Selma Methodist Church in Selma, Arkansas, is standing, more or less, as completed in 1874. In the years since, there have been some damages, repairs, and modifications, but for the most part, if the guys who built it could see it today, they would surely recognize the stately old structure. Due to that authenticity, and turbocharged by some local legwork, the church earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
In 1874, three years after he started construction, a certain Mr. Rector (his first name we do not know) finished what we now do know as Selma Methodist Church, at Selma, Arkansas. At the time, it was a Baptist Church and remained so until 1885 when the Baptists sold it to the Methodist Episcopal Church for $790.43.
Seems in the 1880s lots of Baptists and other Selma residents gravitated east to Tillar, Arkansas, after the railroad was built there, leaving a diminished Selma congregation in their wake. Thus Selma had the dubious distinction of being one of the first Arkansas towns to become a victim of new technology.
More recently, the old church nearly fell victim to Mother Nature's fury, personified in assaults by the tailings of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The building literally was teetering from west to east on the ragged edge of disaster.
Local Selma Methodist Church supporters alerted historic preservation authorities to the emergency conditions. The historic preservation people provided a grant of $5,000 which was bolstered with local funds to save the church. They contacted Little Rock Architect Gary Clements, a practitioner with impressive historic preservation credentials. He devised a way to shore up the church as a quick fix. See a picture of the Selma buttresses here. That put a screeching halt to impending disaster.
The local folks got busy and raised more money, which was used as leverage for a historic preservation grant. The funds they raised literally raised the church. About eight feet in the air. Turns out part of the problem was the old foundation — it was a lost cause. Since the church was sitting on the foundation, something had to give. They jacked up the building, fixed the foundation, and then lowered the church to settle on a now structurally sound foundation.
All of which led on a headlong course to May 21, 2011. There is work to do on the church and the fuel is lucre.
The food, prepared on the spot with a custom fish-fry/BBQ trailer, was plentiful and good. So good, these guys could quit their day jobs.
On that day, the Selma Methodist Church Preservation Society held its first public fundraiser. Former Selma residents came like it was homecoming. Local folks and friends, some from far away, came to show their support for the noble restoration cause at hand. Everything was donated, including auction items and entertainment. Appropriately, the day, which was preceded by a nasty thunderstorm the night before, shone mostly sunny, as did the attitudes of attendees.
The youngest attendee was Jordan Gibson, granddaughter of Hal Gibson, who is a cousin to my good friend Jimmy Dale Peacock. Jimmy was born in the house next door to Selma Methodist Church. He traveled from Oklahoma for the event. Jordan and her grandad are standing in the chow line. Just off camera is Pepper, Jordan's Schnauzer. You can see Pepper on the Weekly Grist Gallery.
Local volunteers who can cook with the best of them prepared fried catfish, fries, hushpuppies, slaw, and BBQ'd chicken. Attendees happily devoured these Southern gastronomical delights with great efficiency. The chow line passed by a collection box, which was nicely salted with monetary benevolence.
The people at Selma have a jewel in their church, but it's not just for them. Historic preservation is for everyone. That's why they are inviting everyone to help.
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