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Missionary Baptist College,
Sheridan, Arkansas

An article from the April 1991 issue of GRASSROOTS - Journal of the Grant County Museum
Instead of Infidel Philosophy, MBC graduates would be Teaching in the Light of Truth

The Rise and Fall of the Missionary Baptist College
by Elwin L. Goolsby

The Missionary Baptist College in Sheridan was a dream planted by faith which flowered, withered, and died during the Depression of the 1930's. It was a grand experiment which allowed farm boys and girls for a while to acquaint themselves with such exotic studies as Latin, Greek, physiology, Ecclesiology, and expression.

It provided opportunity to participate in recitals, view operettas and concerts, and to interact with a faculty of educated men and women, the likes of which Sheridan had not seen before. It sought to mold its students into forms acceptable to the Baptist faith, while its trustees struggled with declining revenues to keep what they called "the work" alive another year.  The grand experiment failed when the very people who gave it birth were no longer able or willing to continue the struggle.  By 1935 the college had officially ceased to exist, although the end had been coming for several years.  Events, classes, and faculty were slowly phased out as the time approached. And then it was but a memory.

A movement to establish a Missionary Baptist College in Arkansas was launched during the meeting of the Baptist State Association in Malvern, November 1917. A committee on Christian education made the following recommendation: "That the churches composing this association be urged to locate, build, equip, and maintain a Baptist college of the first order at the earliest day practical."

The report was adopted and a committee of seven appointed to carry out this recommendation.  These men were J. A. Smith, M. P. Matheny, W. E. Sherill, E. B. Jones, W. R. Jones, W. A. Crutchfield, and C. F. Thompson.

The committee met and called for bids for the location of the school, having previously announced through the Baptist and Commoner, the official publication of the church. The bid accepted came from Sheridan and Grant County Baptists. The Sheridan group, centered at the Big Creek Baptist Church, offered ten acres of land and a $3,500 cash bonus if their offer was accepted by the committee.

In June 1919, after a delay of one year, the Big Creek Baptist Church offered to build an annex to their building until a permanent building for the college could be erected. This would provide a place for the students and faculty to meet and provided inspiration enough for the committee to take action.

Clyde A. Ferrell was retained as project architect as early as May 1918. It would be his job to create and build a structure on the ten acres of land now set aside for the college.

The first faculty consisted of three persons: J. A. Smith of Little Rock; W. H. Hood of Texas; and E. B. Jones of Hope. Opening day for the first session was set for September 22, 1919. A "large crowd" assembled in the Big Creek Church for the formal opening. Eight students enrolled the first year with the number growing to forty-eight the second year and 139 during the third year.

According to a 1920 bulletin, the purpose of the college was "to teach and emphasize the very principles for which the real Baptists of Arkansas stand and for which true Baptists have stood for almost nineteen centuries." The bulletin also pointed out that "this is no preacher manufacturing establishment" and that "the Lord alone has the prerogative of calling men to preach the gospel."

The founders of the school expressed suspicion of public schools of that time. According to them, the schools were "being invaded by instructors who are being contaminated with false teachings and by modern so-called science and reason." The students of the college would be "trained to teach in the light of truth instead of the infidel philosophy of ancient and modern times."

Intellectual and spiritual training was encouraged, while athletics was discouraged. The college professed that "athletic mania and games will not be tolerated, and students more interested in athletic training than in mental development need not come here."  Eventually the college weakened its position on sports and by 1929 had both boys football and basketball teams in place as well as a girls' team with Hot Springs, Monticello, State Teachers College, and McGee included as opponents.  Dancing, card playing, and attending motion pictures was also taboo.

