Download a printable history here: historyofthechurch
History is never one story. Our history as Disciples of Christ is both the story of our little church in Berryville and the story of the formation and growth of the larger Disciples of Christ denomination.
History of The Disciples of Christ
The early history of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is shared by two other groups, the Church of Christ and the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. They all emerged from the same roots. The Stone-Campbell movement began as two separate threads, each without knowledge of the other in the early 19th century. The first, led by Barton W. Stone began at Cane Ridge, Bourbon County, Kentucky. The group called themselves simply Christians. The second began in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell.
Both movements sought to end the divisiveness that often comes with denominational differences. They wanted to found the unity of the church in the simple acknowledgment that Jesus is the Christ, the messiah, and an acceptance of Him as Lord. Both were opposed to the use of creeds as a test of faith. They believed that the simple confession that Jesus Christ is Lord was sufficient to unite all Christians. They considered man-made creeds divisive.
Following World War II, the two churches agreed that they could no longer effectively meet the needs of the postwar era as a single organization. Discussions throughout the 1950 and 60s’ led to an International Convention of Christian Churches which adopted a plan to restructure of the entire organization. In 1968, the modern day Disciples of Christ were born.
History of First Christian Church, Berryville, Arkansas
by Nan Taylor and Shirley Porter
Located in the northwest corner of Arkansas, Berryville encompasses approximately 6.1 square miles of land and has a population of 5,356 residents (2010 Census). It is one of two county seats in Carroll County, with the other one being Eureka Springs, located 12 miles west of Berryville. U.S. 62 passes through the center of town, and leads 30 miles east to Harrison and 45 miles west to Rogers.
Berryville was founded by local settler Blackburn Henderson. Originally from Alabama, Berry moved to the Berryville area in 1848 and purchased a farm and opened a store. He partnered with Arthur Baker, a self-taught doctor and blacksmith from Carroll County, and they hired a surveyor to map out the town. The original plat was done in 1850 and consisted of twenty-four lots and three primary streets including Main, Forsythe (now Madison) and Church. The town grew quickly, establishing a post office in 1852, a school in 1855, and became an active trading center. The first churches in the community were the Methodist Church, established in 1848 and the Union church, established in 1851. These church buildings, along with most of Berryville’s other buildings were destroyed in the Civil War.
In the aftermath of the war, the community’s growth was slow but steady. It was during this time that the first steps were taken towards the establishment of the Christian Church. Influenced by the Christian movement (also called Disciples of Christ), that began in Arkansas in the 1830s, a devoted group of men and women in Berryville gathered together in October 1871 to plan their new church. At the close of the meeting, each family pledged time, money and talents towards the creation of their new church.
The Christian Church of Berryville was originally organized as the Church of Christ, and the first elders were W.C. Stephens and H. W. Fisk, and the first deacons were W. A. Bonner and S. B. Meek. It’s unknown where the congregation worshipped in the early years as it wasn’t until 1877 that they began making plans to build a church. On December 21, 1877, a pledge document was signed by eighteen church members to pay for the property, as well as labor, lumber, and building supplies “for the purpose of erecting a church house at Berryville, Arkansas to be known as the “Church of Christ.” This document has been preserved, and is currently
framed and displayed in the church’s narthex. According to a recorded deed dated September 24, 1878, Trustees J. C. Hanna and T. C. Freeman paid J. W. Freeman and his wife ten dollars for land to build their church. The property was approximately one fourth of an acre and located on Church Street, one of the first streets named in Berryville’s original plat.
The church was completed in 1879; four years after Berryville became the county seat of Carroll County, and three years after the city was incorporated. As county seat, the community thrived and built the first county courthouse on the Public Square in 1880. Shortly thereafter a new Union Church was built in 1882. By the end of the 19th century, a water tank was constructed near Berry Spring to supply the growing community with fresh water. In 1901, Berryville became part of the St. Louis and North Arkansas Railroad, connecting the community to Eureka Springs and Harrison.
The Arkansas Christian Missionary Convention was organized in 1883,
and the Arkansas Woman’s Board of Missions was founded in 1886. Both groups helped to spread Disciples’ news and coordinate the work of congregations throughout Arkansas. As Arkansas entered the 20th century, the Disciples increased their emphasis on evangelism. A campaign called “Each One Win One,” swept across the country in 1920 by the American Christian Missionary Society. All Arkansas congregations were encouraged to participate in the campaign, but ultimately only twenty-three participated, including Berryville.
As of 1914, the church was valued at $5,000 and had 146 members. It was around this time a group of young Sunday School children had their picture taken in front of the church entrance, which still hangs on the wall of the Carroll County Historical Society’s Heritage Center Museum. One of the students was movie star and crooner Dick Powell, who lived in Berryville as a young boy from approximately 1912-1914. Residents recall Powell and his family’s short time in Berryville, where they participated in the community and built a two-story house on Huntsville Street that is still in existence.
In 1917, the growing church raised funds for their new building additions, which were finished by 1925.
By the 1920s, Berryville was a bustling community of nearly 1,500 residents with many established businesses, telephone service and electricity. As automobiles became popular, a paved turnpike was built between Eureka Springs and Berryville, and a new bridge constructed over Kings River.
In October 1942, a devastating tornado hit Berryville and killed 28 people, and seriously injured 68. Although many buildings were damaged, it is unknown how the tornado affected the church. A housing shortage ensued, and the church’s minister was forced to resign due to his inability to find a suitable rental home in the community. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the church leaders bought a parsonage in 1944, which was located on nearby Springfield Street. This building was later sold in 1960.
By the end of the 1940s, changes began to take place amongst various Christian denominations across the country. Up until this time, the Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, and independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, shared a unified history and common doctrine. However by 1947, Berryville’s Church of Christ congregation determined they had to make a change. According to church records, on June 13, 1947, the church went on record as withdrawing all support from the Disciples and their agencies, and “all other agencies which are not in harmony with Christ and the Scriptures.” That same year, the church was incorporated under the name of First Christian Church, and a new “Christian Church” sign was installed above the front entrance replacing the former “Church of Christ” sign. Less than ten years later on January 15, 1956, the church congregation voted to repeal the resolution of June 13, 1947, therefore maintaining their ties with Disciples of Christ.
In 1971, the church congregation celebrated their centennial. The Berryville community was invited to attend the celebration, which included special church services, an open house and a reception. Brass plaques bearing the names of former members were donated by current members, and are still on display in the southwest corner of the sanctuary.
The Christian Church is Berryville’s oldest continuously operated church in the community.
In 1968, the Allied Telephone Company donated the old Berryville Phone Company building just west of the main church entrance which we use for the Chapel Thrift Store and to house our Good Neighbor, the Carroll County Literacy Council.
Throughout our nearly 150 years of history, First Christian Church Berryville has focused on families, on close fellowship among members, and on being the best people we can be as we follow Christ’s command to Love God with all our hearts, and to Love our Neighbors as ourselves.