The Smyrna Church
Bill Leach know quite a bit about the history of the Smyrna Church.
Inside the church still needs more restoration work.
It sits just west of Searcy at what was once the intersection of two well traveled wagon trails. Scientists from the University of Arkansas have determined the logs used in the foundation of the building were cut in the springs of 1856, the square nails used in construction, typical of the 1850's
'The building was probably built over the winter of 1856-1857. The first time Smyrna, it was called Smyrna Methodist church, there's a record of Smyrna in the Methodist archives is 1857. There's a mention of it. So 1856 is a very comfortable date for us, "Bill Leach is the preservation chair for the White County Historical Society.
They have been working on restoring the church, one of only four pre-Civil War places of worship left in Arkansas, to it's original appearance.
Old photo's and shingles discovered in the walls led to the refitting of a shake roof, replacing a tin version.
The bell was also replaced and several decorative adornments.
Bill Leach explains, "The other thing that really makes this building unique from an architectural standpoint is the nine over nine windows. You think about horse travel and mule travel at that time, it was not easy to transport large panes of glass. So the windows were built nine panes over nine panes. I've been, of course, looking a lot since then and do only find that pattern in the pre-civil war churches."
Behind the church are the reminders of lives lived 150 years ago, the first people who worshiped in the Smyrna Church.
Time has erased the details on many of the markers. But one tells of a child named Dolton who did not live to see her third birthday
Back then when someone died, the church bell would ring out their age. Those who heard would know who to add to their prayers.
And there is the story of Jacob Armstrong, also buried behind the church.
He was at the pulpit one Sunday leading the worshipers in prayer, when his son came walking down the trail returning alive from the Civil war. likely only one of many joyous occasions celebrated within the walls of the old church.
The inside still needs work. But the restoration continues. And in due time the bell may ring out again, celebrating more joyous occasions.
Bill Leach says, "One of the ladies on the arts council talks about how this is going to make such a neat wedding chapel. Well I hadn't argued with her but twice while I've been working out here I've had young couples come by and ask if they could have their weddings here. And I said you can look at it, but I don't think we're quite ready yet."
Saturday, the White County Historical Society will conduct a Walk Through History Tour at the Smyrna Church.