The college offered a variety of courses originally grouped within three departments: Grammar School (7th and 8th grades); High School (9th through 12th grades); Junior College (2-year courses and 3-year courses for ministerial students). In 1922-23 students from public high schools could enroll in the college after the sixth or eighth grade and finish their education there. By 1928-29 this had increased to six departments including: The Academy; Junior College; Fine Arts; Bible Training; Bible and Mission Institute; and Bible Short Course.  Courses varied over the the span of the college but ranged in text from English to Hebrew and Homiletics.  Never before or thereafter had such a diverse curriculum been offered to the community.

Degrees conferred at the college included the following: AA (Associate in Arts); LI (Licentiate in Instruction); AAB (Associate of Arts in Bible); ASB (Associate of Science in Bible); ASC (Associate of Science in Commerce); and ASMus (Associate of Science in Music).

The college library in the first year consisted of about four hundred books, most of which had been donated.  Two hundred sixteen of these were willed to the school by E. A. Puthuff of Abbott, Texas. A few new books were purchased by Sheridan residents and placed in the library as gifts. In 1928-29 the library was said to contain 2,500 bound volumes, including some "rare books." The number gradually increased. Tuition in 1920 ranged from $3.00 per month to $5.00 per month, depending on choice of enrollment.  By 1930 cost ranged from laboratory fees of $2.00 to $48.00 per semester for Junior college tuition.

The first student organization formed at the college was a literary society in 1920. Other organizations followed and included: Student Council; Young Men's Debating Council; Adelphian Literary Society; The Busy Bees; The Beethoven Club; Landmark Forum; Dramatic Club; Glee Club; Athenian Literary Society, and The Anti Spooning and Sparking Club. By definition the latter club was formed "to fight the modern flapper and her agencies."

The senior class published an annual entitled The Em Bee Cee. The Student Council published a monthly newspaper called the MBC Echo in the early 1920's. In 1930 the college newspaper was called The Bison. School colors were designated as orange and black.

Students who were not from Sheridan could find room and board in local homes. Some of the female students lived in the designated girls' dormitory, while men found private accommodations on their own. The girls' dormitory was for a time in a two-story frame dwelling known as the Elkins-Gwin House on the southeast corner of Pine and Oak Streets. Under the supervision of a matron (Mother Riggan and Miss Auvern McRight), the girls were expected to obey strict rules that regulated most of their free time and social activity.

The "permanent" classroom building was not ready for the first semesters of the college, although work was underway on its construction. In early March 1920, the Board of Trustees authorized the contract with a "reliable" man to burn 500,000 brick "to be used in constructing a building for the school."  This two-story building, located on an eleven-acre tract of land then northwest of the incorporated town, contained classrooms, a study hall, library, and auditorium and was said to be "modern, well-equipped, and furnished."

This structure, similar in external appearance to the 1913 Sheridan High School building and the third Grant County Courthouse minus its clock tower, was a landmark in Sheridan from the time of its completion in 1921. Plans were also formulated for separate buildings, including one for science and arts and one for administration, although these were never built.   A brick dwelling still located at 310 West High Street in Sheridan is identified in a 1929 college annual as "the home of the president." This house, now owned by Mrs. Gean McDonaid, was occupied by College President J. W. Overall. He and his family lived here until the college closed in the early 1930's.  This house was privately constructed and was not a part of the college property.

In 1935 the Sheridan School District bought the vacated college building and grounds, which had reverted to mortgage holders, for $7,500.  The building, once the pride of the community, had been neglected and was in a sad state of repair. Windows had been knocked out by a hail storm and had been boarded over, and commodities had been stored inside.  Six rooms were petitioned off, and the building again became serviceable.  Grades one through six then moved in from the Rock Street campus.  This served as an elementary school until fire destroyed it on November 22, 1956.  With the fire went the ever-present visual reminder of the college itself.

Although prospects were bright in the beginning for the Missionary Baptist College, the institution was plagued by financial trouble throughout most of its existence.  When pledges of support from church and patrons didn't materialize, the Board of Trustees borrowed money on which to operate. When this money fell short of providing for needs, the members themselves contributed personal funds.  The time finally came when the administration and faculty could not be paid and pleas for help were ignored. Overdue mortgages were foreclosed and the college ceased to exist. The era of excellence begun in 1917 had ended and the people involved would never forget.

