Expanded History

 
THE ORGANIZATION OF FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
 
The minutes of the Organization of the Church are written in the hand of Rev. William M. Baker and read as follows:
 
“During May, AD 1850, the Rev. Wm. M. Baker was led in the Providence of God, to visit the city of Austin. It being ascertained during his visit that there was sufficient material for the purpose – On Sabbath morning May 26th, 1850, immediately after service in the Old Capitol, the following persons were organized into a Presbyterian Church – to wit – Mr. James R.E. Goodletter, Mr. Abner H. Cook, Mr. Joseph W. Hampton, Mrs. Ann J. Woodridge, and Mrs. Sarah Lee.
 
All these persons were before members of the Presbyterian Church in other places; all, however, excepting Mr. J.W.Hampton, having mislaid their letters, or having letters dated more than a year before they were received on examination.
 
Mr. Abner H. Cook and Mr. J.W. Hampton having been unanimously elected Ruling Elders, it was determined that Mr. Cook should be ordained in his office at as early a day as possible, Mr. Hampton being already an ordained Elder.
 
The infant church was then solemnly committed by prayer into the hands of the great Head of the Church, with earnest entreaty for His guidance, His protection, His blessing.
 
Rev. Wm. H. Baker, being commissioned by the Board of Domestic Missions for the purpose, determined to labor in this new church and in the region about Austin in such way for such time as God might direct.”
 
 
AN OVERVIEW HISTORY OF OUR CONGREGATION
 
First Presbyterian Church traces its history to the early years of Austin and the missionary activities of the Reverend Daniel Baker. After a visit to Austin in 1848, Reverend Baker recommended the organization of a Presbyterian congregation in the city. His son, William M. Baker, newly ordained to the Presbyterian ministry, arrived here in May 1850, and organized the First Presbyterian Church on May 26, 1850, in the halls of the Old State Capitol. Among the charter members was master builder Abner Cook, who later built the Texas Governor’s Mansion. 
 
Throughout the difficult Civil War period, First Church remained a part of the national Presbyterian denomination, established in 1789, in spite of the fact that most southern churches formed a separate denomination. After 1872, through the leadership of the Reverend Edward Wright, a Union Army veteran, First Church helped to move Austin and Texas beyond the divisive legacy of the Civil War. In 1983, the division among American Presbyterians was healed in the formation of the PCUSA.
 
The first sanctuary, built at 7th and Lavaca on land donated by Cook, was completed in 1851. It was replaced by a stone structure in 1890. The congregation continued to worship at the downtown site until 1960, when they relocated to Jackson Avenue in north central Austin. Included in this proud past is the sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop #1 in March 1911. This is the oldest continuing troop in the USA.
 
First Church was located on Jackson Avenue from 1960 to 1978. While there, the church led in the organization of Westminster Manor as a retirement home for senior citizens and also established First Church Day School. Our commitment to these ministries continues today.
 
In 1978, the congregation moved to its present location on Mesa Drive, near the population center of Austin, a growing metropolitan area. Historic stained glass windows, the tracker organ, and the original cornerstone from the 1890 stone sanctuary were incorporated into the design of the new building.
 
First Presbyterian Church of Austin continues to serve its members and the community with a variety of worship, educational, and outreach programs. We serve Christ and neighbor in a city shaped by state government, institutions of higher education, high technology, and ethnic diversity. We are First Presbyterian Church, Austin, rooted in the past and looking to the future.
 
 

EARLY EVENTS LEADING TO MAY 26, 1850

Presbyterianism in Austin had its beginning in October, 1839, when the Reverent William Y. Allen held services in Bullock’s Hotel and, after the sermon, organized a Presbyterian Church. This church was dispersed by fear of Indian raids, which caused the citizens to run off to Washington on the Brazos; but as Austin was the Capital City, some drifted back and others came to establish homes and Austin grew until in 1850 the population was 629. While these things were taking place, a famous evangelist was finishing his education at Princeton and the Theological Seminary at Winchester, Virginia, and entering the ministry.

After his ordination in 1818, Dr. Daniel Baker felt the call to become a missionary and made several trips through Texas, sent by the General Assembly and the Presbytery of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In the Fall of 1848 he (Dr.Daniel Baker) rode into Austin on horseback from San Antonio, through country inhabited by Indians. Arriving safely, he began his evangelistic services in Austin. To quote Dr. Baker, “In due time, I arrived safely in Austin, the Capital of Texas: and here, besides preaching some fifteen sermons to promiscuous assemblies, I made special talks to heads of families, to young men, ladies and children, not forgetting the children of Ham”, (In a letter of Dr. Baker’s quoted in “Life and Labors of Daniel Baker”, published by his son, William Mumford Baker). Dr. Baker goes on to say that many would have joined the Presbyterian Church had there been one. He mentions the fact that there was an admirably conducted Sabbath School in Austin at that time.

