Archer ​​​​​​​First United Methodist Church

Conerstone 1891 (Archer M. E. Church South)

Archer United Methodist Church 1866-1991: A History
Elizabeth Weimer Batey
AUMC Historian

The people who settled the community of Archer did not ever have to say "I'd rather go into the woods and worship alone." They were in the woods. The early settlement was in the vicinity of Darden Hammock which included the north area of Laurel Hill Cemetery at that time.

Methodism was brought into Florida in 1821. In 1822 it came to St. Mary's and Amelia Island (John Wesley had come ashore in a convoy of ships from England at Savannah in 1736).

Among the early followers was Donald McDonell, who took the Leon Circuit which included Leon, Jefferson, Madison and Gadsden counties, extending from Apalachicola to the Suwannee River and from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico.

J. C. Ley was born in Burke County, Georgia, December 20, 1822. On December 22, 1842, he was licensed to "exhort".

Methodism found its way to our area in 1859. According to the Journals of the Florida Conference the 16th session of the Florida Conference met in Micanopy December 28, 1859. But in 1860 the clouds of war were forming and as Reverend J.C. Ley states in his autobiography, "The church in all its operations sympathized with the excitement.    Congregations were everywhere decimated, companies and regiments forming everywhere”.

The area which was later to become Archer was first known as Deer Hammock, later as Darden Hammock. Mrs. Mattie Darden Dowell was a citizen of our area all her life (more than 90 years) and she was a Methodist. The Darden family may have been served by circuit riders such as Reverend J.C. Ley and others.

The first Methodists in the Archer area met in the various homes in and around Deer Hammock. After the Civil war a small "meeting house" was built on the east side of Laurel Hill Cemetery (approximately the site of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Mills' cemetery lot).        The building was made of logs set upon large rocks and covered with wooden shingles. We know we were an organized congregation by 1866 because a large pulpit Bible was presented to the church by Joseph Sealy McDonell.

The Florida Conference Journal of 1871, confirms the fact that Reverend R.H Barnett served the Bronson – Archer Circuit. Reverend R.M. Ellzey rode the Archer, Bronson, Cedar Key Circuit 1872-1874. Reverend T.W. Tomkies rode this Circuit 1876 - 1880. The records following 1880 are very vague, but in reading the history of Gainesville United Methodist Church it is recorded that Reverend James P. DePass (uncle of Dr. M.H. DePass) was pastor of the Archer Church in the year 1887 and also 1895-1897.

Mr. Charlie Pearson came to Archer from the North with the Quaker Orange Company. After the freeze of 1896, the Quakers and their household of faith moved on, but one remained: Mr. Charlie Pearson. He had built a pretty home on East Church Street and he spent all his remaining days supporting the Methodist Church with presence and funds. He finally joined the Methodist Church on June 12, 1927.

The tax records dated July 1890 state the deed transfer of Lot #6 in Block 25 of Archer, Florida, from Samuel A. Swan of Fernandina to Joseph s. McDonell, Frank G. Bauknight, Wade A. Geiger, Charles Kerr, and J.F. McDonell, Trustees of the Archer Methodist Episcopal Church - South. The second deed, dated December 10, 1890, records the purchase of Lot 7, Block 25 for $25.00 from Samuel A. Swann, Resident Manager of the Florida Town Improvement Society.

  • The text above is an excerpt from Archer United Methodist Church 1866-1991: A History by Elizabeth Eimer Batey, AUMC Historian, 1991. pp. 1-2. Cover art by Tom Bragg.

Bell tower