The St. Bartholomew’s Story.

The information presented below is an account of the founding of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. This is a historical document the original of which is maintained in the church archive, as such we have left the information as it appears in the original. Corrections to the document are noted in brackets [ ] some of those corrections appear hand written on the original document, others are simply corrections of typographical errors made for readability. Certain portions of the original document have been crossed out, and those appear here as well.

During the year 1956 a small group of members of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Ft. Smith, met at the church to discuss forming a mission in that city. In that year, Ed Louise Ballman sent a sum of money to the Rt. Reb[v]. Robert R. Brown in memory of her mother and father. They were Mary Louise and Edward Ballman, early residents of Ft. Smith. Mr[.] Ed Ballman was considered one of the founders of the furniture industry in this city. Thru the following years [t]his fund was increased. This with other pledges was used as a building fund for a parishhouse.

Charter members of the Church of the Advent, as it was called were as f[o]llows: The group was formed on Advent Day.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Sam Baker
  • Ed Louise Ballman
  • Mr. and Mrs. Fadjo Cravens, Jr.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Sam Phillips
  • Mr. and Mrs. Robert Vick
  • Mr and Mrs. William England
  • Mr. and Mrs. James Martin

The mission rented a house at 1400 South 23rd street where services were held in 1960.

A gift of two and a half acres of land from Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Speer was received by th[e] Mission. This along with gifts from Ed Louise Ballman, pledge[s] from the con[g]regation, and further assistance from the Diocesan Development Program made possible the building at Old Greenwood and Country Club Drive. Gifts in Little Rock in that fund had accumulated [the Ballman Fund] to the amount of $38,543.01. The large parish hall in the building was dedicated to the memory of Ed Louise Ballman.[‘s] mother and father Mary Louise and Edward Ballman.

Ground for the mission was broken November 27, 1959 at Old Greenwood Road and Country Club Drive. There was a ceremon[y] on the site with the Rev. John Shoemaker, Deacon Jerry Otwell, Asst. minister at St. John’s and the head of our executive committee or warden, Mr. Roy FaFollette. It was a beautiful day and a goodly crowd was there.

The mission was organized on [in] 1959 and admitteed into union with our diocese in their convention in 1960 in Little Rock.

The Rev. Jerry Otwell, assistant minister at St John’s was the vicar in charge of the Church of the Advent as it was first known. Members of the first executive committee were as follows; Roy LaFollette, warden, Sam Phillips, Sam Baker, Fadjo Cravens Jr. and James Martin. Members of the Building Committee were Sam Baker, Sam Phillips, James Martin, Roy LaFollette, Ed Louise Ballman. Plans were drawn by Mott, Mobley and Horstman with General Contractors, Larsen and Wear, under the able supervision of Mr. Ed Lear, Superintenda[e]nt.

On December 19, 1960, the Rt. Rev. Robert Brown ordained the vicar of our church, Jerry Otwell. Early in 1961 the name of our mission was changed at a meeting for that purpose. There had been a great deal of trouble with our mail. It was confused with the Church of the Adventists in this city. Some did not want to change the name, but it [was] finally decided to call the mission, St. Bartholomew’s. On [In] May 1961, the mission building was dedicated as St. Bartholomew’s by the Rt. Rev. Robert R. Brown, D.D., the dioscesan [diocesan] bishop. The girl’s choir of St. John’s church assisted with the music. with Mrs. Sessue Cotten as organist and Mrs. Radcliff as director.

Those heading the executive committee thru the mission years were Roy LaFollette, John Reichart, Same Phillips, William England, Dr Theo Field, Dr. Carl Williams.

Lay readers were Norman Edman, Roy Bowman, and Dr. Kemal Kutait.

The women of St. Bartholomew’s have had a group which met each second Tuesday in every month, except in the summer. Those who were presidents of the Women were

  • Mrs. Roy LaFollette,
  • Mrs. William Edwards
  • Mrs. Robert Vick
  • Mrs. Sam Baker
  • Mrs. James Mullins
  • Mrs. George Nowotny
  • Mrs. Theo Field
  • Ed Louise Ballman.
  • Mrs. E.M. Barber Jr.
  • Mrs. Harold Peacher.

Future Semindary students at the University of the South at Sewanee with their families will be able to move into a duplex apartment which was built in February, 1965. This will be reserved for Arkansas theological students and their families by the University authorities. The duple[x] will contain a livi[ng] room, dining roo[m], kitchen, and three bedrooms on each side. It is constructed of stone and furnished with a stove and a refrigerator in each apartment. The cost is about $17,000. Thru alumni from Arkansas and especially thru the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Speer, Jr., and Ed Louise Ballman of St. Bartho[l]omew’s of Ft. Smith, the diocese has completed the cost of this Arkans[as] House on the campus.

The story behind this gift is interesting. Some of the members of St. [B]artholomew’s felt the need for more land around and near our present site. This land was owned by Mr. and Mrs Ralph Speer, Jr. At that time Ralph Speer was working on a development program at Sewanee. He suggested that I, Ed Louise Ballman, give the amount of $10,000 to the University of the South, and he would give the same a[m]ount to the church of St. Batholomew’s [Bartholomew’s] in land surrounding the first site he had give[n] us. Thus on December 29, 1964, the land near our present building was given us, and I gave $10,000 to the University of the South. The cash gift helped pay for the Arkansas House.

Memorial placques [plaques] were dedicated along with the house at the University of the South on June, 3, 1966. The placques [plaques] read as follows;

To the glory of God and in Loving Merory [Memory] of
Mary Louise and Edward Ballman

To the Glory of God, and in Gratitude to our Benefactors
Melanie and Ralph Speer, Jr.

The Arkansas [House] has been needed for years in the Theo[l]ogical School at Sewanee. A high percentage of the men from our Diocese are married and have families. The house is also used by graduate students who work in Sewanee during the summer.

We were very much lost when the Rev. Jerry Otwell resigned from St. Bartholomew in 1965. But were happy to welcome the Rev. Ralph Kutait as vicar. His first services were two communion services on March 1, 1966. On that Sunday evening, the members of the church gave a dinner that night to honor the Kutaits. and their family.

On April 28th 1967, the Mission of St. Batholomew’s [Bartholomew’s] became a church and was accepted by the convention as a parish by the Rt. Rev. Robert R. Brown, Diocesan Bishop. Those present [or in Little Rock] at that ceremoney were

  • The Rev. Ralph Kutait and Mrs. Kutait, the Rector
  • Dr. and Mrs. Carl Williams
    • Dr. Carl Williams had been the head of the Executive Committee of the Mission.
  • Dr. and Mrs. Thro Feild
  • Ed Louise Ballman
  • Mrs. John Smith
  • Harold Peacher
  • [Forrest Laubach]

In the Spring of 1962, the Mission of St. Bartholomew’s bought the rectory on Adelaide Street. A gift of one hundred shares of Gulf Oil Company stock had been given for this purpose, and sold to make the down payment for this home. It was occupied by the vicar, Jerry Otwell, and his family, shortly after its purchase. The land given us for the $10,000 gift to Swanee [Sewanee] amounted to almost two and a half acres. This was a gift from the Speers, Ralph and Melanie.