Before becoming Reverend J. R. Crowder, John Crowder was one of seven children who were born to the Crowder family in Paris, Tennessee. He enlisted in the Confederate Army at 18 years old. Near Nashville, he was wounded and taken prisoner. During his imprisonment, he was taken to Rock Island Prison in Illinois (nicknamed as the "Andersonville of the North") where he remained until he was paroled shortly after the end of the war.
When he joined the Methodist Conference in 1880 he was quoted as telling them, when there's "...a place left that no one else wants, give me that place..." He ended up in Manatee. He came here at a pivotal time for his church as the community was just about to begin construction on a new meeting house (the 1887 Church at Manatee Village Historical Park).
Construction began in 1887 but was delayed by the Yellow Fever quarantine in Tampa. It is believed by some that the church's construction might have caused a local outbreak as well. According to local stories, the church elders encouraged the church's builder to break the Tampa quarantine in order to bring back supplies. Unfortunately, he may have also brought back Yellow Fever with him. In reality, the church's construction probably had little impact on the spread as Yellow Fever is transmitted by mosquitos rather than person-to-person through respiratory droplets. However, you do need an infected person to be hit by a mosquito so it can spread.
During the 1887 Manatee outbreak many community members died, including Reverend Crowder. At the time he was collaborating with Dr. Enos Johnson on articles for a religious publication. Dr. Johnson was one of the first people to die during the 1887 outbreak. Reverend Crowder followed closely behind and he was laid to rest on this spot in 1887. The church was completed in 1889.
Rev. J. R. Crowder - Grave #39
All images taken by MVHP staff in 2022 unless otherwise noted.