|The Jacksonville Baptist Home for Children was conceived in the mind of Mr. Solomon J. Highsmith, a member of the Main Street Baptist Church of Springfield. Mr. Highsmith donated 8 acres of land on Lem Turner Road for the building of an orphanage for children in Jacksonville. With the assistance of his Pastor, Dr. W.L.C. Mahon, first pastor of the Main Street Baptist Church in Springfield, the matter was brought to the attention of the Jacksonville Baptist Association in the early 1920s (See the three history articles for details in reports to and by the Board of Trustees for the Home).|
Once the Board of Trustees was set up the Main Street Baptist Church provided a building which the Home originally intended to have moved to a lot purchased at 17 Cottage Avenue nearby the Church in Springfield. When moving the building proved unfeasible, plans were made and money raised to build anew on the Cottage Avenue lot. This building was to be the first or "Receiving Home" for the Jacksonville Baptist Home for Children and was opened in 1927.
The long term plan was to pay off the debts and then raise funds to build a larger home on the Lem Turner property just north of Springfield. But once in operation, the administration and Board of the Home realized the need for such facilities required a much larger property on which to build.
The property located on Bartram Road seemed perfect, the Home was able to buy it, and proceed to build on it. It is there today though now incorporated into the group of related facilities known collectively as the Florida Baptist Homes for Children.
My Grandfather, Percy Leon Thomas, Sr. an attorney, served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Home for many many years. He was at one time Secretary of the Board and for over 16 years its Vice-President. As an attorny he handled some of the various legalities encountered such as the donations that were made and the various properties that were purchased. My Mother, Joan Thomas, his daughter, remembers visiting the Home at both Cottage Avenue and Bartram Road sites throughout the early history of the home.
I remember accompanying the Royal Ambassadors (RAs), a Boys Mission Church group of which my Mother and Father were the Counsellors at Murray Hill Baptist Church, on an overnight camp out/cook out at the Home on the Bartram Road property back in the 1950s. I did not then realize that my Grandfather Thomas had played a part in the founding of that Home. Percy Leon Thomas was a very remarkable man who served his Church, Family and Community well from the time he first came to Jacksonville from a farm in Clay County about 1914m until his death all too soon in 1959. He was a Deacon, Superintendent of the Baptist Training Union, Member of the School Board, Master Mason and co founder of the albert J. Russell Lodge No. , , member of the Improved Order of Redmen and he lived with his family for nearly 20 years in a small bugalow court neighborhood by the name of Dancy Terrace.
Notes on material included here:
Recently I found some of the original documentation for these early years of the JBHC in my Grandfather's things, kept by my Grandmother and inherited by my Mother. I queried several local Baptist organizations and the Florida Baptist Historical group but the people with whom I spoke did not seem to have heard about any of this early history. So it was clear what my part in this was to be. Both as an historian, a former Baptist and as a admiring Granddaughter, I wanted this early history to be available to the public. It may be of particular interest not only to future historians researching the Florida Baptists, but also to those many children who lived in the Home through the years. I hope it will benefit someone and if you care to let me know, or if you have information to add, please email me at email@example.com.