Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church

AKA — Longwood Corinth Baptist Church

Charles J. Smith, second pastor of Corinth Baptist

Around 1880 the town of Longwood was coming into its own. That year it was linked with Sanford and Orlando via by a narrow-gauge rail line that would later become the South Florida Railroad. For a town to prosper it needed plenty of labor, ideally cheap labor. So town founder Edward Henck began to recruit African American citizens to move into Longwood from around the Southeast.

Eager for jobs in agriculture or one of the two railroads (the second, the Florida Midland Railroad, being constructed in 1885), many black families moved to Longwood in the 1880s (largely from Georgia). Some early arrivals built hastily-constructed shelters along the railroad embankments. Later most of them ended up locating homes in the western part of the town, near where the hospital is today.

At that time, these pioneer families started clamoring for a formal place of worship. Early black settler Thomas Shepherd stepped forward as the leader for this movement. He approached Henck with the request of a lot to build a church. Henck agreed and donated a small lot on the north side of West Pine Avenue, a block west of the Old Schoolhouse. Its location was approximately at 175 West Pine Avenue, where the Mid-Florida Hospital Specialists is today. With the entire congregation pitching in, the original building was completed in 1883. It was a plain, unpainted wood-framed, rectangular structure with a bell and it served the church for the next 82 years!

E. C. Jones was named the first pastor of Corinth Baptist Church and served from 1883 through 1894. Charles J. Smith took over in 1894. He did not live in town, so he walked the railroad tracks from his home in Georgetown (Sanford) to Longwood on Sundays to preach. The Jones and Shepard families became prominent and lasting pillars of the Longwood community. They homesteaded on, collectively, hundreds of acres in West Longwood straddling both sides of 434 between what is today Milwee Street and Rangeline Road.

Rev. Oliver and Mabelle Glover

In the 1920s Longwood became more populated and white settlers found themselves living all around the black church. They complained about the noise associated with night services held at the church, so the congregation agreed to cancel the night time worship in 1924.

In 1942 Reverend Oliver Glover took over the church and served as pastor for 33 years. During his tenure the congregation expressed the desire to resume night services. The congregation raised money and purchased two acres of land from church elder Charles Hines along State Road 434 (Molnar Avenue). Hines was a descendent of Thomas Shepard, one of three founding families of the church, who had homesteaded on 77 acres along 434. The current building was dedicated on April 3, 1965 and the original structure on Pine Avenue was torn down. It was with this transition that the church was renamed from Corinth Baptist Church to Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church.

More distant from homes, the church happily brought back their beloved night services in their new location! Over the decades since the congregation has added on to the 1965 building multiple times. In August of 2009 Mrs. Norweida Maxwell, widow of Rev Fred L. Maxwell, was ordained as the pastor. She became the first black woman appointed pastor of a traditional black Missionary Baptist Church.

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This aerial view of 1885 Longwood is depicted looking toward the southwest.