Church History

The First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, AL, was formed in 1834. Below are several excerpts from The Story of First Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, Alabama, 1834 - 1984, by Effie White Sawyer, going into further detail about our rich history.


Church Beginnings


The settlers who started the village known as Drayton, and then Jacksonville, in Benton, now Calhoun County, Alabama had a sharply defined sense of religion, which would play a vital role in their society. Robert Holman, a commissioner authorized to organize churches within South Alabama Presbytery, established one of the first organized congregations of a Christian church in Jacksonville on November 15, 1834. The eleven members of the congregation then called John G. Likens to become the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville.


The first wedding in the church is believed to be that of Judge and Mrs. Thomas A. Walker on August 31, 1836, by Mr. Likens.


Jacksonville's Presbyterians were, by definition, strict adherents to the Calvinism of John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland back in the days of England's Queen Elizabeth. Their orthodox approach to religion was not always shared by their brethren, including the Cumberland Presbyterians who started a new church patterned after the evangelistic revivals of the early 1880s.


Mr. Likens and his followers built their first church, a log structure with evidence indicating it was located at the corner of Carroll Street and South Pelham Road. The Jessie Adams Renick papers include information about this first building.


Excerpt, Chapter Two, Pioneers of Jacksonville, page 11


Construction of the Church


Evidence, although not conclusive, indicates plans for the present brick structure of the First Presbyterian Church were drawn in 1858 by a Philadelphia architect, Thomas S. Stewart. The plans provided an early English style building with a spire supported by a rectangular tower that includes the front entrance, narthex, balcony, and belfry. A stairway leads from the narthex to the balcony. At the north end of the sanctuary is the chancel area wherein is located the pulpit and communion table. A small outside door, now closed, was in the north wall. The main entrance faces south.


The exterior was constructed by hand-pressed bricks made by slaves using clay from a nearby deposit. Local heart pine beams and rafters, as well as wide pine flooring, were used. Overall measurements of the building are 42 feet in width, 70 feet in length, and 39 feet in height to the roof ridgepole. In 1858 the cost was estimated at $5,000.


Excerpt, Chapter Three, During the War Between the States, page 15


For more information on the history of the church, The Story of First Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, Alabama, 1834 - 1984, by Effie White Sawyer, can be found at the Jacksonville Public Library, located at 200 Pelham Road South.

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