History of Santa Rosa County, A King's County

by M. Luther King. Used with permission.


Protestantism was not openly permitted, except at intervals of British occupation, in this area until 1821. The first mission established in this area was December 7, 1821 and was at Pensacola. This mission was established by the Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Church, then in session at Washington, Mississippi, with Dr. Alexander Talley as the first missionary to be sent to the area. The next missionary was Rev. Ashley Hewett who in turn was succeeded by Rev. Henry P. Cook.

Dr. Cook, whose territory was somewhat shortened, had rather amazing success for that day and reported his first membership at 37 white and 47 colored for a total of 84. Dr. Cook died in the fall of 1825 of yellow fever while still in the service of this mission. The Mission Board paid him the munificent sum of $72.31 for his year's service.

We do not know where these men preached before 1824, but a news item in the Pensacola Gazette of March 20, 1824 mentions the services of Rev. Cook being held at the courthouse.

Supposedly Dr. Cook was buried in St. Michael's Cemetery, but with the passing of years his grave has become completely lost.

The next appointee to the Pensacola-Mobile Mission was Dr. John R. Lambuth, who did not serve very long since the area was transferred to the South Carolina Conference in 1826. This Dr. Lambuth was the grandfather of Bishop Lambuth.

Some of the old manuscripts of the archives at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, reveal a record of expenditures for a new church building at Pensacola in 1827, and the committee is listed as Rev. Charles Hardy (the next missionary appointee apparently), Mayor William Sebree, Dr. C. Y. Fonda. The same account records the death of Mayor Sebree leaving a surviving committee of the other two gentlemen. The committee listed expenditures of $1,192.63 for the First Methodist Church building in Pensacola, which was located at or about the corner of Intendencia and Tarragona (Railroad) Streets.

It is interesting to note that many of the contributors to this church building fund are names even now common on the rolls of the Methodist churches in Milton and Bagdad: Keyser, Allen, Rogers, Mitchell, Campbell, Thompson, Wright, Salter, Simpson, Hannah, Smith, Chase, Fisher, Warren, Pendleton, Wilkerson, White, Collins. It is even more interesting to contemplate the fact that a great number of these names moved to Milton and Bagdad later when these places gained an ascendancy over Pensacola to such an extent that it was feared the latter city would entirely disappear. There was, for instance, a steamship line that by-passed Pensacola enroute from Milton to New Orleans.

It was about the year 1827 that the Escambe (Escambia) Mission began to operate effectively, and it included mission stations at various places in what is now Santa Rosa County -places that remained a part of Escambia County, however, until 1842 when Santa Rosa County was formed of parts of Escambia and Walton Counties (Okaloosa County was not formed until more than 50 years later).

Following Rev. Charles Hardy (1827), we find the name Rev. Isaac Boring. Rev. Boring was one of the very few such men who kept a running day-by-day diary, which, by the way, furnished us with some interesting facts. For instance, we find that he was appointed to this mission February 14, 1828; and starting from Camden, South Carolina, he traveled by way of Augusta, Georgia, Macon and Columbus, crossed the Chattahoochee River at Marshall's Ferry, thence to the Creek Nation in southeast Alabama, thence to the Choctawhatchee settlement (Jackson and surrounding counties especially Holmes and Washington) in Florida and on to Pensacola by way of Floridatown, arriving in Pensacola on Wednesday, March 12, just short of one month of travel on horseback. We note, also, then he sold his horse to his predecessor (Dr. Hardy) for $100.00, so that gentleman had his transportation to his next charge.

In 1829 Rev. Adam Wyrick was assigned to the Pensacola-Escambia Mission. He said of Pensacola " . . . a most terribly ... wicked place. Can see little evidence of good being accomplished."

The appointee for 1830 was the Rev. (or Dr.) John W. Talley. Dr. Talley mentions as one of his parishioners a little girl named Miss Octavia Walton, whose grandmother (also living in Pensacola) was the widow of George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Talley related with considerable emphasis some facts concerning the Escambe Mission which included the group at Milton and at Bagdad. The Milton group met at a bluff overlooking Blackwater above Milton and below Morton's Brickyard, while the Bagdad group must have first met at Hunt's Brickyard (the Dog Farm) and later near or at the present site adjacent to Bruce's Point (the Bagdad terminus of the first ferry).

Dr. Talley was the last one sent to this area by the South Carolina Conference. His successor, Rev. P. C. Shelman, was sent out by the Georgia Conference in 1831.

The period beginning in 1831 was the one which saw the area that we now know as Santa Rosa County begin to show tremendous growth. The city of Pensacola had so shrunken until its population was probably less than 2000 while Milton, Floridatown, Arcadia, Blackwater (Bagdad), and Mulatto Bayou probably embraced twice that number. The Escambe Mission included 18 appointments during the year 1832 and those appointments were scattered through Covington, Butler, and Conecuh Counties of Alabama as well as Escambia and Walton in Florida. This mission reported 69 members in 1832 and 260 in 1833. The Pensacola Mission was declining until during the next few years no missionary was sent to Pensacola -really not another until 1837. The appointments since 1832 have been out of the Alabama Conference which includes South Alabama and Northwest Florida.

