Along Highway 25, north of Lake Beaverfork, is the little community known as Pleasant Valley. Although there once was a school and several businesses, today all that remains to hold its place on a map is the little church and cemetery that sit off to the right of the highway.
According to state church records, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church was established in 1858, three years before the Civil War began. It is one of the oldest churches in the county. The church has been in the same location since 1872 when M.H. and Mary Alsup sold the church and its members two acres. The church building doubled as a school, something that occurred frequently in rural areas.
By the mid-1880's, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church had a relatively large membership. As part of the Greenbrier Baptist Association, organized in 1884, it was reported in 1888 that the church had 74 members. The preacher was Rev. G.W. Ford, former Arkansas Director of Education Arch Ford’s grandfather. The next year, the church reported 96 members. By comparison, First Baptist Church in Conway had only 85 members at that time.
In the early 1900's, services were held only once a month. An itinerant preacher would arrive, and services would be held Saturday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night. Sunday School, however, was held every week. Singings were often held on Friday nights. Two-week revivals were usually held in the summer after the crops were planted.
The preachers were paid a little money or ate dinner in a church member’s home as their pay. Often, however, the Sunday morning church service was followed by dinner on the grounds and community singing. Ladies brought quilts or table cloths to spread on the ground and set out the food.
The first church house was a one room building that stood near the road. Those that remember it said it stood about where the flagpole is today. When the highway was put in, it was built to the east of the existing road so the church moved back closer to its present location by 1930. The congregation then started meeting in the Smith-Hughes building, an old building in Damascus that was dismantled and reassembled. It had four large rooms. The church continued to meet in this building through the 1930s and 1940s.
Those who attended this church as children remember the big steps that entered the building were on the south side of the church facing the cemetery. They remember mothers laying quilts on the floor for the little ones to crawl around on or sleep on. The men sat on one side while the women sat on the other side. The choir was on one side of the preacher's chair and pulpit.
In 1933, there was a revival held at the church. W.D. Bowman was the evangelist. As a result of the revival, 42 people were baptized on the banks of the creek between Wooster and Shady Grove. A big white tent was pitched for baptism candidates to change clothes.
A new sanctuary was built in 1953, while Levi Reynolds was pastor. Howard and Cowan Lawrence, local house movers, came and picked up the Smith-Hughes building and turned it around so that it faced west instead of south. The men of the church then took pick axes and shovels and dug the foundation for the new sanctuary by hand, making their own cement to pour in the foundation.
A fellowship hall was added to the south end of the Smith-Hughes building in 1964 and in the late 1970s or early 1980s, a fellowship hall was added to the east. Two Sunday school rooms and a new front entrance were added to the sanctuary in the mid- to late-1980s by Jim and Dell Davis. The old school bell was placed on top of the new addition.
Levi Reynolds was probably the first full-time pastor that the church had. Church services were held every other Sunday, but Sunday school was held every week. Max Williams served as the pastor of the church after Levi Reynolds. The Rev. G.D. Cardin became the pastor of the church in the 1960s, serving as pastor until late 1970s. In 1964, another fellowship hall was added to the back of the church.
In 2003, a modern church building was built in front of the existing church and the old sanctuary was converted to a fellowship hall. In 2013, the old sanctuary, the Smith-Hughes building, fellowship hall and Sunday School classrooms were all removed to make way for a new activity center.
Cindy Beckman is a local freelance writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org