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I once heard a radio announcer say, "Tune in tomorrow and see if Cain killed Abel." It is doubtful if there are many people who would not know the outcome of the encounter. Better not press our luck much further than Cain and Abel, but I did find some interesting reading all through the book of Genesis. That Ark still intrigues me and I can't imagine how the Russians and Turks can contain themselves enough to keep from going up on Mount Ararat and finding out if the Ark is still there. Maybe it is a good thing that women are not running their governments or they would already know.

    We are told that the first Protestant prayer on Florida soil was at Mayport or what would most likely be east of the present village. Jean Ribault and his men uttered that prayer, and after seeing the size of the Timucuan Indians, one would suspect that it was a most fervent supplication. I find no record of the Huguenots having built a church there or at Fort Caroline. The Spanish Catholics were the people who built churches with a fervor. The first church of record in the community was San Juan del Puerto (St. Johns of the Port). Built in the middle of Fort George Island in 1580, it was a very popular church as Father Francisco Paríjo ministered to his converts.

    After the unpleasantness of the sixties, Mrs. Ellen Ward of New York City gave $1,500.00 to start an Episcopal Church on Fort George Island. This church was started in the summer of 1881 and was built on a knoll overlooking the wild marshes and the Atlantic Ocean. St. Georges Church is small with the typical Episcopal architecture of that time. There is one grave in the yard of the church and I have often wondered why an infant was buried there. I have often thought of taking an early morning ferry and going to church over there, but guess I would have trouble keeping my mind on the service being surrounded by so much exciting history. With a little soft music, you could really let your mind wander. The church was surrounded by wild horses until about 1930, but both Black Beard and Zephaniah Kinglsey had been gone some years before the church was built.

    The Murray Hall Hotel was a luxury hotel with some one hundred seventy-five rooms, built at a cost of $150,000.00. It was in the parlors of this hotel that the first services of St. Paul's By-The-Sea Episcopal Church were held. The hotel was located on the corner of what is now Highway 90 and First Street and the church was built some two blocks away on the corner of Second Street and Second Avenue South. The church was established in 1886 and at that time this section was known as Pablo Beach. In the year 1884, a German bark loaded with Honduras mahogany sprang a leak and came ashore under full sail. This causes me to wonder if, perhaps, some of that mahogany found its way into the building of the church. Most of the wood is painted now and it would be difficult to tell.

    In 1952, this little church was moved to a new location on 11th Avenue at 5th Street North where it served until more room was needed for the congregation. This time the church was turned to face Patricia Lane and an additional twenty-four feet was added by first cutting through the church and splicing in this section. The architecture remained the same and it was still the same beautiful church, only twenty-four feet longer. After the new church was built there was no further need for the little white church, so it was given to the members of the Central Christian congregation who had it moved to its present location on Florida Boulevard. They now have added a bell.

    The Diocese felt that Mayport needed an Episcopal Church during the twenties and Mrs. Jeanette Gavagan donated a half lot on Broad Street for this purpose. The church was barged down from Chaseville, (some few miles up river from Mayport), and placed on the lot where it remained until 1935 when it was torn down. This was St. John's Episcopal and the church simply had too much against it to succeed. The town's biggest industry had gone and the railroad had been taken up. To make matters worse, we were in the midst of a depression.

    This old building must have had lots of history associated with it up in Chaseville. I still remember the indignity of the old church sprawled out on the ground as it was torn down. There were many long timbers and trusses, it gave you the impression of a fallen giant. I'll not go into the type of restaurant built from these timbers, but one could wish for a more glorious ending for a building such as this.

    The Christ Episcopal Church was built out of a need for a church at Ponte Vedra, (not that Ponte Vedra needed a church worse than any other community). We have watched this church grow until it is a big church now, and there is one thing that still sticks in our mind about the building of the church. One morning as we went to work we found a man waiting for us with a big sheet of copper. This man was a moonshiner and that was no secret, but I was curious as to why he wanted me to buy the copper. When asked why he did not go ahead and use it as he had planned, he told me that the boys were too hot after stills now, and he wanted twenty dollars for the material. The price was fair, so I bought it.

    The next day a man who was doing some additions to the Christ Church saw the copper and wanted to buy it. He was told the whole story and that the price was still twenty dollars. Today, as you ride by the church and see that copper steeple up there, think what it might have been!

