Emmet Methodist Church
Phena Fincher's interview with Mrs. Otis Townsend and Mrs. Basil Munn on October 10, 1984 about the Emmet United Methodist Church.
Phena: We are fortunate this afternoon to have two ladies with us who have combined membership in the Emmet Methodist Church of well over a hundred years. We think this is a wonderful opportunity. We want to thank Mrs. Otis Townsend, who was Ora Wiley, and Mrs. Basil Munn, who was Lillian Wiley - they're sisters, and we may have some arguments on here, but we're so glad to have them talk with us this afternoon about the Emmet United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Munn, I wonder if you could tell us something about when your church was founded.
Munn: Methodism was organized in Emmet as early as 1855, and Dan Tyree, Dr. John E. Snell, Jim Vickers, Crawford Anders, Ambrose McComb, and others erected a log house which was used for community purposes such as church and school. If this property was ever deeded, it is not known. The church is known as Bethel. In the winter of 1879 or 1880, Rev. Thomas J. Sage(?), a preacher and the father of our Rev. Jesse A. Sage, moved to Emmet. Dr. John E. Snell and others were like-minded. Dr. Snell gave the land and much of the material used in the building. Under the leadership of Rev. George E. Sexton, in 1891, a larger and better building replaced the old building. In 1918, with Rev. F.C. Canon as pastor, a beautiful brick building replaced the frame structure.
Phena: That's the one you are worshipping in today, isn't it?
Munn: Yes. Emmet was originally part of the Moscow circuit, which was composed of Moscow, Emmet, Holly Grove, Midway, Ebenezer, and Hopewell. The parsonage was located at Moscow. Later Midway became the head of the circuit with the parsonage located in Midway. The charge was then known as Midway circuit. In 1885 the parsonage was moved to Emmet and Emmet became the head of the charge. The work was then known as the Emmet circuit.
Phena: So today you have a fairly new parsonage there, erected within the last few years, don't you, where the head of the Emmet circuit resides?
Munn: Yes. I'd like to mention that our good member, and he was a lifetime member,
Garland, when he died, left I believe it was $13,000 to the church. So we got together and we needed a parsonage badly, really the pastor's wives had put up with a lot, and we wondered how we'd manage for the rest of it, but we got out and got to work and soon had enough to erect a parsonage and we built a 3 BR house, 2 baths, combination living and dining room, and a rather good-sized den.
Phena: I haven't been in it, but I know from the outside it looks like it certainly is a credit to you and I don't think anyone would mind residing in that pretty place, and it's also beautifully landscaped and it's right there adjacent to the church, isn't it?
Munn: Yes it is. Now, I was tryin to think of the pastor's name who lived in it first. Darcy(?) Caldwell, and by the way he was a bachelor.
Phena: That was timely , wasn't it?
Munn: We had hoped that some parsonage wife who had had to put up with another parsonage that was not so nice, would have the opportunity of living in it first, but Darcy came there.
Phena: I'm sure he appreciated it, too.
Munn: His mother eventually moved in with him, so he did have a housekeeper.
Phena: Well, that's wonderful that you were able to build the parsonage - that was a good start on it, and you said that you had contributions sent in from people all over and were able to complete the parsonage debt-free, really. In 1976 - it has appreciated in value a whole lot since then. Have their been any changes made to your church building itself in the last several years? Since that brick building was erected?
Munn: We've had problems with our church. It has a flat roof and we have to spend so much money and time trying to stop the leaks and people guarantee they will fix the leak, and then first one thing or another, it will leak again. That causes our ceiling - we have a high ceiling - to be repaired at times, so eventually Mr. Dave Weaver worked out a plan he thought might work and he added a different, not full roof, to the house, but (I mean to the church building) and it hasn't leaked as much, but it still leaks. It doesn't drain well and the drains get filled with leaves and our men, who are getting up in years, it's gotten where it's dangerous for them to climb on top of the roof, so we have problems that way. It takes a lot of our money to take care of the roof.
Phena: That's too bad, really, because it was a misjudgement, but you thought you were doing the right thing at the time and did the things you were advised to do, I'm sure.
Munn: I really had no say. I was only around, well I don't know how old Ora says she was at the time, but I was - well anyway, they let me drive a horse and buggy by myself and I went around over the neighborhood and collected hens(?) from the different members of the church and we sold - I don't know, we just made up money from everywhere in the world. We came by money hard in those days.
