HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Sapling Woods and the Methodist Church
This article was last revised on Dec. 16, 2018.
Ella Mae Hay Patterson recalled that Sapling Woods
was a settlement at East Elfers Cemetery. The cemetery is located just southeast of New Port Richey.
A July 8, 1893, newspaper refers to “Sapling Woods village.”
On Feb. 16, 1894, the Tampa Weekly Tribune reported, “Oranges have been picked off of the
grove of Mr. P. L. Webster, out in the Sapling woods. The yield, as reported by Mr. Hill, was about 500 boxes.”
On July 30, 1895, a newspaper reported, “The Whiddens grew up in what is called ‘The Neck,’ in which they were
thrown into contact with sea-faring adventures, smugglers, etc. …”
According to Florida Cracker Days, in the early part of 1900 the Sapling Woods Methodist Church was moved
to the NW corner of SR 54 and SR 595. Later, the church was moved just east of where Rev. Mitchell lived.
West Pasco’s Heritage has:
In 1910 the little block church was sold and another was built on an acre of land in Elfers donated
by J. M. Mitchell, who also furnished the material
from his own saw mill to build the church. Sam
Baker was the head carpenter. This building was
used as a social hall after a new sanctuary was built
during the pastorate of Rev. Henry E. Partridge,
Information provided by the Methodist Church for a WPA survey has: “1910, church erected on Rd. #19,
in Elfers. This building was used until present rectangular, white, frame
building erected in 1916.”
About 1918 or 1919, a new sanctuary for the Methodist church was built at the corner
of Pine and Orange Streets, during the pastorate of Rev.
Henry E. Partridge. (One of the first services held in the new
sanctuary was the wedding of Miss Jennie Edwards to
Harvey O. Sheldon on June 18, 1919. According to Florida Cracker Days, “About 1915, a new facility
was erected and the Rev. J. M. Mitchell preached there for many years. This church was located a quarter
mile from State Route 595, and two blocks east of the Rev. Mitchell’s home.”)
In a letter to the New Port Richey Press published on Jan. 12, 1922, Mrs. J. O. T. Brown
wrote that earlier names for Elfers were the Neck, and Sapling Woods. However, it appears more likely
that Sapling Woods was located northeast of what became Elfers.
On Jan. 26, 1922, the New Port Richey Press reported, “Rev. C. W. Cotton
has been appointed pastor of the Elfers Methodist Church for the ensuing year.
He and his wife arrived last night.”
West Pasco’s Heritage has:
It was not until 1925 that the Elfers Methodists
were able to build a parsonage. In the fall of that
year, Rev. Paul Redfearn moved his bride into the
new parsonage and was immediately given an old
time charivari by the young people of the neighborhood. The new minister did not know of the custom
and, instead of accepting it in the manner and spirit
it was intended, he took it as a personal insult. The
occasion caused tense relations between the members of the church and the minister. However, the
Baptist minister, acting as a mediator, extracted an
apology from the minister and pleaded with the congregation for understanding. Rev. Redfearn became
well liked in the community and served the Elfers
circuit another year. Since then he has risen high in
the Methodist Conference and has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
West Pasco’s Heritage has:
The crash of 1929 made it necessary for many
people who had been employed in Elfers to seek work
elsewhere and this affected the entire community,
including the church attendance. The Florida Conference abolished the Elfers Circuit and added Elfers
to the newly formed New Port Richey charge which
included New Port Richey, Elfers, Hudson, Odessa,
Lake Fern and Keystone. Rev. P. S. Anderson was
appointed to the New Port Richey parish and chose to
live there. The Elfers parsonage was rented until
1933 and then was sold.
After the Elfers Methodist Church closed its
doors in 1940, one final service was held in the
church that summer. On August 24, Mary Lou St.
Clair and L. G. Knight were united in marriage by
Rev. Felton Whittle, pastor of the New Port Richey
Methodist Church. In 1944 the building was leased for a year to be used as a Baptist Church
and was then sold to the Baptists. The parish has prospered as is now known as the First Baptist Church of Elfers.
On May 1, 1940, the Evening Independent reported, “A meeting was held last Sunday
at the Elfers Methodist church by the members of both the local and Elfers churches to discuss
the merger of the two. It is expected the Elfers church will join forces with the New Port Richey
church and the church and the church building at Elfers torn down to be rebuilt as a Sunday
school room on the local church site.”
