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Everything has a part or a history. It may be drab, colorless or just plain dull. It may be exciting, glamorous or exuberant. It may be turbulent and troubled or it may be serene and untroubled. Whatever the circumstances of its existence everything has a history.

Modern Antioch, with its beautiful worship room, its colorful windows, its educational facilities, its air-conditioned-central heating and its church van, is no exception. The history of Antioch is rich with stories of personal sacrifice and group efforts to secure a place to worship our Living God. The church has not enjoyed a history free of turmoil, but it has never failed to “Put God First.” Modern, majestic Antioch—stands today as a monument to the gallant efforts of our forefathers.

Antioch had its beginning after the Civil War (1868) and during the period of Reconstruction. A group of slaves that were freed by former slave owners moved in and around the area now known as Springhead. Led by Peter Dexter settled in the area now known as Bealsville. Immediately after settling in this area, these new citizens sought a place to serve God. Sitting on an Old Bay Pine Log in a cleared out thicket just south of the present Ida Washington residence, Roger Smith, Bob Storey and Bryant Horton led service in what is known as the first Antioch Church.

After a period it was determined that this place was inadequate and too far from the main body of settlers. A group again led by Storey, Horton and Smith was commissioned to search and seek a more suitable location. This group settled on a location north of the present home of Bro. & Sis. Edmund Wall.

The small church membership set about an edifice for God. The men cut stout young oak trees in such a manner that V-shaped fork was at one end. These poles were placed in the ground to form a rectangle. Smaller poles were placed so that they fitted into the V-shaped prongs. Upon these were placed palmetto fans or leaves which provided protection from the rain, sun and cold. Hallelujah! Antioch was its way. What a magnificent structure.

Progress has always been a community and church watch-word. These hardy souls worshipped in this humble edifice for a short period. Then Alfred Beal donated the use of a barn with a dirt floor for the use of the church. This small 10 ft by 12 ft. building was much more substantial than any previous structure these Christians had used for worship.

Up until this time, approximately 1883, there had not been a pastor called to serve the church. The entire congregation was held together by a tall, unlettered, strong Christian, Bryant Horton. In 1883, Rev. George Larry who resided at Simmons Creek, now Seffner, was called to serve. Each “Big Sunday” once a month he would ride horseback or buggy to preach the word to his small congregation. His salary was whatever the congregation could spare in cash which rarely exceeded $.15 and never more than $.25 and as much chicken and food, he could eat.

In 1884 Reverend George McClennon of Bartow was called. Since he was unfortunate enough not to have a horse, he would walk the distance from Bartow each “Big Sunday.”

During this period the church was moving again. A white benefactor Mr. Reed donated one and a half acre of land near the present Fred Patterson home site. Here real progress was made in building structure. For the first time rough lumber was used. The men of the church cut down the trees and hewed them into rough boards and built a complete structure.

About 1891 the Church moved again. This time it moved very near the present Peter Williams home site. During these approximately 23 years the church had only one Deacon, Bryant Horton. After moving to this location Andrew Williams was ordained. He was followed by Al Simmons and Maryland Stephens.

In 1893 Rev. Houston was called to serve. During this period a struggle between the West Coast Conference and the South Florida Baptist Conference threatened the Church’s existence.

In order to save Antioch and hold the West Coast Association together, Bryant Horton walked the entire distance from Bealsville to Gainesville, Florida to argue eloquently and successfully for Antioch’s remaining in the West Coast Association.

The members of Antioch showed their backing by providing what food they could and by offering encouraging remarks to Bryant as he put his pack on the end of a stick, slung it over his shoulder and trudged off through the wilderness.

On God’s missions— Antioch’s mission. When he returned with news, that Antioch would remain in the West Coast Association, what a joyous time for the struggling church.