Phena: Oh, but you actually do remember hoing around in the horse and buggy to collect for this? People that had - they were giving of their means the best they had to give you chickens, to part with some of them.
Munn: Oh, yes they were, and they were very generous.
Phena: It must be wonderful to remember that and I'm sure it gives both of you great pride in teh church building.
Munn: Of course, my sister was younger. She wasn't allowed to go out in the buggy with a horse.
Phena: What did you do, Mrs. Townsend?
Townsend: I just helped the best I could.
Phena: I'm sure you did. How would you say the services have changed over the years?
Munn: It was very interesting, the church before the mechanization age came along. We began losing ground, I guess, with the coming of the machine age. I wouldn't say what year exactly, because it just came very gradually.
Phena: I think this is the same thing that has happened to all our rural churches. Of course, Emmet was not rural at that time...
Munn: Of course, it was ll from rural industry at that time. Now later on we had the Arkla Gas plant come to Emmet and they had quite a few Methodist members, but that was much later than the beginning of the machine age. But we're situated, you know, on Hwy 67, about halfway between Hope and Prescott, and at one time we had 4 general merchandise stores, and 4 or 5 variety stores or drug stores, 4 cotton gens, a sawmill, branch bank of Prescott, a restaurant, 2 blacksmith shops, and 3 churches; Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian. But we had dirt roads and it took most of a day to make a trip to Hope or Prescott. Today our town is composed of a general merchandise store, and a small grocery store. We've had a post office during both periods. Our youth have gone other places to seek employment. Some few have retired and returned to the church.
Phena: But they're much older when they retire and return to the church. Actually your potential for growth at this time in the Emmet Church is virtually nil.
Munn: It is. We have one younger woman and her son, who is about 12, and then we have Suzanne, who is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Shelby Jones, and then we have Trey Dehan(?), he is the grandson of Odie and Marguerite Dehan, then Joe Al Hickey is a member of our church and he is not always able to be there, but he helps out when he is, and they're all active and we appreciate them very much. Back in my younger days, I have heard the ministers say how discouraged over the small congregation, and then how some youngster came out of that congregation and grew up to be a very great person - a wonderful preacher or evangelist, and of course, they were saying how we never know how much good we are doing.
Phena: That's true. From small beginnings come great things many times. You were telling me something before we started this interview, one of the highlights of the church life that you recall. What was that?
Munn: Back in 1911, we called him Bro. Whalen(?), retired and moved into our town and Mrs. Whaley was the mother of Mrs. John Klein whose husband was a missionary to China. Every 10 years the Kleins had a leave of absence from the mission field and so they spent that year with Bro. and Mrs. Whalen. Bro. Klein filled our pulpit on many occasions and Mrs. Klein taught a class at Emmet. They had many interesting stories to tell us.
Phena: I'm sure they did. That was a wonderful experience for those of you who lived in Emmet. Mrs. Townsend, you said that Mary was in your room at school, wasn't she? What were some of the things you benefitted from knowing her?
Townsend: She would show us how the Chinese would eat and what they would talk about and we just enjoyed it more. Ethel Lane was our teacher. She was from Stephens, I believe.
Phena: I know that was a wonderful experience for you. Can you remember any interesting stories about the Junior Missionary Society, was it not?
Townsend: Oh yes, when I was small we had the Junior Missionary Society and Mrs. McSwane met with us every Sunday evening and we'd have a program and we'd all get together and have a good time.
Munn: That was Mrs. Douglas McSwane, Sr., wasn't it?
Phena: Was this just girls?
Phena: And about how many did you have, do you remember?
Townsend: About 12 or 15.
Phena: Well now, go ahead with the experiences that you had during those meetings. Townsend: We'd get up in the choir and the ones that could play a song, we'd play on the pump organ. And then she'd have us kneel and pray, and we all had on white stockings, with pleated shirts, we'd get up, and well, one would say, "Look at my knees - we just got our knees so dirty!"
Phena: Mrs. Munn, could you tell us some of the names of the early ministers of the church?
Munn: In the beginning, I told you some of the early ones. Even I don't remember those.
Phena: You have a list that started there with 1880 and comes up to 1984 - over 100 years.
