Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Send The Light

Missionary work in the Ozarks in the early 1800’s was an idea that had taken root during the early revival fires of the Second Great Awakening. I had a Great, Great, Great Grandfather named Henry Nevil Wayland that was part of this movement. One of his primary goals was preaching the Gospel to the Indians in the Ozarks.

Henry Nevil Wayland Jr. arrived in Arkansas 1815 according to the Historical Journal of Lawrence County, Arkansas. Along with the Waylands, the Stuarts & Rainwaters are mentioned with respect to creating the first Protestant Methodist Church in the Arkansas Territory. The Walnut Ridge Methodist Church has drawn some if its most staunch Methodists and strongest leaders from pioneer families in the western district of Lawrence County. It will be remembered that the Spring River Circuit, which includes part of Western Lawrence County, was the first pastoral charge organized in Arkansas in 1815 by the Rev. Eli Lindsey. It was this same year that Henry Nevil Wayland came to Arkansas and his son, Jonathan Wayland. They, with Hugh Rainwater and Terra Stuart and their families, organized a Church on Flat Creek. Jonathan Wayland became a local preacher and so did Hugh Rainwater. To the present generation of Waylands and Rainwaters (many of whom have held membership in Walnut Ridge) belong the distinction of being descendents of the first Methodist Church organized in Arkansas.

Additionally, the Chronicles of Oklahoma also mentions this church as the first church founded amongst the Cherokees in Arkansas Territory, predating the better known "Dwight Mission" by 3 or 4 years.

Since evangelism to the American Indians was a goal of some of the Ozarks’ first pioneers, I have found a snippet from an 1844 newspaper with the same goal.

THE FAR WEST SEMINARY.—This is the title of an Institution, which the friends of learning and religion are endeavoring to establish, three miles from Fayetteville, Arkansas. This town is in Washington county, in the north-west corner of Arkansas, a district intersected by the Ozark Mountains, where there are few slaves, and where the people raise their own Wool and Cotton, and manufacture it for themselves. The Cherokees are within 25 miles, and the Choctaws are within 45. — It is a leading purpose of the Seminary to instruct the Indians. Arkansas, as yet, has no College, and we hope this effort will succeed.

Work Cited:
“The Far West Seminary.” Commercial Herald 2.49 (23 December 23, 1844) 2. Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Dec. 2009.
“History of Methodism in Walnut Ridge.” Lawrence County Historical Journal 4.3 1 Sept. 1982: N. pag.

Shinn, Josiah H. Pioneers and Makers of Arkansas Vol. 1. Little Rock, Arkansas: Democrat Printing & Lithograph Company, 1908. Genealogical and Historical Publishing Company. n.d.

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