins and the courses were taught by Paul C. Davis (1904–1986), a former public school teacher and former state representative who was at the time the elected Washington County Clerk. In 1953, the church also began publishing its own journal, The Gospel Challenge, edited by Mrs. Adkins.[39]
Drawing of Christ's Church, Northwest Arkansas Times,
December 23, 1961
From the beginning of Huckelbury’s ministry, the church had continued the outreach programs that had been initiated earlier by Mrs. Adkins when she had been the church’s pastor. and had expanded them. Huckelbury and church members held rallies and conducted church services in rural parts of the county. Three church members became ordained ministers to assist churches outside Fayetteville. To extend the church’s reach, it began in 1952 a weekly Sunday morning radio program on KRGH.
As the church began to take off in 1952, Mrs. Adkins was mightily pleased with what she saw. She was, at last, realizing her dream. She wrote in Fall 1952:
…there is something peculiarly fresh and different in …Christ’s Church.  Somehow, in some measure, we have been able to capture the vital essence of the Early Church. We have done it partly by avoidance of stilted forms and customs – by “practicing in non-essentials, liberty.” And by lots of knee work. Just lots and lots of it. Little by little, our dreams of a Scriptural congregation are coming true. And the church is spilling over into the country around, through radio programs, and rural services and rallies, and the tireless efforts of Fred Huckelberry…. Cars from the church go out with him, and almost every night is full.[40]

My experience with the church started in the first part of 1954, when I was in the first grade. My mother had drug me to the church after she, my dad, and I moved to a City Housing apartment located just a few blocks from West Rock Street. In the summer of 1954, I attended Christ’s Church’s daily vacation bible school. I would also attend the summer bible schools in the three years that followed. My main recollections from those early experiences are marching into and out of the church building with a column of kids as a piano pounded out “Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War” and making the trip down the perilous path to the City Hospital Park in the ravine behind the church. There we could (at last!) play. I also recall watching a peculiarly fussy and peripatetic older lady orchestrate everything, apparently worrying about every detail.  
Certificate acknowledging completion of the
1954 Vacation Bible School at Christ's Church 
That fussy lady, her hands always moving with nervous energy, was Mrs. Adkins, and during the dozen years I was active in the church, I spent considerable time with her, mainly in her classes and in practices for various church programs (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) she was directing. I remember her as a no-nonsense purpose-driven woman, never particularly warm or harsh. Certainly, I was impressed with her large living room, crammed full of books, papers, and a piano, where we would often meet. It struck me as a place from the distant past where serious reading, thinking, and reflection took place, and I liked being there.
In the years after I joined the church, its growth and vigor of the church continued apace. The pastor and church members, I recall, talked of a “spirit-filled” church, a church “on fire” for Jesus. However, in 1956 it suffered a setback. I am not sure what happened or why, but two men – brothers Odean (1918 – 1977) and Odell (1916 - 1991) Carnes -- who were church elders left the church with their families.[41]  In early 1956, Odean – a barber by trade – was pastor of Parkdale Baptist Church in Fayetteville and a year later was the minister of a church with the name “Central Christs Church” that met a few blocks from Christ’s Church. Some church members left Christ’s Church to follow the Carnes bothers.
Despite this division in the church, Huckelbury continued to fill the church until his departure at the end of January 1958.[42] When Huckelbury left Fayetteville, he moved to Julesburg, Colorado, where he became minister of the Julesburg Church of Christ. In early 1960, he moved from Colorado to Corinth, Mississippi, where he became pastor of the Harper Road Christian church and an evangelist with the Christian Evangelizers Association, an organization created by Cecil Todd (who had been a minister at the Christian Church in Fort Smith in the late 1950s). The Association had its headquarters in Joplin, Mo.  A newspaper story in 1960 described the organization as follows:
The Christian Evangelizers Association features national evangelists, Cecil Todd and Fred Huckleberry, singing evangelist, Midget Lowell Mason, and the well-known Blackwood Brothers Quartet as well as the Statesman and Prophets Quartets.

