Ponte Vedra’s oldest congregation will mark its 115th anniversary this weekend, when Palm Valley Baptist Church hosts a homecoming celebration.
To be held Sunday, May 7, at the church located at 4890 Palm Valley Road, the celebration will begin at 10:30 a.m. with worship until noon. Following the worship service, attendees will walk over to the church parsonage and enjoy luncheon in a tent on the grounds. There will also be entertainment, a bounce house and other family-friendly activities to enable congregation members both old and new the chance to reminisce.
“We’ve been mailing invitations to everyone who’s been a member for like 30 years,” said Crystal Baer, a longtime church member and one of the of event’s organizers.
Founded in 1902, Palm Valley Baptist was originally called Diego Baptist – a reference to Palm Valley’s original name and the area’s early Spanish settlers.
Historical accounts say the congregation’s earliest founding members included the families of Thomas Patton, Thomas McClamman and William DeGrove, whose grandson, local artist Worley Faver, still lives in Palm Valley.
“In 1895, my grandfather bought 72 acres of property in what is now Palm Valley for $300,” said Faver, adding that his grandfather built a large home on the property that became known as the “Big House.”
“When I was 3 years old, we moved into the Big House,” he said. “I was raised there.”
According to local historical reports, in addition to being a farmer, DeGrove would become a local mail carrier, and was involved in the effort to rename Diego to Palm Valley. And the “Big House?” It became the parsonage for Diego Baptist Church – later renamed Palm Valley Baptist Church – the same newly renovated parsonage where generations of congregation members will gather this weekend to celebrate the church’s heritage.
“My grandfather would be so happy about that, because he donated the land for the church,” said Faver, who plans to attend Sunday’s homecoming.
Baer said Palm Valley Baptist expects to see other people who grew up in the church to return for the celebration.
“We’re just planning a nice big get together,” she said, “with people we haven’t seen in years.”