HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Sapling Woods and the Methodist Church
This article was last revised on Dec. 16, 2018.
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 Feb. 16, 1894, the Tampa Weekly Tribune reported, “Oranges have been picked off of the grove of Mr. P. L. Webster, out in the Sapling woods. The yield, as reported by Mr. Hill, was about 500 boxes.”
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. ...”
According to Florida Cracker Days, in the early part of 1900 the Sapling Woods Methodist Church was moved to the NW corner of SR 54 and SR 595. Later, the church was moved just east of where Rev. Mitchell lived.
West Pasco’s Heritage has:
In 1910 the little block church was sold and another was built on an acre of land in Elfers donated by J. M. Mitchell, who also furnished the material from his own saw mill to build the church. Sam Baker was the head carpenter. This building was used as a social hall after a new sanctuary was built during the pastorate of Rev. Henry E. Partridge, 1917-1918.
Information provided by the Methodist Church for a WPA survey has: “1910, church erected on Rd. #19, in Elfers. This building was used until present rectangular, white, frame building erected in 1916.”
About 1918 or 1919, a new sanctuary for the Methodist church was built at the corner of Pine and Orange Streets, during the pastorate of Rev. Henry E. Partridge. (One of the first services held in the new sanctuary was the wedding of Miss Jennie Edwards to Harvey O. Sheldon on June 18, 1919. According to Florida Cracker Days, “About 1915, a new facility was erected and the Rev. J. M. Mitchell preached there for many years. This church was located a quarter mile from State Route 595, and two blocks east of the Rev. Mitchell’s home.”)
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.
On Jan. 26, 1922, the New Port Richey Press reported, “Rev. C. W. Cotton has been appointed pastor of the Elfers Methodist Church for the ensuing year. He and his wife arrived last night.”
West Pasco’s Heritage has:
It was not until 1925 that the Elfers Methodists were able to build a parsonage. In the fall of that year, Rev. Paul Redfearn moved his bride into the new parsonage and was immediately given an old time charivari by the young people of the neighborhood. The new minister did not know of the custom and, instead of accepting it in the manner and spirit it was intended, he took it as a personal insult. The occasion caused tense relations between the members of the church and the minister. However, the Baptist minister, acting as a mediator, extracted an apology from the minister and pleaded with the congregation for understanding. Rev. Redfearn became well liked in the community and served the Elfers circuit another year. Since then he has risen high in the Methodist Conference and has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
West Pasco’s Heritage has:
The crash of 1929 made it necessary for many people who had been employed in Elfers to seek work elsewhere and this affected the entire community, including the church attendance. The Florida Conference abolished the Elfers Circuit and added Elfers to the newly formed New Port Richey charge which included New Port Richey, Elfers, Hudson, Odessa, Lake Fern and Keystone. Rev. P. S. Anderson was appointed to the New Port Richey parish and chose to live there. The Elfers parsonage was rented until 1933 and then was sold. After the Elfers Methodist Church closed its doors in 1940, one final service was held in the church that summer. On August 24, Mary Lou St. Clair and L. G. Knight were united in marriage by Rev. Felton Whittle, pastor of the New Port Richey Methodist Church. In 1944 the building was leased for a year to be used as a Baptist Church and was then sold to the Baptists. The parish has prospered as is now known as the First Baptist Church of Elfers.
On May 1, 1940, the Evening Independent reported, “A meeting was held last Sunday at the Elfers Methodist church by the members of both the local and Elfers churches to discuss the merger of the two. It is expected the Elfers church will join forces with the New Port Richey church and the church and the church building at Elfers torn down to be rebuilt as a Sunday school room on the local church site.”
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.
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.