Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 31, 1958
NUMBER 13, PAGE 12-13b

Then And Now

W. W. McGee, Portales, New Mexico

"History repeats itself" is a statement frequently made by those who have familiarized themselves with the facts in various movements. The present controversy in the church of our Lord was brought about by a failure to respect and observe certain basic principles, as has been the case numerous times in day gone by. Fortunately, or should I say unfortunately, I have been permitted to live at a time when I witnessed the culminating acts of departure on the part of my brethren from the "faith once delivered to the saints" in early life; and now as I approach the evening of life am witnessing what bids fair to be another apostasy.

Almost four decades ago my father, Carroll McGee, and I moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. This move was occasioned because of sickness. When we arrived in the town we inquired about the location of the meeting place of the church of Christ. Our dismay was almost beyond description when we learned there was no such place. Further investigation revealed that a few brethren had erected a small building some eight miles west of town. In order to safeguard against encroachment of liberal elements the brethren placed in the deed a clause prohibiting the use of instrumental music in the services. When we first began worshipping at this place not more than fifteen or twenty attended. During the next few years we were able to get M. O.Daley, also John F. Reese Sr. to conduct meetings and by 1927 our attendance had reached thirty-five or forty.

We felt that the time had come for us to establish the cause of the Lord in Hot Springs. We made arrangements for the county courthouse and secured the services of Brother Clark and A. J. Veteto to assist us. Brother Veteto preached to an audience of about twenty-five for a few nights and then the door was locked in our faces. It was a heartbreaking experience. So by 1928 the little church that assembled west of town was all that was left. The First Christian Church in Hot Springs was strong in numbers, possibly seven hundred members, some of them wealthy and influential in the eyes of men. Their building was located on Hobson Ave., and served as headquarters for that section of the state of Arkansas.

By 1927 these digressives had begun a campaign of "infiltration". They courted the favor of both young and old in the little congregation where we worshipped, and were successful in leading the majority away. Our numbers dwindled until there were only three men and their wives left. Of course we invited and insisted that they "return to their first love" but unsuccessfully. Some of their number suggested that they would meet with us if we would change our hour of assembling from the morning hour to 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Some of us opposed it bitterly but others agreed to their plan. The next Lord's day morning we held the last service in the little building. Our little church had gone with the popular group; they had gone digressive. That afternoon we went to the building at 2 o'clock and Dr. Combs, with about thirty of his "top" members were there. Some of us wanted to carry the fight to the last man, but my father and brother John Hobby both said we were whipped. I had heard brother C. R. Nichol, also Joe S. Warlick debate and felt that we could stand against the false teaching of the digressives, but also felt it would be against great odds. I had to oppose such men as "Dr." Combs, Judge Davis and Pete Bumpass the district attorney. I asked Dr. Combs by "what authority they could hold services in our building since three men have objected". His inquiry was, "Do you have a copy of the deed to the one acre of land on which the building is situated?" I replied, "I do not." Dr. Combs then took a piece of paper from his pocket and read to me what he said was a copy from the county records, which stated that the building should be so used for the purpose of conducting services by the church of Christ and that no instrument of music would be allowed in the worship, and should it ever cease to be used by the church of Christ over a lengthy period of time the property would revert to the original owner or his heirs. I am sure the above is not a word for word quotation but it covers the points on the matter. Now brethren I have written this to prepare you for the one point brought out by Dr. Combs, he said, "THE DEED DOES NOT SAY WHAT SHALL NOT BE PREACHED IN THIS HOUSE." He further said, "Since these fine brethren have asked us to help them in the 2 p.m. services, I assure you no instrument of music will be used." Under the prevailing condition; with the digressives in control. I felt then that the time had come to sever connection with them. I walked out of the building never to return. We had no place to "break bread" except from house to house. Discouraged and heartbroken, father and I decided to sell our homes and go to some other place. This we did, selling them at a loss, and moved West. Brethren like Srygley, Tant, and others encouraged us to stay and assured us "God being our helper" the cause of Christ could be established there.

Not long after we departed from Hot Springs a number of brethren moved there, some of them with financial resources sufficient to provide a meeting place. Property was bought on Hazel Street and a nice building was erected. It was located only two blocks from the First Christian church building, and almost "in the back yard" of Dr. Combs. I have been informed this was one of the last congregations established by the late J. D. Tant.

Maybe some are curious to know what became of the little building west of town. Possibly some of you readers knew T. R. Burnett who published "The Budget" poems and the book called "Center Shots." Brother Burnett and Brother John F. Reese Sr. were staying in the home of Mike Price. This was some time prior to 1920. The night they spent there was the time of birth of the son of Brother and Sister Price. The son was named Reese Burnett Price. Mike Price was the one who gave the one acre tract on which the little building was located. As specified in the deed, the property reverted to the original owner, Mike Price. Brother Reese and Burnett were the ones responsible for the clause being in the deed if I am correctly informed. After standing vacant for a period of time, it was sold and is now occupied as a residence.

No, brethren, this was not 100 years ago; this is an account of what happened between the years of 1920 and 1929.

Since I have mentioned John F. Reese Sr. I think it only fair that I mention his son John F. Reese Jr. The last time I remember seeing him was in the little building west of Hot Springs, Arkansas. I remember well our lesson that day; the 19th chapter of Acts.

(More to follow)