If you go to Google Earth and type in Boswell, Arkansas, you will get a satellite view of what used to be the small town where I grew up. I discovered recently that the town is as empty at ground level as the picture from above reveals.
What happened to my town? When I was but a lad, it had a one room schoolhouse that was filled with boys and girls. Three small general stores existed. A Post Office and a train depot were buzzing with activity. Houses dotted the hillside on the east side of town and the river bank across the tracks. What excitement! What friendships and what wonderful memories! Now, I ask, what happened?
The school house is empty and cold. All stores are closed and rotting to the ground. No longer does the train stop; there are no people to ride it. The houses on the hill have collapsed or have briers and bushes growing up through them. There might be five houses left where senior citizens live. Like the town, they too are dying. I wonder, what happened?
One thing that contributed to Boswell’s demise was a bridge built across Piney Creek. The citizens discovered that the school in a nearby town offered better opportunities for their children.
Another factor was the phasing out of the “section gang” that worked on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Once these jobs were eliminated, it was impossible to sustain the stores; so, like the school, they too closed their doors, and people began shopping in others towns. Farming was hopeless for two reasons; the land just did not produce, and you couldn’t find people to work the crop, if you had one. So, like a terminal cancer patient, the town died day by day.
Now, there is nothing to attract anyone to the ghost town. It would be impossible to give one good reason why any young couple would move there. There is nothing for them or their children. All is history. What used to be is only a memory.
There is one possibility, but it is only one chance in a million that it would happen. If someone with enough money and VISION would start a growing factory, families and workers would once again be attracted to the beautiful Boswell valley along White River. But, don’t hold your breath.
Now I understand what happened. The school in the next town provided better programs and education for the children. Jobs that died were not replaced. People began to shop in other stores or just left town. The farmers failed to produce enough harvest to attract and hold workers, so everything collapsed. Come to think of it, I no longer wonder what happened.
Pastor, does this story of Boswell, mirror your church? Are people leaving because a bridge has been built to a better church? Does everyone in your church have a job? Are ministries closing because there is no business? What would attract anyone to your church in the first place? Are the young families moving out? If they are, go to Google Earth and look down at Boswell, and you are viewing the future of your church.
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.
Al Hughes says
Amen! Another great article Brother Blue. It should cause all who read it to think about their community and their local church. Churches need to learn to tactfully adapt their ministries to the social atmosphere of their communities without altering their doctrines or their Bible. This can be “tricky” and can lead to accusations of compromise. So be it. God knoweth (Joshua 22:22-23).
Jim Byler says
Ken, Your article brought back a lot of fond memories. Though Boswell is now a ghost town, God’s word still emanates from there. It produced 4 ministers, including yourself.
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