Christian Evangelizers hold large tent revivals in various cities and help to establish new congregations of Churches of Christ in those cities. They have been televised and have also been on nation-wide radio programs.[43]

Todd later changed the name of the organization to Rival Fires Ministry and became a well-known tele-evangelist. The organization still exists and is headquartered in Branson, Mo. It is uncertain how long Huckelberry remained affiliated with Todd and his ministries.[44]
For most of the rest of his life, Huckelbury was the pastor of Harper Road Christian Church in Corinth, and he also periodically conducted revivals for churches in other states. He retired in 1984 and passed away in Corinth in 1987. He and Faye are buried at Fairview Cemetery in Van Buren, Arkansas.
One of Huckelbury’s legacies is Rock Solid Ministries, an organization that conducts Christian Church revivals throughout the United States. It has two evangelists, both of whom live in Corinth.[45]  One of them is Tom Weaver, Huckelbury’s grandson, the son of David and Donna Faye Huckelbury Weaver, who were married in 1949.
The Rock Solid Ministries website cites Huckelbury, “a mid-Twentieth Century Restoration Movement Evangelist who held hundreds of revivals and baptized thousands into Christ,” as an inspiration for its work.[46] It has posted on its website recordings of six sermons that Huckelbury delivered on radio in Corinth in the early 1960s. The sermons can be heard at this link:

Christ’s Church After Huckelbury

When Fred Huckelbury left Christ’s Church in early 1958, it was a thriving church with healthy membership and diverse activities.  It held Sunday School before the main Church Service. It had Sunday evening, Wednesday night, and Friday night services, plus many “fellowship opportunities” for its members. It had a weekly radio program. However, time would show that much of the success of the church had been due to Huckelberry and his formidable talents.
The man who followed Fred Huckelbury had big shoes to fill. The Church picked Sterling McBee (1922 – 1993) He was an earnest man who graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1952. He had the style and eloquence, but not the charisma, of Huckelbury. Also, he was handicapped in his efforts to continue the vitality of the church by the fact that he lived thirty miles away in Huntsville and had a full-time job there as supervisor of the local Farmers Home Administration office. He simply could not devote the same amount of time to develop the church as Huckelberry had.
Sermons by Sterling McBee at
Christ's Church
Perhaps it was unhappiness with his performance that caused in 1960 a major split in the church that resulted in Mrs. Adkins leaving it. Or maybe, Mrs. Adkins had doctrinal disagreement with McBee. Whatever her grievance, by the middle of 1960, she had left Christ’s Church – the church to which had devoted much of her life -- to join the recently created Central Christian Church. Several other church members joined the seventy-six-year-old woman in the exit, and her departure was a grave blow to Christ’s Church, which nonetheless carried on with a diminished flock.[47]  
McBee remained as the church’s minister until November 1963, when he was transferred from FmHA’s office in Huntsville to its office in Warren. The church selected Carroll Cole (1901–1973) as its next minister. He came to Christ’s Church from Anniston, Missouri, where he had been pastor of a Christian Church. Soon after he took over as minister in early February 1964, Christ’s Church merged with Central Christian Church, and Mrs. Adkins rejoined the church on West Rock Street. Its name was changed to Central Christian Church.
Although eighty years old and in poor health, Mrs. Adkins played the piano at church services every Sunday, taught bible classes, and directed special church programs.[48] She continued her church-related activities until 1967, when she moved to Illinois to live with her daughter, Lois Johnson. She passed away in 1973 and is buried in Fairfield Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville.[49]
Carroll Cole remained as pastor of Central Christian Church for less than two years, leaving in September 1965. The men who followed him as minister of the church at West Rock Street were as follows:
Edward R. Baker (June 1966 – February 1968)
Charles Pickett (November 1968 – October 1970)
Carroll Cole (October 1971 – July 1973) (passed away Dec. 1973)
Sterling McBee (February 1974 – March 1976)
Herman Paden (April 1976 – 198?)

