|City/Town: • Osceola|
|Location Class: • Church • School|
|Year Built: • 1916 | Year Abandoned: • 1993|
|Status: • Abandoned • Endangered • Gutted|
|Photojournalist: • James Kirkendall|
The First Baptist Church of Osceola (FBC) was organized in 1850, making it the first and oldest Baptist church in Mississippi County. On March 30, 1880, FBC purchased a lot and built a one-room sanctuary and parsonage. By 1889, FBC had grown to 181 members showing a quick-growing congregation that would soon need a much bigger place to gather.
Two lots were purchased and construction was underway in 1915. The total cost after completion totaled $21,000 and was finished in July of 1916. A buff brick, terra cotta finish, with a copper dome, carried Classical Revival characteristics making it a handsome building for the growing congregation to worship in. The main sanctuary sat 350 worshippers with beaverboard and natural oak accents. Along with a vestibule, pastors study, and eight Sunday school rooms. The vestibule and Sunday school rooms were constructed in a way that raising the partitions could increase seating capacity to 700. At the back of the church were men’s and women’s dressing rooms/bathrooms. W.W. Taylor & Sons were contractors of the project, this being their fifteenth project completed. Rev. E.F. Curle oversaw the project reporting harmony between everyone on the project.
The Osceola First Baptist Church was formally opened on Septemeber 24, 1916. Rev. E.F. Curle was assisted by Rev. Dr. Potts of Memphis for morning and evening services. Sunday School held at 10 a.m., service at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. and special religious services at 3 p.m.
Miss Margaret Woodrow Wilson
In 1917, women from Osceola gathered together to ask Miss Margaret Woodrow Wilson to come to the First Baptist Church to give one of her Red Cross Benefit Concerts. The enthusiasm of the women made it impossible for her to deny them and with just a few days to plan and make arrangements the city came together to accommodate the daughter of President Woodrow Wilson. Many people from surrounding areas came and the church was crowded with enthusiastic admirers.
The First Baptist Church in 1956 an educational building was completed on the grounds. Everett Burnette from Lousiville joined the staff as summer educational director. The library contained over 2,000 volumes with librarian Mrs. R.H. Jones. Miss Nancy Blair was director of the music program featuring four choirs with 104 students enrolled. Under Pastor S. Ray Crews the building was remodeled and redecorated in 1968, a parsonage built, a new pipe organ was bought amongst other improvements bringing the value of the entire property owned by the church to $325,000.
The church met at this location until moving into its present facility on May 16, 1993, after the more than 1,500 members became too crowded for the location. The compound was placed on Preserve Arkansas’s 2010 Most Endangered Historic Places list.
Article by AAR Photojournalist Emily Cowan.