History

A Brief History of the First Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Mississippi

                 

Four Presbyterian missionaries, Cyrus Kingsbury, Thomas Archibald, Hilary Patrick and David Wright, organized the First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, Mississippi in May of 1829. From 1829 to 1834 missionaries served the church from the Mayhew Mission. 

In 1844 a brick sanctuary was erected and a charter was obtained. Thomas Archibald died two years later and was buried at Unity Cemetery near Caledonia, Mississippi. The first pastor of our newly- founded church at the intersection of Main street and 7th Avenue N. was David Wright, whose descendent, Libba Johnson, participated in the building of our present edifice dedicated in 1977.

In 1864, when the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. was founded, First Church joined the denomination. During the next hundred years, its service included the founding of Palmer Home for Children at the turn of the century and the establishment of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in 1962.

In 1974, some of the congregation voted to join the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The remaining members retained one-third of the church’s property, Westminster Fellowship House, previously used to minister to Presbyterian students at Mississippi University for Women, and a five acre tract of land from the Leigh Estate. The 83 members who remained in the PCUS, moved into the Westminster Fellowship House on College street, and called Robert Debnam to be their pastor. The church grew quickly in membership and in 1977 the present church on Blucutt Road was dedicated. A few years later, the church added a fellowship hall and more Sunday school rooms.

The church’s bell has become a symbol tying the past to the present. Confederate General B. T. Beauregard declined the church’s offer of the bell for the war effort. Peace was sounded by our bell at the war’s end and proclaimed from the pulpit by Rev. James C. Lyons, who fostered freedom and education of slaves during his pastorate from 1854 to 1870. When chimes were installed in the 1960’s, the bell was sold to another church. The original bell was later purchased and installed in the belfry of the new sanctuary.

First Presbyterian Church, in addition to its heritage of missionaries and able pastors, has six sons who have been called to the ministry. Their names and dates they finished seminary are the Reverends: James M. Cockerham (1968), William R. Stepp (1968), James L. Shull (1975), John R. Hutchinson (1978), R. A. (Chip) Hatcher (1988), and Clarke Bishop (1997).

A merger of the PCUS (Southern Church) and the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (Northern Church) occurred in 1983. They had been separated since the time of the Civil War. The new denomination of which we are an integral part, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is the result of that reunion.

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