Carol Wood could be said to symbolize the congregation at First Presbyterian Church of Wewahitchka.
Wood, the church’s “moderator,” might be small in stature and a tad mature in years, but there remains plenty of faith and passion.
The current focus of that energy is rebuilding her church, one of the most historic buildings in Wewahitchka and mangled by Hurricane Michael.
“A large tree fell right beside it but didn’t do any damage,” Wood said. “But the heavy winds shifted the church on its foundation.”
The congregation is working with FEMA on a grant to help lift the building and set it on a secure foundation.
To provide a boost for the grant application, it was suggested the church pursue placement of the building on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Wood was told by a representative from the Florida Division of Historical Resources that the church could qualify for the Registry through its “social history.”
That brings us to the role of this story as Wood seeks additional information about the “church’s role in terms of community outreach and/or social activism.”
Wood, who knows some of the broad strokes of the church’s long history, is seeking assistance with building on that information, hoping members of the community with knowledge of the church and its role in the centuries since it was built will fill in the blanks.
“It is a very sweet church from the outside and from the inside,” Wood said. “This will be a long process but we need information about the history of the church.”
The Cliff’s Notes version is pretty impressive and often lost in discussions about the county’s historic buildings such as the Port Theatre, Port St. Joe Garden Center or Wewahitchka Courthouse.
The church was constructed as St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church around 1895 and consecrated in 1903, according to a history published in 2000 by Rosenia Kilbourn.
Constructed from local cypress wood, the man who built the church was an immigrant from Bohemia named Francis Rummel.
Rummel, a master craftsman living in Georgia, was persuaded to move to Wewahitchka by Dr. John Keyes, one of the community’s early settlers.
The Presbyterian Church purchased the building in the 1940s and over the years it has served as a house of worship for local Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian congregations.
For a long time the Episcopalians and Presbyterians shared the church until St. John’s Episcopal north of Wewahitchka was completed in 2005.
Stained glass windows were installed in the Presbyterian church in 1989 and new pew cushions in 1988.
First Presbyterian Church of Port St. Joe provided a grant to replace the Wewahitchka church’s roof three years ago.
Other details can be filled in, but what is sought is information concerning the church’s interaction with the broader community, whether written or oral anecdotes or photos.
Wood hopes reliving those times of the past will lead to the church playing a larger role in the future.
“I’d really like to see that building used for more community events,” Wood said. “It has so much history.
“Wewahitchka’s historic buildings suffered a great deal as a result of the hurricane. Hurricane Michael has taught us the importance of community and the value of places where we gather to worship, to learn and to celebrate life.”
Anyone with information, written or photos, pertaining to what is now First Presbyterian Church in Wewahitchka please contact Wood by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.