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Arkansas Holiness College (AHC), founded in 1904, was the focus for a body of Wesleyan holiness believers who congregated for nearly three decades in Vilonia (Faulkner County). The preaching of Methodist evangelists Beverly Carradine and H. C. Morrison at camp meetings held at Beebe (White County) in the 1890s spurred a holiness association in Vilonia composed of Methodists and Free Methodists. Members of the association formed a grammar school that opened in 1900 under the direction of Fannie Suddarth, a teacher (and later minister) from Kentucky.
The school added grades and academic levels, including a Bible department in 1905, when the Reverend C. L. Hawkins came to head the school. The name Arkansas Holiness College was adopted at this time. J. Waskom Pickett, a teacher during Hawkins’s tenure, was later a Methodist bishop in India.
In 1906, a Bible and literary school in Old Cove (Polk County) lost its principal building to fire and merged with the Vilonia school. The Reverend J. D. Scott, who had headed the enterprise at Old Cove, became AHC’s financial agent and chairman of its trustees. A leading figure in the Holiness Church of Christ—a Church of the Nazarene parent-body—Scott was a harbinger of the school’s future. After Hawkins, subsequent presidents included W. F. Dallas, superintendent of the Arkansas District of the Church of the Nazarene, and James Blaine Chapman, later a Nazarene general superintendent (bishop). It officially became a Nazarene institution in 1914.
By 1915, it included primary and preparatory schools, an academy (senior high), and a junior college with two- and three-year degrees, including a Bible degree. “A Safe School for Both Sexes,” it attracted holiness constituents from Arkansas and adjacent states who moved to Vilonia to educate their children in a sympathetic religious environment. There were 200 students enrolled in 1920.
The school was located in the church’s Southwestern educational region, containing four other Nazarene colleges in adjacent states. Its growth was circumscribed when the denomination, in 1922, designated its college in Bethany, Oklahoma (now Southern Nazarene University), as the primary regional college. The grim economic climate of the 1920s and 1930s forced the consolidation of these schools, and AHC merged with the college in Oklahoma in 1931, as sister schools in Kansas and Texas did before 1940.
The school bore other names over the years: Arkansas Nazarene School and Nazarene Theological High School (1914–1919), Arkansas Nazarene Seminary and Normal Training High School (1920), and Arkansas Holiness Academy and Bible School (1921–1931).
For additional information:Arkansas Holiness Academy and Bible School, Catalogue, 22nd Annual, 1927–1928. Vilonia, AR: 1927.
“Arkansas Holiness College, 1900–1931.” Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings 25 (Spring/Summer 1983): 25–30.
Gresham, Loren P., and L. Paul Gresham. From Many Came One, in Jesus’ Name: Southern Nazarene University Looks Back on a Century. Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company, 1998.
Stan IngersolNazarene ArchivesKansas City, Missouri
Last Updated 8/26/2011
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