Thursday, October 9, 2014

New facts in an old story

The upcoming grand opening of the Enterprise Heritage Society on Oct. 18, 2014, is great news for anyone interested in local history. The former county seat has pretty much been swallowed by the city of Deltona, with its 80,000+ people. Having a physical presence will help the historical group preserve the community's identity.

I've long known details of Enterprise's roots. One of the region's oldest communities, it has a well-documented history. As seems to be the case with many local histories I've traced in Florida over the years, available facts made no mention of a Catholic presence there.  I just assumed one didn't exist. So I was really surprised recently to discover a Works Progress Administration (WPA) record documenting a Catholic church in Enterprise from 1881 until 1929.

Screengrab of handwritten page from WPA Church Record
Page from the WPA record about a Catholic church
in Enterprise. Credit: Florida Memory
The church in a rectangular, frame white building on Clark Street was pastored by a Father McFall for the first five years, 1881-1886. A priest from nearby Sanford, Father P.J. Roche, oversaw the parish from 1928-1929. What about the years in-between? The WPA is silent. The parish and church don't even have a recorded name.

Among the people who provided details to the WPA field worker in 1940 were two former church members, Mrs. John R. Thursby and Miss Mabel Thayer, both of Blue Springs, and Father J. G. Litch, described as an "old resident" of Enterprise.

You can review the entire record, scant though it is, at the Florida Memory website's WPA Church Records Collection. As for me, I'll be taking a drive down to Clark Street, and then up to the Diocese of St. Augustine Archives, to find out more.

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