Life of First Presbyterian Church
Corvallis, Oregon

 

The Early Years

1852
Three weeks after their wedding, Rev. Joseph and Esther Belle Hanna left Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania and headed for St. Joseph, Missouri to meet the Presbyterian Colony, consisting of 60 persons and 18 wagons.  The purpose of the colony was to start schools and churches in the West. Leaving in April, they traveled the Oregon Trail.  The Hannas arrived in Oregon City on September 20, 1852. Both Joseph and Esther Belle kept journals. Joseph and Esther Belle arrived in Marysville (Corvallis) with a letter of recommendation from John McLoughlin of Oregon City.  The Averys invited the Hannas to stay in their cabin.  They meet with other residents of the small town. The settlement of Marysville (Corvallis) had only 10-12 families and two stores at this time. When the residents of the town heard that Rev. Hanna and his wife were supporters of education and the formation of a college in Corvallis, they asked them to stay. Baptists and Methodist/Episcopalians had already organized churches.

 

1853
On September 24, 1853, the First Presbyterian Church of Marysville (Corvallis) was organized at the Rev. Hanna’s homestead cabin, 3 miles south of town. It became the second oldest Presbyterian Church in Oregon and identified as an Old School Presbyterian Church

First members of the church were Rev. Joseph A Hanna; John Grubb from Nile, Michigan; S. K. Brown from Newton, Ohio; Mrs. Esther Belle Hanna from Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania; and Louiza Irwin from Fairfield, Iowa. The Grubbs’ were in the wagon party and also kept a journal.)

On December 20, 1853, Marysville was renamed Corvallis.

 

1854
On May 4, 1854, the name changed to First Presbyterian Church of Corvallis.

Rev. Hanna traveled many miles around the territory in all kinds of weather, preaching and starting churches.

 

1859
Oregon became a state on February 14, 1859.

Church services were held in homes, the log schoolhouse at 2nd and Jackson, and the old courthouse.

Rev. Hanna was one of the incorporators pushing the organization of Corvallis College.

 


A New Century

1860
Rev. Henry R. Avery, minister (1860-1862), membership: 23

The first wooden church was started in April 1860. Some of the lumber was shipped from the Peoria mill to the Corvallis waterfront.  Rev. Hanna brought down 10,000 feet of rough sawn lumber from the mountain mills, 12 miles distant.

“The membership and friends donated their time and labor thus showing their devotion to building a church from timbers that were hewn with old-fashioned broadax.”

Dr. James Bayley, J. B. Congle (first mayor), John Grubb, John Wren, Andrew Roberts contributed their labor.

Corvallis population was now 620 people.

 

1864
The church at 4th and Jefferson was dedicated in June.

Cost-$6,000

Republican State Convention was held in the new church building

Rev. Richard Wylie, minister (1864-1866), membership: 36

 

1866
Rev. Walter Montieth, minister (1866-1867), membership: 63,

 

1867
Rev. Anthony Simpson, minister (1867-1868)

 

1868
Rev. Walter Montieth, minister, returned for six months

 

1870
Rev. D.K. Nesbitt, minister (1869-1874)

The church grew as the town grew.

Old and New Schools of the Presbyterian Church united.

Rev. Joseph Hanna went back East to raise funds for the Albany Collegiate Institue-Presbyterian now Lewis and Clark College.

 

1872
First Presbyterian Church hired their first organist.

 

1874
Rev. J. D. Downing, minister, stated supply (1874-1875)

 

1875
Rev. James F. Knowles, minister (1875-1876

 

1876
Rev. Harlan Page Dunning, minister (1876-1883)

 

1878
Oakridge Presbyterian Church, a church spin-off, 8 miles SW of Corvallis, was developed.  First Presbyterian Church “supplied the initial membership and the ministry”

 

1882
Ladies Working and Missionary Society raised money for new hymnals and money for Home Missions

 

1883
A group withdrew, forming the Congregational Church; membership, 21.

 

1884
Rev. E. R. Murgatroyd, minister (1884-1885)

 

1885
Rev. John Reid, minister (1885-1886)

“With each succeeding year her (First Presbyterian Church) membership has increased and influence in the community broadened and deepened.”

 

1886
Rev. E. J. Thompson, minister  (1886-1901)

 

1889
The church steeple and front of the wooden church needed repairs and was rebuilt.

 

1893
Ladies Aid Society and the Women’s Missionary Society formed.

 

1901
Rev. R. L. Meily, minister from September to December

 

1902
Rev. Andrew Carrick, minister (1902-1904)

The Church Choir and Music committee formed and made a commitment to fine music offerings.

Mission work continued. Individual communion cups purchased.

 

1904
Rev. Merchant S. Bush, minister (1904-1907)

 


A New Century

1907
Rev. J. R. N. Bell, minister (1907-1914)

With large Sunday school classes and substantial growth, plans started for new building and location.