    There are two other churches in our general vicinity which I think should be mentioned. First, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church was established in 1888 and a building program begun. The location of the church was on the corner of Duval Street and Florida Avenue in Jacksonville. This area became so cluttered that the building was recently torn down. Many very prominent people were associated with that church. Guess I'm a nut on woods, but I was fascinated to learn that the front doors were made of mahogany from a log washed up on the beach and presented to the church by George A. Decottes who kept a cottage in Atlantic Beach for many years. The carving on the doors was done by the father of Rex Beach, the author who helped to form some of my early reading habits.

    The other church that should be mentioned was the Church of Our Saviour. It was established in 1883 and was damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Dora in 1964. It has since been rebuilt much like the original. This church was established by Professor Stowe, husband of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. This author had nothing to do with my reading habits. The Church of Our Saviour is located on the south bank of the St. Johns River in Mandarin surrounded by orange groves. It is still pretty. Drive out and see it sometime. My friend. Bob Hay, tells me that the original church was burned in 1911 and that the building, damaged by storm Dora, was a replacement, not the original.

    It is wonderful how many northern Episcopalians were concerned about our spiritual health. How much better we would have fared if, along with the prayer books, they had packed some "catheads" (biscuits). Unless I should sound ungrateful, let me belatedly thank the cities of Philadelphia, New York and Boston who each had a shipload of food in Savannah, Georgia as soon as they were able to get in after cessation of hostilities in 1865.

    The Presbyterians have a part in the churches of antiquity. The Mayport Presbyterian Church dates back to 1887, and services have been held in this church continuously for over seventy years. In some places that would be considered a comparatively youthful church, but not here. Until recent years this country was sparsely settled, but now the secret is out and people are finding happiness here in ever increasing numbers. The first church ever attended by me as a child proudly displays a name of "Wilson's Church, Est. 1814." They don't tell you that this is not the original building. The original building was reportedly burned because it was too close to a bar and bartender figured this arson business was the best way to eliminate competition.

    At the turn of the century, there was a ring of beautiful homes surrounding the Ribault Bay and many of these people were members of the Mayport Church until a great storm came in and washed away most of the unprotected homes. With their homes gone, most of these people moved to Jacksonville and the little church closed its doors. Some eight years later Viola King (now Mrs. Walter Boley) and the four Bennett girls, Annie, Essie, Glenny and Ella, thought there should be a Sunday School and church in the old building. Even though they were only young girls, they set to work and there have been services there since that time. Viola King has played the piano there since the beginning. This is one church where they still are not afraid to ring the bell and to give thanks that the Navy stopped just short of taking the church in their acquisition program. The bell in any community was at one time a very useful instrument. It was run to announce services, to toll the death of someone, in case of fire, and to announce the coming of a New Year.

    The Community Presbyterian Church of Atlantic Beach was built in 1942 and it was my pleasure to cooperate with the contractor, A.M. Inman, in the building of this sanctuary. The contract was for $7,500.00, It still amazes me how much you could get for your money at that time. The only trouble was to get hold of some money. (Eddie Mier tells me that he was digging big palm trees ready for transplanting for ten cents each in those days.) This church has grown and prospered over the years and has come to bless the community.

    The Palms Presbyterian Church, the northern Presbyterian Church on the southern end of town has built a big, beautiful sanctuary under the guidance of Jim Tinsley and seems to be heading for where ever churches go when they are successful.

    In the early thirties, churches were not overly plentiful here at the beaches, and being of Methodist persuasion, our family attended the Baptist Church because there was not a Methodist church handy. The Baptist Church was located on the same lots where the Jacksonville Beach City Hall now is. It was a small, one story frame building and the pastor came down from Jacksonville each week for a promise of seven dollars. As money conditions began to improve, this little church was raised and made into a two-story building with the lower story of concrete blocks. Soon after that, a big beautiful structure was built at Second Avenue North and the old church was sold to B. B. McCormick and Sons. This First Baptist Church has since built a $385,000.00 church and has underwritten five missions. Quite an active congregation, I would say.

    There was one Baptist Church west of Third Street and they had not yet put in a Baptistry, so they were forced to use the ocean for their baptisms. In those days cows frequented the ocean front and the beach, and it complicated matters somewhat. They always seemed to have plenty of conversions and baptisms in the summer time, but during the winter conversions were few and far between. Guess that is what the Baptists mean by no back sliding. If you had it strong enough to go into that icy water in the winter time, you should have it from then on. Today I count ten Baptist Churches in our community. That has taken an energetic bunch of people.

