Excerpted from Christ Church records
The accuracy of this text has not been checked but is assumed to be correct
Probably the first Sacrament of the Episcopal Church to be performed in the little community of Longwood was the baptism of the baby daughter of Mr. & Mrs. F.H. Rand. The child was baptized in their home on Easter Day, April 1, 1877, by the Rev. J. H. M. Wedell; a young clergyman that had recently cone to Florida from Middlebury, Vermont.
The Rands decided to make Longwood their home. Mr. Rand, being appointed lay reader, read the services of the Church on Sundays in a small, log school-house on the property of Mr. E.W. Henck (Henck House on Magnolia Avenue). The Reverend Lyman Phelps of Ft. Reed (a missionary in Orange County) came to assist at these services from time to time. Mr. Henck, an attorney who came to Longwood in 1873, built his house as a winter home. He is credited with the naming of Longwood -- for his hometown in Massachusetts. He owned many acres in the area as well as the South Florida Railroad. He also was a principal of the Pullman Railroad, now owned by Tom Pratt.
The War Between the States was over. The soldiers had returned from the battlefields to their homes and what they thought would be their old way of life. But there would be much readjustment in the "New South." Its people would learn to tolerate the "invading" northern settlers who were taking over much of the land and bringing with them much needed resources, including their "Yankee" money. One such was Edward Henck, from Boston, Mass, and Pennsylvania, who came to the Longwood area in November, 1873. A civil engineer and surveyor, he had dreams of establishing a township. Henck received a land grant from the state of Florida for 160 acres in the Longwood area. This homestead grant cost $1.25 an acre and required residency for at least five years. He later acquired 400 acres nearby. He lived on Myrtle Lake (now East Lake), for which the town was first named and became its postmaster in 1876. Henck was responsible for changing the town's name of Myrtle Lake to Longwood after the name of a suburb in Boston.
There were only a few horses available, so the people had to walk to Mellonville (now Sanford) for their staples. Many complained about having to walk in ankle-deep soft sand. This dirt road would become the present County Road 427, Ronald Reagan Blvd.
Edward Henck and General Sanford, founder of that city, sought to establish a railroad going through Sanford and Longwood. In 1880, because of a lumbering company brought into the area by northern industrialists, Longwood became a prosperous little town. Later, Henck became president of the South Florida Railroad Company.
In 1879 the Right Rev. John Freeman Young, second Bishop of Florida said in a report: “I visited Longwood, confirmed two, and after the services completed the organization of the Mission. There is much interest in this spirited community and a church building is about to be erected.”
Mr. & Mrs. Edward Rand of Boston, Mass; visiting their son F.H. Rand in Longwood, became interested in the idea of building a church and going back to Boston procured funds for the erection of the building. Mr. E.W. Henck, one of the earliest settlers of Longwood, had already donated a plot of land for the purpose. Mr. Rand drew plans for the little church and in 1880, with the help of the Rev. F.R. Holman, John and James Searcy, pioneer Floridians, and others, the church was built as it now stands on Church Street, just a block west of the Post Office. Consecration of the church was delayed a number of years. The first service of the new church was celebrated on Easter Day, April 19, 1882, by the Rev. Lyman Phelps.
Hal Freeman states that most of the people living in Longwood during the 1880s were Episcopalians and Congregationalists. Thus it seems there were only a few Southern Baptists in Longwood in this early period.
It is not known by whom they were given to Christ Church, but the Communion Chalice; the silver Alms basin and the large Bible are all dated 1879. The beautiful stained glass window over the Altar was a gift of Mrs. Edward Rand of Boston, Mass.
In 1880 a hurricane damaged Holy Cross Church in Sanford so badly that it was necessary to erect a new building. The congregation in the Sanford Church provided new furnishings for the new Holy Cross Church and so donated their old furnishings still in good repair to Christ Church.
Thus the little Church received the wooden Altar, the Lectern, and a carpet which was in use for many years. Mr. Albert Martin, a master cabinet-maker (he was not Episcopalian) but interested in the work of the church, made the reading desk still in use. The Font, made of several hundred pieces of native Florida woods was beautifully made by F.H. Rand, J.B. Clouser, and James Arnold.
