Florida Pioneer Church
Providence United Methodist Church | Alachua County Florida | c. 1884
The middle of the 19th century brought a lot of action and interest to inland Florida which thus far, had been largely unsettled by European descendants. Florida was now a U.S. territory and the federal government now had an interest in establishing stability in the state. The Armed Occupation Act of 1842 granted 160 acres of land to settlers who would stay for at least 5 years. This attracted many from Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia who packed up their families and headed south.
As early as 1852, a small group of these early Florida settlers began to meet near this site to worship. Many of these pioneers came from different places, but shared a common faith and could endure their hardships and successes together in this new environment. In 1855, a small log cabin was built here and would serve as the meeting place for this congregation, led by Reverend Edward Lawrence King and in the adjacent cemetery, the oldest grave dates to this year.
In the next 30 years, fighting with Natives, the Civil War and a boom of agricultural activity would greatly impact this small rural community. By 1884, this small congregation had grown and this structure was erected and dedicated. Their surrounding town now had a post office, 3 stores, 2 churches, a grist mill, 2 sawmills, and a doctor. The railroads which ran nearby daily delivered the agricultural goods produced here and commercial farming bolstered this small town.
But the next decade would deal a devastating blow to this area with back to back freezes which decimated most crops and marked the end of the agricultural industry here as farmers moved further south to replant. The stores began to close, the trains ran through town less frequently and the post office closed. By 1922, this church was listed as defunct and out of operation.
At some point, a congregation reformed here and still meets every Sunday. The adjacent cemetery has 587 internments, many of which are veterans dating back to the Civil War. The current congregation does a wonderful job of maintaining the property and honoring the memory of those who came before us.