The glowing reports of Austin and its needs made quite an impression on the Reverend William Mumford Baker, Dr. Baker’s son, just graduated from Princeton and ordained to the ministry... Having his father’s missionary spirit, the Reverend William M. Baker set out for Texas, arriving in Austin in May1850. To quote from the first minute book, “During May, A, D. 1850, the Reverend William M. Baker was led, in the Providence of God, to visit the city of Austin. It being ascertained during his visit that there was sufficient material for the purpose—on Sabbath morning, May 26, 1850, immediately after the service in the Old Capital, the following persons were organized into the Presbyterian Church –to wit—


THE FIRST YEARS - MAY 26, 1850 - DECEMBER 31. 1865

The first persons who organized First were:

* Mr. James R. E. Goodlet

* Mr. Abner H. Cook
* Mr. Joseph W. Hampton
* Mrs. Ann I. Woolridge
* Mrs. Sarah Lee

All these persons were, before, members of the Presbyterian Church in other places; all, however, excepting Mr. J. W. Hampton, having mislaid their letters, or having letters dated more than a year before, they were received on

examination, Mr. Abner H. Cook and Mr. J.W. Hampton having been unanimously selected Ruling Elders, it was determined that Mr. Cook should be ordained in his office at as early a day as possible, Mr. Hampton being already an ordained Elder.

“The infant church was then solemnly committed by prayer into the hand of the great Head of the Church, with earnest entreaty for His guidance, His protection, His Blessing”

From the first minute book, page 9, we quote:

“Installation of the Pastor
Reverend Wm. Baker
Ordination of Col. A. H. Cook ruling Elder
and of Charles G. Newton and James
H. Mathews, Deacons.

The above mentioned persons having accepted the offices in the church to which they had been respectively elected -- on the meeting of the Synod of Texas, and the Presbytery of Brazos in Austin, they were duly inducted into their respective offices, on the Sabbath, November 2, 1851.

Reverend S. F. Cocke having preached the sermon.
Reverend J. W. Miller having delivered the charge to the people.
Reverend Daniel Baker having delivered the charge to the Pastor elect.

The said Pastor was thus duly installed over the First Presbyterian Church of Austin City.
The same afternoon, the Elder and Deacons elect were installed into their offices.”

Following the installations of the first officers, early members were received

New members were added to the rolls of the growing church; some we mention here: Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Smyth, Mr. John Spence, Mr. John McMurtray, Dr. and Mrs. George Turner, Mr. and Mrs. James Hutchins, Mr. and Mrs. Barclay Townsend, Judge and Mrs. James H. Bell, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Stiles, Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Peck, Miss Dorothy Bengener, Mrs. Letitia Seiders, Dr. M. A. Taylor, Dr. and Mrs. Beriah Graham, William P. Mabin, William C. Phillipps, Dr. S. W. Baker, Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Townsend, names that recall to the minds of many the glorious history of the early church.


DARK DAYS

Then came the troublous years of the civil strife, and a sad page of history is well passed over lightly. The Reverend William Baker resigned on December 31, 1865, and removed to the North. He had served the church zealously and well for fifteen years and was beloved and respected by the community. Not only was the Reverend Wm. Baker the founder and first pastor of this church but he was a most faithful and conscientious leader during a very critical and trying era in the history of the country.

Miss Lucy Smyth is our one living tie with the Reverend Wm. Baker. She was baptized by him on October 9, 1859. [written for centennial booklet, published in 1950]

In January, 1866, the Reverend Thaddeus McRae, on ordained Presbyterian minister who had served churches in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Port Lavaca, Texas, was asked to serve as pastor of the church. He was serving as secretary to Governor M. Pease at the time. Mr. McRae was a man of brilliant intellect and had the courage of his convictions and stood firmly for adherence to the Old School General Assembly.

Later in 1866 a small group of eleven members who withdrew from the church stayed with the Presbytery of Central Texas and organized the Southern Presbyterian Church of Austin. This Presbytery had seceded from the General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterian Church, but the First Presbyterian Church remained loyal to this Assembly. The Reverend Thaddeus McRae served the church until October 31, 1869, when he left the church and Austin and went to Pennsylvania.
THE MINISTRY OF DR. EDWARD B. WRIGHT

After a period with a stated supply, the Reverend Jerome A. Williams, the church called the Reverend Edward Bingham Wright, D.D., of Stillwater, Minnesota, to the pastorate. On November 3, 1872, he preached his first sermon in the First Presbyterian Church of Austin. This was the beginning of a glorious pastorate which lasted until his death forty-two years later.

