HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
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 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. ...”
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.
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
See also an article on the Baptist church at Elfers here.