Mt. Moriah Church
In October 1984, Phena Fincher interviewed Charle Cross, a member of Mt. Moriah Methodist Church, about the church, its location and history.
The interview goes as follows...
Phena: First of all, would you give us just a verbal location for Mt. Moriah Church as it stands today?
Charlie: Mt. Moriah Church today is near the geometrical center of Nevada Co. That's the reason the county seat was moved there to start with. The first court in Nevada Co. was held there on Mt. Moriah grounds. But our church that is there now, or the one that this one took the place of, was already there. This church was built in 1857 and that, by the way, is the third church, in other locations. This church stayed there from 1857 to 1928, where it was rebuilt and the present church we have there now was built in 1928 from the old church that existed first.
Phena: And you say that the one that was there in 1857 was not the first church.
Charlie: It wasn't the first Mt. Moriah Church. The first was on Hwy 19 north about a mile in front of the W.F. Clark farm. Just across the road was the first one. Then in later years, Mt. Moriah Church and school was moved just across what we call the Clark branch and approximately a half mile up the branch off Hwy 19. The well is still there. At that time there was 3 churches, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist. And then when they moved this time over to where Mt. Moriah is now, Bluff Springs went into existence with the Baptist part of it, they moved over to Bluff Springs and the Methodists and Presbyterians stayed together as they are today.
Phena: So actually then, the union or joint sharing of this church has been a part of its history all through the years. This is a unique situation in Nevada Co. in rural Methodist Churches, is it not? Isn't this the only one that shares a building with a church?
Charlie: In this county, I believe so. In other counties - our pastor just happens to have one in Hempstead County that is also Methodist/Baptist - Sweet Home.
Phena: Mt. Moriah Church is a union church with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. And it is presently located how many miles south of Prescott on Hwy. 19?
Charlie: Approximately 12 miles.
Phena: You've told us already when your church was founded, 1857. Do you have any idea about how many families originally attended during the first few years?
Charlie: We'll see. Phena: Well you have a world of good records here, Mr. Cross. That question I asked you about how many families first attended - looking at this record here shows 10 families as charter members right here. So, that would make a pretty good attendance.
Charlie: In 1917, it was 24.
Phena: These records go on. In looking at these, it looks like the attendance held up very, very well for a good many years. How does that compare with the number that you have today?
Charlie: Our attendance today ranges from 18-25, 26 each Sunday.
Phena: And the way you do this is that - you have church every Sunday, don't you?
Charlie: Every Sunday, ours is 1st and 3rd, Presbyterian is 2nd and 4th and the same people support both churches. We have different officers in each church, of course, but you could go to Mt. Moriah all your life and you wouldn't know who was Methodist and who was Presbyterian. We've always been that close.
Phena: What about your church building. How has it changed? You told us there have been 3 buildings in different locations and that the present structure was constructed in 1928, but I happen to know that you made improvements along the way.
Charlie: Since 1928, we've built 3 Sunday School rooms and we have put new paneling in the church, new ceilings, new lights, fans and air conditioning and new pews, and redone the outside, so we think we have as good a country church as there is in the county.
Phena: You do. I think it is lovely, it really is. I just wish we had it full every Sunday, and I know you do, too. Could you tell us who some of the early pastors were? And at that time did they serve other charges? I feel sure that they did.
Charles: I believe this has been the Prescott circuit all down through the years and I just happen to have a list here, starting in 1916 and going to 1953.
Phena: My goodness! Back in 1916 a W.W. Fincher was the pastor for several years there, up until 1920, then a Bro. Maginnis. And this even lists the class leader for some of these. Bro. Rutledge, Bro. S.M. Adams, Hogue. How would you say the services have changed over the years?
Charlie: Just like they have everywhere. I remember when we had revival and it was quite different from what we have now Of course, I'm from the old school, I kind of like it like it was then but I can't say this isn't just as good now. I certainly hope it is anyway.
Phena: We do, don't we. But I guess that we all kind of have those feelings when we are brought up with a different kind of teaching - we have to change, I guess, with the times, but sometimes it is a little bit hard to do.
Charles: It certainly is. I'm just not one for, as they call "one shot religion", going up and shaking hands with the preacher and going back and doing like you used to. I don't go for that.
Phena: We were talking before we started this interview and you told me how long you've been a member of Mt. Moriah Church.
Charles: Fifty years, plus.
Phena: So you have really seen some changes, haven't you? What years would you say the membership was the greatest during the life of the church?
Charlie: The older, farther back on, the more members we had.
Phena: I suppose it was because it's like it was everywhere. People have gone urban and away from the rural churches and when you had ways to go. But at that time it seemed that the church was the center of community activities.
Charlie: It was the center of the community and back during the Depression we didn't have anywhere else to go.
Phena: Couldn't afford to if you had a way.
