First Baptist Eureka's Centennial Service brings back founders -- sort of

Friday, November 9, 2012

EUREKA SPRINGS -- In 1912, members of First Baptist Church of Eureka Springs pledged $3,200 and built a four-story Byzantine-style church, topped with a dome, on Spring Street.

They named it in memory of evangelist William Evander Penn, a Civil War veteran who in 1893, held a revival in Eureka Springs that drew 335 new members to the small congregation.

This Sunday, Major Penn is returning to lead another service.

Penn, portrayed by Glen Couvillion, is one of seven people from the past who will be speaking at the centennial service at First Baptist Penn Memorial Church this Sunday.

Starting at 11 a.m., the service, which honors veterans, includes organ and trumpet music, a flag ceremony and people in period costume portraying church founders memorialized in the glowing colors of the stained-glass windows.

"All we know about them is that they were created by local artists and that they are Tiffany-style," said Carole Martin, spouse of Pastor Jimmy Martin.

The service will begin with the organist, Tooley Martin, ringing in the hour -- 11 bells. Jeff Gray will play "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" on the trumpet as people in period costume enter.

As the 'Voices from the Stained Glass,' each will speak for a few minutes in the character of a person to whom the window is dedicated.

Several have a connection, including John Cross, who will portray his grandfather, Claude Fuller, founder of the Bank of Eureka Springs. Alderman Ken Pownall will portray Dr. J. B. Bolten, a physician who worked with the city to get water and sewer systems installed.

The Rev. J. H. Delano, a distant relation of the Delano Roosevelts, will be portrayed by Neil Ogle. The Eureka Springs hospital was built in the 1920s in memory of Rev. Delano's grandson, Don Sawyer, who died young.

Jan Alianak will portray Mrs. A.E. Waddill, who owned Thatch Cottage, which became a large hotel and then a lodging house. Located on Ridgeview Street, Thatch Hotel was lost in a fire, Martin said, but Sunnyside Cottage, another of the Waddill properties, still stands.

"Dignitaries stayed there when they came to town," Martin said.

All the windows in the auditorium are original to the church, Martin said. But the window in the foyer was added in the 1950s in memory of Mrs. Bob Mullins, who taught Sunday School at First Baptist.

She will be portrayed by Nancy Schaefer, who was in Mrs. Mullins' class for 4-year-olds. Shaefer is a missionary in Ghana, where her husband Bob, is a Wycliff Bible translator.

"Mrs. Mullins planted that seed," Martin said.

Of the three large pictorial windows, one depicts John the Baptist baptizing Jesus and is dedicated to Cross' great-grandmother, Maria Fulller.

Another, dedicated to Edward D. LaRue, depicts the ascension of Christ. John W. Mcharry is memorialized in a stained-glass window of the Good Shepherd.

Other windows are dedicated to Rosalba S. Tobin, Rev. White, Mr. J.F. Imbler, Elizabeth Perry West, Mr. and Mrs. H.E. Rowe, Beulah Stockslager and Mrs. Dott B. Hoffman.

"There are some who we know nothing about," Martin said of the names set in stained glass.

Couvillion also portrayed Major Penn for the Voices from the Silent City cemetery tours. He will accompanied by Jean Westphal as Penn's wife, Corilla. Westphal, who grew up in Eureka Springs, said she remembers Corilla's granddaughter and namesake, 'Miss Corie' Taylor, when Taylor lived in Penn Castle, the family home.

According to church history, more than 1,000 people came to Penn's funeral when he died in 1895. As Penn, Couvillion will speak in the style of the evangelist.

"We want people to remember what Mr. Penn said 100 years from now," Carole Martin said.

Everyone is invited to the Voices from the Stained Glass service, Sunday at 11 a.m., at First Baptist Penn Memorial Church, 100 Spring St. For more information, go to or call 479-253-9770.

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