THE HISTORY OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH ARKADELPHIA
On a hot mid-July evening in 1851, sixteen people gathered in the small southwest-central Arkansas village of Arkadelphia. Though not incorporated, the village on the banks of the Ouachita River was the center of much of the political and social life of Clark County. The town had been founded, according to tradition, in 1810 by a blacksmith named Adam Blakely. The county for which it was the seat of government after 1842 antedated Arkansas’ statehood, and had been the third county formed. Like most of the state, the sparsely populated county of just over 4000 inhabitants remained frontier until well after the Civil War.
And Arkadelphia, on that July 15, 1851, owed its meager population to the lucky combination of two features. First, the community perched on the bluff above the river; second, it was situated on one of the few roads in the fifteen-year-old-state– the road between the state capitol at Little Rock on the Arkansas River and the Gateway to Texas, Hempstead County. These people meeting that hot evening, who comprised a significant portion of the village’s 250 inhabitants, were not directly concerned with Arkadelphia’s political or social amenities. That night, they were concerned that the county seat of Clark County had no Baptist church.
From the first meeting of the fellowship which formed the First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia, the pattern for future development existed. All the actions on that and subsequent evenings were part of a covenant agreement, a covenant the members made among themselves, with other Baptists, and with God – a covenant of people “Drawn Together by God’s Love.”
Written by Ray Granade, PhD