The ministry of Dr. Wright left its imprint on Austin’s citizenry. He came at the close of the Civil War, at a time of confusion and hatred, but he soon made friends of those who traditionally should have been enemies. Dr. Wright was so beloved by the Confederate soldiers that he was made an honorary member of the John B. Hood Camp of Confederate Veterans, a unique honor for a Union soldier. His strong faith, his interest in his fellow men, a deep sense of humor, a very lovable personality combined to make him one of the outstanding ministers and citizens of Austin. Ever interested in helping those who had erred, he preached many funerals for those who had fallen by the wayside, never missing an opportunity to remind those present of the wages of sin.

Several years after his coming to Austin, Dr. Wright was married to Evelyn Hunter Bell, the eldest daughter of Judge and Mrs. James H Bell, devoted workers in the early church.

Dr. Wright’s ministry was long and fruitful, and at his death he was so esteemed that one citizen of Austin said: “The Lord sent a man and his name was Wright.”


THE EARLY HOUSES OF PRAYER

The history would not be complete without a brief story of the buildings in which the congregation worshipped.

The early church grew with Austin. On March 15, 1881, it was resolved to construct a church building, and the following building was appointed: James G. Swisher, Dr. S. W. Baker, James H. Mathews, Nathaniel Townsend, and Thomas H. Jones. On the fourth Sabbath of August, 1851, this little frame church, of thirty feet wide and forty feet long, was first occupied. In 1855, twenty-five feet were added to the North end of the building.

A letters patent for the two lots on which the church now stands (7th & Lavaca) was granted by Governor E. M. Pease on October 8, 1857, thus clearing the title to the lots which had been given to the church by Abner H. Cook.

Under Dr. Wright’s direction, the church grew, and in the congregational meeting held on August 18, 1874, it was resolved to proceed to the erection of a new church edifice. The first plans called for a two-storied stone church, but because of difficulties with the first construction of the foundation, making an increase in the cost, only one story was built. This was not completely finished but was roofed over with a flat and used for several years. In June, 1890, the building was completed and dedicated, free of debt.

Soon after, the trustees and the congregation felt it was best to incorporate, and a charter was granted the church on January 23, 1900, for fifty years. The charter was renewed in January, 1950.

In 1908 and 1909 the present Sunday School Annex, as it was then called, was added and the tower was raised. This was accomplished through the generosity of Dr. M. A. Taylor, he giving $10,000.00 and the congregation $5,000.00.

A manse located at Rio Grande and 9th Streets was purchased by the church in 1917. The money received from the sale of the Cumberland Church property was used in this transition. This manse was disposed of in 1940.

In 1929 the church was redecorated and the acoustics were greatly improved. A new heating system was installed and the organ repaired.

The present manse at 5207 Shoal Creek Boulevard was purchased on July 15, 1949.


MUSIC THROUGH THE YEARS

Music has always been accorded an important place in the worship services of the church. The first choir was organized during the ministry of the Reverend Wm. Baker, and from that time on there have been voluntary choirs gladly giving their services to the church. Dr. Wright, himself a musician, always recognized the importance of good music. These musical traditions are carried on by his daughters, Evelyn and Katherine Wright, who through the years have so graciously shared their talents with the church.

The first instrument used in the church was a harmonium, which was played by a young music teacher, Charles Sprenger. Then came the melodeon, which was played by Julius Schutze, Mrs. Margaret Stiles, and Mrs. Belle Quick. The first organ was played by Mrs. Alice Lane.

During a large part of that first half-century, the music had the benefit of the able superintendence of Mrs. Margaret Stiles. Mrs. Arthur F. Bishop, wife of the pastor and an accomplished musician, directed the choir during her husband’s pastorate here. There were many fine singers through the years, but the one to be remembered for her beautiful voice and the generous sharing of her gift with the church during her lifetime was Mrs. Tennie Odum Bell.

The music for the various services for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the church was superb and was greatly aided by the fine new pipe organ, which was purchased be the congregation as a memorial and thank offering to celebrate, with greater zest and joy and gratitude, the completion of the half-century’s history of the church.

The fine new organ referred to here had been dedicated with several beautiful concerts on March 16 and 17, 1900, by Clarence Eddy, at that time one of the outstanding and best known organists of the country.

Through the years the Messrs. Charles St. Clair and Noyes D. Smith ably presided at the organ. Somewhat later the music was furnished by Mrs. Vena K. Mathews, Miss Annette Lewis, Miss Isabelle Smith, and Mrs. Antoinette Roebuck at the organ.


SUNDAY SCHOOL & CONCLUSION

From its very early days the Sunday School has been a very important part of the life of the church. We read that, as early as 1852, there was a small but flourishing Sunday School of thirty or forty members. In those days, too, there were faithful teachers and superintendents, among the first of whom were Dr. S. W. Baker, William Smyth, Joseph Wade Hampton, and Dr. M. A. Taylor. Mr. William Smyth, also one of the earliest elders of the church, was the father of Miss Lucy Smyth, who is still a member of or church.