    The Mayport Catholic Church was built in 1897 and we are told that Judge James Gavagan, who was only a boy at the time, gave the first dollar toward the construction. Judge Gavagan was the Justice of the Peace and about all of the law that Mayport had for over thirty years. This church was located on the road from Mayport to East Mayport and was in the path of the Navy so it was torn down in 1940. The last mass there was held in November of that year. The altar in that church was beautiful, having been made by so many loving hands. For many years, the larger percentage of Mayport was Catholic, but I'm not sure about the percentage now. There are hardly enough people there now to have a percentage, for it continues to shrink.

    The St. Paul's Catholic Church was on the ocean front at Jacksonville Beach. A small frame building, after taking so many beatings from the storms, it was worn out by the time the new structure was built on First Avenue North. The Beachcomber Motel is on the lot where the church was. Some time back, there was a small Catholic Church that served Palm Valley for years. It was under the auspices of the Catholic Church at Loretto, where there has been a strong church and school for years. The father who served the church had to drive a horse and buggy from Loretto, a distance of several miles. That was no small feat in itself. Often the services were very poorly attended except on the occasion of a funeral, then everybody in the Valley came. One old timer gives this version of this occasion: "He gave us unshirted Hell!" These were rough people and if it affected one of them in such a manner, wonder what it would do to our anemic congregations today.

    The St. Johns Catholic Church on Mayport Road serves that community well. I have only been inside this church one time and that was to a funeral. However, for a young church, it now seems to be faring well.

    We have two Lutheran Churches, both in Jacksonville Beach. I believe they are under different Synods. I sometimes wonder if it is better to have a church broken up into sections or all in one piece. It seems to me that our Methodist Church has shown very little improvement since it has become United Methodist Church. We have the Church of Christ, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Pentecostal, Holiness, Nazarene, The Church of God, The Assembly of God, The Holiness Chapel, and many others that I cannot recall at this time. Everyone of them is doing a good job, and with things as bad as they are in general, we could hardly survive without them.

    There are two Christian Churches here and, after a struggle, both are doing well. The First Christian Church is housed in a beautiful sanctuary on the ocean front at Neptune Beach. The Central Christian Church is housed in the memory-laden structure that originally housed St. Paul's Episcopal so long and so well. This building is now located on Florida Boulevard. The Jehovah's Witness have a nice structure on Sixteenth Avenue South, and appear to have good congregations. Somehow, they always seem to get the people out.

    For years my friend William Jordan had a desire to build and pastor a church until he finally could stand it no longer. Many buildings were being torn down and he secured enough of this lumber to start in the construction of a church. For years he labored until he had built a very neat little chapel and named it just that—"Jordan's Chapel." This became a Methodist Church under the jurisdiction of the central conference and Reverend Jordan was an ordained Methodist minister, the only difference being that he owned the church and the Bishop could not move him.

    Additions were made to the chapel in order to provide for a nursery and kindergarten. Food subsidies were obtained and, as his wife Margaret took over the running of the school and nursery, it has filled a great need in the community. This school takes in all races and creeds and does an excellent job. It is a real treat to go out there and see so many happy little faces and all of them well fed.

    Lillie Simmons ran a small school in her home for years, with heavy emphasis always being put on the Christian side. This was all of the instruction in religious life or on what is right and what is wrong that many of the children ever received. She knew that the scope of this should be widened and she began making plans for a church. Somehow she secured a lot and then went out for donations. This was in 1937 and we still had not recovered from the throes of the depression but she did get some donations. With this small amount of material and money, plus a heart full of faith, the church was started. It was located on Francis Avenue in Atlantic Beach and I remember, as we stood on the lot for the dedication, noticing that the lot had been freshly burned off. The dedication was by Reverend Ernest Dieffenwierth. I thought he took a most realistic text in view of the circumstances. Exodus 3-5 where Moses faces the burning bush . . . "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."

