Phena Fincher interviwing Mr. and Mrs. Earl Johnson, Mae Parker Norman, and Mrs. Jessie Morrow on October 11, 1984 about the Ebenezer Methodist Church, no longer in existence.
Phena: Ebenezer was located 4 miles west of Bluff City on Hwy 299 toward Cale. Mrs. Morrow, do you remember when the church at Ebenezer was founded?
Jessie: No, I don't know when it was founded, but I remember when the church that was there last was built, but not when it was founded. I guess when they all settled in there.
Phena: Could you establish about a time when that building you were talking about was built?
Jessie: About 1904 or 1905.
Phena: Then was it in existence prior to the Rocky Hill Church, would you say?
Jessie: Yeah, to this last church, but, when they built this church they had a church down below this just a little piece, had a schoolhouse and church together. They went to school in the church until they built this church here and then they built a little schoolhouse across the road from the church.
Phena: And the cemetery is right behind where the church had stood.
Jessie: That's where I got my education, right there across the road from that church and went to that church all the time.
Phena: How many, about, did you have in school at that time?
Jessie: I can remember when my brother, Arthur Tunnel, taught school there, and he had 80 pupils in that little church, in that little schoolhouse, and he taught every one of us and now they can't have 15 in a class.
Phena: Times have changed, haven't they?
Jessie: We had the 3 R's. We didn't have all this fancy stuff, or anything, and we had to learn the 3 R's; reading, writing and 'rithmetic. Whenever they needed a whippin' they got it and when they's bigger I can remember they called in the directors to correct the big boys when they'd get into a fight or something. They'd have to call in the directors to quell(?) them.
Phena: How many families originallly attended the church there at Ebenezer as far back as those of you here can remember? Families were larger than some families today.
Jessie: Mama and Papa had 14 kids still alivin' when they both died. Mae and them, well, they didn't have too large a family, but, well, I just wouldn't know, but they always had a good crowd.
Phena: Was the church at Ebenezer a log structure?
Jessie: No, it was nice lumber on the inside and the outside was made of wide boards; smooth. It was a good built church. But they finally tore that one down and built a smaller one and I don't remember just what year that was, but it was about in the 1930's, you know, when Uncle Joe was living up there, that's when they done that.
Phena: What happened to the last church that was there?
Jessie: Somebody bought it and they just moved it off, but I don't know - we was living down there in Ouachita County and I just don't know who bought the church and moved it off of the grounds there.
Phena: When would you say the membership began to decline?
Jessie: Somewhere in 1925 or 1926. People, I don't know, just moved out and went to other places.
Phena: And so the church actually didn't function any longer after along in the 1930's.
Jessie: They didn't have a regular preacher but people would come in, extra preachers. I remember Woodrow Beddle(?) preached there a while, Ben Luck(?) from Cale, and if I'm not mistaken, Rayford Ditzy(?), didn't he?
Mr. J.: He preached at Rocky Hill, not at Ebenezer.
Jessie: He did. I went up there one evening and he preached. I remember Johnny Har
Phena: He did it all, in other words, except be the listener.
Jessie: That was after the church had gone dead. He just come up there and preached.
Mr. J.: Differnet denominations came up there and used the building. Two or three revivals were held over there I know, in the last several years, 25 or 30 years.
Phena: Can you remember any interesting stories about things that happened in the early days of Ebenezer Church, things that made an indelible spot in your memory?
Jessie: Well, my husband and I were married. We were supposed to be married in church. I don't know why, the fire smoked so bad or something, so they decided they'd go to the schoolhouse, and the pastor told us whenever we come out of the church and got off at the steps, why he would marry us right there, so that's where we were married, right in front of the church. I know of several people that lived around Prescott that were there and different places, and then we went on over to the schoolhouse and had services. I can't think - Bro. Arnold was the pastor.
Phena: What year was that?
Jessie: 1921, November 20.
Phena: I know that did make and indelible place in your memory.
Jessie: My husband was buried in Ebenezer graveyard and that's where we started and that's where we will end.
Phena: Some mention was made of the fact, Mrs. Norman, about the time they prayed for rain. Could you tell us about that?
Mae: I won't ever forget that. I was a little kid, but it was a drouth that year. Everything was burning up, and of course, everybody was farmers, that was their living, and I'll never forget that night. They met over there and there weren't any clouds around either, and they started having prayer services. They sang awhile, and they'd pray a while and they'd sing a while. And it was after midnight - I don't know what time it was, but it started raining and it rained so hard that everybody talked about it later. They let their team carry them home, they couldn't see the road. I was a kid and I thought we was a'gonna drown.
Phena: That made some kind of impression. Did that strengthen your faith?