Dr. M. A. Taylor, in his paper prepared for the celebration of the 50th anniversary year of the church, said: “The Sunday School teacher, like the private soldier, deserving all credit, is nameless in history.” Space forbids mentioning the names of many of the fine teachers and officers serving through the years and up to the present time. But no history of our church could be complete with out a special tribute to Mrs. Maggie Stiles, who for many years, in addition to all her other church work, was leader and teacher of the Primary Department. She was a marvelous teacher of children, and made a strong impression on the lives of many by her magnetic personality, her sure knowledge, and her positive faith.

When the first little frame church was torn down, a part of the building, forty feet in length, was erected in the eastern part of the city and called the “Daniel Baker Chapel”.

For a series of years it was used for Sabbath School purposes and also for preaching every Sabbath afternoon and a prayer meeting Thursday night. At different times the church has maintained mission Sabbath Schools, and kept up preaching in the suburbs of the city.

Outstanding leaders through the years have been the Superintendents William Blackburn, J. W. Graham, William G. Franklin, William G Bell, and Charles C. Ricker.

Our Sunday School has always tried to follow and uphold the standards set by the Board of Christian Education. Dr. Louis Grafton was especially interested in teacher training, and during his pastorate courses in teacher training were given under the leadership of Dr. B. A. Hodges. During the pastorate of Dr. Daniel Grieder, the educational work was changed from the uniform lessons to the departmental courses of study. Within the last few years, after the coming of our present pastor, Dr. Frederick E. Brooks, perhaps the greatest advances have been made in our educational work. The Westminster Fellowship has been organized, the youth Budget Plan adopted, and a splendid beginning made in the use of the new “Faith and Life Curriculum—A Program for Church and Home.”

Under the able leadership of our present superintendent, Mr. W. O. Beall, Jr. the Sunday School is growing in numbers and interest.

On July 1, 1949, Mrs. Virginia Cain was employed as Director of Religious Education, a further advance in the development of the educational program of the church.

In May, 1949, Troop 41, Boy Scouts of America, was chartered under the sponsorship of the church, with A.L. Capps as chairman of the Troop Committee and Jerome M. Smith as Scoutmaster. The troop registered a total of 29 boys the first year. Of this number 22 have reregistered for the second year. The troop is under the administration of the Capitol Area Council.

The First Presbyterian Church, USA, of Austin thus comes to the end of the first century of glorious service. There have been times of tension and distress and times of fine fellowship and love.

But what of the future? We cannot live on the record of the past. Let us rouse ourselves to new earnestness and effort humanity’s relief and God’s glory. Let us thank God for the church through the past century and pray for courage and inspiration to carry on in the future to the honor and glory of His holy name.


REVEREND WILLIAM P. CALDWELL, D.D

The Reverend William P. Caldwell came to the First Presbyterian Church, USA, on June 7, 1959 from the First Presbyterian Church, Plainfield, New Jersey where he served as Associate Pastor for three years. The congregation numbered about 200 when he came to Austin and there were very few young couples in the church. In fact, their baby daughter was the only one in the nursery.

Under Reverend Caldwell’s leadership the church began getting new members and twenty-six had been added to the church rolls by the end of 1959.

After 110 years in the downtown location, the commercial portion of the city had built up all around the church and there was no community of residences from which to draw new members. It was a beautiful old church in the heart of the city but was in constant need of major repairs; and the parking problem made it difficult for the congregation to attend many of the functions of the church. Besides the parking problems and the noise of the city traffic, there were other problems which could not be resolved without the expenditure of a large amount of money for expansion. There was very little room for an educational program, for recreational facilities, and for all the other services that a modern church is expected to provide.

The congregation had been thinking about and discussing for several years the possibility of moving to another location to allow for expansion and voted to do so in the spring of 1960 when given the opportunity to trade the downtown church property for seven acres of land on Jackson Avenue plus some $60,000.00 in cash.

A building council was appointed consisting of William Harris Bell, General Chairman; C. B. Albright, E. W. Workman, Mrs. Charles G. Bissell, Robert E. Swanson, Kenneth W. Cook, Mrs. John H. Sheffield, Mrs. Hubert H. Rogers, Mrs. Karl Wagner and J. T. Wiseth.

The first unit completed at 4200 Jackson was a multi-purpose building with a worship center, a small kitchen, two rest rooms, a nursery, one Sunday School room and an office. The parking lot was not completed when the first service was held in December of 1960. That day it rained turning the parking lot into a quagmire of mud, Reverend Caldwell preached like he had never preached before. The congregation was in high spirits and the singing that day was long remembered.

