Centennial Missionary Baptist Church in Helena, Phillips County, Arkansas, was established on July 4, 1876. In August 1876, Reverend Robert Caver of Alabama was called to serve as the first pastor. Caver was followed by two other pastors who served brief periods. However, the church flourished under the administration and pastorate of Elias Camp Morris (1855-1922), who was called in June 1879. Morris later became a leading religious figure in the state and throughout the country. He was a founding member of the National Baptist Convention, and its president until his death in 1922. Morris served as pastor of Centennial for forty-three years.
Centennial Missionary Baptist Church with its Gothic Revival design was listed as a National Historic Landmark on July 31, 2003. The church, located at York and Columbia Streets, was built in 1905 by Henry James Price, an African American architect. Due to major deterioration of the structure, the congregation held its last worship service in 1999. The building still stands, however, and is owned by the E.C. Morris Foundation, comprised of former church members.
The documents in this collection were rescued by Phyllis Hammonds of the E.C. Morris Foundation, and her mother Thelma, who stored the records at the Delta Cultural Center, in Helena, Arkansas. The microfilming of the collection was part of a project made possible with a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and Black History Advisory Committee (now the Black History Commission of Arkansas).
The collection contains church programs, correspondence, minutes, financial reports, membership rosters, Women's Missionary Society, Sunday school, and Baptist Young People's Union records.
· Administrative records
o 1. Correspondence, 1909-1947 (Reel MG00486)
o 2. Minutes, financial reports, etc., 1876-1983
o 3. Membership register, 1941-1955
o 4. Funeral programs, 1965-1991
o 5. Church anniversary celebrations, 1919-1991 (Reel MG00487)
o 6. Special program events, 1931-1997 (includes program of the eighty-second annual session, National Baptist Convention, Incorporated, 1962 September 4-9, Chicago, Illinois)
o 7. Harvest homecoming, 1954-1989
o 8. Reverend A.L. Woodson, personal papers (correspondence, receipts, and membership certificate to The Most Worshipful Sovereign Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, Jurisdiction of Arkansas, 1947)
· Women's Missionary Society ledgers
· Baptist Young People's Union, record and roll book
o 1924-1941 (Reel MG00488)
o 1940-1973 (Reel MG00489)
· Sunday school reports, minutes and record books
o 1900-1919 (Reel MG00490)
o 1919-1932 (Reel MG00491)
o 1932-1942 (Reel MG00492)
o 1942-1953 (Reel MG00493)
o 1954-1970 (Reel MG00494)
o Sunday School records, 1971-1984 (Reel MG00495)
o Class books, 1917-1947