First Presbyterian Church (Augusta, Georgia)
First Presbyterian Church of Augusta
|Location||642 Telfair St., Augusta, Georgia|
|NRHP Reference #|||
|Added to NRHP||February 21, 1997|
The church was established in 1804, and the building was completed in 1812. In 1808, while the congregation was still holding services at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, members helped start a church in Smyrna in Wilkes County. In 1925 the Ladies' Foreign Missionary Society already was collecting donations, making it the first such ministry in the world, according to the statistics of the church. During his childhood, United States president Woodrow Wilson's father – Joseph R. Wilson – was minister at First Presbyterian from 1858 to 1870. The Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home is a historic site nearby. In 1861 the Church hosted the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States and the first minister in this new denomination was President Wilson's father. During the Civil War the building was used as a hospital for men wounded, and the churchyard was a detention camp for Union prisoners in the Battle of Chickamauga. Men who died were buried in the Magnolia Cemetery. During the war the damage to the church was considerable, the congregation received 2,000 dollar from the Confederate government. During this time Joseph Wilson was called to the chaplain ministry in the army. Despite the war, under Wilson's ministry the congregation grew from 224 members to more than 400. In 1870 Wilson was called to the seminary in South Carolina.
Hundred years later, Rev. John Oliver became pastor of a then-struggling First Presbyterian Church in 1971. This time the population of Augusta moved westward, the downtown church lost their base and membership declined.
Westminster Day School was started in 1972. The campus of Westminster School located on Wheeler Road now has more than 500 pupils, grades K–4 through 12. First Presbyterian Church started a missions conference under Dr. Oliver's leadership. The annual event is a combination retreat and workshop for missionaries and their families. It also is an opportunity for the people of Augusta to hear about work in the field.
In 1973, First Presbyterian dropped its affiliation with the Southern Presbyterian Church over issues, such as the authority of scripture and the role of women in the church, and became independent. It aligned itself with the Presbyterian Church in America in 1977.
Dr. Oliver left in 1997, ending more than 27 years in the First Presbyterian pulpit.
Later the church served as a center of social and religious activities during World War I and World War II.
It was designed by noted architect Robert Mills in the Romanesque style. Mills was also Presbyterian, and was an elder in the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. The church sanctuary was built in 1809–12. The church was finished and dedicated in 1812 in Classical style. The church was significantly changed in 1847 to incorporate Romanesque round-arched windows and doors and crenellated parapet walls. Mills' design, however, is still evident in the shape and scale of the historic building. A plaque marks the Wilson pew in the sanctuary. A letter signed by President Wilson and some furniture used by his family when they lived in the manse were installed in a classroom. Four halls on the sides and rear of the sanctuary were added to the building from 1951 to 1978. On February 21, 1997, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, listed as First Presbyterian Church of Augusta. The church celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2004
The church has about 1,600 members.
The current senior pastor is George W. Robertson.
- National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Boyhood Church of a President
- First Presbyterian Church of Augusta
- "Church Directory". Presbyterian Church in America. Retrieved 28 November 2012.