The many new members joined with the other members of the church in their systematic and sacrificial giving which made it possible to add two additional units to the church complex. Dr. Fred E. Brooks, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, USA, from 1939 to 1956 gave the principal address at the ground breaking ceremony starting the construction of the two units which were completed in 1962. The new offices, church activities building, a fine kitchen and parlor were a welcome addition to the now overcrowded first unit. The architect was Eugene Wukasch.

Service of Dedication of the new units was held on September 9, 1962 and congregation was honored to have as their guest speaker Dr. J. Hoytt Boles, Executive of the Synod of Texas, and long time friend of this congregation. After completion of the church activities building with a seating capacity of 400, membership increased rapidly due to the continued efforts of Reverend Caldwell and the congregation. In fact, on many Sundays it was necessary to put additional chairs in the Sanctuary to accommodate the members and visitors.

In September, 1961 a Day School was opened with a teacher-director and one other teacher, Mrs. Jean Albright and Mrs. Lois Caldwell donating their time to get it operating. It became a huge success and was considered one of the foremost Day Schools in the community.

A tireless worker, Reverend Caldwell always looked ahead for new fields of service. When the church completed its move to the eight acre tract at 4200 Jackson Avenue and the immediate needs of the congregation were met by 1962, the need for growing service among people of all ages led to the retirement home idea. This large tract of land would permit a multiple story type of home for retired men and women to be built near the mainstream of activity which is so much of their daily lives. After four years of planning with a retirement home committee appointed by the church session, a private corporation known as Westminster Manor, Inc. was formed. Reverend Caldwell and laymen of the church worked with financiers, architects, attorneys, and construction companies to complete the dream of a retirement home and in April, 1967 the doors of Westminster Manor were opened. Eugene Wukasch was the architect.

During the difficult period of trying to get the Westminster Manor built and opened along with all other church activities, Reverend Caldwell took part in a history-making meeting between two Presbyterian bodies that were torn apart by the War Between the States. On February 15 & 16, 1966 the Presbytery of Alamo of the United Presbyterian Church, USA and the Presbytery of John Knox of the Presbyterian Church in the US met in their first concurrent meeting since the split took place. Host churches were the First Presbyterian Church USA and the Covenant Presbyterian Church, US. A special Ecumenical Relations Committee under the direction of Reverend James A. Wharton, professor at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, worked out the arrangements. The preparation required for such an historical meeting as one of the two host churches didn’t seem to bother Reverend Caldwell as he was vitally interested in the possibility of official unification of the church in this area.

Ten years passed in a hurry and after 70 baptisms, 72 funerals, 54 marriages and receiving 466 new members into the church, Reverend Caldwell accepted a “Call” to Madison Square Presbyterian Church in San Antonio and preached a final Communion service in Austin on June 29, 1969.


THE MAHON YEARS - 1970-1986

On January 4, 1970, the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas, voted in a congregational meeting to call James A. Mahon to serve as their pastor, commencing February 1, 1970. During the remainder of that year, Reverend Mahon devoted most of his efforts toward identifying and energizing the active membership. At the start of 1971, the realistic individual membership stood at 335 resident members including retirement home and nursing home residents, and confirmed youth.

On September 21, 1971, a called meeting of Session considered the question of the mission of this church. Possible alternatives to present course looked at included a specialized ministry such as to the elderly, or merging with St. Andrews Presbyterian Church which had originally been seeded by First Presbyterian members, or focusing on a suburban ministry. For the next several months, the congregation undertook an intensive study of who and what they were and wanted to be. More than half of the members participated in these various introspective task forces.

Findings from the studies revealed some arresting facts. Location of the church was analyzed. To the west was Camp Mabry and the MoPac tracks and future expressway. To the east was state school property. To the south was a retirement home and to the north, the Hebrew Congregation Agudas Achim and apartments beyond. Except for members in three households and Westminster Manor, all other First Presbyterian Church members actually had to drive past another Presbyterian church in order to come to our church on Jackson Avenue. Meanwhile Austin’s growth north of downtown was occurring primarily to the north of the church property. Prognosis for attracting new church members in the present location was deemed poor.

Another ad hoc task force took a long hard look at the organization of the local church from top to bottom. Recognizing that churches are especially prone to doing things or not doing things because “that’s the way it’s always been,” the study was careful to research traditions and policies as much as possible. Resulting observations and recommendations from the task forces were ultimately accepted and implemented on the basis of membership size and membership commitment.

On January 21, 1973, an attractive offer was made to the Session. The Presbyterian Development Board, an organization dedicated toward acquiring property in developing neighborhoods for future Presbyterian churches, owned some acreage on Mesa Drive. David B. Barrow, the developer of Northwest Hills, had donated this land to them, and now the Board was feeling pressed to see it developed. They offered the property to First Presbyterian Church if they chose to relocate the present congregation and would agree to have the property in use by 1975.

