Our History – over 175 years of faith.
From the beginning, the women of the church have played a significant role in church service, mission, inter-faith work, and fund-raising. They raised the $50 to purchase the lot to build the Broadway church. Some of their early missions included the School of the Ozarks, ministers' relief, needy widows, orphanages, plus foreign projects. Our membership has always been diverse, i.e. bankers, butchers, bakers, judges, lawyers, doctors, educators, farmers, mayor, homemakers, commissioners, volunteers. In 1958, First Church fostered the establishment of Trinity Presbyterian Church. Today we provide space for the Korean Presbyterian Church to meet and worship. Our history reveals the church's evolvement in historic community events as well as national issues. We have experienced the divisive Civil War, America's remarkable era of Western discovery, exploration and settlement, plus the populist, progressive, and prohibition movements. The church provided headquarters for temperance societies, ladies' relief societies for two World Wars, the Boone County Grange, and the Christian Endeavor Society.
Despite years of crisis, wars, divisions, and bitter disputes on theology, slavery, and politics, we have flourished and continue to serve God, our members, and Columbia. As we celebrate our past, we are committed to embracing the future to continue our mission of having an active role in inter-faith efforts, education, community leadership, and service. We are unworthy of our heritage unless we go forward.
Today our church is an outstanding landmark in downtown Columbia. The 90 foot massive bell tower with the crosses is a constant reminder of the Lord of the Church and our promise to spread the Gospel throughout the community. The west entrance front features a gold highlighted cross set against a soft blue mosaic tile panel. The Chi Rho monogram of Christ is placed over the auxiliary entrances.
The organ, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Frederick A. Middlebush, is a product of the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio. The five Gallery divisions were installed in 1966 when the new church building was completed; the Chancel division was added in 1975. The complete organ contains 3004 pipes, in fifty ranks and eight extensions. All tonal resources are playable from the four manual Gallery consoles. The Chancel division, Gallery Sell, and Festival Trumpet can also be played from the two manual consoles near the pulpit. The Chimes, are a separate installation given by the Leonard Vosses and Pinson Neals. Sounding both in the sanctuary and outside from the tower, the Chimes are playable from either organ console and also from tape recordings in the sacristy.
The Church Bell
Rededication of the Bell – June 7, 1987
In 1850 the present Presbyterian Church bell was purchased and hung in the belfry of the then “new” brick church building erected at 10th and Broadway in Columbia Missouri. The active leadership in procuring the bell for the church was provided by Dr. Henry Martin Clarkson, one of the members. He not only personally selected and purchased the bell (with its deep clear tone) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but he also subscribed generously to the bell fund.
When this church building was torn down to make room for the larger cut stone, slate roofed new church (on the same lot) in 1893, the bell was stored until the new church was completed in 1894 and the bell placed in its tall belfry. While its primary purpose was to summon the people to Presbyterian religious services, the bell throughout the years served non-religious purposes as well. It served as a fire alarm for the city of Columbia, particularly if the fire occurred at night; during the civil war the bell warned the people of Columbia of the approach of bush-whackers; it was rung to announce the passage of important pieces of legislation; it tolled the news of the death of prominent citizens. Pranksters usually rang the bell on Halloween and New Years Eve. And before the days of TV and radio, frequently University of Missouri students joyfully rang the bell to announce a football victory.
The 1894 stone church was razed (and the lot at 10th and Broadway later sold), and the bell was put out to be discarded since there was no specific provision made for it in the new church built at 16 Hitt Street. Through the efforts of Naomi Wallin and Virginian Botts, it was decided to “save the bell” and for the last several years it has been “stored” in the courtyard of the church. While the future of the bell was discussed many times in Sessions meetings, the members never took any definitive action regarding it. In 1986, at the suggestion of Reverend H. Wilkes O'Brien, a special bell fund was developed for those concerned with its preservation. Dr. Melville Peterson, church treasurer, consulted with B. D. Simon Construction Company (who had built the Hitt Street church) and they made plans to place the old bell in the steeple tower of the church. Dr. Peterson was named chairman of the committee appointed to make plans for the bell's rededication. These plans include a special program on June 7th with formal presentation of a plaque commemorating the bell. The Presbyterian Church bell, which will now be rung through electronic controls, will once again call the people to worship. It is the second oldest bell in Boone County – the oldest being that of the Boone County Courthouse. It is 137 years old.