Sapling Woods Methodist Church
The following is taken from Methodism: Growth and Glory by
Mary Lou Knight and Helen Irene DeCoudres.
Seeing the needs of the Methodist group for a meeting
place, the Lake Butler Villa Company, A. P. K. Safford, President,
on November 10, 1885, deeded five acres of land to the Methodist
Conference to be used as a place of divine worship for the
ministry and membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
This church, when established, became known as the Sapling Woods
Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The land was located in section 10,
Township 26 South, Range 16, East, in the county of Hernando. It
was near the Pithlachascotee River about five miles east of Trouble
Creek on what is now Trouble Creek Road. Trouble Creek got is
name from the fact that at low tide the fishermen encountered
difficulty in getting their boats in and out of the
cove and into the bay to fish.
On this five acres of land known today as the East Elfers
Cemetery, a one room church was built. A descendant of one
of the pioneer families, Joe Baillie, describes it as an “old
block house.” Today a naked spot of ground in the cemetery
marks the spot where the little church stood so long.
There follows a long list of ministers who served this little
Sapling Woods Methodist Church, one year at a time, for the
next twenty-five years: W. H. Parker, J. L. M. Spain, S. B. Black,
W. J. J. Whidden, Benj. T. Rape, J. P. Durrance, W. H. Parker,
J. M. Diffenworth, T. H. Sistrunk, G. W. Gatewood,
J. M. Mitchell, M. T. Bell, Tom McMulon, W. F. Fletcher
and R. Ira Barnett. …
By the year 1910, the area began to show signs of growth.
New settlers were attracted there and began to form
a community nearer the bay. A new store had been erected
and the first post office was being built. When it came
time to name the newly established post office, Elfers,
a name rich in tradition but whose origin is uncertain,
was chosen. [Note: the origin of the name Elfers can be found
In order to be nearer the center of population,
the little Sapling Woods Methodist Church, which had
served the early settlers, was abandoned and a new
building site was sought in the vicinity of the new post office.
On April 10, 1910, J. A. Sheffield, a pioneer
land owner, deeded one square acre of land in section 17,
in Township 26, South, of Range 16, East, to the Methodist
Episcopal Church, South, as a place of divine worship.
Encouraged by this gift, Rev. A. M. Mann, pastor, began
plans for the new building. J. M. Mitchell, business man
and leader in the life and development of the new town of Elfers,
furnished material from his saw mill and the men of the church
volunteered to do the work. The construction of a large one room
church building progressed rapidly with Sam Baker as head carpenter.
Eventually the “old block house” was sold to Henry Witt
who used the material to build a house on the backside (east) of
where the Seven Springs Golf Course is now flourishing.
The following is an oral history by Ella Mae Hay Patterson (who died at age 102 on March 1, 1994), taken
from Florida Cracker Days in West Pasco County 1830-1982.
My earliest recollection of the Methodist Church was a
small wooden building located in the settlement of Sapling
Woods, now known as East Elfers Cemetery.
There were two rows of wooden benches. The women and
children sat on the right side and the men on the left. The space
at the rear was left for mats or blankets used as pallets for
children who fell asleep, as they often did, when the minister
preached for two or three hours.
The mothers would bring cookies for their children so they
would not get hungry and cause a disturbance. My father
disapproved of this practice so we had to wait until we got
home to eat.
My mother told us about an incident that occurred one day
when a woman was passing out cookies to her children. My
sister Sadie was sitting by her and asked the lady for one.
When she was ignored, she reached over and took a bite out of
her knee. This caused quite a disturbance and embarrassed my
father so that he allowed my mother to take cookies to church,
My father, William Byrd Hay, and mother, Mamie Baker
Hay, met in this church and were probably married there. I’m
After they were married, they lived in a grove about three
miles northeast of Elfers. They had four children, Olan, Sadie,
Mattie and myself.
My father passed away in 1895 and my mother continued to
live there until we were old enough to attend school.
My uncle, Jessie Hay, exchanged homes with my mother,
and we moved to Hudson because there was no school near us
at the time.
My brother, Olan, died in 1918 and was buried in Hudson.
My mother moved to Tarpon Springs and lived there until
1949. Sister Mattie died in 1970 and Sadie in 1974.
I am the only survivor of the William Byrd Hay family and,
as far as I know, of the Abraham and Sarah Hay family, my
grandparents. I never knew them as they died before I was