Which came first, Presbyterians or Baptists?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

What are apparently Carroll County's two oldest still-operating churches are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year.

But which one is the oldest remains in question.

Rock Springs Baptist Church, located just west of the King's River two miles north of U.S. Highway 62, recently reported that it was organized between 1850 and 1853. That varies slightly from an earlier report that the organization was in 1853.

Meanwhile, First Presbyterian Church of Berryville history indicates the church first met, as a Cumberland Presbyterian congregation, in 1853 in the upper level of a fraternal lodge on Church Street.

Prominent pioneers were involved in the early history of both churches.

Col. Blackburn Henderson Berry, for whom Berryville was named, was among the founders of the Presbyterian fellowship. He was buried, along with his wife, behind the church.

Dr. Alvah Jackson, who started using the spring water, in what is now Eureka Springs, for healing, was a founder at Rock Springs.

But history of the two churches is scanty. It is known that both the original plat for the land for the Berryville church, and all the early records of the Rock Springs church, were lost, probably in the burning of the original county courthouse in Carrollton, shortly after the Civil War.

Both churches are known to have been impacted by the Civil War.

At Rock Springs, where services were suspended for a few years due to the conflict, there are reports of women in the community hiding a wounded rebel soldier from Bushwhackers who were tracking him.

The cemetery adjoining the church has many graves from the Civil War era.

In Berryville, the lodge where the Presbyterian church was meeting was burned during the Civil War, according to amateur historian Mark Mallet, a member of the church.

The story, he said, is that a wood church was built, and that it was later replaced with a stone building on the alleged site where Union troops killed in the so-called Battle of Berryville ---- which was more like a skirmish ---- were buried.

Rock Springs Baptist has worshiped in four different buildings, and two are still standing. The older of these has been restored to an old time look, with old-fashioned pews and a pot-bellied wood stove, and many pictures and mementoes have been put of display to be viewed during a three-day celebration June 6-7, which will coincide with revival services.

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian church is using its annual drive to supply back packs and supplies for Carroll County students to kick off its 150th anniversary observance.

The church will be taking donations on May 31 at the entrance to the grocery side of Wal-Mart Supercenter, and June 13-14 at the annual Berryville Ice Cream Social.

Mallett notes that only one member of the congregation is a native of the area. "Everyone else is from somewhere else," he said.

Because of this, he is hopeful that natives of the area who have ancestors who had ties to the Berryville church might be able to supply mementoes and photos of the church and its activities.

The main celebration of the Presbyterian church is tentatively scheduled to take place in October.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: