starting in THE 1920’s

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Ardella’s history reveals a way of life in central Florida in the late 1800s and early 1920s and 1930s.

A revival was held at the beautiful little Methodist Church located on the land which is now Medulla Elementary School. The evangelist was known by his countrymen and was a Christ-follower - He was also known as a Baptist.

It seemed the Methodist were out numbered, and Old Medulla Baptist had just decided to become Southern Baptist. Ardella founders were a small group and, according to history, they wanted only the Bible for their guidance. Their goal was to make their community a better place to life, worship, and educate their families. The community leaders agreed a church was needed.

Pastors of Ardella Baptist Church

J.H. Dorman July 1922 - 1929

J.M. Cooley Sep. 1929 - 1930

J. Walter Allen Sep. 1930 - Aug. 1932

J. Oliver Campbell Aug. 1932 - July 1933

J.H. Dorman Jul. 1933- Aug 1933

J Oliver Campbell Aug. 1933 - Aug 1934

J.H. Dorman Aug. 1934 - Aug. 1935

Vester Ghent Aug. 1935 - Aug 1937

J.M Parrish Aug. 1937 - Aug 1944

J.E. Sinclair Jul. 1944 - May 1945

J.H. Dorman May 1945 - July 1954

H.H Cunningham Aug. 1954 - July 1956

Bugord H. Chilcoat April 1956 - Jan. 1962

Charles R Newman Feb. 1962 - Dec 1966

Jimmy Creel Jan. 1967 - May 1970

Weeks Dubose July 1970 - Apr. 1975

Tom Scarlett July 1974 - Jan 1976

Mack Chambers Mar. 1976 - Sep. 1984

Edward k. Brown, JR Dec. 1984 - July 1987

E.J. Brinson 1987 - May 2016

Dr. Mark A. Bedwell May 2016 - Present

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The land was donated - tall pines were cut with an ax - sawed into dressed lumber - plans were drawn and the finished carpenters of that day donated skills, and soon a little frame church was ready for services. A pump organ was donated - the music was sweet and old fashioned songs were sung.

According to Hampton Dunn’s Lakeland History (pages 17 & 18), “In the decade of the 1870s… Lakeland was yet unborn. The metropolis was Medulla with a post office and two stores…”

An influx of families came fast during the 1920s. Jobs were plentiful at the Standard and Christina Phosphate Mines. Good industries included farming, cattle, and phosphate mining, and that is why we became Imperial Polk County.

Ardella grew from the original six charter members in 1922 to 107 by the end of 1929.

The name Ardella came from a traveling missionary. He had a daughter named Ardella and the six charter members in 1922 loved the name.

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SUNDAY, DEC. 6, 1987

As membership and needs grew, the little wooden framed church was given to a member for their home and was moved to another location. Later a brick SANCTUARY created in 1948; then in 1964 a more substantial brick sanctuary was built; then a fellowship hall and kitchen and dining; then the modern multi-purpose building.

Today, 75 years later, the descendants of these founders (eight generations) still attend Ardella, and it is still a center of leadership and activity. It has grown from the original one acre to 17 with plenty of parking and is a place to find HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, and the fellowship of JOY.

Written by Mary Smith Howell (Descendent of Founding Members)

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Traditionally dinner on the grounds happened Sunday’s afternoons, under the big oak trees in the front yard of the church. This family activity is a traditional pot luck style event that was well attended.

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A SUNDAY MORNING CROWD - in front of the second old chapel

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Fun Facts about Ardella and how this church has impacted our community.

1922 - Ardella is established

1923 - Wooden building was completed

1927 - Bought another tank for church camp

1927 - Established box system for church offerings

1928 - Special offering for Florida Baptist Association as their bank failed

1930 _ Moved prayer meeting from Friday to Wednesday

1935 - Organized Arch Street Baptist Church in Mulberry

1940 - Organized young peoples meeting and hired a janitor for $2.00 per month

1941 - Changed the name to Ardella Missionary Baptist Church

1942 - Began receiving offering Sunday morning and night.

1945 - Installed indoor toilets

1948 - Organized Ladies Auxiliary

1951 - Organized Eastside Baptist Church in Mulberry

1954 - Parsonage was completed

1958 - Organized Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Meade

1962 - Mission offerings $85. per month; Florida Baptist Schools

$35. per month; Pastor $80 per week

1973 - Organized Center Road Baptist Church, Venice

1973 - Endorsed Macedornian Service Foundation

1974 - Sponsored Tharrpi Joseph as missionary to India

1974 - Sponsored Mike and Judy Thompson as missionaries to Japan

1975 - Endorsed Hollis Ledbetter as a missionary to Israel

1975 - Endorsed George Garner as Chaplin in the Army

1976 Recalled Ledbetters from Israel due to political and religious problems in Israel