These pastors presided over a diminished church whose slow downward attendance trend was sometimes interrupted by enthusiasm created by a new pastor, church rallies, and other special events.[50] Despite their best efforts, none of the ministers was able to recapture the magic of the Huckelberry years.
            In 1981, the church’s pastor was Herman Paden, who had occupied the pulpit for nearly five years after he had replaced McBee (who had in 1973 returned to be the church’s pastor, leaving again in 1976).  Paden and the church were approached by City Hospital directors about their desire to buy the church’s West Rock Street buildings and land. The hospital intended to expand and to do so it needed the church’s property.
The Northwest Arkansas Times reports the sale of the church building to the City Hospital,
August 15, 1981
When the church resisted selling the building that had been its home for thirty years, the hospital threatened to initiate condemnation proceedings. In early August, 1981, a week before the governing board was to vote to file condemnation papers, the hospital and church reached an agreement:  The hospital would buy for $130,000 a church building at 904 West 15th Street that belonged to the Pentecostal Church whose members were about to move into a new church building. The hospital would then trade the 15th Street church building for Central Christian Church’s West Rock Street properties.[51] The deal was made, and Central Christian Church left its building on South Rock Street. It held its first services at its new location on November22, 1981.[52]  
            Central Christian Church still meets weekly and will celebrate its 80th birthday in 2019. Its church building now is located at 3264 North 48th Street in Springdale and its long-time pastor is Ed Cowan.[53] The congregation is a small one.


While the destruction of a soulless building can be painful for people who recall the efforts that were required to create it, the hopes and dreams of the people who populated it, and the dramas played out in it, the loss become deeper when memories accompany it into oblivion. In the case of Christ’s Church, and of the city hospital that bought it, the memories associated with these institutions should not be lost; their stories belong in the narrative history of the city.   
            Sometime in the next few years, the Fayetteville library will construct new buildings over the land long occupied by the church and hospital. It will offer space and programs that, no doubt, will be the envy of most cities. As this wonderful addition to the city contributes to the learning of its citizens and enhances the enjoyment of life of all who visit it, the library should find ways to tell the story of the institutions that preceded it in its new location and to honor those who made those institutions important elements of the city’s past. 


1. Mrs. Grace Reese Adkins, whose short biography is presented in this paper, would have been deeply disturbed by the destruction of City Hospital Park, had she lived to see it. She wrote about the beauty of the flowers in the park in letters to the editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times in 1960 and 1962:

There is a beauty spot in Fayetteville which few people know anything about, namely a lovely colony of buttercups in City Hospital Park, which increase in size from year to year…I first discovered this colony in the early spring 1920, when I was a patient in the City Hospital. I looked out of my window and saw the small patch of yellow on the green slope of the hillside. Many years later we bought a home on the edge of the park, and there they were still, but in greater numbers. Each year they carpet a larger area….You ought to see them. They are close to West Street, in a swale where the ravine flattens out and the sun creeps in. 

Letter to the editor. Northwest Arkansas Times, April 22, 1960, p 3; also see, Letter to the editor. Northwest Arkansas Times, March 20, 1962, p. 16.

2. For a brief history of the church, see “Central Christian Church.” Northwest Arkansas Times, December 12, 1981.

3.  For a history of the Disciples of Christ, see . A history of Fayetteville’s First Christian Church can be found at this link:

4. Florence Woodcock McCullough. 1945. Living Authors of the Ozarks and their Literature. Self-published, pp. 3.

Also, Mrs. Adkins’ description of her move to Fayetteville in 1902 with her family is found in a letter to the editor she wrote, published in the Northwest Arkansas Times on May 6, 1969, p. 4.

5.  Mrs. Adkins alludes to her work as a teacher in a short summary of her life that she wrote in 1945 for her entry in Living Authors of the Ozarks and their Literature (see footnote 4.)  She wrote, “It was only a step from public school teaching to the field of Christian education.”  In a letter to the editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times dated July 24, 1964, Mrs. Adkins wrote about attending an Arkansas history course at the University of Arkansas during the first decade of the 1900s.