M.B.C. Presidents
Smith, J. A. (Administrator 1919)
Jones, E. B. (Vice-President, 1919; President 1920 - 22)
Clark, J. R. (Elected/declined position, 1920)
Van der Horst, Arie (1922 - 25)
Overall, John Wayne (1926 - 35)
M.B.C. Facully     1919 - 1934
(Editor's Note: This list is compiled from Bulletins and other College Publications. Some members also served as administrative officers.)
Jones, E. B. - History
Herring, Myrtle - Music & Expression
Tommey, J. W. - Preparatory Dept.
Hood, W. H.
Page, E. L.
Van der Horst, Arie - Classic Languages
Newburn, Emma - Music & Expression
Harris, Mrs. O. - Domestic Science
Westbrook, Grace - Music & Expression
Holt, Odessa - Music & Expression
Holt, Ralph - Latin
Marritt, P. J. - Mathematics/Society Science
Ashcraft, H. H. - Preparatory Department
Kelley, Carrie - English
Shipp, Charles - Commercial
Cobb, J. E. - Latin/Bible/Social Science
Smith, J. William - Bible/Social Science
Glover, Conrad - Bible/History/Science
Sallis, W. Barney - French/English
Wilson, Lora Mae - Assistant Librarian
Wilson, Raymond H. - Math/Science/Coach
Harvey, Mildred - Expression/Dramatics
Ferguson, Lois - Music
Pool, Hope - Education/English
Ashby, Dewey T. - Social Science
Tomlin, ---- - Librarian
Overall, J. W. - Bible/Public Speaking
Overall, Frances - Latin/English
Veazey, Guy - Typewriting/Commerce
McRight, Auvern - Matron of Girls Dormitory
Rodgers, Edith - Librarian
Stuckey, Ottis - Latin
Bruce, Grace Wilson - Latin/Education
Simpson, Myrtle - Librarian
Johnson, Elvie - Assistant Librarian
Kemp, Mary Cabaniss - Social Science
Jackson, Elizabeth - Mathematics/Science
Hope, Erriogene - English/Latin
Farris, Raymond R. - Bible/Public Speaking


MINISTERIAL STUDENTS
Cobb, J. E.  Sheridan, Ark                              Cowden, T. S.   Sheridan, Ark
Davis, W. E. Sheridan, Ark                             Dunaway, Chas. St. Francis, Ark
Gibson, J. M. Sheridan, Ark                            Glover, Conrad Sheridan, Ark
Glover, Ralph Sheridan, Ark                            Masters, C. E. Sheridan, Ark
Miller, Otis B., McCaskill, Ark                          Powers, Austin T., Sheridan, Ark
Shoptay., L. L. Sheridan, Ark                           Spyres, Claude Sheridan, Ark
Thrasher, J. H. Okolona, Ark                            Tomlin, Martin   Sheridan, Ark
Wilson, Fred  Okolona, Ark

GRADUATES FOR THE THEOLOGICAL DEPARTMENT

1922: Elder Loy J. Ferguson, ThB. Nashville, Ark
1923: Elder Jesse E. Cobb, ThB. Benton, Ark / Elder Ralph B. Glover, ThB. Waldo, Ark
1925: Elder Conrad N. Glover, ThB. Sheridan, Ark / Elder A. T. Powers, ThB. Hamburg, Ark
1929: Elder Ben H. Walters, ASB. Sheridan, Ark
1930: Elder Henry S. McLaren, ASB. Sheridan, Ark / Elder Giblon H. Williams, AAB. Stephens, Ark

