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"A Brief History of the Lake Forest (Springfield) Congregation"

In the year 1925 a part time preacher named Wilson Herron moved from Nashville, Tennessee to Jacksonville. Brother Herron worked for a firm that manufactured attic and window fans. The company’s sales manager was Brother Jesse Elder who attended services at the Riverside Park congregation. At this time the Riverside Park congregation was the only group of the Lord’s people meeting in Jacksonville. Brother Herron had not been in Jacksonville long before he saw the need for a congregation of the church on the North side of town.

After several months the elders of the Riverside Park congregation decided to help start a congregation in that area of Jacksonville. They purchased a tent and erected it on the Northeast corner of Eighth Street and Market Street. The first service of the Springfield church of Christ was held on April 10th, 1927 with approximately 30 members present. The tent was used as a meeting place by the Springfield church of Christ for approximately one and a half years. Brother Herron served as the preacher, Brother Murphy Smiley the song leader and Brother Goodson the church treasurer. The tent was rendered unfit for a meeting place as the result of a serious storm. When the tent became unfit, the congregation rented a building at the corner of Ninth Street and Liberty Street.

The first two people baptized after the congregation started were Brother J. C. Toms and his son Brother Garvin Toms. Shortly after the congregation moved to the 9th and Liberty address, the Smiley family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. At this time Brother Toms began to lead the singing and was the main song leader for the congregation for the next 15 or more years. From their location at 9th Street and Liberty Street, the congregation moved to a store building at the corner of 16th Street and Silver Street which they rented from a man named KoKo W. Barry. The men of the congregation put up partitions in the back of that building to make four classrooms. The church was meeting in that building when the C. C. Blackman and J. H. Blackman families placed membership with the congregation.

The congregation moved from 16th Street and Silver Street to the Syrian Lebanon club hall which occupied the upstairs room in the building located at the corner of 16th Street and Main Street. In 1933 the church purchased a lot located at 122 East 21st from Mr. Marsh for $300. In 1934 the congregation with the financial support of Brother C. G. McGeehee constructed a building that would seat 150 people. The building and the lot cost less than $3,000.00. Brother Wilson Herron was the primary minister for the Springfield congregation for approximately 15 years.

During that span of years, he also preached in Charleston, South Carolina for approximately one year. Brother W.C. Morton and Brother A. Brogdon, as well as others, preached for the congregation during his absence. Before 1940, the church experienced slow growth. At that time people began to come to the city to work in the shipyards and other places and for several years thereafter the church experienced rapid growth. In 1942, Brother A. W. Johnson moved to Jacksonville from Pensacola to serve as the minister for the Springfield congregation. As the church continued to grow during this time, it became apparent that the building on 21st Street would not be able to hold the congregation.

The church started a building fund and after some time, the congregation purchased the lot at the corner of 18th Street and Laura Street.

18th St & Laura St BuildingDuring this time as a result of continued growth, it was necessary for the church to have two worship services on Sunday mornings. The necessity for two services continued until the church moved from the building on 21st Street. In 1950, the church had plans drafted to build a meeting house on the Laura Street property, but the projected building costs exceeded the congregation’s financial ability. In the latter part of that year, Brother C. T. Garner, one of the elders of the church, proposed that the church begin construction of the building; that the church be its own contractor; and the men of the congregation do all the work.

The men of the congregation began work on the new building the week following Christmas 1950 and they worked on the construction continuously until the building was completed in June 1952. Brother R. C. Walker followed Brother Johnson as the minister for the Springfield congregation before the move to the Laura Street building. Thereafter, Brother Walker was succeeded by Brother J. Howard Carter. Brother Carter was succeeded in the ministry at Springfield by Brother Glenn Killom who was followed by Brother Dallas Borum. Brother George Darling, who moved here from Ft. Pierce, was the minister at Springfield for almost eight years. He was followed in the work by Brother Bill Heinselman who served as the church’s minister for nine years.

While at the Laura Street address the congregation built an education annex and later acquired the property immediately behind the original building. However, in the early 1970’s the elders determined that the church should move to a new location. The church purchased the land at 950 Edgewood Avenue. The new building was designed by Brother Corneil Torbert, an architect who had worshiped at Springfield for several years. The funds to construct the church building were raised through a bond issue that sold out in one week from the initial date of issuance.

The Springfield congregation first met in the new building on Edgewood Avenue on the first Sunday of August 1974. The name of the congregation was changed to the Lake Forest church of Christ. Brother Heinselman was succeeded in 1976 by Brother Ray Peters who worked with the Lake Forest congregation until October 1979. Brother John Starks served as the congregation’s minister from 1980 until 1983. Brother Bill Beck succeeded Brother Starks in late summer 1983 and served as the church’s minister until January 1990. Brother Glan Lee followed Brother Beck as the church’s minister and served in that capacity until spring 1992. Brother Frank Chesser commenced his work with Lake Forest in September 1992 and served as the church’s minister until June 1996. Brother Charlie T. Garner, Jr., the son of C. T. and Mildred Garner and who grew up in the old Springfield congregation, returned home to serve as the church’s minister in June 1996. Brother Garner served the congregation until his death in June 1999 after a long battle with cancer.

The church’s next minister, Brother Maynard Booher, began his work with the church in December 1999 and continued as the full-time minister through May 2002. Brother Booher continues to serve as associate minister. Brother Brian Giselbach, our present minister and son-in-law of Brother Charlie T. Garner, Jr., came aboard in July 2002. Brother Ryan Frederick took over the reigns in January of 2007 and continues to serve today. The Springfield and Lake Forest congregations have held numerous meetings over the years. Some of the ministers who have preached during those meetings were Bros. T. B. Thompson, J. Thornton Crews, Vesta Cothran, R. C. White, J. Roy Vaughn, E. R. Harper, Hugo McCord, Charles Lemmons, Jack McElroy, Andrew Connally, R. C. Walker, George Darling, Mack Wayne Craig, and Hardeman Nichols.

During its existence the Springfield and Lake Forest congregations of the church have generously supported the Lord’s churches in the Jacksonville area and surrounding communities. It has supported numerous local, domestic and foreign works of the church. It has sponsored several debates with denominations in the Jacksonville area and on several occasions, it has associated with other congregations of the church in the Jacksonville area to preach the Word of God to the Jacksonville community. The Springfield and Lake Forest congregations have been blessed by having men who have filled the pulpit during the transition between ministers. Of special note is Brother Larry Paulk, the son of Dormas and Pearl Paulk who grew up in the Springfield congregation. Brother Paulk filled the pulpit on several occasions for extended periods of time while the congregation searched for a new minister. During the illness of Brother Garner, the pulpit was filled by numerous men of the congregation.

(This brief history of the Springfield and Lake Forest congregation was originally compiled by Brother Guy Craig one of the former elders. Brother Bill Seaward provided some additional information.)


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