Founding pastor’s family reflects on 99 years with Arcadia Church




Rev. S.W. Bail and Gurney Elizabeth Simpson Bail in Arcadia, Fla.
Photo by courtesy of Susan Baumel
Rev. S.W. Bail and Gurney Elizabeth Simpson Bail in Arcadia, Fla. Granddaughter Susan Baumel writes, “I think you'll be able to identify the Rev. Samuel Wishert Bail easily since he's wearing the clerical collar. He's on the far left. My grandmother, his wife, Gurney Elizabeth Simpson Bail, who was later ordained as a minister, is next to him with the white dog at her feet (Topsy)." The Bail family do not know the identity of the couple shown at the right in this photo. If you have that information, contact the Bail family at rachbail@yahoo.com.

Rachael Bail, daughter of the founding pastor, reflects on her family’s 99-year relationship with Arcadia (Fla.) Church of the Brethren as they continue to own the original parsonage and other homes surrounding the church. Now living in Washington, D.C., she is a retired journalist who has worked for the St. Petersburg Times, among other newspapers, and a former editor and US Supreme Court correspondent for Voice of America:

Photo by courtesy of Susan Baumel
"Will Build Four Houses" - a newspaper clipping from 1914 announces Rev. Bail's intention to start a Brethren community in Arcadia, Fla.

“My father, S.W. (Samuel Wishert) Bail, wound up buying land in Arcadia, Fla., and nearby because another Brethren preacher advertised the property in the church publication, the ‘Gospel Messenger,’ saying there was a Brethren colony there. However, it turned out that was not the case.

“When my father and mother went to Arcadia in 1914, it was not an easy trip from Washington, Pa., where they were living on the family farm. My father had ordered the Crist Company to build a family home for us and six rental houses on two city blocks. At that time Arcadia was a center of the Florida cattle industry. My father was a dairy farmer and these were beef cattle, complete with ranches that spread 100,000 acres or more.

The original parsonage at Arcadia Church of the Brethren.
Photo by courtesy of Susan Baumel
The original parsonage at Arcadia Church of the Brethren. Explains Susan Baumel, granddaughter of Arcadia founding pastor Rev. S.W. Bail, “As far as we can determine from this sales brochure photo of the 703 East Oak Street home, the first of four purchased by the Rev. Samuel Wishert Bail, sent by the DeSoto County Historical Society recently, the houses were built in 1914. This is the house that became the parsonage for Arcadia Church of the Brethren.”

“In the end, with help from John Roebling, whose father built the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, my father funded the construction of Arcadia Church of the Brethren.

“There was very little drainage in Arcadia at the time. When it rained, there was serious flooding, and the Arcadians used to refer to these houses as being on ‘Bail's lakefront.’ My father invested in a 200-acre citrus grove in Lake Placid with healthcare professionals, Dr. McSwain and pharmacist Jake Wey, while devoting weekends to preaching and converting members.

“Today we are celebrating the centennial of one block of those houses including our family home, which served as the parsonage at the time.

Then and now: An interior shot of the original parsonage of the Arcadia Church of the Brethren, as it looks today
Photo by courtesy of the Bail family
Then and now: An interior shot of the original parsonage of the Arcadia Church of the Brethren, as it looks today

“I grew up in Arcadia, which frequently lives up to its idyllic name, and am hoping that we can finally realize the dream of the Brethren colony that my father thought he bought by filling the houses he built and the Church of the Brethren across the street with parishioners.”

-- Find out more about Arcadia Church of the Brethren at www.arcadiacob.org . Contact the Bail family at rachbail@yahoo.com .

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