Monday, August 20, 2012

Pocahontas and Randolph County Ministers in the Church of Christ

The Old Hubble Creek Church of Christ
When I was growing up in Pocahontas, Arkansas in the sixties, there were 16 Churches of Christ in Randolph County.  County population was 12,000 if I recall correctly.  Dad held meetings for many of these churches and I often went with him.  A number of ministers who became influential and well known in “the Church” have a Pocahontas connection.  The family of Reuel Lemmons, editor of the Firm Foundation from 1955-1983 was from Randolph County.  (After that, he started Image magazine.  It came along in the eighties and I like it . It folded and New Wineskins continued somewhat along those lines)  The Lemmons and Allisons and perhaps others migrated to Oklahoma in the twenties.  Reuel was about ten years old.  [Brief aside:  There was a Lemmons family reunion at the old Hubble Creek Church where I heard Reuel talk about church and family history. see picture]  My Allisons returned from OK but his parents remained.  In the first half of the 20th century, the two most important publications in the CofC were the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation.  A large number of ministers came from the Lemmons family.  A. G. Lemmons the son of a Lemmons and Allison (my great aunt Hassel) of Nashville wrote some books on fasting, among other things.  He is my cousin.  A. G. has a nephew, my cousin Thom Lemmons, who was a professor at Abilene, moved to College Station, TX and has joined the larger Christian universe as writer of a number of books.   I read a nice one by him of historical fiction Mother of Faith where he crafted a story based on the lady of III John.  Ray Chester of Randolph County was also a person of influence and stature in the church.  He moved up the line and had a big Washington, DC church for a while.  Eventually he transitioned to the Disciples.  I grew up with his nephews and nieces.  Ray held us a meeting at the Pyburn Street Church of Christ some time, I guess the mid sixties.  He was different.  He didn’t quote as much scripture as was considered necessary and did not spend much time telling about how everyone else was wrong.  I listened to the adults talk and they were very disappointed in him.  Around the same time, give or take a year, Foy Wallace came to town.  He would preach 90 minutes.  He was colorful and entertaining.  One of his points made often was that the RSV was not a Version but a Perversion.  Many from the Starling family became ministers.  Too many for me to keep up with.  One down in Florida that I know about is still active and has a blog ministry.  Jerry Rushford has a connection to Reyno on the east side of the county.  He is one whose family took him to Michigan when he was young.  He is well known and well liked.  He managed a lectureship at Pepperdine for many years.  I met him for the first time at the Homecoming of the Laurel CofC here in Knoxville some months ago.  Jack Hawkins was originally from Doniphan, MO, just across the state line.  He eventually ended up in Michigan (Note to a blogging friend:I’m sure your wife’s family must have known him.)  He first served at Tasmania.  My grandmother used to talk about that church.  My mom and grandparents attended it before moving on to Keego Harbor.  I can just barely remember that KH church.   If I recall correctly, that fellowship built a new facility in Sylvan Lake and moved there around 1958 or 9.  Jack served there at some point also.  Delores Hawkins was a class mate of mine at Harding.  I think she must have been a niece of Jack or something.  My late grandfather, Mac Van Hooser was an elder at Sylvan Lake.  

Then there are the Olbricht brothers, Thomas, Glenn, and Owen.  They grew up in Thayer, MO, just across the state line.  Thomas has been a professor at Penn State, Abilene Christian, and Pepperdine U.  He is an internet acquaintance whom I met in person at the Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb U. in 2008.  I read his book:  Hearing God's Voice and enjoyed it very much.  Need to do a review some time.  He has a new one out that is on my list:  Reflections on My Life: in the Kingdom and the Academy.  Glenn, the one I never met, was a missionary to Germany.  Owen has had a long influential career in the Church of Christ and played a formative role in my life.  The summer after I graduated from Harding, I joined his Campaigns Northeast.  We conducted three week ministries successively in Anderson, IN; Endwell, NY; Baltimore, MD, and Northfield, NJ.  We knocked on doors and engaged people in Bible studies.  That was a real character builder.  The 3rd week culminated in a Gospel Meeting. 

Lester Perrin, a painter, was the song leader at Pyburn Street when I was growing up.  His sons were my dad’s age, roughly.  They played high school sports together.  One son, Kenny, was my Calc 1 teacher at Harding.   The next year he trekked to Pepperdine U.  His brothers, Les Jr. and Jerry, made it down to Texas and were prominent at Lubbock Christian and other places.  I get them mixed up.  One of their sons, Tim, was named President of LCU recently.  

My brother-in law’s first cousin, the late Michael Wilson, wrote a book called Arkansas Christians: A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph, County Arkansas.  I’ve referred to that to help out my memory.  This is just a smattering of what is in the book.  Mike has a cousin, John Wilson, a religion professor at Pepperdine.  Mike, about six years my elder, ended up a Disciple and died in his late fifties of a heart attack.  

