Written Accounts from 1936 Revival
Below are written accounts from charter members Nellie Hicks, Earl Ashley and Bro. Jack Hogue, our first pastor. These transcripts were taken from Arkansas Baptist Revivals, by Dr. Mark A. Coppenger. Copies of this text were provided by Steve Perdue of the Saline County Library, Benton Arkansas.
East End — 1936
In this collection, the East End revival is unique in that it issued in a church. It served to crystallize the yearning for a new kind of work in eastern Saline County, to provide a fresh personnel for that work, and to serve notice to the community that God was up to something powerful in their midst.
Here are three eyewitness accounts of the event — the first from charter member Nellie Hicks; the second from the man who preached the meeting, Jack Hogue; and the third from Dr. Earl Ashley, now pastoring First Baptist Church in Valiant, Oklahoma.
“I am almost 79 now, so it was 40 years ago when we celebrated our 40th year. We didn’t have any church around East End. We had an East End School, but we didn’t have a church. I was a member at East Union Church at that time. I was saved when I was 17 years old at East Union.
“I came to East End by letter when we organized the church. Back then you had to have a certain amount of resident members from other churches to organize a church. I was one of the members that we had when we organized the church. I think there were 17 or 18 of us. Brother Earl asked his mother and myself and Aunt Winnie Reed and Mattie Reed. I think that’s about all that I can remember of the charter members when we organized the church.
“It was not a thick-settled community like it is now, and people had to go to church in wagons. We didn’t have any day service, just a night service. We were organized in East End School, about 100 yards from where I lived.
“My husband was saved after that revival, before they organized the church. Then two of my children were saved later on. It was all a result of the revival because we didn’t go to church anywhere. There were other churches around us, but you would hardly go because it was just wagon and team at that time.
“You had to get a certain amount to organize a church, and that’s the ones that would come by letter. There was several families that withdrew after they found out that it was going to be a Southern Baptist church instead of a Landmark Missionary Baptist church. There was a time or two that we had a little bit of trouble with people. East End Baptist Church is the first Southern Baptist church that was in this community. We had two or three preachers that were Landmark Missionary Baptist and they didn’t like for a Southern Baptist church to be organized in the community at East End. We had a lot of talk, but we didn’t have any trouble because most of the people that was saved and joined the church was too thankful to have a church, and it didn’t make any difference what kind of Baptist church it was to them. The ones that drawed out came back later. There was about five that came back later.
“We had one man who was, well, they didn’t call them alcoholics bakc then, but he was good natured and everything. He was saved and joined the church and quit drinking. His sister was the one that gave the church the land that the church house is built on today. Most of the ones that joined the church when we organized the church, most of them are already gone on.
“Our community is thickly settled now, but it was not — it was just houses few and far between — then. But people came from everywhere to the revival to hear Brother Hogue preach. They would come from other churches, I guess mainly to see what was going on after they found out that we were going to organize a Southern Baptist church.
“For my part of it, it was a wonderful service. We just had shouting going on every night. It was the summertime. We just moved out in the stars and had our services. The pews were lumber on blocks because there were sp many and it was so hot in the school auditorium. We would have our services outside there. If it was bad or rained or anything, we would go inside.
“There were people saved that just never did go to church or had hardly been raised up to go to church, because there was not an immediate church around. Word just got around everywhere. At first there were just a few people that knew that we were going to have a revival. Then we would have cottage prayer meeting in one place. Somebody would take care of the youngsters. A lot of people were saved in the cottage prayer meetings. Everybody would tell everybody else because nobody had telephones. So it was just spread mouth to mouth.
“We had WMU later on, right after we go the church. Our pastor’s wife was a really good worker. Then we had the WMU in the homes in the morning, have potluck, and then maybe we would meet in the afternoon. We would go to somebody’s house. They have the WMU meetings at the church now.”
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” I was back here on vacation. I was with the telephone people. I had been with them for several years. I had been ordained the summer before I came out here. I was down in Texas. These people all knew me; I was a native. My folks lived here.
