Presbyterian Church Closes
After 128 years the First Presbyterian Church of Piggott closed its doors Dec. 31, 2014.
The local property was then transferred to the church's governing body, the Presbytery of the Mid-South in Memphis, which decided to place the church and its adjoining manse up for sale for the price of $99,900. The church building alone is listed at $70,000 and the parsonage or manse alone is listed at $40,000 with Watson Realty of Piggott.
The three remaining members felt they weren't able to give back to the community or keep the church up without any new members, "and younger people don't attend church like people used to," said Susan Roark, who oversees the church until it sells. The church began moving downhill when former minister Reverend Wilma J. Hoover passed away. "We had a few visiting pastors and seminary students, but the number of members began to dwindle," Roark said.
According to church records, the Piggott Congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was first organized on Oct. 2, 1887 by Reverend C.B. Hunter of the Hamburg Congregation along with members S. W. Huston, W.W. Pollard, T.F. Thompson, J.R. Maddox, M.M. Moore, Susan Jane Huston, Lillie McNiel, A.L. Pollard and S.F. Maddox. Rev. W.T. Thurman was the pastor at that time.
In 1892 it is recorded that the church convened in the old school house to conduct business sessions. On Feb. 20, 1899, the congregation appointed a committee to allocate a land parcel on which to build a church. The committee was made up of W.W. Pollard and W.E. Spence. On March 18, 1899, the committee reported spending $40 to secure the lot where the church stands today. At the same meeting G.W. Seitz and W.E. Spence were appointed to solicit funds for building the church.
On June 19, 1899, the committee reported a sum of $602.50 had been collected. A building committee was then made up of W.E. Spence, W.W. Pollard and S.T. Wheeler, who hired contractor Mark Walker to begin construction.
On Dec. 16, 1902, Rev. Thurman passed the duties of pastor to R.S. Layman, who resigned after one year. Rev. W. H. Marris took his place in 1903. In 1906 the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian USA joined together. Dedication of Piggott's First Presbyterian Church was performed by Rev. Thurman on Feb. 22, 1911. During the year 1910 the Woman's Missionary Society was organized and in August of 1911, 11 babies were baptized.
In 1914 Rev. Melton took over as pastor. He added Sunday school to the church. Melton served the church for one year and then turned the church over to Rev. E.C. Lindsay. During his time with the church he hired E.E. Porterfield to build the manse or parsonage. In 1918 Porterfield entered into the Armed Forces as a chaplain.
At this time Rev. Thurman came back to the church and preached for five more years, after which Rev. Marris returned and remained for seven years. From 1933 to 1953 the church was led by Rev. James McNut, S.S. Missionary Rev. T. N. Threlkeld, Dr. Thomas McSpadden, Dr. O.O. Russell, Rev. O. Dixon and Rev. Earl Turner.
In 1956, a young Chinese graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Rev. Frank Kuo came to serve the church. In the records it said Kuo had come to America to escape the communist rule, leaving behind his parents and two brothers. This was Kuo's first church and he became a naturalized citizen after leaving Piggott.
In 1966, the church was updated and remodeled by replacing the older windows with stained glass windows. In 1977, the Presbyterian Church of Greenway closed its doors and the members merged with the Piggott church.
The first woman minister was Rev. Norma S. Crader. She served the church from 1980 to 1982 when she handed over her duties to Rev. Wilma J. Hoover. Hoover remained with the church until her death in 2005.
After Hoover's death the number in the congregation began to decrease, and the church never replaced her fully. Instead, visiting pastors and seminary students were the only pastors at the church, and Roark believes this may be part of the reason the numbers began to dwindle, as "flocks need a shepherd."