A small church in the tiny community of Houston caught Kurt’s attention the other day. Located on state Highway 60 not too far from Perryville, the Houston Methodist Episcopal Church was once part of a thriving town.
Incorporated in 1902, many might think that the town is named after Sam Houston, who actually lived in this area before relocating to Texas. However, it was actually named after a ferry operator on the Fourche La Fave River, John L. Houston.
The economy of Houston was given a boost in 1899 when the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad decided to build a line near the town. In an attempt to get the most benefit from this, Margaret Long decided to donate land to the railroad, but required that trains would either stop at the site or pay a twenty-five-dollar fine to the local school. A new source of income was theirs for the taking! The only catch was that the land was two miles south of the settlement.
What’s a town to do? Well, they relocated!
It appears that this action proved to be beneficial because, by the early 1900’s, several businesses served the community. Among them were drugstore, a millinery, a butcher shop, a shoe repair shop, a movie theater, a bank, two saloons, a hotel, a cotton gin, and a sawmill.
The first Methodist Church was built there on land also donated by Margaret Long. In 1912, due to the growth of the congregation, a new building was erected on the same site. The name changed to the Houston Methodist Episcopal Church.
A turn of unfortunate events hit Houston shortly after. In 1908, a band of outlaws robbed the bank and then set it on fire. Several buildings fell victim to the blaze. In 1927, a flood devastated the town. In 1929, a train carrying petroleum products caught on fire and wrecked in Houston, forcing the residents to evacuate. Finally, the Depression and World War II drew many folks away in order to make a decent living and to serve in the military.
In other words, the once bustling city of Houston, Arkansas withered, but, for some reason, for many years, the Houston Methodist Episcopal Church continued to flourish.
In 1968, its name was changed a third time to the Houston United Methodist Church when the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined with the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Today, it is no longer in use, but, because of its historical significance, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a great example of the single-room, wood-frame, gable-roof church form used throughout rural Arkansas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but more than that, it’s a wonderful link to the fascinating past of the Natural State!