A noted poet, Henry W. Longfellow wrote, "Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us footprints on the sands of time". In keeping with this poetical expression, our church records of bygone years reveal the fact that a group of men dedicated to the salvation of souls left their footprints upon this hallowed ground.
Although the leaflets of the record books are yellowed by the changing agencies of time and its bindings worn by hands which will turn their pages no more, it is a heritage that serves as a birth certificate to the present Poplar Spring Baptist Church.
It was on September 14, 1887, that a number of brethren, mostly from Elm Grove, met at Poplar Spring, 8 miles east of Murray on the road from Murray to Pine Bluff, for organization of a United Baptist Church. The introductory sermon was delivered by Elder J.C. Spann. A Presbytery consisting of Elders J.C. Spann, D.V. Outland, J.D. Outland and Deacons William Gardner, L.A. Futrell and George Craig. J.D. Outland was elected moderator and George Craig clerk of said Presbytery. Twenty-six individuals were charter members of this newly formed church.
J.D. Outland was elected as the first pastor, L.B. Vinson the first clerk and James Coleman the first treasurer. A committee composed of George Daniel, S.J. Coleman, J.M. Thurman, John C. Barnett and Eli Campbell was appointed to attend to the building of the first house of worship.
The church records bear little description of this first building, but according to two members, Mr. Ervin McCuiston and Mr. Claude Hale, this was a box type structure covered with boards, which were riven with a frow. For some time there was no ceiling overhead; thus the rafters remained in plain view. Brother Hale informs us that after a short time the strips over the cracks became loose and that one could peer through and see horses tied outside.
We are told that the building was later weather boarded. After a few years, the roofing boards became loose and warped in such a manner that the moon rays beamed so brilliantly at times as to almost dim the flickering lights of the kerosene lamps.
Brother Ervin McCuiston tells us that one of the earlier Pastors, Bro. Davie Outland, rode a little yellow mule to church. His saddle had large saddlebags in which he carried his Bible and other materials. During the winter he hitched his mule to a certain selected tree. However, in the summer he just dropped the reins on the ground and the mule grazed on the green lawn awaiting the end of the sermon and the return of his master.
Although the building of these early days was void of style when compared to modern day standards, many who worshipped there were possessed with a church loyalty and Christ like faith unsurpassed by most memberships of today. So it was with one Willis Daniel. We learn by word of mouth that he was drawn with rheumatism in a manner that prevented his walking or even standing; nevertheless, his affliction did not prevent him from serving the Lord. On his hands and knees he crawled from his home on yon north hill to this old church house of bygone years.
On September 27, 1913, $413.50 was subscribed for the building of a new church house. On October 25 of the same year, it was voted that the church would meet at McCuiston School while the new building was under construction. The following February 21 the ladies of the church received a little unusual recognition. On this day the church voted "to make each lady member of this church a committee to solicit funds to pay the indebtedness incurred in the building of the new church house." The dedication of the new building was held on August 2, 1915, when W.O. Hargrove preached the dedication sermon and J.H. Thurman lead the dedicatory prayer.
A Protracted Meeting at Poplar Spring was an annual affair for the whole community. Most all work was set aside in favor of the afternoon and night services. The lumbering of wagons could be heard for miles around as they slowly wound their way along the many roads leading to this place of worship. Pallets were placed on the floor for the youngsters and all others prepared for a warmhearted, spirit-filled service. God was present and many lives were touched.
The church went through very hard times as people were forced to leave the community because of the creation of Kentucky Lake (lake formed in 1945). Many members had to leave the fertile bottomlands of Blood River and Wildcat Creek and seek a livelihood elsewhere. But a few valiant and faithful souls were convinced that the Church was still a valuable asset to this community. Hence, they put forth a dedicated effort to seeing that it should remain. Time has proven that their views were correct and that their efforts were not in vain.
On September 10, 1962, work started on the third house of worship for Poplar Spring Church. That new building was completed on January 26,1963 and consisted of a Sanctuary, nursery, two restrooms and two baptistery dressing rooms.
The portion of the building that was to become the Educational Building was begun in 1976 and completed in late 1977. This consisted of 16 classrooms, kitchen, fellowship hall and two restrooms.
The summer of 1992 brought more building when another addition was begun that was to be the Family Life Center. It housed a large kitchen, a large fellowship hall, nine more classrooms and two restrooms. At this point the old kitchen/fellowship hall was divided into the pre-school department.
After renovation on all levels, the entire complex housed 24 classrooms.
In 1999 it was decided that we needed to renovate the Sanctuary. We decided to bring it up to more modern standards. We tore out walls and steps, sheet rock, carpet and pews and other furnishings. There was a completely new sound system put in along with a video projection system and computerized lighting system. State of the art in everything. Also, at this same time we built an addition onto the Family Life Center. This addition would house seven more classrooms and a large storage facility. At this time we have twenty-three classrooms that can be used for education purposes. We also have 5 offices: one each for the church secretary, pastor, minister of music, minister of youth and a Sunday School office for the Sunday School secretary and Sunday School Director.
As a last note, we are reminded that we no longer hear the rhythmic beat of the horses' hoofs as they pound the rugged roads leading to the church house of bygone years. The singing, shouting and preaching of the elder members of this church have been silenced by that final beckoning call. But their footprints have been embedded on the sands of time. May this generation and its posterity be as fruitful in this new edifice as were our forefathers in the buildings of old.