6. According to Thomas Elmore Lucy, known as the “Globe-Trotting Poet-Humorist of Arkansas,” who was popular in the state’s Chautauqua Circuit, H. S. Mobley (his first name was “Hazel, which he understandably did not use) arrived in Washington County about the same time as Mrs. Adkins to be the “district evangelist of the Christian Church in Northwest Arkansas.” He traveled by horse and buggy to rural areas of the county to hold “brush arbor” revivals and other services. For a while, Lucy had accompanied him as song leader for some of the services. According to Lucy, Mobley had “outstanding personalities among his converts” such as Grace Reese Adkins, “author and community missionary in rural centers.” Thomas Elmore Lucy, “The Shining Cave,” Arkansas Gazette, June 23, 1946, p. 37.

Mobley (1869 – 1946) left this work as a full-time evangelist before 1910. The census that year showed him living in Prairie Grove and working as a “traveling agent” for a farmer’s organization. In 1920, he was farming in Prairie Grove and working for a program to help farmers improve their crops. The census that year showed that Edgar L. Reese, Mrs. Adkins brother, was among the people living on his farm. Mobley spent some years in the 1920s in Washington D.C. as a lobbyist for farmers and later traveled as a speaker for International Harvester Co.  In the late 1920s, he returned to farming in Prairie Grove and was elected nineteen times to one-year terms as president of the Washington County Farm Bureau. He regularly served on the state board of the Farm Bureau during these years.
7. In 1925, Mrs. Atkins had another daughter, Lois Margaret (1925 - ?).

8. Advertisement. Northwest Arkansas Times, March 2, 1923, p. 3. According to Mrs. Adkins, her husband was “a quiet person, not given to public work.” Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol. 17 no. 1, September, pp. 5, 7.

9. “Fourth District S.S. Convention August 27.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, August 22, 1917, p. 3; “County Sunday School Convention May 26-27.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, May 24, 1919, p. 1; and “County Sunday Schools to Meet Here Tuesday.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, June 27, 1921. Mrs. Adkins was president of the district Sunday school association and secretary of the county association.

10. “Sunday Rally Day at First Christian.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, Sept. 27, 1922.

11.  H.W.D. 1920. “Review of the Sex Life of Girls and Young Women.” Social Hygiene, vol. 6, p. 303. Accessible through Google Books.

12 “Initial Bulletin Issued by Society.” Arkansas Gazette, December 29, 1918, p. 16. Also see,
“Authors and Composers Society Holds Meeting.” Arkansas Gazette, January 8, 1919, p. 1 and “Appears in New Dress.” Arkansas Gazette, Feb 8, 1920, p. 45. I have not identified the magazine in which the serialized novel was published nor found any evidence it was published as a book.

For more about the society, which had an active membership of 122 in 1921, see a summary article in the July-August 1921 issue of the “The Arkansas Writer.” The article reprint is in C. Fred Williams, et al. (eds.). 1984. A Documentary History of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Press, pp. 198–199. 

13. Note, Arkansas Gazette, January 30, 1921, p. 29 and Note. Arkansas Gazette, February 2, 1921, p. 4.
The February 1, 1921 meeting featured authors from Northwest Arkansas. Both Mrs. Adkins and Thomas Elmore Lucey, mentioned in footnote 6, made presentations at the meeting.

14. “P.T.A. to Hold Social Meeting.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, June 16, 1922, p. 2 and “District W.C.T.U. Meeting Held at Fayetteville.” Arkansas Gazette, March 19, 1930, p. 2.

15. Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7.

16. Bethany, a town mentioned in the New Testament, was the home of Lazarus, who – according to the Bible -- was resurrected by Jesus four days after he died. Bethany is also the West Virginia city that was home to Alexander Campbell and is the name of the college he established there in 1840.

17. Mrs. Adkins stated specifically that her camp was first held the same year that the Erieside Camp first met. She wrote, “I tried to strengthen the churches of the county through their youth by organizing Bethany Bible Camp, the same year Erieside was started. But while it did much good, it could not turn the tide of apostasy in the churches.” Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory. The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7.

The following is from a 1948 newspaper article, likely based on materials written by Mrs. Adkins, that briefly told the history of the Bethany Bible Camp:

Bethany Bible Camp was one of the two first camps in the modern Christian Service Movement for young people. The other was located in Erieside, Ohio. Both camps started in 1927 without knowledge of each other and have served as models for many years until the number of the camps now totals 197 in the United States.

