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In June of 1939, the Division of Professional and Service Projects of the Works Progress Administration published the results of their Historical Records Survey of religious bodies in Florida. Grace K. Raborn was Levy County’s surveyor for this monumental project and from June of 1938 until March of 1939, Raborn visited all of the County’s 132 known churches.
Raborn must have traveled many unpaved roads to gather the information required to answer the 26 questions on the church inventory form, speaking with pastors, church secretaries and members. The surveys contain a wealth of historical information by providing not only the location and physical features of the various places of worship but also the date of establishment and the first known pastor.
Listed below are several early black church histories which were randomly selected from the more than 60 survey forms collected by Raborn.
Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Usher Siding on Highway #81 (present day US 19/98), five miles south of Chiefland.
Constituted 1905. From 1905 to 1922, services were held in a small box shaped house located about four miles west of Highway # 81. From 1922 to 1936, services were held in a wooden building located at Usher Siding. The first known pastor was Rev. A.D. Goins.
Oak Grove Baptist Church, Sumner.
Constituted 1910. From 1910 to 1935, church services were held in a meeting-house structure in the Cummer Mill quarters. When the Cummer Mill moved to Lacoochee in 1935, the church building and furnishings were moved there also. A church was erected in 1935 which was a meeting-house type boxed house of rough wood, unpainted, rectangular, with a bell. The first known pastor was Rev. J.W. Cole.
Mt. Moriah A.M.E. Church, Odessa Quarters of the Dowling Lumber Company, Gulf Hammock.
Constituted 1927. Early church services were held in a brush arbor for eight months, then moved to the Mabra Missionary Baptist Church on the east side of Gulf Hammock. In 1936, a rectangular, meeting-house type, frame building with a bell was erected and dedicated. The building also was used as a school and was owned by the Dowling Lumber Company. The first known pastor was Rev. R.H. Mobley. See photograph of Mabra Missionary Baptist Church.
True Vine Missionary Baptist Church, SW section of town, Gulf Hammock.
Constituted 1931. Services were held in a box car in a woods camp about 20 west of Gulf Hammock from 1931 to 1932. From 1932 to 1938, services were held in the old lodge hall in the Odessa Quarters of the Dowling Lumber Company. In 1938, a new church was erected and dedicated which was a meeting-house type, rectangular, unpainted, frame structure with bell. The earliest known pastor was Rev. C.H. Edwards.
Oak Grove Baptist Church, Suwannee Turpentine Quarters, Janney.
Organized 1934. Services were held in a meeting-house type boxed house built and owned by the Suwannee Turpentine Company. The first known pastor was Rev. J.F. Myers.
Silver Hill Baptist Church, just north of State Highway #19, old Levyville settlement.
Constituted 1938. The church building was constructed in 1886 and purchased from the Levyville Baptist Church. It was a meeting-house type, rectangular, wooden building with a belfry. The first known pastor was Rev. W.M. DeVaughn.
Constituted: established by authority.
Note: Collins currently is working on a book about the history of Levy County’s churches and invites the submission of church histories and photographs for inclusion in that book. She can be reached at (352) 490-5636.