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:
“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.
“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.
“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.”