Many aspects of such a decision had to be considered. Some of the members of the old downtown church had been contributing steadily in anticipation of a sanctuary being built on the Jackson Avenue campus. Some members traveled a fair distance from the south and would not want any more mileage added to their Sunday morning journey (although completion of the MoPac expressway would surely reduce their overall time). Finally there was the tacit commitment to Westminster Manor residents and the expectation some people had of a permanent linkage between the Manor and the church.

On the other hand, membership growth was minimal and was not likely to keep pace with natural attrition. Financially the situation was not rosy either. The possibility of ever building another building on the present property was probably non-existent. Meanwhile, the roof was perpetually leaking despite ongoing expensive repairs and termites were infesting the wooden beams. The congregation had to look at the whole picture carefully, weighing future prospects for survival realistically.

On February 25, 1973, the Session voted to submit to the now 208 resident members of the congregation the proposal to relocate to the offered Mesa Drive property. At the same time, the Session voted to begin taking steps for the church to become a Union church, participating in both the northern and southern Presbyterian Church organizations. (We wanted no problems about our then northern-allied Presbyterian church being offered property by the so-called southern Presbyterians.) A detailed visual presentation at a called congregational meeting was planned, and on April 8, 1973, the congregation voted to place the present Jackson Avenue property on the market for sale pursuant to relocating to the Mesa Drive property as soon as feasible. Later in the month the Relocation Steering committee was formed which was charged with overseeing the entire process. Membership enthusiasm was high and member participation in the planning process was encouraged. When the architectural firm of Emerson, Fehr and Newton (later to become Emerson and Fehr) was engaged, members of all activity groups within the church were invited to input their spatial and relationship needs in a series of small group meetings. Questionnaires also gave the members every opportunity to express their wants and needs.

Three significant concerns repeatedly surfaced: 1.) the stained glass windows from the old downtown church should be incorporated into the new facility, 2.) the old tracker action organ from the old downtown church needed to be rebuilt and installed in the new facility, and 3.) the cornerstone from the old downtown church was wanted as the cornerstone in the new church.

Meanwhile others were working on the business and financial details of the large task ahead. By October of 1973, it looked like the pay-off of Westminster Manor’s indebtedness to the church, the sale of the Jackson Avenue property and a building fund drive would make it all come together to build a new facility that would meet the basic program needs in the new neighborhood. J. D. Murchison agreed to head the Building Committee, and soon topographical and site surveys were ordered and bids were solicited. In December of 1973, the youth cleared a space on the Mesa Drive property and held a Christmas carol songfest there.

After that, relocation stalled. There was no action on the sale of the Jackson property despite attractive zoning and a presumed reasonable price. Austin’s commercial market was in a serious slump and the church property was affected. Meanwhile the life of the church was sustained by the members who were interested in streamlining operations of the church while they waited for the eventual move. In May of 1974, the Session voted to disband the Board of Deacons, lodging all authority and responsibilities with a Session consisting of twenty-one members in three-year classes of seven Elders elected each year, two of whom would also be elected as trustees.

In January of 1975, design models of the proposed new church facility were presented to the congregation, followed up with small group meetings in various homes to invite the input of every interested member. The voice of the people was heard. As a result, design modifications were called for which addressed a practical desire for the church’s combination sanctuary-fellowship hall and the classroom wing to be connected as opposed to campus style separate buildings.

In October of 1975, Rueben Frehls in Victoria was engaged to begin rebuilding the tracker action organ that had originally been installed in the old downtown church in 1906 but had been in a storage locker since 1960. Also work commenced to examine and refit as needed the many beautiful old stained glass windows from the old downtown church that had been in dusty storage for many years. However, to most of the members, there was still little visible evidence of forward movement on their momentous decision of nearly three years ago.

Early in 1976, fourteen subcommittees were formed to cover the many different areas of building design to guide the architects in detail drawings. It had been meticulously determined that the financial situation would permit construction of the worship and fellowship hall, the offices and a few classrooms. By November of 1976, the church was ready to enter into a construction contract with the Joe Badgett Company for phase I of our newest church home.

Members and special guests convened on the Mesa Drive property on March 12, 1977, for the ground breaking ceremony. A large crane was brought in to set the cornerstone which came from the old stone church at 7th and Lavaca Streets. We were a little behind schedule in technically commencing use of the property given us, but we were all the more ready and eager to get on with it now. Young and old alike seemed thrilled with the incorporation of physical parts of the old downtown church in the new church which was being developed to respond to needs in a congregation living in a different era.

