The first church meetings in St. Cloud were union meetings and were held in a building designed for a printing office. Later, the meetings were held in a large tent loaned by the Baptist Church in the state, and still later in the schoolhouse, which was located near the present site of the St. Cloud Hotel. The people were ministered to by the preachers from Kissimmee, and, at that time, a Rev. Mr. Mitchell was pastor of the Methodist Church South, in Kissimmee.
In December 1909, two city lots were donated by the Seminole Land and Investment Company to the Methodist denomination, and the present building stands on these lots. The next step was to gather together a membership for organizing a church in order to take title to the lots. Mr. William H. Wood made the investigation throughout the city and thirty names were secured as prospective members of this new church. On Sunday, December 19, 1909, Mr. A.H. Kinney was elected chairman.
Resolutions were drawn up stating that the new church desired to unite with the Florida Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and on December 22, 1909, was officially accepted by the annual conference in Lakeland and a minister duly appointed to this charge. Believing this to be a mistake, Mr. E.E. Scranton contacted a minister in south Jacksonville who forwarded his letter to the superintendent of the Jacksonville district, St. John’s River Conference, Rev. Mr. Porter. On January 1, 1910, a letter was received from the Rev. Mr. Porter stating that he would preach in St. Cloud on January 6.
Rev. Mr. Porter came and preached an excellent sermon and brought good tidings explaining how, through the Charles O. Livingston Fund, we could secure money for the building of our new church. This fund was established for the purpose of aiding and building new Methodist churches and the St. Cloud Church would be the first to use it. At the close of the second service, the Rev. Mr. Porter organized those present into a society of forty-two members and appointed the following official board: William H. Wood, William A. Stewart, John H. Thompson, W.H. Phipps, E.E. Scranton, E.W. Doop, and Brother White. This took place on January 8, and might well be called “Decision Day”, as up to this date the St. Cloud Methodist had been organized into two church groups.
The board attended the quarterly conference for the Methodist Episcopal Church South, in Kissimmee, and resigned, with the exception of Brother White, who had come from Oklahoma and was a member of the ME Church South in that state.
On January 8, 1911, one year later, the cornerstone was laid for our new church building. Rev. Porter attended the Northern Conference which met the following week in Eustis, Florida, where he reported having successfully organized the St. Cloud society and asked to have a preacher appointed to the new charge.
A Reverend John D. Wescott, of Mt. Dora, was appointed and arrived on January 22. He preached his first sermon on January 23 in the Baptist tent at 7 o’clock pm to a large audience. As Reverend Wescott was a veteran Union soldier, he was well chosen at this particular time for this particular charge, as the entire membership was composed of veterans and wives of veterans of the Civil War. The wisdom of the choice of Reverend Wescott was proved by the fact that during his four years as pastor, the membership grew from forty-four members to one hundred forty-seven.
The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society was first organized in 1911 and it was Mrs. Wescott who organized it. About four years later it merged with the Woman’s Home Missionary Society. The work of the Foreign Missionary Society was dropped. In 1918, during the holiday season, Miss Rose Mace, a missionary to China, visited St. Cloud and the work of the Foreign Missionary Society was resumed at that point.
In August of 1910, the work began on the pressed-brick church building. In October of 1910, a great tropical storm destroyed the large tent which had been the meeting place and the congregation moved to the GAR hall located near the corner of 11th and Massachusetts Avenue. The church building was completed this year. The parsonage was completed in May of 1911. At the annual conference in Jacksonville of 1912, Reverend Wescott was again appointed. The membership was one hundred one, the Sunday school 150, Epworth League 67, and a Junior League of 70 members. The pastor’s salary was fixed at $850 plus house rental of $150, for a total of $1000/year. Bishop Warren dedicated the church building on Sunday, February 4, 1912, the first one he dedicated.
May 2007 – By Mary Lee Pickard, Church Historian
In May 2007, Gwendolyn Hyndman Larsen and Florence Hyndman Caylor came to First United Methodist Church, looking for information about their father, Ibor George Hyndman. Florence Hyndman was born in the parsonage, which is now the church office. Her mother, Blanche, was pregnant with Florence when they moved there in June 1924. Rev. Hyndman worked with the deaf and was wonderful with music. Prior to his coming to St. Cloud, he had been an evangelist. He served as both pastor and choir director and involved the whole community in his choir.
Rev. Ibor Hyndman was very sympathetic to the black people of St. Cloud. They had a much-loved housekeeper who was black. Rev. Hyndman often took their housekeeper home after dark, late in the evening. At that time in St. Cloud, black people were not allowed to be in town after dark. One night, while he was taking their housekeeper home, hooded horseback riders from the Ku Klux Klan came to the parsonage with guns to burn a cross on the lawn to avenge the Pastor’s association with these African-American’s.
While carrying her baby, Flossie, Rev. Hyndman’s wife, Blanche rushed outside to confront these men on horseback. She grabbed the reigns of the horses and shamed the protesters into leaving. Rev. Hyndman was persecuted for his support of the Negro race.
Another story told to me by these sisters involved an automobile accident. One day Florence ran across Pennsylvania Avenue to see a teacher friend. When she was in the street, a car came and ran over her foot. This person happened to be a shoe salesman. Thereafter, every time he came to town, he felt so guilty for hitting her, that he brought her brand-new patent leather slippers. She also remembers dolls and other gifts he brought her as she recuperated.
Gwendolyn and Florence also spoke to me about living in the parsonage sleeping on the back porch on hot summer nights and having their pictures taken in the front yard. There were four Hyndman children living in the parsonage.
Florence and Gwendolyn also told me they went to a school on New York Avenue, beside the St. Cloud Hotel. In 1928 Rev. Hyndman moved his family to Lexington, Kentucky where another child, a son, was born. Later, Rev. Hyndman became an Episcopal priest.
As a Church Historian, it was a privilege to meet these two sisters.
Because northern veterans of the Civil War settled in St. Cloud, there was much unrest between the northern and southern sympathizers. They had the only GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) building that was in the South. The building still remains on the corner of 11th St. and Massachusetts Ave.