The History Of Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church

The Town of Interlachen was started in the year 1881 when a narrow gauge railroad was run from Palatka to Gainesville and Brooksville. The first house was built in 1882 and this building is still in use as the post office. At that early date the town was known as Blue Pond.

In that same year of 1882 the first religious organization came into being when the Blue Pond Union Sunday School was started in September. David Young, the man who had the largest share in the organization and growth of the town at that time, was a Congregationalist and he gave land and financial help for teh bulding of the first church in the town - The First Congregationalist Church, erected in 1885.

In these early years, a good many English people came to settle in the community and they greatly desired the opportunity to worship in the manner to which they were accustomed, and soon began talking of the possibility of an Episcopal church. Among those belonging to this early group of churchmen were Lord James Erskine and his mother (the latter being one of the main contributors), J.G. Fitzgibbons, Norman Hastings, Mr. and Mrs. Evan Brown, Robert Colyard, The Watson Brothers, a Mr. Hardon, whose father was a priest of the church, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Knapp.

In April of 1890, things came to a head when Mr. and Mrs. Knapp deeded Lot 6 and a part of lot 5, of Block B, of Young's Addition, for the erection of a church building. By this time, the town had come to bear its present name of Interlachen and the new church was named St. Stephen's. Much of the material for the church, including beams and fixtures, were brought from England. (Also silver, we believe.)

Interest continued, and by 1895 there were 8 families belonging to the church, with 28 baptized persons and 15 communicants. At that time, the mission was served by the Rev. R.N. Avery, D.D. The building was valued at $1500 and the lot at $500.

Records are far from complete, and for many of the years nothing is known. In 1908, we find the mission now known as St. Andrews, though why the name was changed is not given. On June 5, 1909, Mrs. Knapp, now a widow, deeded the church Lots 4 & 5, adjoining the land where the church stood. This gave room for a parish house and rectory at a future date, but such were never erected.

In 1907, there came to the community J.M. Jones and his wife, Annie Jones. They were Episcopalians and fine people in every respect. The doctor was soon known and loved over a wide area for his untiring devotion to duty. Sometimes in his buggy, sometimes riding his white horse, he was to be seen on all the highways and byways at any hour of the day or night. His wife, too, was greatly loved by all who knew her for her helpful neighborliness and civic interest. She was the librarian at Interlachen for a long time and there, too, the people found her kindly and helpful.

Naturally, two such devouted souls too great interest in their church. Of course, the doctor was unable to do as much as he would have liked, since his own ministry to the sick claimed so much of his time; but he did what he could, and Annie Jones, as she was affectionately called by everyone, came really to represent the church to the community. In fact, many people to this day refer to the chuch as Annie Jones' church.

The doctor passed into the larger life in the early 1920's, but his widow continued to reside in Interlachen and to help in every churchly and civic project until, at the advanced age of 75 years, when she was called home in 1937.

The little mission of St. Andrew's had its ups and downs through the years, but many of its members had moved or died and with the passing of "Mrs. Annie", it seemed that life began slowly to depart from the mission too. The war came - men were called to the colors - parish priests took up the role of chaplains - war industries called those unable to take up arms - and the little mission sank still further into torpor. Services were held less and less frequently, with smaller and smaller congregations, until finally there came the time when men no longer could be spared at all for such an unpromising work. For nearly two years, between 1940-1942, the doors were closed. But then, as so often happens in the work of the Kingdom, a new era began to dawn. Inserted here on the margins is a note, "An error, as the chuch was not closed." This was verified with Irma Fitzgerald, who confirmed that the church was not closed.

In the summer of 1942, a new family came to live in the Interlachen area. The Rev. Samuel Hardman and his wife and two daughters, who took up residence on a farm just outside of the village of Mannville. It was during the Second World War, and transportation was very difficult. The Hardman family wanted to be able to worship nearer home than Palatka, so they asked the Bishop's permission to start a work at Interlachen.

Bishop Juhan, shorthanded because of the number of his men serving in the Armed Forces, said he could not spare the Reverend Mr. Hardman himself fo rthis work, as there were so many larger and more active places in need of ministration; but after further conversation, he gave permission for the reopening of the work by the Misses Hardman, both of whom had been trained in the Church Training and Deaconesses School, Philadelphia.

