HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Dade City Churches
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
According to a web page, this church was organized on the west side of Lake Pasadena on October 10, 1891, and constructed a sanctuary in 1892.
According to The Historic Places of Pasco County, “Organized in 1891, St. Mary’s originally served Anglican settlers at Lake Pasadena. Its first resident priest, the Reverend James Neville-Thompson, was ordained there in 1892. After the great freeze in 1895, the building fell into disuse while remnants of the congregation held services at the Lock home in Dade City. In 1909 the structure was moved [to Dade City] by mule train. The sacristy was added in 1921, the chancel in 1927, and the body of the church was enlarged in 1975.”
An early document of the Florida Episcopal church reports, “Brooksville has lately had the temporary services of the Rev. Justin Field, who has also given some services at Lake Buddy, near Dade City, recently organized as a mission, with twenty communicants.” Rev. Field preached at Brooksville for about three months in 1892, according to an article about him. Another early Florida Episcopal church document, probably written by Rev. Field, has: “In addition to my regular work, I have visited and officiated at Brooksville and Lake Buddy, two Sundays at each place—opening for service a small church at Lake Buddy, and organizing the mission. In that connection I visited the new town of Inverness, the county seat of Citrus County ....”
The following history by T. F. Zeigler, Lay Reader of St. Mary’s Church, appeared in the Dade City Banner on June 24, 1921.
The first Episcopal mission organized in Pasco county was in the early part of 1893, and a church building was erected on the farm of H. D. Harrison, just west of Lake Pasadena. Rev. Wedell, of Thonotosassa, a true man of God, was the first pastor assigned to this little mission. The church was dedicated by Bishop Weed of the Diocese of Florida. That same year the Missionary Diocese of South Florida was formed and Bishop Gray was elected bishop.
The following is taken from East Pasco’s Heritage (1976) and was written by Dorothy Lock and Edward Garren.
St. Mary’s Mission Church held its first service on October 10, 1891, in its building on the west side of Lake Pasadena, with forty souls present. Even after the freeze of 1894-95 devastated the early citrus culture, a faithful few members held services, using the Presbyterian Church building in Dade City. Rev. J. H. Weddell came at intervals from Thonotosassa. The present lot on Magnolia Avenue at Eleventh Street in Dade City was purchased in 1909 for $300. The church building from St. Mary’s Road, Pasadena, was moved and rebuilt for $619. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Dade City was dedicated and consecrated in 1910.
The church is located at 37637 Magnolia Avenue in Dade City. The web site of the church is here.
Mount Zion A. M. E. Church
An A. M. E. church was established in the late 1800s at Lake Buddy.
The following information was provided by the church for the WPA survey: “Constituted 1889. First services held in frame building on the same site as present T shape, gray, concrete block church erected in 1920.”
On April 22, 1921, the Dade City Banner reported, “The African Methodist church of Dade City has moved into their new edifice, although the interior has not yet been finished. The entrance and roof of the old church alongside has been torn off, and the building is being extended at the rear and rebuilt as a parsonage.”
The following article was apparently written by a member of the church. Thanks to Jeff Cannon for providing it to this web site.
St. Rita Catholic Church (1976)
By WILLIAM FINGERHUT
This article is taken from East Pasco’s Heritage.
St. Rita Catholic Church was established as a mission in 1913. Since there were few Catholics in Dade City at that time, the mission was largely supported by the Catholic Extension Society and individual benefactors from the North. The Order of St. Benedict, of St. Leo Abbey, cooperated in the founding of this church. At the request of the Rt. Rev. Michael J. Curley, Bishop of St. Augustine, and under the direction of Abbot Charles Mohr of St. Leo, the monks of the abbey organized missions through Hernando County, which at that time included Pasco and Citrus counties. The priests and brothers of the abbey have served St. Rita continuously since its beginning.
The first Mass was celebrated in St. Rita on March 4, 1913. The small mission church was only twenty feet wide and thirty feet long. The Bishop was detained by bad roads in his journey from St. Augustine, and failed to arrive in Dade City in time for the service. Father Augustine Feller, of St. Leo, conducted the dedicatory Mass in his stead.