Mae: I've always believed since then that miracles can happen. But I remember Mrs. Gordon, don't you Jessie? She was one of them that night that was involved in that.
Jessie: She was one that'd always get up and shout.
Mae: But I remember that. They went over there with a faith - they didn't know when the rain would come, but they went with the faith that the Lord was gonna send rain. They believed it and it happened.
Phena: Was there any shouting after it started?
Mae: I don't remember that - I went to sleep before it was all over.
Mr. J.: Wasn't it clear when they went there?
Mae: It was clear - there wasn't any clouds. They didn't start looking just as soon as they started praying, but some of 'em would go out later on and look to see if there was any clouds.
Phena: Expect a miracle.
Jessie: Well, that's the way Elijah done, or Elisha. He'd send his servant out and when he saw a cloud as big as his hand why he knew it was gonna rain then.
Phena: What are some of the ways that you've seen the services change? You know we go to church on Sunday morning now, and we're in Sunday School maybe 30-45 minutes and the worship service must not run over an hour or else we get fidgety. How were the services back in those years?
Jessie: Well, they didn't quit whenever it came 12 o'clock if they wasn't through preaching. Everybody had to go in wagons, you know, and it would take a while to get home, and you'd invite people to go home with you for dinner. I remember my mama and daddy - they had 17 'lotta times on Sunday. Mama could feed them just as good as she could feed a dozen. She didn't get flustered. I'd just have one and get flustered. She always had enough.
Mae: The thing that I think back to - they didn't have any air conditioners, any fans - people had fans of their own. And you know, I never did hear people complain it was too hot to go to church.
Jessie: No, and it too cold - You'd sit in the back and you'd shake all the time, and you didn't complain about it.
Mae: So to me, that is the difference... people were just...
Jessie: Well, we didn't have anyplace else to go - kids has got too many places to go.
Mae: But the older people, they wasn't interested in going places and I never heard my mama and daddy complain about...
Mr. J.: ...the heat or the cold or anything, really and truly. You know, kerosene lamps, little ole lamps around the walls.
Phena: Bugs everywhere. Children on the pallets. It was an all day affair, wasn't it? Now, priority - we may put church and all up there but we usually have a dozen things we want to get done that day, too, and if church gets in the way, well then we might have to cut that sometimes, some of us.
Mr. J.: They go to church pretty well on Sunday morning, but if yours is like it is with us, Sunday nights hardly anybody goes.
Phena: Did you have Sunday evening services back in those days?
Jessie: Not too much. Sometimes we'd have it on Wednesday nights, but not too often 'cause people had to work.
Phena: Long hours in the field, from can 'til can't.
Mae: The other thing back then was that pastors of the church had to go horseback or walk. And on the weekends, there was always somebody that had to take care of the preacher. He'd come in maybe like Saturday and stay over until Monday morning.
Phena: Everyone took their turn, didn't they? And welcomed the preacher.
Mr. J.: He came Saturday night, usually, Sunday morning, Sunday evening.
Phena: Something was said about the time you joined the church, or something, or didn't join the church because of the method of baptism? What was that about?
Jessie: Well, I just said that I was saved in the Methodist Church, but I never did join it, because I didn't want to be sprinkled, and that's the only way Ebenezer did then; was to sprinkle, but I don't know how they do now. But I know Rocky Hill, they immersed 'em, but I never did see anyone...
Mr. J.: Don't know of anyone being sprinkled or poured at Rocky Hill. We always went to the creek or someplace.
Mae: I remember at Emmet, you know your uncle, they poured water on him, but his health was real bad. But for years they immersed - they'd go to the creek or somebody's stock pond. I know where I was baptised, in a stock pond.
Mr. J.: Up by
Mae: It was springfed - you know, water from a spring. But to me, baptism - I wanted to be immersed. I never criticized people that was sprinkled, but that's the way I believed it.
Phena: Well, they had their choice, I think, but a lot of times everybody almost was just being sprinkled, so you might have hated to say, well, my method of baptism that I choose is to be immersed, because you'd feel like you were creating a problem.
Mae: I imagine years ago that they sprinkled at Rocky Hill - I don't know.
Jessie: I don't remember that, either.
Mr. J.: Probably did, but since I can remember going though, I don't remember it. She said my Uncle Emmet(?), but I wasn't there that day.
Mae: Well that wasn't long before he passed away and he was so anxious to join the church.
Jessie: And I may be curious, but I tell you, I don't believe in these fountains here at the church now - I'd rather go to the river and be baptized.
Mae: That's more sacred.
Mr. J.: That's the way Christ was baptized.
Jessie: I was baptized in the Missouri River and there was plenty of water.