The main idea behind the service camps is education in Bible scriptures and preparation for Christian work on a non-sectarian basis. A large number of recruits for full time gospel and missionary work enter Bible colleges each year from the services camps.

The first site of Bethany Bible Camps was at Wesley, and the school house there was used for assembly, tents for dormitories, and the improved outdoor kitchen for cooking. It has also been held at Brentwood, West Fork, Farmington, and the Adkins home north of Fayetteville, where tents, garage, basement and barn lofts were combined to provide dormitory accommodations.

For the past three seasons the camp has been held at the Highland Community building with tents used for sleeping. A permanent camp ground has been acquired nearby, but it is not yet ready for use.

“Bethany Bible Camp Pioneered in Modern Christian Service Movement for Youth.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 24, 1948, p. 8.

For a discussion of Christian Church camps, see the entry on “Camps” by Reuben G. Bullard in the Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, edited by Douglas A. Foster, published in 2004 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

18 “Community missionary in rural centers” was Lucy’s description of Mrs. Adkins (see footnote 6). Lucy knew Mrs. Adkins through the Arkansas Authors and Composers Society of which both were members in the early 1920s and through mutual association with H. J. Mosely and his family.

19. Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7

20. Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7

21. See these articles for descriptions of various Bethany Bible Camps and vacation bible schools:

“Farmington.” Northwest Arkansas Times, July 15, 1941, p 2.
“Bethany Bible Camp to Open July 10.” Northwest Arkansas Times July 9, 1942 p 4.
“Bethan Bible Camp Plans Reading Course.” Northwest Arkansas Times Aug 6,1942.
 “Bethany Bible Camp to be Held at Devil’s Den.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 9, 1945, p. 3.
“Preparations Made for Bible Camp of Christian Church.” Northwest Arkansas Times July 20, 1946, p. 2.
“Guest to Speak at Central Christian.” Northwest Arkansas Times July 5, 1947, p. 2.
“Youth Week is scheduled at Bible Camp.” Northwest Arkansas Times July 10, 1948, p. 2.
“New Course to be Featured on Bethan Bible Camp Program.” Northwest Arkansas Times July 9, 1949, p. 2.

 “25 Enrolled at Church Bible School.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 5, 1944, p. 7.
 “Central Christian Church to Have Bible School.” Northwest Arkansas Times June 2, 1945, p. 3.
“Christian Bible School Continues.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 29, 1946, p. 2.
“Evangelist [Billy James Hargis] to Hold Meetings Here.” Northwest Arkansas Times May 24, 1947, p. 2.  Note. Northwest Arkansas Times, May 31, 1953, p. 2.

22. Mrs. Adkins mentioned this story as her favorite in her entry in Florence Woodcock McCullough. 1945. Living Authors of the Ozarks and their Literature. Self-published, pp. 3-4. (See footnote 4.)

23. The title was Standard Mother’s Day Program Book. SeeWork of Local Pastor Published.” Northwest Arkansas Times, April 30, 1949.

24 “Ozark Moon: Lines of Doctrine.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, Nov. 14, 1935, p. 4

25. Florence Woodcock McCullough. 1945. Living Authors of the Ozarks and their Literature. Self-published, pp. 3-4.  (See footnote 4.)

26. This poem was published in Florence Woodcock McCullough. 1945. Living Authors of the Ozarks and their Literature. Self-published, pp. 3-4. It is based on a story in the New Testament (Luke) about Jesus visiting the house, located in Bethany, of sisters Martha and Mary. While Martha was distracted by preparing a meal, Mary sat and talked at length with Jesus. Martha was not pleased.

28. Other songs in hymnals include “This is the Way the Wind Doth Blow,” “‘Tis Written in his Word,”  “All Through the Day while I am at Play,” “Under the Snow,” and “The One that the Children Love.”