The Relocation Steering Committee dissolved itself in favor of a smaller Executive Relocation Building Committee which met frequently to oversee the actual construction business matters. Financially things began to fall into place. Westminster Manor paid off its indebtedness and became a self-perpetuating body. The Manor also agreed to purchase two acres of the 3.65 acre Jackson Avenue property which was the portion containing the building. Later the Congregation Agudas Achim to the north agreed to purchase the other 1.65 acres.

Officially moving day was the fourth Sunday in April of 1978, but a lot of activity occurred prior to that auspicious Sunday. The Evelyn Wright Women’s Association staged a giant garage sale in the old fellowship hall which reduced the packing and moving chores greatly. However, there remained plenty of furniture, equipment, supplies, books and furnishing to be hauled entirely by volunteer labor and trucks. All ages worked from dawn to very dark on Saturday to accomplish the huge task of packing, loading, hauling, unloading, unpacking and putting in order the contents of their church home.

On Sunday morning, April 23, 1978, a large congregation of worshippers gathered at the Jackson Avenue facility at 10:00 a.m. for a very special service of worship. Following the Gloria Patri, the worshippers sought their cars to process in a happy caravan led by the Rev. James A. Mahon to the Mesa Drive property where the remainder of the service resumed at 10:45 a.m. in the new church home of First Presbyterian Church of Austin. It was a moving experience in every sense of the word, and for some of our 333 members it also heralded a period of some emotional adjustment.

Perhaps no other feature was as breathtaking and eye-catching as the montage of stained glass windows filling the west wall of the building. The number of visitors to the church increased dramatically, many citing the lure of the windows as the reason for their visit. In the vestibule area and mounted high over the organ they found more beautiful stained glass, some pieces nearly a century old.

Meanwhile the architects had won awards for their innovative work and construction on Phase II, the Christian Education wing, moved forward achieving completion by Oct. 31, 1978. Children’s Sunday school classes and day school classes commenced in the spacious rooms immediately. On November 12, 1978, former choirmaster organist James H Cook, who had been a dedicated member and consultant throughout the planning process until he moved to Alabama, returned to give a resounding organ recital on the magnificent refurbished tracker action organ. Things were settling down and we were beginning to feel at home at last in the newest facilities of First Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas.

At the beginning of the year 1979, membership stood at 360 with 35 out of town members also on the rolls, but membership growth was about to boom. In 1980 the Session acted to reorganize its committee structure, and also recommended to the congregation, which was approved, that an associate pastor be called. On May 10, 1981, the Rev. Ilene Brenner Dunn, who had been serving as our Director of Christian Nurture, was called to serve our church as Associate Pastor.

New life expanded the church’s rolls and activities, but the sense of history was ever with us. April 1, 1984, was proclaimed Noel Amstead Day, honoring his seventy years of membership and service including fifty-three years as a Ruling Elder. Tales and remembrances from three church homes were warmly shared at the nostalgic reception that afternoon.

In October of 1984, the Session sought congregational approval to launch Phase III of the building program, a 14,000 square foot two story facility for the east side of the play yard connected by a covered walkway. This building would house adult education classrooms, the women’s association rooms, a library and places for scouts to meet, all on the first floor. Space on the second floor would be saved for Phase IV, a future fellowship hall and kitchen. Most of the remaining stained glass windows would be incorporated into this building on both floors.

Due to city obstacles delaying the start of construction on this building, official dedication was not possible until May 17, 1986. In the earlier part of this same year, The Rev. James A. Mahon had tendered his resignation effective Easter Sunday, April 6, 1986, so May 17th was also the occasion for honoring the pastor who had led us through sixteen significant years in the long life of this historic congregation. Another era in the life of this congregation was completed.

During the sixteen years of the Rev. James A. Mahon’s leadership, the First Presbyterian Church congregation dared to reassess its mission and physical manifestation, acted in faith in response to that reassessment and in doing so preserved and enhanced their historic place in the community of Christians as well as the community of Austin, Texas.


CHURCH HISTORY 1986 - 2000

April 6, 1986, was Easter Sunday and also the last day of the Reverend James A. Mahon’s sixteen year pastorate at First Presbyterian Church. The congregation had grown and thrived in the Mesa Drive location since moving from Jackson Avenue in April 1978. Church hand-kept records indicated 852 members listed on the rolls at this time although in reality several hundred of these had not been active for a long time. FPC’s long standing Day School for preschoolers was fully enrolled and individual members were involved in various community outreach endeavors in the name of this congregation. With Associate Pastor Ilene Dunn acting as temporary moderator, on May 5, 1986, the lower level of the new building to the east was dedicated. September 19, 1986, was proclaimed by the City of Austin as First Presbyterian Church Day in Austin in honor of 136 years of continuous presence in the community.