These two - Miss Ivy and Miss Florence Hardman - at once contacted the few Episcopalians to be found in the neighborhood and asked them to meet in the church on the last Sunday in October 1942. At that meeting, Miss Ivy put forth a need for a place of worship nearer than Palatka, proposed the opening of a Church School that should be a benefit to all ages, and asked for their reaction. All present thought well of the idea and it was agreed to meet the following Saturday to give the old church a thorough cleaning and begin services the following day - All Saints Day, 1942.

On that day, then, the first service of this new opening of the work was held. Miss Ivy, who was unanimously elected leader of the group, read the Service of Morning Prayer and taught a Bible lesson in the place where a sermon would ordinarily come. This same pattern of service was adhered to throughout the next stage of the mission, save that as children began to come later on, Miss Florence took them by themselves and taught a lesson more within their capabilities.

That first service was truly enjoyed, though the number attending was small; but everyone felt that a beginning had been made from which great things might be expected. Imagine, then, the shock it was to everyone when, on the following Tuesday, the church building took fire from a neighhboring house and burned to the ground! The men of the town took their lives in their hands to get out all the furniture; except for the Communion Rail, which was bolted down too securely. They did their best to quench the flames, but the building was old and built of heart pine lumber, and went like a tinderbox.

Miss Ivy called the group to meet at her home the next Sunday and after some discussion it was decided to try and get the use of an on Church building in the village of Keuka, about two miles west of Interlachen. This building had been erected by the Dunkards, who had settled the place originially, and when they left after the Great Freeze, it was deeded to the community as common property for a community church.

Keuka, however, had never been able to get a minister as there were not enough people. So the church had been little used except for occasional evangelistic services. The trustees were quite willing for the little group of Episcopalians to use the building, so again they gathered to clean up and make a new place fit for the Lord's service. The furniture from the church in Interlachen was brought down, some repairs and improvements made on the Keuka building, and the mission was once again on its way.

There was no regularly established at Keuka, so it was not long before the neighbors, many of them, were attending St. Andrew's. Before the end of the year, several people had asked for Confirmation Instruction and Miss Ivy at once began a class. Attendance was good and when the Bishop was able to come for the Confirmation on the 19th of September 1943, a class of 11 - 9 adults and 2 young girls - was presented for the Laying on of Hands. It was most inspiring when exactly a third of the congregation present rose and went to the Communion Rail to receive the Rite.

The first baptisms had been performed before this when two baby girls were made members of the church on Palm Sunday; and again, when one of those desired Confirmation but had not been baptized in infancy, was baptized in preparation for the visit.

For nearly the first year, services were held in the morning and they were able to have Communion only occasionally when the Rev. Mr. Hardman had no other place to supply. However, in August 1943, the members decided it would be better from several stand points, if the time of the service were changed to the afternoon. They felt that more people could get out then and also it would be possible for the Rev. Mr. Hardman to give them a regular monthly Celebration of the Holy Communion.

During 1943 the Diocesan Altar Guild of New Jersey sent a large box of lovely pieces of materials and embroideries to be made up into Altar hanginges, etc. Hearing of this, the Altar Guild of the Church of the Holy Comforter, Crescent City, one of the congregations served by Mr. Hardman, offered to take the pieces and make up as many items as possible for them. This fine piece of churchly cooperation resulted in a complete set of the seasonal colors for St. Andrew's.

In May 1944, the mission received 20 copies of the 1940 Hymnal from St. Gabriel's Church, Hollis , NY. Ten were the choir edition and ten were the pew edition. They had previously gotten a gift of Prayer Books from the Bishop White Prayer Book Society, but the only hymnals they had received were a few very old ones that had been rescued from the fire.

In May 1945, the mission received a Prayer Desk from Jacksonville. It had belonged to one of the parishes there which had been refurbishing. This was much better than the old table which had been in use before. All these helps from other churches were a real blessing and inspiration to the members of the little mission.

In the summer of 1945, the Rev. Mr. Hardman became very ill and was no longer able to minister to the congregation. The Rev. George M. Alexander, Rector of Palatka, at once came to their assistance and offered to help out in any way possible; so, for the next two and a half years, he gave monthly Communion Services to the mission. During that time he was called from Palatka to Gainesville, but still continued his ministrations to St. Andrew's. He was much loved by the people.

This is the history of Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church, as recorded in The Book Of Remembrance for the Diocese Of Florida. The information presented here was compiled by Charleen McCormick and entered by Hazel Fuller on 6 July 2015.

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