Pioneer Churches Still Praying for the Indian River Lagoon

Stained glass windows from St Paul's Episcopal Church of Eden, later St Paul's' Church of Walton, now at St Mary's Church, Stuart. (Photo Sandra Thurlow)
Stained glass windows from St Paul’s Episcopal Church of Eden, later St Paul’s Church of Walton, now at St Mary’s Episcopal Church of Stuart. (Photo JTL)

According to my mother’s book, Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River,  there were a  number of pioneer churches along the Indian River Lagoon.

One that strikes a special cord for me is St Paul’s that was built in 1898 but destroyed in the hurricane of 1949 as pictured below. (Photo courtesy archives of Sandra  Henderson Thurlow.)

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Thankfully the stained glass windows were saved, and today they are the backdrop for the altar at St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Stuart that was built in 1949, the year of the storm.

According to My mother’s Jensen/Eden book,”there were no churches for the earliest settlers of Jensen and Eden to attend,” but it was the African American community of Tick Ridge, along Savannah Road, that built the first in 1890. This church eventually took on the name “St Peter’s African Methodist Episcopal Chapel,” and is located between the Savannas and the Indian River Lagoon. A newer church, a CME, or Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, stands on the same location today.

A second church rose in 1899, also in Tick Ridge; it was baptist in denomination.

In 1898 the beautiful All Saint’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints_Episcopal_Church,_Waveland_(Jensen_Beach,_Florida)  was built, still stands today, and is the oldest longstanding church in the area according to its Wikipedia write up; this is the church that can be seen on the west hill just north of Rio when traveling on Indian River Drive.

In 1903 the Eden Union Congregational Church was built and is still standing in old downtown Jensen; it the one with the really cool concrete blocks and once was painted bright yellow; and finally, the Community Church of Jensen was organized in 1938,  eventually moving to its stunning and “heavenly” location on one of the highest sites in the county, Skyline Drive, Jensen Beach. 

In the hard times of Eden/Jensen pioneers, people set priorities and organized to worship. In one form or another, most of these churches are still standing today. What an accomplishment to the spirit of the men and women who built and loved our area and have passed on.

I believe with out a doubt, they’re all still praying, and and thank God they are, because we all know, the Indian River Lagoon needs nothing short of a miracle!

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