“They wanted me to preach, and I had four days I could give them. ‘You get some lights out there at the school house,’ and they said they could get it ready for Monday night. I would preach through Friday. I had to go back because I had a revival scheduled for the next week. I was a pastor in Tecumseh, Oklahoma. I was still with the phone company. I started that meeting and told them I would just have to close it out on Friday night. I tried my best to close it for two or three nights and couldn’t do it. The meeting went on for five weeks. We had something like 100 people that made decisions.
“On Sunday, August 24, we had the associational missionary and two or three of the deacons from the First Church and Immanuel Church that came down and helped us ordain. They made up the presbytery in 1936. We got the schoolhouse and used that until the next spring. We got enough timber from the local people around here. One of the men that lived here in the community had a sawmill, and he sawed the lumber up for us. It was just out of rough stuff, the first building.
“People just kept responding to the invitation. It was organized or made by prayer. I didn’t have anything to do with it. I was just there as a mouthpiece. I talked on Lazarus, and I just preached the prophecy. We would just get up there and open our Bible, and sometimes when we would come to the first chapter, or wherever we got to first, that’s where we would take the text from. You didn’t know what you where going to preach. I imagine it happens to most any preacher. We didn’t have the manner of building a sermon; we just picked out a scripture. A lot of times we would be studying and the scripture would come to us. We would take that.
“We had additions from that revival for a year after the revival. Then even after we got into our first building we had a lot of people. We first bought a bus. We gained 75 in the Sunday School attendance with that bus. Other wise, they didn’t have transportation. We would go around and pick them up.
“I enjoy preaching anyplace that the Holy Spirit leads me to preach. I like to preach on prophecy. I’m not a student, but I am just led of the Lord to preach what He lays on my heart.
“If I told you what happened, you wouldn’t believe it; but I’m just going to give it to you. I came up a trail that came up to the back of the schoolhouse that evening. I walked up through a little patch of woods, and there was a man and his wife down on their knees, praying for revival. From that Thursday afternoon, we started to growing — in other words, taking hold. People were getting enthused; the Holy Spirit was working. I guess if the average church member today would come upon the scene, they would think it was a bunch of Pentacostals; but the Holy Spirit was working. There would be 150 to 200 women come in on the side, and the same amount of men out of prayer meeting would come shouting and praising the Lord. A lot of times I didn’t even open my Bible, didn’t have to preach.
“We had a good song leader there, a young preacher by the name of King. He was from up around Harrison. He stayed with us through all that meeting. He was a good song director. He took charge of it while I went back and made arrangements. I just resigned my job there.
“Sometimes in the service people would get happy and shout, and they would just praise the Lord. I didn’t try to stop them. I tried to just pour a little more fuel on them.
” We had a little fellow who was 75 years old. On Sunday afternoon we went down to his house, and he was milking. I asked him if he would like for us to talk to him. He said: ‘Yes, buddy, I would. I will be through here in a minute, and I will come up to the house and we can talk. I’ve been wanting to talk to you. There’s great things happening down there at the schoolhouse, and I’ll be right with you.’ We waited a few minutes. He sat down on the backdoor steps, and I asked him if he had ever trusted in the Lord as his savior. ‘No, buddy, but I’ve been thinking about that.’
“I said: ‘Well, it’s a good time. Why don’t you turn it all over to the Lord? This has to be as good a time as any.’
“He said, ‘Will you pray for me?’
“I said, ‘Let’s pray.’
“We prayed, and the old boy got me by the neck and he said: ‘I’ve never felt like this before. When can I get baptized?’
“I said: ‘I can baptize you tonight, I think. We can come down here to the lake.’ The lake belonged to a club then, and we were using it for a baptistry. The ol’ boy was baptized, stayed a member of this church until he died.
“They were having prayer meetings around back of the school. The women would be on one side and the men would be on the other. We met outdoors in the schoolyard, between the highway and the school building. It’s still there, but they’ve built around it. You can see it if you drive to the other side of it.