Munn: Yes. Would you like to hear all of them? Well, I remember I wasn't so very old when - I know A.D. Jenkins was a minister that I liked very much and he stayed there for several years. And he had a son, A.D. Jenkins. Then the Rushings came in 1918, and they, after, when Bro. Rushing retired, moved back to Emmet and had made it their home. They put their membership, or rather she did, of course, he was preaching at Washington at the time, and I believe he was still preaching at Washington until his death. But she has her membership and is still living with us and is certainly a joy to have with us in the church and she means so much to us. She is pretty well informed about all things that are happening, and by the way, when Bro. Rushing died , she took over his ministry in the church at Washington and Sardis. I just thought I'd like to mention her because she is helping us so much. She is president of our Missionary Society now.
Phena: Is she? And you were telling me you have good attendance at your...
Munn: We have a membership of 20 and usually we have around 14 or 15 when we have our Society meeting. Some of the girls are working part-time. Of course, they are all retired, but they still enjoy working so they have part-time work. Now they're not always able to meet with us, but we try to do as best we can to keep things going.
Phena: You do, too. I think the people at Emmet deserve a lot of credit. You have maintained a lovely church, you have a beautiful parsonage, you certainly have kept up with the times regardless of whether you've been able to maintain the membership in numbers that you'd like, but I'm sure the spirit of the Lord is there.
Munn: Well,we've made the effort and we only have - most of us are widows, and we only have 6 men in our church now and they are not young, close to our age. Our two brothers are younger than we are in the church, but not a lot.
Phena: Do you have a church service every Sunday?
Munn: We now have a service every Sunday morning and night. Really it is a little difficult for some of us old women to make it out at night. They can carry on without us and we're just hoping someday something will happen that will bring people in. People have come into the town, but you call on them and invite them to come to church and they belong to some other church, and I don't know whether they go to church or not. But, even so, I believe in getting out working and trying to bring people into the church. But I think they've all had a very friendly welcome who have ever come into the church. It's my opinion if they're interested in church, they know it's there, and they'll be there. I get a little aggrivated at times about that.
Phena: We moved around a lot and never had to be invited, you know. If you really want to go you'll seek it out and find it. But, of course, we're urged to go into highways and hedges and try to bring them in, but it's a little difficult.
Munn: I hadn't realized. I kept my membership at Emmet. My first husband traveled for
company. And we went - he was a specialty man - and when a territory ran down we moved into that territory, so we lived in apartments and apartment hotels, and when I lived in Memphis, I went to the Evergreen Methodist Church and it wasn't long 'til the pastor called on me and wanted me to move my letter. I explained the situation and explained that I kept my letter in the church at Emmet. He says, "Emmet? Why, you must remember that when you joined the Methodist Church you didn't join the Emmet Methodist Church, you joined the Methodist Church." That's the first time I'd thought of it that way. That was his idea and it sort of changed my mind, too, but I never did move my letter.
Phena: A lot of times we have ties that bind, don't we, and roots run deep, and sometimes you just have a feeling that you want to keep your membership there. So you and Mrs. Townsend both have had your membership in the Methodist Church at Emmet all your lives.
Munn: This Trudy (Judy?) Zigler has kept hers there. That's why she and I have had our memberhsip in the church longer than any of the members. Of course, a lot of folks have died. Now, I'm not saying I'm the oldest one there, because Mr. Johnson is 89 and I'm not that old.
Phena: I'm sure you've seen a difference in the transportation used to get to church, too? But with the coming of transportation to get to church, it meant transportaion to get to other places as well, so actually the membership in your church was greater back, as you said, in the period during its early years of organization and up until 1918, past that.
Munn: We not only had automobiles and places where we could, instead of spend the day to go to Hope and Prescott, we can get up there - it all depends on whether you're a law-abiding citizen or not - you can get up there in just a few minutes. It makes a difference. And we cannot offer the youth what they can get in the larger churches, because we haven't the facilities or the people to train them. I can understand why mothers and fathers, if they do take them to other places, do, because we cannot give them what they can get someplace else.
Phena: Still the church is filling a very vital need in the community at Emmet and in the lives of those of you who continue to hold on and to attend the services - you have a deep commitment and it certainly shows.
Munn: We have. Our members are loyal.
Phena: That's what we are challenged to be - committed and loyal to the teachings of our Lord and Savior and that's what it's all about. Do you think of any other interesting experiences regarding the church back in those days?
Munn: Do you think anybody'd want to listen to them?
Phena: We certainly do thank both of you for being with us and agreeing to talk about the history of the Emmet Methodist Church.
Munn: We were happy to go back as far as we could remember. Of course, we do remember some of the early happenings better than what we do what happened yesterday.
Phena: We'll all do that. Thank you.
The original copy of this interview is in the Prescott/Nevada County Depot Museum, Prescott, AR.