Former "circuit" church developed into anchor of Reddick community
Sept. 11 is a significant date in the history of the First United Methodist Church of Reddick. On Sunday, current members, the pastor, past ministers, district superintendents and friends will celebrate the church’s founding in 1876. The history of the church, however, began many years before it came to Reddick.
Agnes Bishop Wilson, in her book “First United Methodist Church, Reddick, Florida: Pierce Chapel 1876-1976,” wrote that in 1876 the church was located at Millwood and was known as the Millwood Church. It served the farming communities of Lowell, Reddick and Orange Lake. In 1876, 14 women and seven men were recorded as charter members; by 1899 the church membership was at 56.
The church was built on an acre of land that was given by the Samuel H. Owens family. Owens and his family came to this area of northwest Marion County during the 1850s from South Carolina. His large farm was known as the Millwood Plantation and, after the Civil War, a small settlement would develop in the area of what is now the Millwood Cemetery near Reddick.
There are indications that services may have been held at Millwood Plantation before the church formed, as pre-Civil War owners of large farms encouraged early Methodist circuit riders to stop by and hold services. Minutes of the 31st Methodist Conference held Dec, 16, 1874, in Live Oak, for example, state that the Rev. John C. Ley was preaching at the church at Millwood.
The 1879 deed given by the Owens family shows there was a small church building on the land.
In 1891, a vote was taken by members of the church as to whether to stay at Millwood or be relocated to nearby Reddick, which was growing due to its proximity to the newly constructed railway. The vote was six to remain at Millwood and 12 to move to Reddick. During a Charge Conference held Nov. 22, 1891, the vote was unanimous to rename the church Pierce Chapel in honor of Bishop Pierce of the Methodist Church.
The Ocala Evening Star wrote that the cornerstone for the Pierce Chapel was laid on Friday, Feb. 19, 1892.
Tradition has it that the church building at Millwood was moved by skids, which were rolled on logs and pulled by mules, to the site where the church sits now in Reddick. It was on Sept. 11, 1892, that the first service, by the Rev. James Howland, was held in Pierce Chapel.
According to Steve Rajtar in “Reddick Historical Trail,” the church building was enlarged in 1892, with the structure taking on a “Victorian Vernacular style with a Gothic influence.” A building committee of Dr. B.P. Wilson, George W. Leonard and T.J. Davidson was appointed. It has been written that Lewis S. Light, who owned a nearby sawmill, donated the lumber for “the new church,” which was named First United Methodist Church of Reddick.
The church, in Millwood and Reddick, has been a gathering place for almost a century and a half. Generations of families have grown up in the church.
Joy Lewis Maxwell Row is a member of one such family. Row is the oldest continuous current member. Her grandchildren are the fourth generation of her family to attend the church. Row, whose family lived at Lowell, said there is “something comforting about the old building,” adding that after you enter the doors, if you stop and take a minute “you feel the spirit of God.”
When she was growing up in the church it had a balcony that was reached by a narrow staircase, which is where Sunday school classes were held. The church was on a circuit and services were not held every Sunday, but Sunday school was. That was where Row and others learned songs such as “Jesus Loves Me,” she said.
She said her Sunday school teachers were really good, with Irene Rou being her first one. Row said most of the ministers were very good with the young people and that often the youth of the Methodist church and those from the Presbyterian church next door would join together for activities.
Row also recalled fish fries and fried chicken dinners that helped bring the community together. Every summer, she said, the church would have a picnic at a member’s lake place and they would “load up” everyone in the back of her father’s farm truck and off to the lake they would go.
Kay Stewart came to live in Reddick in 1956, at age 14, when her father W. H. C. Stewart was appointed to the church by the Methodist Conference. During his three years as minister the fellowship hall was planned and built. It was called Stewart Hall. When his appointment ended, the family remained in town and made it their home. Kay graduated from North Marion High School, then located in Reddick, in 1962.
Billy DeVore grew up in the Presbyterian church next door to the Methodist church. His church also did not have services every Sunday and often the members of both churches would attend whichever church was having services. DeVore said the youth of both churches “joined forces for youth activities, Sunday school and vacation Bible school.”
On May 17, 1966, Kay Stewart and Billy DeVore were married by her father and the Rev. R.E. Rutland. The DeVores celebrated their 50th anniversary in May.
Billy DeVore said he has fond memories of joint Thanksgiving and Christmas services, when the families of the community gathered together.
Kay DeVore recalled people she came to know through the church, such as Jeff and Jeanne Stroup because of their involvement with the youth. Layton Lockamy, she said, was a gentlemen with a jovial heart and was always willing to help. Kay, Jacque Stroup and Stevie Aiton sang together in church while Winifred Freimuth played the piano.
Donald J. “Don” Hanna was appointed minister of the church in 1988. It was the third church the young minister would serve. When asked recently what made it special, he said, “the warmth of the people.”
When Hanna served as minister, the church was no longer on a circuit but was a “station” church, the Methodist term for a stand-alone church. He said Reddick was a wonderful community and that the church and town folks made him feel at home and welcomed. It also was where he met Joy Grimes of Lowell, whose family attended the church. They were married there during the second year of his appointment.
The Rev. Ryan Frack, has been serving the church since 2013.
“Everyone is excited about the upcoming celebration; that this is a wonderful event for the church,” he said.
The excitement of the parishioners shows the pride they have in their church, Frack said, adding that the generations of families that will be represented on Sunday will be “great” and that this will be a time to reinforce what the church has meant to the community will also be a “shot in the arm” for the future.
Although a "homecoming" is held every five years, this is a special time to reflect on the history of the church and its people, he said.
The celebration of the church's long history will begin at 9:30 a.m. Sunday with coffee and doughnuts, followed by a worship service at 11:15 a.m. with the Rev. Russell Clark, minister from 2010-2013, which will be followed by a meal and an old-fashioned hymn sing. The church is located at 15290 NW 42nd Terrace, just off Gainesville Road.
For more information, email Frack firstname.lastname@example.org or contact church member and Reddick Mayor Jim R. Stroup at 591-3250 or email@example.com.