In 1904 Reverend F. P. Mason was called. He installed the church’s bell. He was followed by a gospel minister from Georgia, Rev. Watkins who built an elevated rostrum. Frank James followed Watkins and was pastor for a year and was followed by his brother Henry James. In 1908 Rev. J. L. Stephens from Crooms, Florida was called. He served until 1916. In 1917, Rev. F. A. Faulk of Tampa assumed the pastorate. According to historians this is the first pastor with a high school diploma to serve Antioch.

Among his accomplishments was the stringing of flambeaus (kerosene filled soda bottles with cloth wicks) around the church for illumination at night. Following Faulk was Rev. I. C. Nimmons who later became moderator and a considerable landholder in the community. He served from approximately 1921 to 1924. Nimmons was followed by Rev. P.A. Moore of Lakeland.

Moore was followed by an articulate gentlemen who was destined to endear himself to all members if Antioch. From the hills of Clermont, Florida came Rev. F. G. Hilton who was to serve until his being called to Mt. Moriah of Plant City.

On the scene next came Rev. S. Meredity Mosely who was principal of union Academy High School, Bartow, Florida. It was during his administration that the Deacons and Members of the Church decided that the Church should be moved closer to the population center.

After much deliberation, the move was decided upon. Land was purchased from Ovid Vance Hargrett, Sr., and the great adventure began. A route from across the branch, in front of the Gettis Berry resident, in front of the Sam Berry resident, across in front of the Waldon resident to the present location was decided upon.

For such a tremendous undertaking careful planning was necessary. A moveable pulley was constructed; logs were cut, a donkey would walk his circle, winding the cable around the pulley, men would put logs under the church, as soon as one log had completely cleared the church, they would bring it to front again.

This procession was interrupted in front of the Berry and Waldon residents respectively for church services.

Shortly after the church reached its present location Mosely moved on to Ft. Lauderdale. He was followed by Rev. Williams of Port Tampa who died during his pastorate. He was succeeded by Rev. J. M. McFarland of Gifford.

Next was second J. L. Stephens of Tampa, Florida. During his pastorate he conceived of constructing a new modern Antioch. The Deacons, Trustees and Pastor entered into a feasibility study. After much discussion it was decided not to destroy the old Antioch but to move it to the rear and proceed with the construction of the building. Among its features was an indoor Baptismal facility replacing the Boiling Spring and mud holes?

After completion of the building Stephens was called to Arcadia, Florida. He was followed by Rev. T. C. Callahan.

Callahan was followed by Rev. J. H. Carswell under whose administration has been added an educational building, central climate control and many converts. Rev. Carswell served Antioch faithfully until his demise in January, 1971. The memory of him still lingers within the history of Antioch. He was followed by Rev. E. C. Matthews later in the year of 1971.

Rev. Matthews changed a very old tradition of Antioch under his pastorate. Antioch went from a twice a month service on first & third Sundays to a full time every Sunday schedule for worship services. This, within itself, has strengthened the spiritual lives of many of Antioch’s members. Rev. Mathews left Antioch in early 1973 to pastor a church in the northern states. He was followed by Rev. J. H. Williams who came to us from a church in Okeechobee, Florida later in the year 1973. During the leadership of Rev. Williams many physical and spiritual changes came to past; including the total renovation of Antioch appearance, both inside and outside. God blessed the family of Antioch with Rev. Williams for 28 years.

In 2002, Elder Correggio Reaves was called to pastorate at Antioch. During his leadership God has blessed Antioch with Deacon Freddie Thompson and Deacon Charles Benjamin. Also by the grace of God under Elder Reaves’ leadership, Antioch has purchased two acres of land for further expansion, a new P.A. system, new table/chairs, window treatments, and given the floors in the annex a facelift.

In 2011 Reverend Tony Bradley was called to pastorate at Antioch. The Antioch family is making plans and setting goals for continuous growth. Through prayer and faith in God all things are possible, preaching and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with and to all that believe that the only begotten son of God, and the only Savior of the world.

Leadership of Church

Pastor, and Services Times

Church Anniversary Dates

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