On the banks of the Indian River in Brevard County, Florida a small band of Christians
had the vision to start a Church. They were encouraged by the Ashland Avenue
Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois. The author has attempted unsuccessfully to locate
information about the Ashland Avenue Baptist Church through the Chicago Historical
Society, but none is available.
Actually, the First Baptist Church was meeting as early as 1888 but did not dedicate its
building and constitute as a Church until 1889.
In a news article from the Eau Gallie (Florida) Journal, October 26, 1961, page 4 and written by Ray Fagan, a brief historical sketch is given of the early beginnings of First Baptist Church.
It reads as follows:
"A German-born "Mr. Miller", from Chicago, furnished money for materials to build a church.
All of the men in the community helped. The land, on Highland and Montreal Avenues, was given by ex-Governor of Florida, W. II. Gleason. Trees were felled on the south bank of the
Eau Gallie River (then called Elbow Creek), ferried across on a barge to the saw mill near
the railroad, and hauled to the chosen site by ox cart. Bethel J. Stewart (father of Mrs. J. A. "Aunt Sue" Seawright) was in charge of the work.
"Completed in 1888 and organized in 1889, the First Baptist Church is the oldest Baptist church in Brevard or Indian River Counties. The first Episcopalian congregation was organized in the church building, which was used until they built the second church in Eau Gallie. The Methodists also used the facilities of the building, until they built their church."
Actually, the "Mr. Miller" referred to in the above article was J. H. Mellor who was associated with the aforementioned Ashland Avenue Baptist Church of Chicago.
Valuable information has been supplied to this author by Fred H. Hopwood of Melbourne, Florida. Mr. Hopwood is the official historian for
Brevard County and is planning to write a book entitled "Pioneer Settlers of Eau Gallie, Florida." Therefore, it is important that he be given
credit for researching the information from the Florida Star.
"It is proposed to build a Baptist Church in this settlement (Eau Gallie) shortly. A site has
been secured. The building will be used as a public school house, pending the erection of a proper building for the latter purpose."
That the Baptist Church was to temporarily house the public school while facilities were
being built shows the spirit of cooperation that existed in the community. Buildings
where meetings could be held ware scarce, thus helping to create the need for this
"Our Baptist Church is progressing slowly. Mr. Mellor left for Titusville on Monday for the purpose of purchasing the lumber."
-Florida Star, February 2, 1888
The purchase of lumber and hardware in those days was neither easy nor simple. It usually took weeks to transport lumber. For the most part constructing a building was a slow and tedious undertaking.
"Mr. John Mellor of Eau Gallie was in Titusville on Monday and Tuesday and gave the Star a pleasant call. Mr. Mellor is the principal promoter of the Baptist Church to be erected in Eau Gallie, and has worked indefatigably both in Chicago and on the river to consummate this religious and much needed work. He has, also, been ably assisted -- both monetarily and otherwise -- by Eau Gallie residents. The lumber is ordered, and with plenty of free assistance, we have no doubt the edifice will soon be ready for the holding of religious service."
-Florida Star, February 9, 1888 "The Eau Gallie Baptist Church will open for service on Sunday next, the 12th inst. at 10:00 a.m. The Rev. Mr. Gove will conduct the service. Everyone welcome."
-Florida Star, August 9, 1888
"The Baptist Church and school is being ceiled throughout with Georgia pine, and will be in order for service Sunday next (9 September 88) when Rev. S. P. Gove will conduct the service, at which all are cordially invited to attend. Church open at 10:30 a.m."
-Florida Star, September 6, 1888
It is obvious that the congregation began meeting in the new building before it was completed. S. F. Cove preached in several churches along the Indian River. Travel was mainly by sailboat and steamer. "The Baptist church here will be open for divine services on Sunday next (23 September 88) at 10:30 a.m. The Rev. Mr. Prince will conduct the service."
-Florida Star, September 20, 1888
"School opened recently for the fall term in the Eau Gallie Baptist Church under the
management of Mr. W. Roesch."
-Florida Star, October 11, 1888
According to research by Fred Hopwood, Roesch was an early resident of Eau Gallie and
a citrus grower. Later ha started the Eau Gallie Gazette, the town's first newspaper. Still later he started the town's second paper, the Eau Gallie Record.
"The Eau Gallie Sabbath School will open on Sunday next (28 October 88) with the Rev. Mr. Prince as superintendent and Mr. W. Roesch as librarian and treasurer. All are invited to attend."
-Florida Star, October 25, 1888
"The Eau Gallie Sabbath School opened on Sunday last with 25 attendants. The Rev. Mr. Prince is superintendent, with Mr. John H Mellor as assistant."
-Florida Star, November 1, 1888
"Rumor says that we shall soon have an organ in our church."
-Florida Star, December 13, 1888
"A singing class will be opened on Saturday next under the guidance of Mr. Blatch of Canada, who has decided to make this place (Eau Gallie)
his home. The pupils will meet
in the Eau Gallie Baptist Church on Saturday next at 3 p.m. Tuition free."
-Florida Star, December 13, 1888