By Shannon Finley
Have you ever wondered about the pioneering residents of John Knox Village that made up our community’s original residents?
It is hard to believe, but the first resident, Mrs. Edna Willett, moved into her new home on Azalea Lane on October 3, 1972, in the original community named Aldersgate. Other residents followed soon after.
The original residents truly can be considered pioneers. According to diaries left behind, besides Azalea “Lane,” other buildings were up, but nothing was finished on the south side of the lake. The community also included mobile homes in the location of what is becoming Valencia Landing.
Just like in many southern small towns, Sunday was a day of rest and no activities were allowed but church services, not even use of the laundromat!
Journals of the time chronicle how Orange City was “very small, and offered very little – no I.G.A…; only one small grocery store, next to telephone building.” Former resident Maggie DeLong stated it was not even possible to get a hamburger…fast food chains were not available even in nearby DeLand. During the early years, there was no food service in the Village, but transportation was provided to DeBary Hall for the noonday meal sponsored by the Council on Aging. Meals on Wheels was also available when necessary.
In the early years, modified cottages on Azalea Drive housed administration and maintenance. Houses on Jonquil Court housed services pertaining to religious and social life.
It was not long before special interest groups were formed for activities and crafts. S&H green stamps and coupons were collected to get silver for the proposed medical center.
The silver was eventually given to the dining room! Religious life in the community was very strong with prayer groups, Bible classes, chapel and church services. Brochures for the community at the time described the Village as a “truly non-profit project operated by dedicated clergymen and laymen. Theirs is a ‘ministry’, not a job.” In 1979, the community’s chapel was located at 1A and 1B Jonquil Court and was the location of many activities.
From prayer fellowships to Koffee Klatches, volunteers served as hosts and hostesses in the offices, planned social hours and picnics, and made holidays festive for all residents. A yearly birthday party was held for those over 80, and an anniversary celebration was held for couples celebrating more than 50 years
The original pioneers were responsible for maintaining their own lawns and gardens, and monthly citations were given for the most beautiful yards.
For medical assistance, a resident nurse organization was established with one nurse living on campus. If a porch light was left on after 11 p.m., it gave a signal for investigation by the security guard.
While occasional water shortages prevented some gardening activities, 15 houses were evacuated in September 1973 when a lake on Graves Avenue flooded the homes of those living nearby when 4.92 inches of rain was recorded.
In 1978, after experiencing financial difficulties, the community was sold to Christian Services International, Inc. and renamed John Knox Village. Any residents wishing to stay in Orange City had one year from the closing of the sale to pay an endowment fee to Christian Services International. If they wanted to remain with Aldersgate, they could be relocated to Aldersgate’s Kissimmee community free of charge within 45 days of the sale. During this same time frame, the community’s mobile home owners could remain as renters without joining the Life Care Plan. Fifty residents of Aldersgate chose to remain as residents of the Village. The following pioneers were still residing at John Knox Village in August 1998 when they were recognized as original members of the community:
Joe & Edith Kennedy