The brass Altar vases and Cross were given to the church in 1884 by the F.H. Rand family in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Rand and the Rev. Charles A. Rand, all lost at sea. The bell in the tower was given as a memorial to Mr. F.H. Rand's mother.
In 1883 the Mission Church at Longwood was in charge of the Rev, F.H. Holman, who from that date until 1888 made his home in Longwood. He organized the Sunday School and did much to carry forward the work of the church in this community. In the Spring of 1887 the Right Rev. Edwin G. Wood, new Bishop of Florida, made his first visitation to Christ Church and confirmed one person.
In 1889 the Mission of Christ Church was placed in the care of the Rev. William H. Bates, who had been former head-master of St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire. Under Mr. Bates the influence of the church increased greatly and a fine work was carried on. The Church was completed and free of debt and the land and buildings were placed in the keeping of the Diocese. The Right Rev. Edwin G. Weed, Bishop of Florida, consecrated Christ Church in that year—1889.
By 1883, Longwood's lumbering business and related building firms had become the largest in the state. This, coupled with the South Florida Railroad Company, provided much employment. People who were settling in the area found substantial, promising jobs.
It was December 3, 1883 that Longwood was incorporated as a city. On the same day, the local government was established and the first election held. During this thriving period, several stores and businesses were established. There was a school where the present Old Town Hall is located on Wilma Street. (Source: Hal Freeman's Historical Collection of, Longwood, 1980)
About 1885, a few Methodist families and friends led in the building of a church near the corner of Warren and East Lake Street on land given by Edward Henck. This building, as all evidence proves, would become the Longwood Baptist Church in 1891.
In 1886 the business directory of Longwood listed the Warren Street Methodist Church as one of the town houses of worship, according to Freeman. Edward Henck gave free land to any group who wanted to build a church in that city. One of the conditions of the church contract was that the land title be returned to the estate if the donated property was not used as a church. This condition would lead to much controversy many decades later.
Also in 1886, five denominations had churches in Longwood: Baptist, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Episcopalians in addition to a Self-Union Church known as West Longwood Chapel.
At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church held in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1892, the Diocese of Florida was divided into two, the Northern and Southern Dioceses. The Right Rev. William Crane Gray was the first Missionary Bishop of this new district and the Rev. W. H. Bates continued his ministry here at Christ Church. It should be noted that much good and lasting work was done while Mr. Bates continued in charge.
Following his retirement various clergymen assumed charge of the Mission, among them the Rev. Mr. Greetham; Dean Lucian Spencer; the Rev. Mr. Punnett; the Rev. J.J. Bowker and the Rev. A.A. Rickert, Mr. Rand conducting a Layreaders service when no clergyman was available. In 1916 the Rand family moved to Orlando and for a number of years Mr. Rand continued to give his services as Layreader two Sundays a month when no clergyman was free of other duties.
About 1890, the economy started to decline when the lumbering businesses moved out, "leaving just stumps." The event was only the first shock to Longwood's economy. A few years later, the railroad business folded. As jobs were lost more and more people moved out of the area.
Possibly many of the people who left Longwood included the Methodists who had built the Warren Street Church building. As a result, it appears the Southern Baptists of Longwood "inherited" a church plant.
THE LEAN YEARS...1895-1905
In February, 1895 there was a terrible freeze in middle Florida. Citrus crops were utterly destroyed. This resulted in the end of many businesses, and the economy of Longwood was ruined. The people remaining in Longwood after the railroad financial catastrophe of the early 1890s now began to move out.
A story about the owner of a town glass company who suffered in the freeze remarked, "Well, that's all for me in Longwood. And I am going to take Longwood with me." People just moved out of their homes and left everything; including food on the table. The people sought a better place to survive, and only the hardiest of the pioneer settlers remained in the area. As a result, Longwood became almost a "ghost town" from 1895 to 1905.
The churches also felt the pinch. It seems the doors of the Longwood Baptist Church were closed those ten years, except for possible informal church gatherings and prayer meetings. Most of the people of Longwood during this time attended the Episcopal Church.