 

1909
Rev. J. R. N.  Bell, minister, 161 members

The four lots on the SW corner of 8th and Monroe were purchased. On October 14, 1909, the cornerstone was laid for the new church building on the corner of 8th and Monroe. New church building plans were initiated. The foundation was 88’ x 92’.

Rev. J. R. N. Bell was a big football fan. Bell Field at OSU was named for Rev. Bell.

 

1910
The church building at 4th and Jefferson was sold and the funds were used for the new building.

The architects, John Bennes and E. E.  McClaran, used the Akron model.  Allen of Portland was the builder. Church members helped build the church including teams of members that laid the bricks. The building cost $18,600 including the steam heat and the 61 stained glass windows and 4 large memorial windows comprising 827 square feet of stained glass. The stained glass windows were created by the Povey Bros. Studio of Portland, Oregon. With the cost of the organ at $5,000, furnishings, the total cost went up to $25,000.

The new building at 8th and Monroe was completed and dedicated in October 1910.

The building housed the first pipe organ in Corvallis (the fourth in the state). The Kimball organ had 1000 pipes. It was dedicated in 1910 with a community concert.  The organ recital that year was considered the beginning of our church as a center for music and other community events.

Archie Johnson, Virgil Walters, F. L. Miller, M. H. Bauer & Mrs. Minne Lee and J. A. Bexell served as trustees and W. P. Lafferty served as  Clerk of Session

 

1914
Rev. A. F. von Tobel, minister (1914-1917), 152 members added

 

1916
The church was dedicated again when the debt was paid off.

 

1917
Rev. Clinton Greene, minister (1917-1918)

 

1918
Rev. Jacob E. Snyder, minister (1918-1922)

 

1919
The church started Westminster Foundation, the campus ministry.

Rev. Clark, the first student pastor was appointed to work with OAC students.

 

1920
The reconstruction of the sanctuary chancel (front platform) to harmonize with the organ was a memorial to Mrs. Boguw, daughter of Archie Johnson.

By 1920, Corvallis grew to a town of 5,752 people. Many major buildings during this decade, churches, schools, hotels, banks and the Majestic Theater, were constructed.

 

1921
The Westminster Guild formed a ladies aid society.

 

1922
Rev. M. K. W. Heicher, minister (1922-1924)

 

1923
Additional women’s group formed.  Dr. Heicher helped reorganization plans.

 

1924
Departments of Worship, Fellowship, Evangelism, Missions, Education, Property & Finance were suggested.

 

1925
Rev. Angus MacLeod, minister (1925-1929)

W.P. Lafferty was chairman of the building committee, elder, and clerk of session for 19 years.

 

1926
2 adjacent lots with small houses, just south of the church on 8th were purchased for $5,000.

 


The Federated Years

1928
Westminster House was built at 23rd and Monroe, campus ministry and staffed by campus ministers.

Classes for 400 students of all ages were held in the balcony, under the balcony, in the basement, in the old Central School building, and on campus. The need for classrooms led to the construction of Education Hall.

Education Hall addition was designed to accommodate a church parlor, and 5 Sunday school rooms on the first floor, with an auditorium, kitchen, and classrooms on the second floor.  F. G. McFadden was the contractor. The cost-$35,000 included the 2 lots, the addition and the furnishings.

 

1929
Oakridge Church disbanded

 

1930
Rev. John S. Burns, minister (1930-1940)

 

1931
In 1931, First Presbyterian formed a federation with the Congregational Church which lasted 31 years.

On March 15th morning services were held at the Congregational Church and the evening service in the Presbyterian Church where all further services were held.

 

1932
The church name changed to United Churches to Federated Churches of Corvallis, Oregon.

 

1941
Rev. Wilbur Simmons, Congregational minister (1941-1947)

The Junior Matrons, a young women’s group formed.

In the 1940s, the church mission included an annual contribution of $1000 to Yenching University in China and $1000 to East Harlem Protestant Parish.

The Christian Education program expanded.

 

1942
During WWII, the building of Camp Adair brought a sudden influx of  40,000 newly recruited soldiers to a town of 8,400. The church opened the Service Men’s Center providing services for Camp Adair soldiers and their wives. Full-time hostesses, were Adrion Johnson, and Mrs. McCallister.  Services provided were housing assistance, a dormitory in the church basement for weekend leave and a service organization for wives was created. The church maintained a War Service Center, like the USO, first for the Army men training at Camp Adair, later for the Naval Hospital at the same site and finally for the Marine Air Base” (now the Corvallis Airport).

 

1944
The Servicemen’s Center closed.

The Cradle Roll Mothers was organized as a study group for mother’s with children less than 3 years of age.

 

1945
The Servicemen’s Center re-opened after Camp Adair was made a separation center and a replacement depot.  Mrs. McCallister mothered returning vets and servicemen.

Sunday School attendance reaches an all-time high during WWII.

 

1947
Rev. Robert Bulkley, minister (1947-1954)

The church made an Annual contribution of $1000 to East Harlem Protestant Parish.

