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Arkansas Properties on the National Register of Historic Places: Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Clarendon, Monroe County

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Clarendon in Monroe County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 30, 1976. You can read this and other Arkansas National Register nominations at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/historic-properties/national-register/search.aspx.

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE

The many ways in which this building has been used exemplifies how a small community can work together in cooperative fellowship, so that the lives of the citizens, both young and old, will be spiritually and educationally enriched. With its sturdy construction and simple but dignified style, it is a typical example of the type of church buildings that were erected during a period of hardship and struggle, by citizens who realized the importance of having a place for worship.

The town of Clarendon was completely destroyed by shelling and burning in June, 1854, forcing the evacuation of the town. The people returned after the close of the Civil War to rebuild their homes and businesses from the weeds and ashes. It is significant that during this time of struggle to return to their former way of life that the spiritual needs of the community were realized by the erection and cooperative use of this church building. The fact that it has survived through numerous floods and many years of weathering and is still useful, testifies to the sturdiness of construction.

The original deed to the property, dated September 15, 1869, was to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Clarendon, and stated that the use of the church was to be freely offered to other denominations when not in use by the Cumberland Presbyterians. The July 9, 1870, minutes of the session state “it was resolved to tender the use of the new Church House now nearly completed, to the Methodist Episcopal Church South, The Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church, each a portion of the time when not used by the Cumberland Presbyterians.” On July 16, 1870, the session resolved to hire a sexton and request the other denominations worshipping in the house to bear equal parts of the sexton’s hire. Thus the building was completed and several congregations were using the building by this date.

Not only was the building constructed for use by several religious groups, but it is also thought that it was erected jointly by the Cumberland Presbyterians and the Cache Lodge 235 of Free Masons, whose group was organized November 20, 1869, and whose members state that they used the upper floor of the church from the time of its erection until they sold the building in 1968.

The Cumberland Church had been organized in 1857, according to an entry in the record books, and records are intact from March 1869-1920. In 1920, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church united with the First Presbyterian Church of Clarendon and from that time the Masons became the sole owners of the building.

From an entry under building expense it is determined that the congregation paid $2500.00 for the building. If the Masons shared jointly in the expense, the total cost was probably $5000.00. This joint ownership would also explain the reason for a two-story building.

After the lower floor was vacated by the congregation, the Masons allowed the lower floor to be used for various community purposes. The Clarendon Library was housed there for about 20 years. It was operated by librarians who worked without pay, and part of this time was sponsored by Civic organizations. Nearly 4,500 volumes of books were damaged or destroyed when the lower floor was submerged during the 1927 flood. After the break in the Clarendon Levee, the church withstood the rush of the water without structural damage.

The W.L. Boswell chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star also held their meetings in the building. At one time a kindergarten was held there, and a teenage club met in the building for a short time. It was about the year 1960 that the Masons allowed the Boy Scouts to use the lower floor for their meeting place, which they have done since that time.

In 1968 when Cache Lodge 235 decided to tear down the building to erect a new lodge hall, Mrs. W. F. Vaughan, to prevent the destruction of the church, donated the necessary funds to the Troop Committee of the Boy Scout Troop 28, and with the funds they purchased the building. Thus the Boy Scouts are the present owners and occupy the building for their “Scout Hall.”

Thus the old church, whose cornerstone was laid in 1869, which was built for service to the community’s spiritual life, has served in many worthwhile areas — all of which have been for the betterment of the community. It has defied going out of service, having served continuously, as no other building in Clarendon has served to so many worthy groups. It continues to stand, amid the tall oak trees, meeting the needs of today and of our future citizens as it did for those of the past.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Record Books of the Clarendon Congregation, Cumberland Presbyterian Church Charter of Cache Lodge 235 of Free Masons, Clarendon, Ark.

Scrapbooks containing newspaper articles about interviews with former members living in Clarendon when the building was erected; articles also about the Clarendon Library and the 1927 Flood.

Monroe County Deed Records.



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