Phena Fincher conducted an interview on the Rocky Hill United Methodist Church; speaking with Mr. and Mrs. Earl Johnson who are still members of Rocky Hill, but live in Camden, and Mrs. Mae Parker Norman who is a regular member of Rocky Hill, who lives in Bluff City, and Mrs. Jessie Tunnel Morrow who also lives in Camden.
Phena: Mr. Johnson, could you tell me where Rocky Hill is located?
Mr. J.: Four miles southwest of Bluff City.
Phena: Going west from Bluff City on Hwy 299, you take a right and it is about 2 miles north on a country road, isn't that right? Do you know when your church was founded? What year?
Mr. J.: 1908, as far as I know. It's what I've heard.
Phena: What you have heard may be as good as we have. Do you know how the land was acquired?
Mr. J.: Fletcher McKelvey donated 2 acares of land for the church they built there.
Mrs. J.: And he was Earl's grandfather.
Phena: Your grandfather (to Mr. Johnson) donated the land for the church. Was the church erected by people just pitching in and coming together and doing the work?
Mr. J.: It sure was.
Phena: I went out there this afternoon, the first time I've ever seen it, and I was just amazed at the beauty. It is nestled in the trees out there, and this time of the year, the colors were just beautiful. But I felt, when I left the main highway, that I had kind of gone away from civilization. I suppose that is a change from the days when the church was erected. Am I right?
Mae: You are right about that.
Phena: It was more densely populated back then.
Mae: Yes, there was a house just a little piece - Mrs. McKelvy's house was just...
Mrs. J.: We put that siding on there when Bro. Lee was on the circuit. What year was that?
Mr. J.: Well, it was in 195?. Well, you know the siding that covers the church, recovered it in I'd say 1958, then the siding went up probably a year later.
Phena: What did it look like before the siding was on it? The original building? This is still the original building?
Mr. J.: Well, it was just rough lumber, not even planed lumber.
Mrs. J.: What they always call box planks.
Phena: Well, it has served its purpose over the years. During what years would you say its membership was the greatest?
Mr. J.: In the mid 30s; along 30-40.
Phena: And then the decline began. Was the community still well populated during those years? When did they start to move away from there?
Mr. J.: During WWII in the 40s.
Mae: When these depots, you know the one at Camden, one at Hope...
Phena: The defense plants...
Mae: Yes, and the government came in and bought up all this poor land, people had to get out, you know. That was the beginning of the decline. There were houses just on this side of Rocky Hill and all down on the other side in those hills. Uncle Willie and Uncle Henry and Aunt Della; they all lived down there close, and me and Dunn - a lot of people around there. Earl's(?) daddy and them lived just a little piece.
Phena: What was the main source of livelihood for the people?
Mae: Farming. They raised all their stuff, you know.
Phena: I believe before we really started this interview, Mrs. Morrow, you told me that you were married, no, this was another church that you were married in. We will get to that in a little bit. Do you know who some of the early pastors were?
Mae: I can't remember any, myself.
Mr. J.: Do you know any?
Phena: Well, I think 1920 was pretty early, myself.
Mr. J.: It was organized in 1908.
Mrs. J.: He told me last night he knew them from 1925, I believe, wasn't that right Earl?
Phena: Who was pastor in those years?
Mr. J.: George Mauser was the first one I remember.
Mae: And then Mr. Sam Adams, you know, he pastored over there twice.
Mr. J.: He sure did. The first time was before my time, and late 1938 or 1939 he pastored there and came back.
Phena: And the pastor you have now is Bro. Dale McKinney who lives in Hope. How have the services changed over the years? In other words, as far back as you can remember, how often were the services held?
Mae: Once a month.
Mr. J.: You mean preaching service or just Sunday School?
Mr. J.: Sunday school every Sunday and Christian Endeavor Society every Sunday night. Young people is what it was.
Phena: But it has always been part of a circuit and you have only had a minister one Sunday a month, but during the early years you did have Sunday school every Sunday.
Mae: Well, they had Sunday school until, I know it has been 10 or 15 years ago when they quit, because we lived over there close and we went every Sunday. We'd go by and take up Mrs. Hardley Johnny(?) and go to the Endeavor and Sunday school. Then Mr. Beddle(?), he preached over there a a long time.
Phena: I knew Mrs. Beddle (Bevil?) after her husband died. She was a very dear lady.
Mae: Talking about you teaching school, I thought Mr. Beddle used to teach school over at Rocky Mound several years. He was a teacher, and then after he quit teaching, he began to preach.
Phena: Can you remember, or have you heard any interesting stories about the early years of the church at Rocky Hill? Mrs. Morrow, you were telling me how the church got its name.
Jessie: Well, it's them big old rocks down there; so big I bet they weigh a thousand pounds or more, all down in there. Just here a while back, I picked up one and carried it home, of course, it wasn't very big.
Phena: It wasn't a thousand pounds then, was it?
Jessie: I'd love to have one of them, just a piece of Rocky Hill.
Phena: That's the way a lot of things did get their names, I think.
Jessie: I can tell you one thing that used to happen there at Rocky Hill, and it would give you a good feeling. I've seen Aunt Deller, Aunt Minnie and Nonie Richardson get up there and shout all over the church.
Mr. J.: Her mother, don't forget her, too. Mrs. Molly Parker.
Jessie: That's right. But Mrs. Parker and Ma didn't seem like they got up and shouted like them. And Mrs. McKelvy, she was always quiet. But Aunt Deller, and Nonie Richardson would nearly always fall right backards, nearly always, every time she'd get up there and go to shouting.
Phena: And you said that gave you a good feeling.
Jessie: Yeah, and that was Alma Eagle's mother that lived there in Prescott.
Phena: Really? What would you think if you saw somebody shouting today?
Jessie: Well, I believe I'd think more of it. Churches are so cold, sometimes you don't even have any feeling in the church. I guess it's me, but it's sure not like it used to be. I'd want to get up and shout.
Mae: I don't know what year it was, and the only time I remember that any denomination was barred from using the church for service, was when this lady preacher by the name of Smith, and her character wasn't above board, so they refused to let her use the church, but it had been used as a community church for other people to worship in, too.
Phena: That was a nice thing. It was a Methodist/Protestant church, wasn't it?
Mae: Well, it was Methodist, but they welcomed other people in to worship.
Phena: How was your attendance in those days?
Mae: It was good.
Phena: The church was filled for revivals and things like that?
Mae: Sure was.
Phena: And today?
Mae: We have 4 members, believe it or not. There's 3 of them right here, and 1 up here.
Phena: And you think you are going to be able to keep holding on?
Mae: We're going to hold it just as long as we can.
Phena: Very good. That's the kind of thing that our Christian faith and heritage is based on; those that were willing to hang on and stay true to their commitment.
Mrs. J.: We would have to because of our parents, 'cause they was dedicated, and we can't close the door long as we're able to carry on.
Phena: Well, we certainly hope that you will be able to and it will be a reality in the lives of the church and community. Thank you.
The original copy of this interview is kept at the Prescott/Nevada County Depot Museum, Prescott, AR. Founded around 1908.