Now for the Allisons.  My Dad’s Uncle Marvin Allison is 95 and the last of his generation.  He was a missionary for many years in New Zealand.  He served under the Union Avenue Church of Christ and its successor Woodland Hills, in Memphis.  Another of Dad’s first cousins, Fielden Allison, has been a missionary to Kenya since the mid-70’s.  Fielden’s sister, Joan, married one of the VanRheenen boys (I think they were from Paragould, the seat of Greene County to the east), Dwayne, who was a professor in Maine for many years before moving on to Abilene and Pepperdine or vice versa.  Doug Allison, another one, was often a song leader for many area wide youth meetings in the 80’s and 90’s.  Then there is my dad, known variously as G. W. Allison or Chick Allison or George Allison. He was raised in Pocahontas.  He was the minister at Pyburn Street the first time from 1958-66.  Then he had a stint in the mid-seventies after I was long gone from the scene.  Then another short time in the nineties.  Dad is a close friend of Jimmy Allen.  Jimmy has always credited my dad with influencing him to be a Christian.  

A Previous Post about my Dad and his Sixty Years of Preaching is here.

Above I've discussed those who grew up in or close to Pocahontas, AR who became influential in the fellowship of the Church of Christ.  There are many more.  And then there are those who sojourned for a while and left that tradition.  David Elkins is one.  He was at Harding in the mid-sixties and was a minister for a while.  Eventually he switched to Psychology and taught at Pepperdine. I've read his book Beyond Religion and did a review of it in 2005. 

Google Street View of the Pyburn Street Church of Christ

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Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see you mention Laurel. My wife and I visited there when we first moved into the area. We loved it, but it proved to be just too far of a drive.

None of the churches in the Pocahontas area that you mentioned rang any bells. I asked my wife, and she thinks her family went to West Ridge, but, like you said, there are so many churches up there.

I was surprised to hear that Reuel Lemmons has roots in that area. I have always associated him intimately with Austin, where he was instrumental in the founding of the Westover Hills congregation where members of my family (and for an extremely brief time, me) were involved in their auxiliary ministries.

With so many of us crammed into such a small geographical and chronological space, it shouldn't still be so surprising to find hidden strands of connection everywhere.

Steve said...

Thought there might be a chance you would recognize Laurel. We once thought of going there but the distance precluded it also. We were coming from the opposite end of town. Carlus Gupton used to minister there. He has a nice web site.

And yes, West Ridge is in Poky. It might be the biggest CofC in that county at present. I would like stop in for a visit to meet old friends. Please see today's post for more info.

I visited a church in Austin back in the spring of 2000 but don't remember which one. We attended with a friend of my wife who was originally from Oak Ridge, TN, Jane Parks Gomez.

finding "hidden strands of connection" is fun.


David Perrin said...

Dear Steve,

Lester Perrin the painter and song leader was my Grandfather. I attended Pyburn street during August every year when we would visit from Lubbock. My father was not a "Jr.", my Grandfather was Eli Lester Perrin and my dad was Lester Ray Perrin. My Grandfather, however WAS a "Jr". My great-grandfather was also Eli Lester Perrin.

Steve Allison said...


So glad you stopped by my blog. How in the world did you come across my post? I have fond memories of your grandfather. I do remember your family visiting Pyburn Street. We lived there from April 1958 till summer 1966. One of the first Sundays we were in town, Brother Perrin and Sister Daisy had our family in their home for Sunday Dinner. Your grandfather must have had a lot of stamina to be the only song leader during that entire time, three services per week year in and year out. I'm 62 and hung up my pitch pipe a couple of years ago. My folks moved back to Poky in the seventies and it was my privilege to visit your grandfather not long before he died. I understand that your father has also passed. My condolences. My dad who is of similar age enjoyed sports with him as I recall. I had your Uncle Kenny for Calculus when I was at Harding 1968-1972. He was a good teacher and provided a solid foundation for my career. Is he still alive? He left Harding for Pepperdine after my Freshman year. I recall some emails from my former classmate Carrise Mickey Berryhill several years ago saying she greatly respected your family.

Anonymous said...


Carrise Berryhill was the Faculty sponsor of the Duster at LCU when I was the student reporter on the sports page there. my Uncle Kenny is still in California, and Uncle Jerry lives here in Lubbock. Aunt Laura is in Allen, Texas. I remember my grandfather Lester as a huge man and a good song leader. My father died 17Feb2006.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this history of the C of C from your area of Arkansas! I am interested to know if you may be able to tell me a little more about the Perrin family. I know there was a Lester Perrin who had a son named Lester who eventually moved to Lubbock. But there is another group of Perrin's from Andrews, Texas who are also C of C. His name was Lestus Perrin. Do you know if they are related?

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