    This church is still prospering but Lillie Mae Simmons has gone to her reward long ago. Her realism still prevails in the church for I was reading one of their reports and saw this question and answer at their Quarterly Conference. Question: "Are all of the preachers blameless in life and conversation?" Answer: "Their characters passed." How much more realistic can you get than that? The name of this church is Robert's Mr. Pisgah A.M.E. Church, and they still have trouble in making deposits with such a long name, besides just everybody can't spell Pisgah. The name was taken from the Bible . . . "Mt. Pisgah's lofty heights."

    The St. Paul's Methodist Church in Mayport is probably the oldest Methodist church anywhere near here. It was in a sad state of repair and enough money was finally raised to put it in good shape again. The contractor found the structure supporting the bell in such shape that it had to be torn away. This necessitated taking the bell from the tower and placing it on the ground where it lay for a year or more. I was interested in the bell and since no one else wanted it, the bell was given to me. Moving the bell was no small job but we finally were able to get it to our store where it was rung on various occasions. It had a beautiful tone and some of the old timers said that the bell was over a hundred years old and had been made in Savannah, Georgia. It must have been one really big job to get a five hundred pound bell up into a tower without any draglines or heavy lifting equipment, probably done with a long gen pole equipped with block and tackle. That type equipment has almost been lost in this section at least. It always was hard labor and who wants to labor now?

    We kept the bell around the store for a few years until an antique dealer saw it and wanted to buy it for a client. A price of $125.00 was agreed on with the customer picking the bell up. When the customer came for the bell, she wanted to know how to make out the check. She was told to make it out to St. Paul's Methodist Church, and we in turn gave the check to the pastor of this church. I had always heard that it was difficult to give anything away properly, and now I know.

    It reminded me of the boy who was given a boomerang for his birthday and tried to throw the old one away. When the congregation found that they had $125.00 free and unfettered, they really had a meeting to spend it. Guess church people are not different from anyone else when it comes to spending money, and this particular meeting almost broke up the church. This may be one way of getting your congregation out, but I wonder, out of what? The little church finally settled back into its normal apathetic way, with its few faithful followers and the bell is now in Switzerland, Florida, amid beautiful orange and grapefruit groves.

    There is another little Methodist Church that has been here for ages. The St. Andrew's Church is located on 9th Street South in Jacksonville Beach, and has done a wonderful job. The guiding light behind this church was a grand old lady called Mother Martin.

    The Christ Methodist Church on Penman Road in Neptune Beach was started some ten years ago and has made good progress, having built a kindergarten, Sunday School rooms, and a large fellowship hall with an excellent kitchen. They are planning for a sanctuary and will build one when conditions are more in line.

    On October 17, 1937, the Beach Methodist Church held its first meeting in the Beach Theatre in Jacksonville Beach, with Reverend Allen as temporary pastor, and A.N. Inman assisting him as lay leader. The beach had begun to grow again after several years of near stagnation, and many people were commuting between the beaches and Jacksonville where their work was. The 1930 census of Jacksonville Beach, which included Neptune Beach at that time, was four hundred and nine people. This Methodist church had fifty-nine charter members so there had been some rapid increase in population.

    The church needed a home and it was invited to make use of the upper story of J.B. Arnot's newly completed bakery on the corner of Pablo Avenue and First Street, where the Coliseum now stands. The quarters were free but the congregation felt the need of bigger accommodations belonging to themselves. They began preparations by buying two lots on the corner of Fourth Street and Seventh Avenue North for $200.00 each. A great howl went up from some of the congregation because the lots were in the country and too difficult to attend services there. Hardly anyone had two cars then and many people did not have one.

    Plans for the new church were drawn and it was decided to have a coquina exterior, something that would almost be prohibitive now, but at that time cost less than brick. The congregation raised $5,000.00 and were given $10,000.00 by the Livingston Memorial Fund with the provision that if the coming unification of the northern and southern Methodist churches failed to take place, then the congregation would have to pay back the $10,000.00. The reason for this was that the Livingston Memorial Fund was of the northern Methodist and the Beach Methodist was of the southern branch.

    The church was built of heart pine lumber from Holopaw, Florida. I doubt if you could get a crew of carpenters now to work on lumber as hard as that was. The frames and windows were all of heart cypress and even the floor was of heart pine. All of this for $15,000 and the contractor did not go broke. Pews in this church were built by W.P.A. workmen, and I've often wondered what skilled craftsman carved the communion table from heart cypress. He was good.

    We have forty churches in and around here now and without them it would not be such a desirable place to live.