Our Church History

In the mid -1880’s when central Florida was first being settled and railroads began crossing the state’s interior, there was a small group of ambitious, pioneering Christians that met at the South Lake Weir Schoolhouse and were determined to establish a church. At the same time community representatives supported the construction of a new church by Episcopalian leadership. As the building neared completion, the contractor left town prior to installing the high curved cathedral beams in the ceiling and to this day you will notice metal rods crossing the sanctuary where the cathedral beams would have gone. The group at the South Lake Weir Schoolhouse raised funds and took over the unfinished church. The Weirsdale church was officially recognized by the Presbyterian Church in 1891.

By 1883 the railroad had come to Lake Weir. The stagecoach from Tampa to Palatka passed by, stopping 4 miles away and the common transport of goods and people was by boat along the Ocklawaha River. The railroads provided transportation for produce and materials heading to major markets as well as for tourists and visitors drawn by the climate, conditions and attractions on Lake Weir. The local economy was dependent on citrus and in the winter of 1894-95 there was a “killing freeze” that damaged produce and killed many trees, resulting in many growers leaving the area.

The church had un-cushioned, folding seating until pews arrived in the 1950’s. The windows were plain glass, kerosene and oil lamps lined the walls and heat was supplied by a wood burning stove in the front near the pulpit. Electricity was installed in 1920 and the stained glass windows were dedicated in the late 1950’s. The first telephone bills appeared as an expense item in 1956.

In 1945 membership reached 125 and an additional wing was added for Sunday School classrooms upstairs and a fellowship hall and kitchen downstairs. Today the classrooms upstairs have been replaced by a library, parlor, church office and the pastor’s office. The downstairs area was used by Boy Scouts Troop #113 from 1942 until 1998 when a Boy Scout Building was constructed as a result of a gift from Esther Boyer Griswold. Our troop has produced 60 Eagle Scouts and its presence has resulted in rewarding intergenerational relationships.

In 1952 the Session assumed their responsibilities and the church was incorporated in 1957. In 1960 Elder Daisy Douglas was elected the first woman Moderator of the Synod and in 1963 would be the first woman ever nominated as Moderator of the national General Assembly. She and her husband, J.M. Douglas, were strong leaders, avid mission supporters and significant donors including the property site of the present fellowship hall. The Board of Deacons was established in 1964 and mission support remained at strikingly high levels for such a small church.

By 1987 membership had grown to 302 but on December 23, 1989 another “killing freeze” hit the area, lasting for over 2 days and was the final blow for remaining commercial citrus growers in the area. The impact of this exodus was felt in decreasing church membership.
In 1998 a change in church leadership resulted in greater community ministry. Lake Weir churches cooperated in creating the Community of Gratitude, a new ministry staffed by community volunteers, many of whom were Presbyterians. Focused on strengthening family, school and community, this ministry featured a much needed food pantry. The establishing of this was a result of an Eagle Scout Project and is now known as the Ocklawaha Food Pantry. Community support for Stanton Weirsdale Elementary School promoted by Community of Gratitude played a major role in the school’s stunning turnaround, achieving “A” level in 2002-2003 as the seventh best in the county. Weirsdale Presbyterian Church has been Community of Gratitude’s principal supporter.

Around the same time the church began the Tuesday Time Out, a congregate dining program for seniors that provides a brief program, fellowship and a hot meal each Tuesday for 40-100 seniors. In late 2002 the church became the home for a Senior Nutrition Center of Marion County Senior Services that meets daily from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm for fellowship, activities and a hot lunch.

The ambitious, pioneering spirit of the early Christians prevails today in the ministry of Weirsdale Presbyterian Church. We are a small, family oriented traditional congregation that invites all into a closer relationship with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and each other. Although many members represent a retired contingency, they each bring a special talent and their life’s experiences to the life of the Church. The greatest gift of this joyful congregation is their caring and sharing with whomever God places in their paths. Although each of our futures are uncertain, you can be assured that the life of this congregation is in God’s hands and its members look forward to an exciting, blessed future.