NORFORK -- A group of volunteers is hoping to breathe new life into the Old Galatia Church.
The church building, one of the oldest religious buildings still standing in the Norfork area, was shuttered five years ago and appeared on Preserve Arkansas' list of the most endangered historic sites in the state in 2017.
The Galatia Community Building Board of Trustees, a nonprofit entity that presently owns the church, in June was awarded a $10,000 preservation grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The grant will be used to remove the building's siding, straighten the building structurally and install windows like those used in the building's construction in the early 1900s. When restored, the former church will be used as a community center, the Baxter Bulletin reported.
"If we get it back in use, it will be for the community to use," said Linda Bradbury, secretary for the Galatia Community Building Board of Trustees. "Weddings, funerals, whatever the community might want to use it for."
In February 1886, Robert Lackey deed 10 acres of land for a church and cemetery to the Methodist Episcopal Church South as a donation. Historical and family records indicate that the cemetery had already been in use for at least 20 years prior to the donation.
"There's a lot of history in this cemetery," said Bill Adams, the president of the Galatia Community Building Board of Trustees. "Everyone has family buried here."
The Old Galatia Church is the second church built on the site. The original church, located where the cemetery's pavilion is now, was lost in a fire around 1900. The existing church building was then built up the hill and away from the Galatia Cemetery some time shortly after that fire.
Beginning with the Methodist Church, the building served as a worship site for several different faiths over the years. The building also became a community hub, hosting a literary society, pie suppers and other social events.
"At one time, this was the center of the community," Adams said. "It seemed like everything revolved around the church."
The church also served double duty as a community schoolhouse, a common practice in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to historical accounts in The Baxter Bulletin, the nearby town of Devero (which was later renamed Norfork) sent their students to the church for school in 1906 as the Devero community did not have a school of its own.
The building was last used as a church in the early 1990s, Adams said.
"We did have a revival in there a couple times," he said. "The last time they used it, it didn't have electricity. They did kerosene lamps in it."
In August 1985, the church building was deeded from the Methodist Church to the Galatia Cemetery Association. In November 1985, the Cemetery Association then deeded the church over to the Old Galatia Church, which deeded the building back to the Cemetery Association in January 2018. The Galatia Community Building Board of Trustees took ownership of the church from the Cemetery Association in February 2019.
The Board of Trustees began its fundraising efforts to preserve the church in early 2018.
"We've been lucky. We've had a few nice donations," Bradbury said. "We appreciate every dollar we can get."
The volunteer group managed to get the building listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places in August 2018. The Arkansas Register recognizes historically significant properties that do not meet the requirements to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"We've got some work to do before we're eligible for that," Adams said. "We've got to replace the windows, make it more historically accurate. But (a National Historic Registry), that's our goal."
The Board of Trustees has yet to receive any of the $10,000 grant it was awarded in June. The repair work earmarked to be funded from that grant will begin once the state releases the money later this year. The group is working with Little Rock architect Gary Clements, who will supervise the restoration process.
To raise additional funds, volunteers have published two books detailing the history of the church and cemetery. The group has sold more than 400 books so far, Bradbury said, and only about 30 copies of the second volume remain available to purchase.
Volunteers also maintain a Facebook group, "Old Galatia Church Restoration Project," where the board announces progress updates and salutes donors. The Facebook groups presently counts 39 members.
"Facebook reaches a lot of people," Adams said. "We need all the help we can get."
"Facebook -- let me tell you -- that has been my best help," Bradbury said. "I've mailed out close to 100 books, and it's through Facebook that people are seeing the orders."
The Galatia Community Building project was recognized as a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity in July, making any donations to the church restoration tax deductible. The Board of Trustees maintains a checking account at Anstaff Bank, and donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 103, Norfork, AR 72658.
"Every penny that we get, it goes towards the building," Bradbury said.
Interested parties can also call Linda Bradbury at (870) 499-7148 or Bill Adams at (870) 499-5643 for more information about the Old Galatia Church restoration.
"If we don't answer, I hope they leave us a message," Bradbury said. "We're happy to return calls."
Information from: The Baxter Bulletin
National on 08/19/2019
Print Headline: Group hopes to preserve Old Galatia Church