 

1949
Rev. Kenneth Brown, the new minister of Education supervised the expanding Christian Education program.

 

1951
Boy Scout Headquarters was moved to the church basement. The basement remodel gave Boy Scouts 4 patrol rooms, a large activity area and a storeroom for equipment and records. The space replaced their cabin, which was torn down for a parking space for Gill Coliseum at the OSU.  The walls of the activity room were paneled with the wide cedar boards taken from the former scout cabin.

 

1953
The Centennial observance of the church’s organization was celebrated.

The women’s group sponsored the Leper Relief centennial project.

The sanctuary choir loft was remodeled to provide room for an enlarged seating capacity and better performance for the choir. The platform was extended and a new communion table was added and a pulpit was constructed, all for making the sanctuary more conducive to worship.

 

1955
Rev. Perry D. Avery, minister (1955-1959)

 

1958
Capital improvement fund was established.

 

1959
The Porter House was purchased from Fred J. Porter for $22,500. It is now used as the Youth House.

Mrs. Thatcher deeded her home at 864 Monroe to the church.  The church took possession of the house in 1967.

 

1960
Kay Fletcher was hired as the first Christian Education Director.

 

1961
Dr. Millard Scherich (1961-1968)

 

1962
The manse on Madison Ave. was purchased from George F. Buxton for $25,000.

The office was remodeled.

 

1963
Defederation of the First Presbyterian Church and the Congregational Church.

 

1964
The parlor was remodeled and new furniture was purchased.

 

1967
The church begins offering support for Christian Education for the mentally challenged

 

1968
The church purchased the Daily property at 135 SW 9th St.

Education Hall was remodeled with new flooring, acoustical tile and new draperies.

 


Growing and Serving

 1969
John Dennis, minister (1969-2006)

The Presbyterian Preschool serving the community began. Kay Fletcher was the director

 

1970
The church started FISH with the League of Women Voters.

The Preschool program expanded to 70 children.

 

1972
The J. S. and Tillie Jones education wing was added at a cost of $61,000. The two rooms were used on Sundays for kindergarten, first and second-grade classes and used for the annual summer vacation church school. The Presbyterian Preschool program for 3 and 4-year-olds used the rooms on weekdays.  More than 70 children are participating in the daily preschool program.

 

1976
The chancel platform was expanded.  Dean Almgren and his volunteer crew constructed the new platform and did the woodwork in back of the choir loft for the new Balcom & Vaughn organ installation.

 

1977
Rev. John Conner, a campus minister at Westminster House and member of First Presbyterian Church, was elected moderator of General Assembly.

 

1978
Susan Wilburn was the first full-time music director.

 

1979
The Vesper Circle for women formed.

 

1980
The third-floor room was remodeled for a choir practice room.

 

1982
The church and Community Services Consortium start the community aid program We Care.

 

1983
On a national level, the women’s organization had become known as United Presbyterian Women (UPW) in the northern churches.  With the 1983 merger of three branches of the Presbyterian Church, a new name was selected for all women’s groups, simply Presbyterian Women (PW).

 

1986
The Leatha Porter addition to the Jones wing provided a nursery, 2 classrooms and the Allison room chapel and multipurpose room. It was renamed the Jones-Porter wing.

 

1988
Emily Steele completed the stained glass window for the Allison Room.

 

1989
All day weekday Presbyterian Child Care Center added to morning preschool program. Kay Hawley was the first director.

 

1991
Choir trip to Russia

 

1996
Dedication of the Youth House (Porter House)

 

1998
Nicaragua’s Hurricane Mitch help.

 

1999
Choir tour

 


A New Millenium

2004
The sanctuary was remodeled and earthquake bracing added for safety.

The downstairs of Education Hall was opened up and the rooms were reconfigured to provide space for a new office,  library, and an elevator.

 

2006
The New Orleans Hurricane Katrina assistance mission was organized by Rev. Linda Gebetsberger.  A church group traveled to New Orleans trip annually for 10 years. Other mission trips included rebuilding villages in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch, Cambodia and aiding the Sheldon Jackson College in Alaska.

 

2008
Rev. Gordon McClellan, minister (2008-2011)

 

2010
Dennis Hall was constructed and dedicated on October 17, 2010.

 

2013
Rev. Matt Gough, minister (2013-

 

2018
All four of the large stained glass sanctuary windows are restored.

 


Now

First Presbyterian Church offers Sunday worship services with the Gratitude Jazz Band, choir and organ music. The worship service is streamed. Sunday School classes meet on Sunday mornings.  The church is dedicated to education, spiritual life, and fellowship.

Fellowship and community service groups include the quilt makers, a knitting group, Presbyterian Women, adult education, and Bible study. The library provides books on spiritual growth and Bible literacy.

First Presbyterian Church supports Westminster House, a campus ministry, and community and international mission.

The Presbyterian Preschool and Child Care Center continues to operate on weekdays.