Mount Sequoyah Retreat and Conference Center was founded in 1922 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South Central Jurisdiction, as a summer retreat, spiritual center and faith-based training facility west of the Mississippi River. The city of Fayetteville pledged 400 acres, $35,000 in seed money, connections to all city utilities and construction of a road to the mountain top to recruit the center to this location.
Today as an independent nonprofit, Mount Sequoyah honors its history as a community gathering space, open and welcoming to all for booking a relaxing escape, planning an event on the beautiful grounds, or taking advantage of our seasonal recreation programming.
While the dates for major construction at Mount Sequoyah range from 1924 to 1989, most of what we see today was built from 1927-1965. The Rev. Sam Yancey, who served as superintendent from 1927-1950, oversaw the construction of several cottages, Clapp Auditorium, Yancey Lodge, Vesper Point, the Cross at Overlook Park and campus walkways. A key piece of what one writer calls the “Golden Years” of Mount Sequoyah, Yancey was a tireless advocate who traveled far and wide to promote awareness of the retreat. In 1940, he was proud to report to the Board of Trustees that “I have picked up quite a bit of cash for the Assembly during the year and for the first time in the history of the Assembly we have had cash in the treasury and have been able to pay all bills when they come due.” For context, his proposed general fund budget for 1941 was $15,810, a figure that included expenses for “telephone and telegraph.” The budget exceeds $1.5 million annually now
A Natural Retreat
While the physical presence of Mount Sequoyah is defined in large part by its more than 40 structures, the diverse natural beauty of the grounds also contributes to the center’s enduring appeal. The founders of Mount Sequoyah intended it to be that way. When the center was first configured, a landscape architect was employed. Harry and Stella Ware, memorialized by a plaque at the Cottage Circle gazebo, donated sugar maples in 1922. Today, an array of trees and flowers explode with color and fragrance each spring, and in the fall, the changing leaves are picturesque. Mount Sequoyah remains adorned with maples, oaks, hickories, dogwoods and crepe myrtles, roses, lilies, jonquils, and azaleas.
A New Era
By 2010, Church business had fallen from 100 percent to just 17 percent of Mount Sequoyah’s annual business. The Church had also become concerned about the liability exposure associated with owning a property that it rarely used for traditional purposes. As the Church considered what to do with the property, the future of Mount Sequoyah became uncertain.
In June of 2016, the then interim CEO received a letter from the College of Bishops proposing to transfer ownership of the center and property to the Mount Sequoyah Board of Trustees. The Board immediately agreed to the plan. In a matter of five weeks, the necessary documents were drafted, the Board approved, and the transfer was presented to the South Central Jurisdiction. In July of 2016, 300 members of the Jurisdiction voted to transfer ownership and control of the property to a newly formed secular non-profit: Mount Sequoyah Center Inc., a 100 percent independent organization. Mount Sequoyah entered a new era.
Mount Sequoyah Center continues to operate as a non-profit, maintaining its tradition, but is welcoming to everyone regardless of religious affiliation. It provides a service to the community by offering a tranquil park setting for the public to enjoy. It offers programming for youth and seniors. It provides support for other non-profits in the region. Not to be underestimated is its value to the community as a historic property worth preserving.