“The first baptizing that I had, I had right at 100. I think it was 70 to 79. That was the first bunch. Then I had another bunch of 50. I know there must have been the Spirit of God moving like He did. The old-timers said that they had lived here all their lives, and they had never seen a revival take hold like that and stir the whole country. People drove up here from Pine Bluff and from Benton and from Little Rock. A lot of churches came by busload from Little Rock and Pine Bluff and Benton. The word got around to a lot of places that didn’t usually travel that far. We tried to close the services down about 12:00 (midnight). We would start at 7:00. It would still be light.
“There was a little invalid girl that was bedfast. She had paralysis and she was about 18 years old. I went to visit her several different times before she told me, just before she died, ‘Brother Hogue, I want to give you this note.’ She gave me this note of appreciation and she said: ‘I want to tell you something. Two years ago I got burdened for this community — no church in it and the children didn’t go to Sunday School — and I went to praying to the Lord to send somebody, some way, that there could be a church established here in this community.’
“I believe, just as much as I’m sitting here, that that girl was led by the Lord; the Lord led her to give me that message. You know how much influence it can have on a service. She said she started praying about the time the meetings started, and she went to praying that the Lord would establish a work here for the benefit of the people. I believe, just as much as I’m sitting here, that the Lord used that little girl to influence a lot of people. I announced it during the meeting. That’s been 50 years ago, and I don’t remember her name.
“I preached about 30 minutes or an hour. A lot of times I would just read the Scripture and close my Bible and people, people being saved, would come to the altar. Sometimes there would be 25 to 30 people down at the altar.
“There was an old gentleman over here in this other community. Bless his soul, I hope he’s in heaven tonight. He was coming from town. He had on a pair of thes old blue overalls. I can see Uncle Jim now, getting down off the wagon and coming over. He said, ‘Jack hogue.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, Uncle Jim.’
“He said, ‘You’re not going to build one of them churches here.’
“I said, ‘Oh, Uncle Jim, I’m not going to build it, but God is.’ The old man stalked the ground and spit, and went and got on his wagon and went home. He was BMA (Baptist Missionary Association).”
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Dr Earl Ashley:
“It was just a rural community that had never had a church. To my knowledge, it had only had one revival, brush-arbor-type meeting. Brother Hogue was visiting some relatives in the community, and some of the people knew that he was a preacher. They asked him if he would conduct a meeting. He agreed to do that. I was 12 at the time.
“There wasn’t really anything happening in East End in 1936, the height of the depression. We were pretty much at loose ends. About the only activity involved that community and several communities was the Shriner’s Country Club Golf Course, where Marylake is. About the only activity involved in that part of the country was caddying, and that was about it.
“I was saved during that revival. It all happened in August 1936, in that meeting. I don’t think I missed a service. It started off for a week, then two weeks, then three weeks, then four weeks. Out of it came East End Baptist Church. I was a charter member. I think it had an effect on the surrounding area, in the East Union Community in particular. That was our closest neighbor. It reached all the way up to Landmark, north of us, and drew a lot of people from the Sheridan area, and from Sardis to the west. It affected pretty much all around, because a lot of people from each of these areas became charter members of the church and are still members there.
“That was all Landmark country through there. Whenever they found out they were going to organize a church and were going to be affiliated with Pulaski County Association, there was quite a bit of talk. Senator McClellan’s father from Sheridan got in on some of that. He was an old Landmarker from Sheridan. That was a controversial thing. The people wanted Landmark or BMA, or something other than Convention Baptist.
“There were several known drunks that accepted Christ and became new creatures. The Lord blessed them in a special way. They then led prayer meetings as lay preachers.
“I left there for good in 1940, when I went into the service. Then I came back periodically during the service years, eventually leaving the community in 1950 for Houston, where I entered the ministry.
“This thing took hold and it stayed. East End has always been an evangelistic, highly emotional community as far as the church is concerned. It was slow in taking off and taking hold of the Southern Baptist programs because of the Landmarkism that remained in it until the last few years. But they all died off. My father and grandfather were all part of that. Both of them were deacons in the church and charter members. My father was a deacon for 50 years. He died just 2 years ago.
“It stayed there, and just in the past few years — I would say eight or 10 years — they have really gotten hold of the Southern Baptist Convention program and boomed with it. It has always been an alive and lovely place to go to. It is evangelistic. It always had a lot of young people.”