A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Serving for Centuries...Centuries to Serve
On April 2, 1807, $1,823.50 was raised by public subscription “for the promotion of divine worship in this place and for the building of a small but convenient church for that purpose.” Later, subscriptions brought the total to $3,442.00. “The church to be erected was to be called and known by the name St. Marys Church.” On April 18, 1808, $117.00 was donated for the purchase of a bell for the church, on which was to be inscribed “My sound to thy people, O Lord, shall call them to thy word.” The building was completed in 1808.
The church was non-denominational until a young Presbyterian Missionary, Horace S. Pratt, from the presbytery of New Brunswick, N.J., came to St. Marys in 1821. He found religion in the area to be in a “very low and languishing state, having existence in name only.” In June of 1822, with 29 people desiring to form a Presbyterian Church and call him as pastor, the Presbytery of Georgia met in St. Marys for the first time, and organized the “Presbyterian Church of St. Marys”. Horace Pratt was ordained and installed as its pastor. In 1828, by an Act of the Georgia Legislature, the church was incorporated under the name of “First Presbyterian Church of St. Marys.”
For many years, the first floor of the church was used for a week-day public school for the children of the town. Originally, a double staircase led to a landing at the main entrance on the East side of the church (facing Osborne St.)
Although it is not known exactly when the main entrance was moved from the East side to its present location at the South end, it was probably done in 1898, at the same time the bell tower was moved from its original location on the North end to its present location, at a cost of $103.78. Also, until approximately 1898, a stairway on the Northwest outside wall led to the slave gallery.
On December 3, 1956, a fire at the church destroyed the South wall main entrance, and severely damaged the roof and ceiling. The original bell in the tower was completely melted. The church was restored and re-dedicated within a few months and continues to be recognized as “one of the finest examples of early church architecture in Georgia.” At about the same time, the spire at the top of the bell tower was replaced with the cross. The Education Building was added in 1956.
The First Presbyterian Church of St. Marys is the oldest Presbyterian Church building in the state of Georgia, and has the distinction of being the oldest building in Georgia that has been in continuous use as a church since it was built in 1808.
Today, over 100 families call First Presbyterian their church home. It is a place where we embrace the past, celebrate the present, and anticipate the future!