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Church History 

 

 

For more than 140 years, First Presbyterian Church has ministered to members and friends in Port Townsend and surrounding communities.  Shortly after the Civil War, the Presbytery of Oregon decided to organize a church in Port Townsend.  At that time there were only two Presbyterian churches in the northwest -- the First Presbyterian Church of Seattle and a small church in the San Juan Islands. 

 

The Rev. John Rea of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was commissioned to visit our town to determine if a new church was feasible.  He arrived August 1, 1872 and 10 days later held his first service at the local Methodist Church.  Rev. Rea soon determined that a Presbyterian church was needed here and a charter to organize was signed by seven women on March 8, 1873.  The first communion service was held 8 days later and the church was duly incorporated November 27, 1873.

 

The next step, of course, was to build.  A lot was purchased for $250 in gold coin and Pastor Rea led a drive to raise funds for a stone church building.  The cornerstone was laid on September 6, 1875.  Granite for the foundation and walls was quarried from the streets and bluffs as the congregation and their pastor labored to build the first stone church north of the Columbia River.

 

In the late 1880s the boom was on -- Port Townsend was on its way to outgrow Seattle!  To keep pace with the growing community it was decided to erect a larger church building under the leadership of Pastor D.T. Carnahan, who became the first regularly installed pastor in 1887.  Dr. Carnahan had wide experience as a pastor of prominent churches, and had served at the Presbyterian Church in Gettysburg when the deciding battle of the Civil War was fought there.  His church was used as a hospital during the bloody fight and he worked diligently among the wounded and dying.

 

It became his lot to supervise the building of our new church.  The old stone building was torn down, but its stone blocks were used for the foundation of the new church -- they can be seen as you walk around outside.  Local architects Whiteway and Schroeder designed the new building.  The congregation, numbering less than 100, raised $16,000, and the new church  was dedicated March 16, 1890.  The "thoroughly modern" building had a furnace, gas and electric fixtures, and was fully carpeted.  The chandelier was donated by young girls in a church group known as "The Rosebud Girls."

 

Historic OrganAn organ had not been included in the building plans, but the Ladies Aide Society raised funds to add a pipe organ.  Organ builders Whalley & Genung of San Francisco were engaged to build a tracker-style organ that has served us well for 125+ years; it is the oldest organ in Washington still in its original home.  It has 692 pipes, ranging from 2 inches to 16 feet in length.  The organ was hand-pumped for perhaps the first 60 years, usually by young men, some of whom would doze off during the sermon and fail to be available for the closing hymn.

 

Our pipe organ is recognized as an historical instrument, much respected by the American Guild of Organists.  For so many years it has been the cornerstone of our worship services and a vital part of our church life.

 

In 1990, one hundred years after our building was dedicated, a new $500,000 wing with a fellowship hall and upstairs classrooms was dedicated.  And in 1996 a restoration of the old building's exterior returned it to its original Victorian splendor.  Two years later the Jefferson County Historical Society recognized our congregation because "Your efforts have made a significant contribution to the spirit of historical preservation in the community."

 

Our most recent pastoral change began in 2013 when Rev. Bob Slater retired after 13 years of dedicated  service and was replaced, on an interim basis, by Rev. Dennis Hughes.  In June 2015, the Rev. Paul Heins began service as our pastor.        

 

Located at  ~  1111 Franklin St. Port Townsend, Wa 98368,   (360) 385-2525  ~  Email Us