HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
First Methodist Church (2009)
This history was provided by the church.
For the past 97 years, Methodist Christians have worshiped and served Zephyrhills.
In 1912, Reverend N. J. Hawley, by the authority of the District of the Conference, began meeting and ministering to about 30 persons. This group organized the present church.
After meeting in various locations, the first sanctuary was built with assistance from the Livingston Fund in Jacksonville, and was dedicated by Bishop Luther B. Wilson on January 10, 1915. At that time the bell that we hear each Sunday morning was purchased and installed in the belfry of the first sanctuary.
Stephens Memorial Hall was begun in 1922 and completed in 1924.
Growth inspired the current beautiful sanctuary which was opened June 13, 1963. The bell was then transferred to the new belfry. Roger Sibley, Sr. was the construction superintendent of the 1963 sanctuary and all subsequent buildings. Our inspired and inspiring stained glass windows were designed and crafted by Karl J. Mueller, with facial painting by Leonid Neczwid, who had studios and lived in Zephyrhills.
Throughout the years, additions and improvements have been added. Fellowship Hall, renamed Floyd W. Copper Hall, was built in 1973; Henry L. Kinnard Chapel and Christian Education Building in 1978-79; the church office, Roger L. Sibley, Sr. Building, in 1985.
Ministry through outreach by music, missions, UMW, UMM, Prayer Groups, Bible Study, Sunday School, children, and youth programs continue today to enrich and promote the growth of our church in the community.
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (2012)
This article was provided by Rev. Paul Holland.
One Hundred Years! That’s how long ago it was when the first prospective members met to worship in 1912. With 24 members, First Christian Church was organized in 1913. For two years, these believers met in the Garfield Memorial Hall located on 8th Street.
The first church building was built at the corner of 6th Avenue & 9th Street. It was dedicated on November 21, 1915. As the congregation grew the church needed more space. A fellowship area was added in 1940, and later a youth center and library. In 1951, further expansion created Sunday School rooms and a baptistery.
Rev. Millard Mount was installed as pastor in September 1958. He served for 19 years and was named Minister Emeritus by the Church.
In the mid 1960s, a five and a one half acre site on 8th Street and North Ave was purchased. It became the site where the current church is located. This building, the former sanctuary (now the current Fellowship Hall) was dedicated on February 1, 1970. The building design was unusual since it was not built like a traditional church, but was constructed in the shape of a cross.
In 1979, Rev. H. LaVern Preston came to First Christian Church. By 1983, the congregation was out-growing the church building, so a larger sanctuary was built south of the existing building, closer to North Avenue. A dedication ceremony for the new sanctuary was led by Rev. Preston on January 18, 1987. A steeple was added to the sanctuary in 2000. Before the steeple was put in place, sometimes people thought the church was a government building because of its close proximity to the Post Office and Police Department.
Rev. Preston retired in 1992 and Rev. Terrell (Terry) Harper was installed as minister. In 1998, there was a joyous celebration of the mortgage burning for the sanctuary. Terry served for 8 years. He then left to serve another congregation. During that time, his wife, Mary Beth pursued her dream and also became a pastor.
Dr. Lewis George served as Interim for almost 2 years. After he retired, Lewis returned to First Christian Church where he donated his time and talents. He made crosses out of wood, then strung them on yarn to make necklaces. He gave these necklaces away. Before his death in September 2011, Lewis had made over 7,000 crosses, which can be found on all seven continents, even Antarctica.
In December 2001, First Christian Church welcomed Pastor Denise Plante. Under her guidance, services were enhanced by utilizing new worship technology. During her tenure, the interior and exterior of the sanctuary received a face-lift.
In 2009, remodeling of the Fellowship Hall began. The dedication service for the refurbished Millard Mount Fellowship Hall was April 18, 2010. Dr. Charles Hamilton (Interim minister) presided over the service.
Over the past 100 years, there have been so many dedicated people: Pastors, Trustees, Elders, Deacons, Board Members, Sunday School Teachers, Instrumentalists, Choir Directors, Choir Members, Vacation Bible School Volunteers, Church Secretaries, Technology Workers (great cooks for our fellowship dinners) Christians too numerous to mention by name. These disciples have devoted their time, talents and wealth to First Christian Church. No words are adequate to describe their endeavors. Ultimately, the wisest course would be to give God the glory, praise and thanks for every person because without God, there would be no church.
In January 2011, Rev. Paul Holland, our current minister, moved to Zephyrhills from Michigan to serve and lead (with God’s help) as we journey into the future, beginning the next century for First Christian Church.
An article, “Zephyrhills Church Celebrates 100 Years,” at tampabay.com is here.
St. Joseph Church
This article was provided by the church.
The first Mass of St. Joseph Mission was celebrated at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Brazie in 1912. This residence was a farmhouse near the site of the first church. Fr. Jerome Wisniewski, O.S.B., a priest from St. Leo Abbey, started the mission, celebrating mass for a mere handful of Catholics in Zephyrhills.
Mr. Henry Adams, a generous Catholic Union soldier, donated two lots for church construction on April 15, 1912. The lots were located on the top of a hill just north of the city limits on 10th Street. Mr. Albert Naber provided lumber for the parishioners, who completed the church by 1914.
Accommodating 75 people, the frame church had a small bell tower above the front entrance.
The Church was dedicated on April 27, 1919, by Abbot Charles Mohr, O.S.B., the first Abbot of St. Leo. Mass was scheduled only once per month. The first confirmation was administered by Bishop Patrick Barry, DD, of St. Augustine, on January 21, 1923, in the days when Florida had only one diocese.
In March of 1942, Mr. and Mrs. B. A. Thomas donated two lots on 5th Avenue. A donation of four adjacent lots by the city of Zephyrhills followed on May 1, 1942. Mrs. Thomas gave four additional lots on January 9, 1945, while Miss Flora Yager donated one lot. Those eleven lots comprised the property on which the church was built in 1942, by Fr. John Schlicht, O.S.B.
Later, two wings were added. At this time the congregation consisted of 27 families with 32 women and 48 men. Since that initial church, the property has grown to 2½ blocks with 8 buildings. Families numbered 2148, with over 6,000 registered parishioners.
On February 22, 1959, tragedy struck when a fire destroyed the entire church, leaving only the sacristy. The sacristy was converted into a chapel seating forty people and used for daily Mass for three years. Sunday Masses were celebrated in the Home Movie Theatre and later, the Municipal Auditorium for two years.
Fr. Cassian Foley, O.S.B., became the first resident priest in Zephyrhills in October of 1960, when he rented a two-story frame house doubling as both a rectory and religious education facility. Before this, the Benedictine Priests commuted from St. Leo Abbey. Architect George Stickly of St. Augustine designed the new church with an estimated cost of $90,000.
Msgr. John McNulty, Vicar General and pastor of St. Patrick parish in Largo, dedicated the church on November 25, 1961. Abbot Marion Bowman, O.S.B., and Fr. Keith Symons, M.C., were also present. Fr. Michael O’Reilly, ordained at St. Patrick’s Missionary Society of Ireland, expanded the church and erected the parish center with a very successful building fund campaign. Fr. O’Reilly worked as pastor from 1971 until his death April 12, 1980.
First Baptist Church
A 1969 directory published by the church, which includes a church history, is included in this set of photos. It was provided by Clereen Brunty. The history article will be transcribed and added to this page soon.