Charlie: That's right. And I can remember we had a Christian Endeavor Society, that was what it was called back in those days, and we would have probably 50 young people there on a Sunday evening.
Phena: All right, that's the way that you have changed. Do you have Sunday evening services today?
Phena: You don't have any Wednesday evening services?
Phena: Was there ever a time when you had what we call prayer meeting on Wednesday night?
Charlie: I don't recall it.
Phena: Well, I bet you know some pretty interesting stories that you have experienced or been told through the years about the church or things that happened then.
Charlie: Quite a few things that happened around the church. Of course, there was the stagecoach stopped there at Mt. Moriah - there's some interesting tales about that. And then the first person that was buried in the Mt. Moriah graveyard was killed in a bar at Mt. Moriah.
Phena: Really? Do you want to name him?
Charlie: I don't know the name. My mother and dad told me about it, but I don't know the name.
Phena: Well now, you said something to me about a court, didn't you?
Charlie: Oh yeah, there used to be a courthouse there, too. That's the first court that was held in Nevada Co. was there at Mt. Moriah in 1871. The commissioners met there, I guess in 1871 and they voted to move the courthouse to Rosston. But after they moved it to Rosston, the railroad came through Prescott and they moved it to Prescott.
Phena: So we're getting some history connected with the church that's also connected with county government. You said, too, something about a Masonic Lodge at one time being in the church there.
Charlie: And I think maybe this is prehistoric as far as what we're talking about. I think the Masonic Lodge was in one of the other churches before it came to its present place. We have the pictures of the members, but absolutely no history. But we do know the Weavers gave the land for Mt. Moriah Church, and it was given to the Methodist/Protestant, the Cumberland Presbyterians and Masons, these three and these three only. Now the Weavers gave the spot the church was on and 23 of the graveyard and then the Clarks gave the rest of the land, which the highway is on and the land across the highway, all came from the Clarks.
Phena: I didn't know that, and was the Weaver - there was Weaver property adjoining the church there.
Charlie: Mr. Ap (?) Weaver, it was his ancestors that gave the land. And his daughter just give us another acre for our graveyard a couple of years ago.
Phena: Well, I have to commend you on the church and on the cemetery - they're both very well kept and it shows the fact that there is still a lot of interest in it, aside from the fact that the membership has dwindled and it's kind of struggling to keep going sometimes, isn't it?
Charlie: The struggle, Phena, is daily, from Sunday to Sunday. If we need anything for the church - a well, or pews or anything, people come in and just flood us with whatever we need.
Phena: I think that's because there are so many ties to the Mt. Moriah community and church.
Charlie: If you look at these old records and see the names that are . . . all of us are descended from somebody that went to Mt. Moriah.
Phena: Don't you have an annual homecoming?
Charlie: On Mother's Day.
Phena: And that has been in existence for as long as I can remember and the old families - the Stewarts, and the Crosses, what are some others?
Charlie: Clarks and Whites. People just from all over come.
Phena: And these are the people that help and respond whenever there is a need and they like to see the facilities well kept and preserved, and have a real fondness in their hearts, I'm sure, for the church.
Charlie: The things we start to build now - we get the word out that we want to build it and people start donating, and after we start building it, they keep donating, so we have a pretty good little ole building fund, still.
Phena: And you put your well down.
Charlie: And we have our bathroom, new heating systems, new air conditioners, and everything is working real good.
Phena: You mentioned earlier something about the difference in the services. Can you remember any particular incident of a revival which really impressed you or anything like that and how did people in your day and time - can you recall when they had to walk to go or came by...
Charlie: I can remember when there wasn't a car there - wagons and buggies and so forth, and also I can remember, which was very common back in those days, the people shouting during the service, and then when they made altar calls, the altar would be full of mourners, but it's been a long time. Just like I say, that may not all be necessary, but we thought it was then.
Phena: That's right and you did feel your heart strangely warmed at times, didn't you?
Charlie: Sure did, and the thoughts of it still warms us. We hope it's just as good now.
Phena: The times have changed and I guess we have to change with it.
Charlie: Part of the way you still have to go along with it, because I still think we have the best church in the world.
Phena: That's a good thing to hear you say. I know that you have hung in there - like you say, it's the day to day operation and just keeping enough together to have Sunday School - you do have Sunday School every Sunday? And you have a good many young people right now - children - so you do have a good potential for growth and for continuation.
Charlie: We're hoping and praying that all this will change and people will move back to the country and we'll get going again.
Phena: Can you think of anything else you'd like to add. We appreciate so much...
Charlie: I regret that I didn't prepare for this.
Phena: Well, we - it's just something that we've left undone too long.
Charlie: Because I'm looking forward to seeing what the other churches have done, too.
Phena: I appreciate very much what you have done and we thank you and hope you'll get to come and see the exhibit.
A copy of this interview can be viewed at the Prescott/Nevada Co. Depot Museum, Prescott, AR.