These years just before 1837, which saw such a decline at Pensacola, witnessed the establishment not of congregation, for they were already in existence, but of buildings in the Milton-Bagdad area. During those years when Pensacola became a mission station of the Escambe Mission, some of the illustrious names were added to those serving this area: 1838-39 Green Malone (Supply); 1840-49 John D. Loftin, George R. W. Smith ' F. A. McShaw; 1849 John R. Rush; 1850-51 W. K. Norton; 1852-53 Thomas C. Crymes and Elisha Phillips; 18S3 Joseph B. Cottrill, Pensacola; Walter C. Harris, Warrington; L. P. Golson, Milton-Bagdad.

In December, 1865, following the dark war years, Pensacola was again attached to the church at Milton-Bagdad and W. H. Carter was the missionary. Likewise in 1866, but in 1867 Pensacola-Milton was left "to be supplied." For the year 1868, the name was Milton-Pensacola Navy Yard Mission and J. A. Parker was the appointed missionary. He was succeeded in 1869 by Rev. E. B. McClellan.

According to records Milton Methodist Church had a Rev. W. B. Dennis assigned to it in 1871. From that time, pastors were regularly assigned to the Milton Methodist Church. Most of these also served as pastor of the Bagdad Methodist Church, though in 1956 a separate pastor, a supply pastor from Pensacola, was assigned to the Bagdad Congregation.

Miss Clara Andrews, who has been a member of First Methodist Church, Milton, for many years, recalls "For years there were only two churches in Milton and Bagdad. They alternated services, meeting in the morning at the Methodist Church and at night in the Presbyterian Church. The next Sunday this was reversed. At both places the entire congregation of each church would attend in a body."

"Mr. Henry Thompson was Methodist Sunday School Superintendent and his brother-in-law, Mr. Ed Creary, was the same at the Presbyterian Church. When the Presbyterian Church went on full time at Milton, the Bagdad members joined the Milton Church. The Bagdad Church was moved near Tallahassee."

"When the Hendersons and Works came to Bagdad, the Baptist Church was organized and the Mill Company donated some amount to all three churches."

Listed below are the available names of pastors who served the First Methodist Church beginning with Rev. W. B. Dennis, 1871, who is mentioned earlier:


Rev. W. B. Dennis


Rev. J. 0. Andrew


Rev. J. 0. Keener


Rev. E. E. Cowan


Rev. J. H. James


Rev. A. C. Hundley


Rev. George M. Sellars


Rev. Laban Henry Scott Chappelle


Rev. B. C. Glenn


Rev. J. Bancroft


Rev. W. T. Ellisor


Rev. W. P. Homer, D. D. (An Oxford graduate whose great grandfather was a helper of Wesley. His daughter, Mary, taught school here.)


Rev. E. C. Maye (His daughter married Ernest Edwards' uncle, Mr. Wiley Edwards.)


Rev. L. C. Calhoun


Rev. J. C. Harrison


Rev. Joseph Prior Roberts


Rev. Thomas Young Abernathy


Rev. Schuyler Green Boyd


Rev. Francis Marion Atchison


Rev. Charles W. McConnell


Rev. Marvin A. Rooks


Rev. Luther S. Gilmer


Rev. J. A. Seale


Rev. H. W. Williamson (His son James married Julia Nell Byron.)


Rev. A. B. Carlton


Rev. S. E. Spencer


Rev. F. M. Atchison (Second term of service here.)


Rev. L. B. Green


Rev. R. W. Judkins


Rev. A. C. Britt


Rev. A. H. Vanlandingham


Rev. R. L. Hoagland, Jr.


Rev. R. L. Hagood


Rev. Comer Woodall


Rev. Joseph E. Hastings

"Miss Clara" also recalls that Rev. H. W. Williamson was pastor when the old church burned down during the White Christmas program in 1932. In 1933 the bank closed and church funds on deposit were lost.

This shows the second Methodist church building in Milton. It was erected in 1905 and burned in 1932. Its location was Conecuh Street. This congregation was the first protestant congregation organized following the acquisition of Florida by the United States. Its auditorium served as an assembly hall for town and county assemblies during the years of territorial government and early statehood. The Milton Vigilantes were organized here by Intendent Joseph Mitchell.

Rev. A. B. Carlton was pastor of the church in the years following the burning of the old building, and he conducted services in the courthouse. Every Sunday he would ask how long the congregation was willing to stay in the courthouse.

During Rev. Carlton's stay the new church building was finished and paid for. Bishop S. R. Hay dedicated the new church at a morning service, and Rev. Carlton's daughter was married by the bishop at the conclusion of the service. (Note -It was 1966 before another bishop participated in services at the First Methodist Church. Bishop Goodson conducted at several morning services during the illness of the pastor, Rev. Comer Woodall.

The membership of this church has continued to grow, and in 1964 a small group left to form the Christ Methodist Church in the northwest section of town. Both churches have continued to grow with membership in 1967 of approximately 570 for the First Methodist Church and approximately 85 for the Christ Methodist Church.)

Present sanctuary of First Methodist Church on Berryhill Street in Milton.


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