LIST OF STUDENTS 1919 - 1920


Ashcraft, H. Homer, Prattsvile, Ark
Ashcraft, Virgil, Sheridan, Ark
Ashcraft, Theo, Sheridan, Ark
Allen, Miss Glendyle, Prattsville, Ark
Cowden, Eld. T. S., Datto, Ark
Daugherty, Eld. Roy E., Gravette, Ark
Dougan, Eld. W. D., Prattsville, Ark
Goforth, J. D., Sheridan, Ark
Griffin, Eld. Walter, Sheridan, Ark
Gibson, Eld. J. M., Sheridan, Ark
Glover, Miss Violet, Prattsville, Ark
Grubbs, Miss Edna, Sheridan, Ark
Henslee, Brooks, Sheridan, Arl
Harris, Miss Emma, Doylestown, Ark
Hope, Arthur, Prattsville, Ark
Hope, Miss Doris, Prattsville, Ark
Kelley, Burness, Sheridan, Ark
Kemp, Trieber, Prattsville, Ark
McCool, Miss Gennie, Sheridan, Ark
McCool, Miss Helen, Sheridan, Ark
McCool, Frank, Sheridan, Ark
McCool, Carl, Sheridan, Ark
McLaughlin, Miss Grace, Forrest City, Ark
Manning, Eld. J. F. Jonesboro, Ark
P~ge, Eld. E. L., Sheridan, Ark
Paxton, Miss Lola, Prattsville, Ark
Ratliff, Eld. J. E., Sheridan, Ark
Robberts, Miss Susie, Hope, Ark
Robberts, Henry, Hope, Ark
Rushing, Scott, Sheridan, Ark
Richardson, Eld. G. L., Sheridan, Ark
Spyers, Claude, Baron, Okla
Shipp, Charley, Alexander, Ark
-:- Shipp, Eld. R. E., Alexander, Ark
Shoptaw, Eld. L. L., Sheridan, Ark
Shoptaw, Miss Della, Sheridan, Ark
Shoptaw, Miss Mae, Sheridan, Ark
Shoptaw, Miss Hassie, Prattsville, Ark
Sims, Clayton, Banks, Ark
Sherrill, Eld. W. E., Sheridan, Ark
Sherrill, Willie, Sheridan. Ark
Slaughter, Basil, Sheridan, Ark
Slaughter, Dewel, Sheridan, Ark
Shepard, Eld. J. A., Double Wells, Ark
Stephens, Ottis, Sheridan, Ark
Williams, Eld. J. A., Sheridan, Ark
Wells, Elton,   Sheridan, Ark
Walker, Miss Iva, Sheridan, Ark
-:- Deceased.

