By BRUCE COLLIER
A Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings was served at no cost last Thursday at Walton County Fairgrounds, with boxed-up meals sent out to those who couldn’t attend in person. The meal came together through the combined efforts of the Walton County Baptist Association and other area churches. Richard Murray Jr. with the First Baptist Church of DeFuniak Springs, said that he and the volunteers (around 130 of them) fed a total of 528 people, including delivered meals. Murray said that some 12 – 15 churches participated, “not all of them Baptist,” he added. He said that the number of people fed was substantially up from the approximate 200 served last year. Murray attributed this to improved publicity efforts.
In addition to the traditional holiday fare, guests at the fairgrounds were serenaded by a foursome of guitar-playing musicians, one of whom identified the group as simply the “no name” band. The meal was served from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., “or until the food runs out,” as one volunteer put it.
Panhandle church withstands the test of time
Story and photos by JEFFREY POWELL
For 153 years, faithful church goers have been attending services at the Moss Hill Methodist Church east of Vernon in what is now Washington County. In fact this site was the home of a Methodist Mission for years prior to the construction of the current structure in 1857. The building is constructed almost exclusively of “yellow heart” pine and is believed to be one of Florida’s oldest standing churches.
Founded as a Methodist Mission soon after the 1821 transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States, Moss Hill became a social and spiritual gathering pace for the pioneering families of what was then a part of Jackson County. Records indicate these first white settlers arrived as early as 1819.
It is believed services were first held in a log blockhouse or fort just northwest of today’s church site. It is also believed this structure was a safe haven during the many skirmishes in the area connected with the Second Seminole War which took pace between 1835 and 1842. The church was constructed on public land which was uniquely given to the church, through a patent, by President Abraham Lincoln on Dec. 5, 1861, nearly 11 months after Florida seceded from the Union.
During the Civil War several local men gathered to meet a Union force retuning from the battle of Marianna. The outing did not go well for the men and several of them were captured and died in Union prison camps. Their markers can be found in the Moss Hill cemetery adjacent to the church. Many of the area’s pioneering families are also interred on the grounds.
Today, church services are held on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. Moss Hill is located east of Vernon on CR-279. The church structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.