In 1857 a large log church was built in a hickory grove near the Santar Plantation. This was a union church used by all faiths, but was used monthly by the Baptists. A Dr. Owens frequently preached for them. In 1861 Jacob Leitner helped build a log church on the south side of Spring Hill. This was also a union church. In 1868 the church was moved to a frame building near the present highway into Ocala. This building was also used as a school. The first Baptist pastor Rev. Wadell served the church from 1883 to 1886. The first school was built in 1885, and then both churches used this building for Sunday school and worship services.
In 1886 the Baptist built a church of their own located at the old church site near the railroad. It began with just an auditorium and was used by the Methodist until they completed their church. On July 4th, 1886 a cornerstone was placed during construction of the church at which time a roll call of the Baptist families showed names of Baskin, Green, House, Harris, Luffman, Maynard, Mercer, Proctor, Pugh, Russell, Stephens, Autman, Chisolm, Stripling, and Sherouse. This cornerstone was found by a Mr. Crews who not only demolished the church but refused to give it to the church nor would he verify what it contained. To my knowledge he still has possession of it. There were 39 families in the church at this time. The first wedding performed in the Baptist church was held around 1888 and united Miss Emma Howell and Mr. Elbert Shealy.
The Anthony Baptist Church was petitioned for membership and received into the
Marion Association on October 5, 1886. The Anthony church is the mother church of
the Oak Griner Baptist Church as some thirty-five members transferred their
membership to organize the Oak church in 1915. The Men’s Brotherhood
organization was organized in 1939 with Mr. Walter Priest, as it’s first president.
The first pastorium was built in 1947 with Frank Mims as chairman of the building
committee. A bus ministry was started in December 14, 1948. Two additions of
Sunday school rooms were added to the church in 1948 and 1960, and a baptistery
in 1950 was dedicated in honor of the faithfulness of Mr. & Mrs. Elmer Bemiss.
The State of Florida incorporated Anthony Baptist Church in 1949. Officers were L.J.
Cramer, J.G. Priest and Walter Priest.
In 1968 the church decided to relocate on 14 acres of land purchased from Mrs. Chellie Howell. The new church and educational building was built and dedicated to the Lord’s work in May 1969. In 1970 a new pastorium was built. In 1981 a new wing of Sunday school rooms was completed.
The Anthony Baptist Church has ordained 2 to the gospel ministry, J.H. Maddox, in 1934 and Francis Hunter in 1970. We have licensed 3, Clifford Priest, Francis Hunter and Ken Clark.
Over these many years we have had approximately 49 pastors and several interim pastors. Rev. N.B. Plummer was with the church for the longest period of time, a total of 17 years.