First Presbyterian Church of Ocala
Founded in 1857
This abbreviated history is just a small snapshot of an extensive chronological history written by Rev. Tom Weaver, with the help of the local historians, for the church’s 150th anniversary in 2007. The complete copy can be viewed on the church website, which you are invited to read.
The First Presbyterian Church of Ocala was organized in the summer of 1857 as a Home Mission Church with 11 charter members. At the time the church was founded, Ocala was a tiny village. For 27 years stated supply ministers served the church occasionally, with the Methodist and Baptist congregations allowing them to use their houses of worship. The Rev. William McCormick, also the pastor of Kanapaha Presbyterian Church, often preached “on the fourth Sabbath” which could be quite a treacherous journey via horseback. The first pastor of First Ocala was installed in 1884.
Construction on the first church building began in August 1885 and was dedicated in 1887. Anticipating growth, the 40 member church built the sanctuary to seat 300 people. A few years later, “the largest bell in Ocala” was added to the bell tower. The fully functional bell was moved and installed in the new church building where it remains. The bell was donated by Mr. and Mrs. John Dunn (for whom the city of Dunnellon was named).
In June 1928, the church celebrated the opening of their second sanctuary, which was a few blocks away. The celebration included a sacred organ recital. The church and its members were considered community leaders.
The church continued to add to their “footprint” by completing a Christian Education building in 1958, and a fellowship hall in 1970. Worship services were held in the fellowship hall for two years while the sanctuary was renovated. In 1991, the church purchased three city blocks which had been the home of First Baptist Church until a tragic fire destroyed the property. The property was used to renovate and expand the Fellowship Hall in 2012.
First Presbyterian Church of Ocala initiated the establishment of several Presbyterian churches in Ocala including Fort King (1965), Silver Springs Shores (1974), Marion Oaks (1981), and Countryside (1987).
Thanks to Helen Quinlan, Communications Specialist, First Presbyterian Church of Ocala.