HISTORY

beulah baptist church

Serving Christ Since 1913

Beulah predates the Civil War, and the small community was settled before Winter Garden came into existence. Yet, all that’s left of the name are the road, a church, a pioneer cemetery and a lake. The community has been absorbed by Orange County.

The Beulah Settlement, originally called the Reaves Settlement, was carved from the wilderness about five miles south of Lake Apopka.

In January 1860, the Bartlett B. Reams family arrived in the area from Merriweather County, Ga., according to a book written by William Freemont Blackman about the history of Orange County. Also traveling with Reams were the W.C. Roper and Andrew Jackson Dunaway families — in a caravan of 28 horses and mules, five wagons, two carriages and one buggy.

The Reaves family, including Daniel Asbury and Rawlins Lowndes Reaves, settled there in 1867 and owned much of the property in the community, according to an article written in 1934 by Winter Garden’s first mayor, A.B. Newton.

The community also boasted the only schoolhouse in the area.

The community continued to grow and develop until the 1880s and 1890s, when rail lines were extended to the north, leading to the birth of Winter Garden and its growth explosion.

​Beulah might have lost its foothold as an up-and-coming town, and it might have lost many of its original settlers to Winter Garden, but there is still evidence of the pioneer community with the names Beulah and Reaves scattered throughout the community, which is less than one square mile.

Beulah Cemetery is nestled among large oak trees just west of Lake Beulah.

Beulah Cemetery

The Beulah Cemetery is accessible at the east end of Cemetery Road, just west of Lake Beulah beneath stately sprawling oaks. One of the earliest headstones belongs to Andrew Jackson Dunaway, a Confederate States Army soldier who was buried in 1866. Beulah Baptist Church has long been the custodian of the cemetery, which is a free resting place for members of the Beulah community or church or for immediate family members of those buried there. The Reaves family started the cemetery on private land and later donated it to the Beulah church. The Central Florida Genealogical Society surveyed the cemetery in 1997 and discovered the names of many West Orange County pioneers: Johns, Patrick, Dann, Tanner, Roper, Reaves (Reeves) and Reams (Reames). Newton, Winter Garden’s first mayor and merchant, is buried there, as well. This year, the Florida Public Archaeology Network has been sponsoring the Orange County Historic Cemetery Recording Project, which produces data that can be beneficial to researchers and archaeologists. Volunteers visit local cemeteries to record marker data, such as type, inscription, material, designs and condition. The Beulah Cemetery is ranked high on the list because it is still in use, is well-maintained by the church and is still associated with the founding community.

Beulah CHURCH

One of the oldest churches in Orange County Beulah Baptist Church is now at 671 Beulah Road. It has been written that the church was given its name by a member of the Reaves family who was fascinated by the name Beulah, a Hebrew word that means “married” and in the Bible is a name symbolic of the heavenly Zion. The community later adopted the name after the church. Prior to becoming a Baptist church, it was a community congregational church, founded in 1861 on property on Reaves Road. It served as the only public school in the area, too, for many years. R.L. Reaves, who was a preacher, offered sermons on the open land. Eventually, a 12-foot by 12-foot building was constructed of split logs because there was no lumber; the local sawmill had burned down in a fire in 1867. According to the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, Beulah Congregational Church became the Beulah Methodist Church in 1892. When the Methodist church moved to Winter Garden in 1909, the community felt a Baptist church was needed, as it was becoming inconvenient to travel to Winter Garden’s Baptist church, so the church’s denomination switched in 1913. Two years later, the Reaves family deeded the property to the church. The first full-time pastor, the Rev. Mark A. Dobbs, was called in 1942, and the following year, a building fund was begun. A groundbreaking for the new sanctuary took place on Thanksgiving Day 1944. The new church building, with its steeple and modern design, was completed in 1946. In the late 1940s, a parsonage was built using timbers from the old Beulah School, which closed in 1945. A daycare center opened on the campus in 1973 and operated until 1992. In 1976, five additional acres were purchased adjacent to the church for expansion. Family Christian School was founded in 2003. Located on the church campus, the school offers instruction in grades K4 through eight.

Beulah SCHOOL

West Orange County’s pioneer children had to travel to Beulah for their education, as the Beulah School, established in 1860, was the only formal educational facility in the area for decades, and students attended until the Orange County School Board closed it in 1946.

A log building matching the original Beulah church was built as a school for the surrounding areas.

Classrooms were divided into older and younger classes, and both had combined grade levels.

One teacher in the early 1900s would on occasion take her little boy to class with her, according to one Orange County history account. The child, Elmer Badger, who played and crawled around his mother’s desk as she taught, grew up to be a dedicated schoolteacher in West Orange County.

The schoolhouse at Beulah served as the center of the settlement’s social activities, before there was an Oakland, Ocoee or Gotha.

When the school was closed, the school board sold the school buildings to the Baptist church for $1, and the church used the timbers from the old school to build the parsonage.

LAKE Beulah

Lake Beulah is located just east of the Beulah Cemetery and at one time, supplied water for agriculture.