STUDENTS FOR THE SCHOLASTIC YEAR 1922 - 1923

Adams, Clovis Mabelville, Ark
Allen, Glendell  Prattsville, Ark
Ashcraft, Theo Sheridan, Ark
Beck, Edward Prattsville, Ark
Bell, Leonard Prattsville, Ark
Bradley, Lillian Sheridan, Ark
Bradley, Lorene Sheridan, Ark
Brashears, Austin Leola, Ark
Bratton, Eunice Sheridan, Ark
Bratton, Grace Sheridan, Ark
Brown, Glenn Malvern, Ark
Brown, Gus   Malvern, Ark
Carr, Frank Sheridan, Ark
Crossett, Edd Doylestown, Ark
Croy, Lizzie Sheridan, Ark
Cummings, Greyson West Point, Miss
Dean, Ira Pine Bluff, Ark
Donham, Vernon Sheridan, Ark
Dugan, Jim Bob Prattsville, Ark
Gean, Buster Sheridan, Ark
Gean, Hazel Sheridan, Ark
Gean, Lyndeil Sheridan, Ark
Glaser, Clyde Sheridan, Ark
Glasser, Marie Sheridan, Ark
Glover, Elsie Sheridan, Ark
Glover, Roy Prattsville, Ark
Glover, Sammie Sheridan, Ark
Glover, Thalia Sheridan, Ark
Glover, Violet Prattsville, Ark
Goforth, Byron P. Sheridan, Ark
Goolsby, Carl Sheridan, Ark
Gwin, Guy Sheridan, Ark
Harvey, Mrs. J. E. Prattsville, Ark
Hamilton, Esma Sheridan, Ark
Harrington, Ollie Prattsville, Ark
Harrington, Willie Prattsville, Ark
Harris, Cecile Sheridan, Ark
Henslee, Brooks Sheridan, Ark
Holbert, Loys Prattsville, Ark
Holbert, Rommie Prattsville, Ark
Holliman, Tessie Sheridan, Ark
Hope, Arthur Prattsville, Ark
Hope, Coye Prattsville, Ark
Hope, Doris Prattsville, Ark
Hope, Elnora Prattsville, Ark
Hope, Wilburn Prattsville, Ark
Huey, Clarence Detonti, Ark
Kemp, Tom Prattsville, Ark
Kemp, Triber Prattsville, Ark
Koon, Floy Sheridan, Ark
Kelley, Carrie Sheridan, Ark
Lites, Duffie Grapevine, Ark
Lybrand, Bruce Sheridan, Ark
Lybrand, Ilva Sheridan, Ark
Masters, Winnie Sheridan, Ark
Matthews, Carl Sheridan, Ark
Moltz, Jimmie Sheridan, Ark
McCool, Carl England, Ark
McCool, Floy Sheridan, Ark
Paschal, Furman Magnolia, Ark
Posey, Elmo Sheridan, Ark
Posey, Lois Sheridan, Ark
Pumphrey, May Prattsville, Ark
Purtle, Autry Sheridan, Ark
Ramack, Vivian Sheridan, Ark
Reid, Ola Sheridan, Ark
Rikes, Alma Mineral Springs, Ark
Rogers, Wesley Sheridan, Ark
Rushing, Carroll Sheridan, Ark
Rushing, Grace Harts Horn, Okla
Rushing, Scott Sheridan, Ark
Rushing, Zella Sheridan, Ark
Samuel, Monroe, B. DeAnn, Ark
Shipp, Chas. V. Sheridan, Ark
Skeen, Ramon ...........
Smith, Myrtle Jacinto, Ark
Smith, Mrs., B. J. Sheridan, Ark
Stevens, Albert Prattsville, Ark
Stevenson, Fred Sheridan, Ark
Stevenson, Ray Sheridan, Ark
Stuckey, Ottis Sheridan, Ark
Thomas, Mack Slocomb, Ark
Toler, Fay Leola, Ark
Tommey, Zelma Sheridan, Ark
Walker, Dalton Sheridan, Ark
Ward, Violet Rison, Ark
Warlick, Homer Sheridan, Ark
Watson, Pauline Prattsville, Ark
Wells, Buell Sheridan, Ark
Wells, Ida Junet, Ark
Whiten, Catheryn Detonti, Ark
Williams, Flossie Prattsville, Ark
Wilson, John Sheridan, Ark
Wilson, Manuel Sheridan, Ark
Wilson, Willie Sheridan, Ark
Wofford, Margaret Green Brier, Ark
Wright, Normer Sheridan, Ark
Young, Agnes Sheridan, Ark
Young, Pauline Sheridan, Ark

The above article from GRASSROOTS - Journal of the Grant County Museum is placed here with permission of Mr. Elwin L. Goolsby, Director/Historian, Grant County Museum.  The Journal contains numerous articles about real Grant County people, real places and one of a kind pictures of the past. The GRASSROOTS Journal is published three times a year.  To be placed on the mailing list for one year:  Individual, $12; Family, $15; Supporting, $25; Patron, $50; Sponsor, $100; Life, $500; Bless You, $1,000.  Membership contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.  Mail to: GRASSROOTS, Journal of the Grant County Museum,  521 Shackelford Rd, Sheridan, AR  72150.

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