By Allison Goodman

Staff Writer

One of the area’s oldest churches, with more than 150 years of history, went up in flames May 30.

Little remains of the Hickory Plains United Methodist Church after being destroyed by a fire, which is believed to have been started by a lightning storm.

According to the National Weather Service, a small lightning storm moved through the Hickory Plains area in Prairie County around 11:30. A few hours after the storm passed through, the church was seen in flames. Church pastor Debbye Harrison said tree bark was found near the church.

She said the sanctuary was burned to the ground and the remaining building gutted. Nearly all the contents were destroyed in the fellowship hall when the roof collapsed, if not by the fire itself.

“I don’t think anything will be saved,” Harrison said. “Maybe some dishes.”

No one was in or near the church at the time, she said.

What seems to hurt the most for many was the historical loss for the area. According to Harrison, the original church was built in 1860. After the 1860 church collapsed, it was rebuilt in 1930 with some of the wood, which was salvageable from the original building. Harrison said not only was the 150-year-old wood lost in the fire, but also two original benches. Harrison said the church celebrated its-150 year anniversary a few years ago.

“That just broke my heart,” she said. “Being a history teacher, I just couldn’t hardly stand it. It really was one of the oldest structures in the area and the Mississippi.”

Aside from her ministry position, Harrison also is a teacher at Carlisle High School.

She said the church would be rebuilt on the same site, as far as she knew. She said has already has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern and by those who have offered to help once the church begins to rebuild.

“It has just been absolutely unbelievable,” Harrison said. “It really is uplifting to hear people will help.

With a congregation determined to keep their spirits high despite its tragic loss, the church will gather at 9 a.m. Sunday in the park. The church is located at the intersection of Arkansas Highway 13 and Arkansas Highway 38

No official report from Centerpoint Fire Department had been released Wednesday as of press time.