Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Pleasant Hill Methodist Church
Pleasant Hill Methodist Church

PLEASANT HILL METHODIST CHURCH, PLEASANT HILL, SALINE COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Pleasant Hill Methodist Church is eligible under Criterion C with local significance as the best and one of the last surviving examples of this simple, wood frame church type in this rural part of Saline County. Such modest, vernacular renditions of the Greek Revival style had been popular throughout the rural areas of Arkansas since the style became popular in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, and examples could still be found throughout these areas up until the mid-twentieth century. Many of these are now gone or severely altered, a situation that only underscores the importance of such extant and relatively intact churches as the Pleasant Hill Methodist Church.

ELABORATION

Pleasant Hill was settled prior to the Civil War along what was known as the Middle Road that ran between Little Rock and Hot Springs. However, it was the quality of the bottomland around the North Fork of the Saline River that first drew settlers here, as it proved to be excellent crop land for the growth of cotton, corn, peanuts and hay. The agricultural focus of the Pleasant Hill community continued after the Civil War, and it remained a relatively dispersed community of farmsteads, most of which were farmed by their owners.

The Pleasant Hill Methodist Church was constructed in 1894 on land that had served this particular congregation since 1880. The Pleasant Hill Methodist Episcopal Church South was organized in that year, with this particular church being on the Oak Hill circuit. This congregation's first church building was a log structure of unrecorded plan and type; like so many such early buildings, it served the community as both church and school in the early days of the settlement. Apparently that structure stood on private land owned by neighbors, as it was not until 1893 that J.M. and Sarah T. Vaughn sold this land to the Methodist Episcopal Church South for the sum of $45.00. One of the terms of that sale was that the original school house must be moved off the land, presumably so that a new church building could be constructed, the execution of which may have also been part of the understanding behind the sale of the property. A codicil to the deed stating that the old school house had indeed been moved satisfactorily was executed on February 26, 1894. The trustees were W.M. Mitchell, L.G. Grimmett and J.T. Grimmett.

The current church building was built by Walter Overhault with the assistance of many of the men of the Pleasant Hill community. Little information on Overhault has survived, except that he was obviously a competent carpenter as well as the postmaster at nearby Tatumville. It is noteworthy that, according to the oral tradition, he was assisted by neighbors of various religious affiliations, a fact that is easily understood when one considers that churches of any denomination were not plentiful in such rural areas. While denominational distinctions were strictly drawn in theory, their observance was less vigilant and subject to compromise due to the limitations imposed by rural living.

Nearby native materials were used throughout, such as creek stones for the original foundation piers and yellow pine for the framing and sheathing of the structure itself. Walnut was selected for the altar or communion rail, supported by pine balusters.

As was common for such rural churches, the Pleasant Hill Methodist Church, then as now, served more than the community's spiritual needs. Located as it was at the intersection of two principal local roads, it provided a natural gathering place for local meetings and community events. Noteworthy among them is the reunions that have taken place here over the years. In fact, to this day the former residents of the Pleasant Hill community and their descendants return here to this church on the third Sunday in July every year to attend services and hold a day-long reunion, complete with home cooking and reminiscence.

The Pleasant Hill Methodist Church retains all the principal features that typify rural, vernacular Greek Revival churches of the last half of the nineteenth century. Its simplified entrance entablature and window crowns, interior horizontal plank walls and tall, gable roof are all signature features of this architectural type. However, in addition, this church features such distinctive features as the hand-made pews and communion rail within. For all these reasons, the Pleasant Hill Methodist Church is eligible for the National Register under Criterion C with local significance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dunnahoo, Pat, "90-Year-Old Church to Hold Annual Homecoming," Arkansas Gazette, July 19, 1970, 5E.

"Pleasant Hill Reaches Century," The Benton Courier, Tuesday Evening, July 22, 1980, 5.

Warranty Deed, Saline County, Arkansas, Book "O", 506.