The mission progressed rapidly; within two years, in 1915, plans were made to enlarge the church. The enlarged structure, basically the present St. Rita, was consecrated on March 4, 1917. The bishop was present for this opening service. Soon other improvements were made, including the installation of stained glass windows, imported from France. The vestibule and bell tower were added, and the parish hall was completed for social activities.
In the earliest years of the mission church, pastors resided at St. Leo Abbey and traveled to Dade City on horseback. The following pastors have served St. Rita and its parish: Fathers Augustine Feller, Aloysius Dressman, Francis Sadlier, Edgar Lang, John Schlicht, Ernest Schultz, Andrew Metzger, and the present pastor, Benedict Weigand. Father Sadlier later became the second abbot of St. Leo. Father Schultz and his successors have maintained their residence in the church rectory on North Fourteenth Street.
The original St. Rita Church, which has served the Catholics of the Dade City area for so many years, will not be a landmark much longer. A new church complex is now under construction just east of the old structure. The new church, necessitated by the growth of the parish, will have a seating capacity of 300. Included in the new complex will be a chapel for weekday services, and facilities for social activities and religious education. The stained glass windows and some of the statues of the old church will be installed in the new edifice, establishing a link between the past and the future. The completion of the new St. Rita Church in 1976 will be another milestone of Christian progress in our city.
The church web site includes a history page.
Bethel Primitive Baptist
In the June 10, 1921, Dade City Banner Elder M. L. Gilbert, one of Florida’s pioneer preachers and pastor of the congregation for more than three decades, recounted the early years of this church: “The Primitive or Old School Baptist was constituted in July 1888 some two miles north of Dade City. They are a faithful, humble, and consecrated congregation of believers meeting for demonstration services and worship regularly on the fourth Sunday and Saturday before in each month. Since 1910 they have met for worship on Church.”
According to The Historic Places of Pasco County, this building was originally a schoolhouse and was built about 1885. In May of 1896, the congregation voted to buy the Indian Lake schoolhouse and lot for $10.00. It was moved to the present location in 1910 and subsequently expanded. An addition to the front conceals its historic architectural character.
The following is taken from a 2005 Tampa Tribune article by Carol Jeffares Hedman.
The building at 37315 Church Ave. that is now Bethel Primitive Baptist Church was built about 1885 as a schoolhouse in Indian Lake.
Mount Zion Methodist Church (Fort Dade)
In 1872, Newton A. Carter, Wright W. Williamson, a Mr. Strickland, and a Mr. Lyons built the Mount Zion Methodist Church in Fort Dade, according to a 1920 article in the Dade City Banner.
On June 19, 1879, the Sunland Tribune mentions in its Fort Dade news column Mt. Zion Methodist Church with Rev. Pander, pastor.
A historic marker reads, “Mt. Zion Methodist Church was organized in 1871. A two-story structure, built of hand hewn timbers and sawed rough boards on land donated by Nathan A. Carter—with the second floor reserved for the Masonic Lodge—was completed in 1872 when the first burial was made. The building was destroyed by a hurricane October 25, 1921.”
A 1923 newspaper article has: “Here was built one of the oldest churches in this section, Mt. Zion. It was a two-story structure, the lower floor being used for worship, while above the first Masonic lodge south of Ft. King was organized and for many years held its meeting. This historic building is now only a heap of old timber, having been abandoned years ago and later demolished by storms.”
In a 1928 newspaper article, Jasper C. Carter, secretary-treasurer of the newly-formed cemetery association wrote, “At this cemetery we have tract of a little more than six acres donated about 50 years ago by Mr. Newton Carter, father of Jasper C. Carter, for Church and Cemetery purposes, the deed being absolute with no strings about retrieving and, as there is no way of keeping the grounds in order except by voluntary gifts, we think the assessment of so low a fee as $1.00 will enable us to get a great many members....”