29. Note. Northwest Arkansas Times, July 21, 1950.  Note. Northwest Arkansas Times, Aug. 7, 1950, p. 5

30. “Lumber Plant Resumes Work.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Aug 2, 1937, p. 9.

31. I found no records that document his preparation for the ministry. A search of Fort Smith city directories and the city’s newspaper for the years 1949, 1950, and 1951 provided no record of Huckelberry serving as the minister of a church in the Fort Smith-Van Buren area during these years.

32. An article in the Northwest Arkansas Times reported that he would be speaking to the “Fayetteville Bible Mission” and described his as follows: “Mr. Huckleberry is known as a forceful speaker and talented musician. He will bring with him a number of instruments, which he will play at the service.” “Rev. Fred Huckleberry (sic) to Speak at Mission.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 30, 1951, p. 2.

 One of Huckelberry’s sisters was Mrs. Isabel French, who wrote a weekly column, “Hills of Home,” for the Arkansas Gazette for more than two decades. “’Hills of Home’ Writer Dies (Mrs. Isabel France).” Arkansas Gazette, Feb. 24, 1963

33. Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7.

34. Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7.

35. Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7.
Also, “Fred Huckleberry (sic) Revival Service.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Nov 26, 1951, p. 2.

36. One of the members added through baptism that week was Bernice Durning, my mother. 

37. “Picnic Announced for Christ’s Church DVBS.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 12, 1952.

38. See these articles:
“Berean Class Organized at Central Christian.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Jan 26, 1952 p. 2.
“Halloween Party Given at O’Dean Karnes House.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Oct 31, 1952 p. 2.
“Skating Party Given by Christ’ Church.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 16, 1953, p. 2.
“Christ’s Church Has Bible Institute Work.” Northwest Arkansas Times, March 27, 1954, p. 11.
“Christ’s Church to Re-Open Bible Class.” Northwest Arkansas Times August 28, 1954.
“Boys of Christ’s Church Organize Harmonia Club.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Nov 11, 1954.

39. “Mrs. Adkins Editor of Gospel Challenge.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 3, 1953.

40. Grace Reese Adkins. 1952. “Rugged Paths to Victory.” The Restoration Herald, vol 17(1), pp. 5, 7.

41. Both were elders when the church installed new officers for the coming year in late September 1955. “Christ’s Church.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Sept.24, 1955, p. 3.  After preaching at a local Baptist church during most of 1956, Odean Carnes was the minister of Central Christs Church when it opened its doors 425 South Government Street near the beginning of 1957.  

42. I was probably the last person that Huckelberry baptized at Christ Church. It was his last Sunday there on January 28, 1958.

43. “Daniel Schantz Joins Evangelizers.” Wilmington News-Journal (Ohio), Jan 11, 1960, p. 6. Note: Reading the article it is unclear because of poor punctuation whether Huckelberry or “Midget Lowell Mason” was the “singing evangelist.” It was Mason, who later was known as the “world’s smallest gospel singer.”  “Lowell Mason Will Sing at Service.” Joplin Globe, December 31, 1975, p. 10. 

47. My mother and most long-time members stayed at Christ’s Church. I was attending church at the time of the split, but as a teenager, I did not pay much attention to what was going on and why.

48 Central Christian, Northwest Arkansas Times Nov 7 1964 and New Bible Class. Northwest Arkansas Times Feb 5, 1966, p. 5, I was in the Thanksgiving church program she directed in November 1964.

49. “Obituary: Mrs. Adkins.” Northwest Arkansas Times, January 11, 1974, p. 2.
50.  As the list shows, Carroll Cole, who departed as minister in September 1965, returned six years later to again take on the ministry. He fell ill in Summer, 1973 and passed away in December. He was followed by Sterling McBee, the man Cole had replaced in January 1964.

51. “Hospital, Church Settle Property Dispute.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Aug. 15, 1983, p. 1.

52. “Central Christian Church.” Northwest Arkansas Times, December 21, 1981.

53. Tresa McBee Riha. “Returning to the familiar.” Northwest Arkansas Times, January 8, 2000. My mother continued attending the church until health issues intervened in 2013. My dad joined the church in the late 1990s and attended with my mother.