Our Church History
The Presbyterian Church of Huntsville, Alabama (later called First Presbyterian Church), was formally organized June 15, 1818, by the Reverend Gideon Blackburn one and one-half years before Alabama became a state. It was the first Presbyterian church in the state. The first building was constructed in 1822 and was situated on the present property. Only the communion service and baptismal bowl presented by the church women in 1839 survive from this period. The baptismal bowl is still in use.
The present brick structure was dedicated May 18, 1860, during the first meeting of the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., afterwards known as the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.
The end of the Civil War found the congregation so impoverished that they considered selling the building to satisfy a $5,000 debt. Damage to the building sustained during the war and the subsequent fall of its proud steeple during a storm further depressed the spirits of the congregation. It was not until 1882 that the debt was paid.
Through the years the church building has undergone many changes. A renovation of the church in 1914 brought electric lights, a fine organ, new pulpit furniture, and open pews that replaced the exclusiveness of doors and nameplates. In the 1920’s the organ and choir were moved from under the balcony to the chancel area. Stained glass memorial windows replaced the original brown and tan stained glass. Further changes in 1950 brought the sanctuary to its general appearance of today with a center aisle and split chancel. An education building was added in the 50’s with a second education building completed in 1966. The Moeller organ was reworked and ranks added in 1975. Fellowship Hall, including the kitchen, was renovated in 1980 and an elevator was added in 1987.
The congregation has always taken an active role in the community. About the turn of the century, the church established a mission school and a small church which grew to be Trinity Presbyterian Church. For the 78 years of its existence, Huntsville Female Seminary was assisted by this church. Former members colonized Lakewood (now Northminster) and Faith Presbyterian Churches. Fellowship Presbyterian Church was also sponsored by FPC. Missionary families have been supported since 1976. Mission work has been focused on both overseas and local missions with mission trips to Mexico, Africa, Kentucky, Tenn., and Missouri. The church has actively supported Habitat for Humanity with the construction of several homes.
Continuous growth has characterized the nature of First Presbyterian Church since its beginning. Worship service is held each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. A cookbook, featuring recipes of members and former members, was published by the Women of the Church in 1981 and is still in demand. The weekday preschool program has grown to almost 100 children with a waiting list. Seven Stephen Ministry classes have been trained. Sixteen sons and daughters of this church have answered the call of God to become full-time Christian workers.
Construction began on the Gideon Blackburn House in 2004 and the dedication was October 30, 2005.
In the words of Sydney J. Mayhew from his Notes of Historical Interest, “It is something of which to be proud that this Church has succeeded in accomplishing all this in temporal affairs, but it rejoices most in the fact that its success has reached much grander results in advancing the immortal interests pertaining to Christ’s kingdom, which is the purpose of its existence. May it in this continue its great work until His kingdom here shall become universal.”