Wednesday, June 04, 2014

South Thornton Church of Christ in Piggott, Arkansas: From Early Beginnings to the Mid-20th Century

The historical roots of the South Thornton Church of Christ in Piggott, Arkansas go back to the small band of Christians who first began meeting together in the Haywood community around 1917. The first building was erected on a plot of ground donated by Jake Haywood. About the same time, another small church was meeting in homes and in a theater in Piggott. Around 1932, the Haywood church decided it would be better for them to meet in town. The two churches merged.

The newly-formed congregation first met in a lodge hall at the corner of Front and Court Streets. Occasional preachers for the church in those early years were A. B. Shaver, Elvis Huffard, Cecil Wright, Thetus Pritchard, Thomas Pack, and B. G. Hope. Several special efforts to evangelize the community by public proclamation were conducted by C. L. Wilkerson, Joe Warlick, and G. C. Brewer. The consensus of recollection is that the most notable of these efforts was a 1931 tent meeting in which the preaching of G. C. Brewer attracted much attention and during which many were baptized.

In November of 1940, the plot of ground at the corner of South Thornton and Bruce Streets was donated to the church by Randall Davis. Soon, a frame building was erected, utilizing lumber from the old Haywood building. In May 1948, continued growth necessitated more space. A brick auditorium was built. The old building was turned ninety degrees, placed at the back of the new auditorium in the early 1950s. In 1963, a large auditorium was constructed adjacent and parallel to the existing one. The older building was partitioned to provide classrooms and a remnant of the old auditorium was retained as a fellowship area in the center.

In many respects, the most notable character who contributed to the tremendous numerical growth of the 1940s was Harbert D. Hooker. At first, Hooker commuted to Piggott from his home in Poplar Bluff, Missouri in order to preach and to promote the gospel. Around 1945, Hooker became the first full-time preacher employed by the congregation. His five years of work with the church were very fruitful.

Note: The bulk of this brief overview, which I wrote in November 1991, comes from histories recorded in several South Thornton Church directories, and from C. Ray Miller, "Church of Christ: Its History in Piggott," Piggott Times, Vol. 1, February 29, 1968. For a sketch of the lives of A. B. Shaver and C. L. Wilkerson, see Boyd E. Morgan, Arkansas Angels (Paragould, AR: College Bookstore and Press, 1967), pp. 93-94 and 136-38, respectively.

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