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."
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.