Milligan Ridge Baptist Church to celebrate 75th anniversary
The Milligan Ridge Missionary Baptist Church, 751 North County Raod 749, will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Sunday, July 28. A meal will be served after services. Sunday School begins at 9:45 and church begins at 10:45. An afternoon of congregational singing, testimonies, a brief history of the church, and special singing will follow the meal.
Everyone is invited to help celebrate this milestone of the church. Former members are especially encouraged to attend as the church celebrates 75 years of service.
The First Landmark Missionary Baptist Church was organized in the Milligan Ridge community (located between Manila and Caraway) in 1938. It later became known as Milligan Ridge Missionary Baptist Church holding its first established church meeting on July 31, 1938.
At the time of organization at least 15 members had to move their church letters to the proposed congregation to be accepted into the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas.
According to records and an informative church history compiled by several members, Louise Flagg, a charter member, was one of the women instrumental in securing the number needed to begin the church. She persuaded her sister-in-law, Minnie Bassett, to join the church to guarantee it would be established even though Mrs. Bassett did not live in Milligan Ridge at that time.
Among other charter members were Boe and Goldie McCann, Cyndia Flagg, Bertha Dobbins, W.A. Mustain, Harvey Turnbolt, Mr. and Mrs. Louie Whittenberg, Brother and Mrs. W.P. Flowers, Icie Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Cobb, J.H. Wheeler, Joe Shackelford, and Brother L.M. Harlan. Although Mable Barker was supportive in getting the Milligan Ridge Baptist Church started, she was baptized into the Methodist Church as a young girl and it was later (1944) when she was baptized into the Missionary Baptist Church.
The new members joined together to earn money to build a church building. Many men of the community, even if they were not members, joined in the effort as good neighbors cutting lumber off their own land, donating it, along with labor to construct the first rough building.
One of the charter members commented in the history book, "The women went out into the community and people donated eggs, milk, chickens and other things to raise money for the project." A local theater owner, G.I. Byrd, donated some old seats for the building.
The location of the church has remained the same.
In September of 1938 G.G. Caudill, Sr. offered land north of the Caudill Gin for a building site. The church accepted the acreage and paid $50 for the land that was worth many times that amount. Caudill deeded the land to the church for as long as it held services.
With the land secured, men began hauling cypress logs to area sawmills. Through the efforts of many, a 34x50 building was erected. Women collected enough money for the floor and roof. It was heated by a wood stove and lighted with coal oil lamps. The building may have been primitive but to the members it was beautiful -- a place to worship.
The first preacher for the new church was Brother W.P. Flowers. He was called as a "quarter-time" missionary pastor with a salary of $10 per month. Sunday school was held every week but the preacher only came on the last Sunday of the month.
The official dedication service was held on April 23, 1939, with Brother M.N. Gregson preaching the dedication service.
In late 1939 electricity was installed and the church moved into the "modern age." It was recorded in the Nov. 26, 1939, minutes the authorization of the building committee to take
$15 out of the Sunday school funds to wire the church building and make a deposit on the meter.
Early pastors included Elder J.T. Merchant elected in November of 1941. He served until 1943 when James Ivy was elected pastor. Following Brother Ivy was Brother C.N. King; Brother Alivs Moore; and in 1958 Brother Waymon Holt. Brother Holt served until 19961 and returned in 1963. Serving in 1961 until 1963 as pastor was Brother Bob Eye.
Brother Holt again left in the summer of 1983 when he pastored at Jonesboro for a year before returning to his beloved Milligan Ridge congregation where he remains today.
Serving as pastor for a year in 1983 at Milligan Ridge was Brother Howard Bennett.
The pastor's salary had risen and the church voted to give Brother Ivy $25 for quarter-time and $40 for half-time. Preaching was held on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Churches were no exception to the effects of the war years. So many families in the Milligan Ridge area, as throughout the country, had sent their sons and fathers off to war.
Brother Holt was quoted in the church history book published in 1995, "The war did not divide the community, it became closer and more united." The church kept a roll of the men from the community who were serving in World War II and they were prayed for daily.
In the early days those who accepted the Lord were baptized in Buffalo Ditch. It was not unusual for 40 or more people to be baptized as the result of revival meetings.
In 1944 the church voted to hold a revival meeting on the Saturday night before the second Sunday in August. This particular meeting turned out to be quite a stepping stone in the future of Milligan Ridge Baptist Church. A young man, 13-year-old Waymon Holt, was saved. He had no idea he would spend over a half century of his adult life as pastor at Milligan Ridge Baptist Church.
Through 75 years Milligan Ridge Baptist Church has stood as a landmark of the community where children grew to adulthood, young couples married, anniversaries were celebrated, and the congregation shared the good times with each other, and were there for each other in times of sorrow.
The church has reached out through the years helping to establish Calvary Baptist Church in Manila in 1957.
The building received a major renovation in the late 1950s and has been kept up in excellent condition through the years.