Midway Church of Christ | Union County Florida | c. 1910s
Born in 1844, George Washington Thomas arrived just 8 months before Florida gained statehood. The frontier to which he was born had seen two Florida-Indian wars, English ownership, Spanish ownership, and invasion by U.S. troops in its last 50 years, but the second half of the 19th century would bring more changes than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
On May 21, 1864, George enlisted in Florida’s 1st Infantry, Company I at Lake Butler for the Confederate States of America. At the close of the war, he would return safely to his home in Union County, but his father-in-law, Thomas Gaskins, was not as fortunate. He succumbed to wounds received in battle in nearby Baker County in 1864.
As the war ended, I think about how much different life was before and after. All of the changes and shifts in the post-war period must have been challenging to say the least. But people like George kept moving, kept building, kept farming, and kept growing their families. He was active in and nurtured the surrounding community and left a long line of descendants to carry his memory. And luckily for all of us, he left us this place as well.
In August of 1907 at 63 years old, he deeded this piece of land for a community church, schoolhouse, and cemetery. Although building began shortly after, George would pass away in November of that year, never having seen the finished product. As the story goes, the community thought he should have one service in the place he cared so much about, so his casket was laid cross-wise along the exposed floor beams of the half-finished church. His was the first burial at the cemetery.
Born in the middle of a very tumultuous time, this man was able not only to adapt, but to grow himself, his family, and his community. An honorable legacy to be sure.