Phena: And you said that was the traditional way of baptism at Rocky Hill?
Mr. J.: It really was, immersing.
Mae: Ever since I can remember.
Jessie: Yeah, I can remember going down to Caney Creek one time; just before we got down to where they'd baptize 'em, why they's a big old rattle snake there - that was the biggest snake I ever saw. I wouldn't have got in that water for nothing.
Phena: You would have changed your mind about needing to be baptized that way. Can you think of any other incidents about Ebenezer Church, Mrs. Morrow, or memories that you have?
Jessie: They don't come too often to me.
Phena: Do you remember except for Bro. Parker, didn't you say that was who performed your wedding ceremony?
Jessie: It was Arnold, Bro. Arnold.
Phena: Can you remember any of the other early pastors?
Jessie: I don't know.
Mae: What years was that one-armed preacher?
Jessie: That's Canfield.
Phena: Do you know who the last preacher was?
Jessie: No, I don't know, 'cause we left the next day to go to Illinois and when we come home, back, why they wasn't having church there. Of course, Mr. Cross's folks, and they had moved to Texarkana, and some of the rest began to get off.
Phena: Why, it's a large cemetery there. It's still used by the people around the area, and very well kept.
Jessie: And a lot of people - there's a girl buried up there from Arizona. Of course, her folks lived here. But she went to Arizona, but she, them bring her back. Buried her just a while back up there.
Mae: We was talking about what went with the building. You know, they sold the building and gave the money to the cemetery fund - that's where the money went. They went through the conference some way and got permission because it was leaking and the lumber was rotten and the floor was ruining. So they let 'em sell the building and they put the money in the cemetery fund.
Phena: That was a good thing to do with it, wasn't it?
Jessie: I think they put a fence around it, didn't they, with the money?
Mae: I think so. I think that's what they used it for, was to put that fence around it.
Jessie: And they cleaned up all around where there used to be muscadine, huckleberries; it's what we lived on.
Phena: Those were the good old days, weren't they Mrs. Morrow?
Jessie: Sure were. You know, we were pore, but we didn't know it, because everybody else was the same with us.
Phena: Poor in material possessions maybe, but rich in love, don't you think?
Jessie: And we all had a good time.
Phena: It didn't take so much to have a good time then, did it?
Jessie: No. I wonder what us kids would've turned out to be if we had the privileges all the kids do now. They get all the things they want, they go anywhere, don't have nothin' to do.
Phena: I think that out of adversity comes strength a lot of times, and the difficult times that you may have had, whether you realized it or not, were building character.
Jessie: We didn't realize we were having a hard time because we was brought up to work. I can remember I was 3 years old and I had a little old job, like carrying in splinters to build a fire with. And I knew that was my job and they didn't have to tell me. I can remember when I was 3 years old.
Phena: I appreciate so much you talking with us. Mrs. Johnson, do you have any memories of these churches you'd like to share with us?
Mrs. J.: Yes, ma'am. I moved over to Ebenezer when I was about 8 years old. Course they wasn't any active church there, but I would go up and I would go over the graveyard and look at graves and tombs and all. And then I would play around in there and out in the woods, and it meant a lot to me. And then when we moved to there over close to Rocky Hill when I was about 13, and from then on I have gone to Rocky Hill a lot to church. So both of them mean a lot to me, both places.
Phena: There's just a fondness in your heart there that's never replaced by something else. I think that what you gained in your childhood of the faith that your parents have taught you and the teachings that you had in church that just don't get away from you.
Mae: If they would like to find out when the land was donated, that is recorded at the courthouse at Prescott, but I don't have any idea what year it was.
Phena: Is that for Ebenezer?
Mae: No, for Rocky Hill. No, I don't know about Ebenezer. I don't even know who donated that land.
Phena: We are most appreciative of you sharing your knowledge of these churches that are located only 3 miles apart, but have played a very important part in the lives of the community in and around Rocky Hill, Ebenezer, Bluff City area.
Jessie: Now it could've been Bro. Whalen(?), because you know he lived up there. I went to school with his daughter, Miss Gertrude Whalen and I 'spect he was the one that done it, because he was the preacher. He preached my mother's funeral when she died.
Mr. J.: He married my mother and dad. But that was in Rocky Hill Church.
Jessie: Well, I guess he was like the rest of them, you know, he just preached around. Of course, my brother, Arthur Tunnel, he held a meeting at Rocky Hill and Ebenezer and Carolina - no maybe he just went to Carolina. But he held a meeting at County Line and he was a Nazarene preacher. He went to
The original copy of this interview is in the Prescott-Nevada County Depot Museum, Prescott, AR.