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Memories from the Museum-1874 Selma Methodist Church

January 31st, 2009 by

This week’s column will be devoted to a dire situation for a historic landmark located in Drew County – the 1874 Selma Methodist Church. This unique, little structure stands in great peril and can only be “saved” by immediate action. Let’s begin by reflecting on the history of the beautiful building.
Selma Methodist Church actually had its beginnings in 1874 as a Baptist church built by a man named Rector and situated in a grove of trees alongside an old military road.
According to the local stories, the Baptists and Methodists shared the building for a time. Later the Baptist congregation began to dwindle. On May 9, 1885, the Baptists deeded the church building to the Methodist church trustees for $790.43. The structure has housed a Methodist congregation from that time forth.
In 1974, the white frame building became the first building in Drew County to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building still sits regally on its original site beside an old military road whose ruts give evidence of the many wagons and livestock that passed that way long ago.
(Allegedly the Old Military Road ran from Gaines Landing on the Mississippi River north and/or to Texas. I can just picture Davy Crockett and his band of Tennesseans passing through the area on their way to the Alamo. You may even recall Crockett’s speech upon his lost bid for reelection to Congress. Crockett supposedly said, “You can go to H – – -; I’m going to Texas!”)
The church is a simple frame building with some Gothic features of the period, most notably the tall, pitched roof and the wonderfully tall, “pointed” windows. A cupola with a square base and an octagonal bell tower are located over the front of the building. The spire rotted away years ago and has not been replaced.
The interior originally contained only a sanctuary with a balcony reached by a small staircase. (Later two rooms were partitioned off in the rear of the sanctuary.) There is a narrow set of pews along the east and west walls. A solid partition runs down the middle of the center pews, traditionally separating the men from the ladies. The pews therein are original to the building.
Brackets from the original kerosene lamps are still attached to the interior walls. The floor appears constructed of random length one-inch boards that have not been painted. A chancel on the north end of the sanctuary contains a hand-carved pulpit and altar.
The congregation no longer has a fulltime pastor, but meets every 5th Sunday to worship and celebrate times gone by.
For the past 134 years the Selma Methodist Church has stood as a lone sentinel of man’s faith and, eventually, of days gone by.
However, today the church building finds itself in a dangerous state!! The ravages of time had not been so hard on it until recent months. In early summer passersby reported that the building apparently was listing to one side!
A technical assistant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program was soon thereafter consulted. He was gravely concerned that the building sits in immediate danger of falling off its foundation at any moment. He felt it is unsafe to enter because of its perilous state.
An architect specializing in historic preservation was also summoned to evaluate the problem. He determined that insurance adjustors be summoned because its sudden, rapidly deteriorating condition can be attributed to wind damage.
He also determined that immediate action must be taken to “shore up” the building until major repairs can be funded and undertaken. Urgency in this “shoring up” is critical if the building is to be saved.
So we come to today, October, 2008. Efforts are underway locally to raise funds for a temporary solution to hold the building together.
Selma church leaders have also been referred to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and like groups to secure funding for restoration of the building.
Although the situation for Selma Methodist Church is perilous, efforts are underway to resurrect the historic, noble structure. If you are interested in monitoring its progress, or in contributing to its “rescue”, please call Dorris Watson (870-392-2683) or me (367-6349) and we can connect you with the proper persons.

Remember our “Victorian Ladies’ Accessories” display at the museum!!

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