The Reverend Henry Quinius agreed to serve as interim pastor during August and September. Later in the fall the congregation asked the Reverend Ilene Dunn to serve as interim pastor until a new pastor could be called. New programs were launched. One of them was Mother’s Day Out, a church program operating apart from the FPC Day School which was run essentially independently of the church but at the pleasure of the this congregation. A Telecare member-to-member ministry was instituted. Also serious review of the rolls was undertaken by several Elders and Pastor Dunn to begin identification of non-participating members who might be candidates for de-activation on the rolls. Effective April 1, 1987, Dr. Ned Harold Benson was called to serve as Pastor and Head of Staff.

1987 was a year of many changes and some growing pains, too. The administrative office was in transition from manual to computer record keeping, thanks to Dr. Benson’s expertise with computers. This intensified the ongoing work of reconciling and updating the membership rolls. Also property maintenance and repair issues were surfacing. A capital drive to complete the upper level of the new building was launched which would also seed a revolving benevolence endowment fund and a capital projects fund. Unfortunately the Austin economy was stalling so the drive fell short of the goal which contributed to delay of the new construction. However the women’s association was able to furnish the parlor and establish a better library with funds they had raised.

In 1988 the Diaconate was reactivated under Associate Pastor Ilene Dunn’s guidance. Reception of new members by the Session was changed from a monthly occurrence at Stated Session meetings to Sundays immediately after the worship services. Community outreach expanded. The Manos de Cristo program for children in east Austin commenced at El Buen Pastor Iglesia in October 1988, a program in which FPC invested heart and soul for years to come. Volunteers from FPC served on the guiding team which helped to open a free dental clinic there in 1989, to provide after-school tutoring services and to organize projects to meet ongoing clothing and school supply needs.

The Samaritan Counseling Center at Central Presbyterian Church opened a northwest branch at FPC which operated here for several years. Construction work commenced on upgrading the lower level’s sprinkler system. Then finally workmen completed a new kitchen, bathrooms, small stage and fellowship hall on the upper level of the new east building. However financial considerations in the operating budget were challenging, so staff cuts were mandated and an intra-structured full time staff of volunteers was instigated in 1989.

On May 28, 1989, Associate Pastor Ilene Dunn departed to accept another call. The full-time associate pastor position was eliminated and a part-time associate pastor position was created. The Reverend Jane Van Auken was called to fill that position effective January 1, 1990, to labor in the area of congregational care. In November of 1990 Elder Doris Clark established the Joy Class, a Sunday school class for developmentally challenged adults who want to feel a part of a Christian congregation. Caring members volunteered to assist in the class room and during worship afterwards with these special Christians.

However unrest had seeped into the congregation. The relationship between members, Session and Dr. Benson was troubled. A lawsuit lodged against the church (dismissed a year later) and against the pastor by two former church members further deflected concentration on the work and mission of the church. Ultimately in March of 1991, Dr. Benson and the congregation mutually agreed to dissolve the pastoral relationship, and the Reverend Tom Cutting was called to serve as interim pastor for six months.

In September of 1991 the Agape Feast was introduced. Also at that time the Reverend Charles “Chuck” Mendenhall accepted the call as interim pastor, serving for a twenty month period that emphasized healing in and for the congregation. Early in this period Session called for an all-congregation goal-setting seminar to help to identify and consolidate prioritized directions for present and future leaders, and to target growth potential. Membership records at the end of 1990 indicated 640 members on the rolls although there were still a number of non-participating persons included. The Joy Class had grown from just a few participants to several dozen. Meanwhile financially the church budget remained constrained, so creativity of volunteers was heavily tapped for Christian education, fellowship events, property maintenance and worship to meet needs and to further promote healing.

The Reverend Robert Gray Bruce was called in March and commenced his pastorate on July 1, 1993. He brought fresh vitality and vision, so again many changes were in store for this congregation. A qualified church member took over as head of the Day School. While it continued to operate independently, there was a closer tie now to FPC members. Handbells were added to the music program. Staff needs were determined and changes occurred there. At the end of six months a 20% increase in pledging was noted and attendance numbers were definitely increasing.

In January of 1994 the Reverend Lee Wiley Bowman was hired as Parish Associate to labor part time in the area of Christian Education. The position of Children’s Coordinator was created which later evolved into Family Ministries Coordinator. In June Kinley Lange was engaged as Director of Music and Scott McNulty as organist. The church music program blossomed and the choir quickly expanded. The Alternate Christmas Market was introduced in November, a bazaar showcasing worthwhile causes rather than crafts, which became an annual tradition. Visitors shop the booths and make purchases in the form of contributions to various causes in the name of persons to whom gifts might be otherwise given.

In January of 1995 the building on the east side of the property was officially named the Earnest Rissman Building in honor of the long time member whose bequest had helped enable the building’s completion. In the spring, FPC joined other Presbyterian churches in contributing dollars and labor to build a Habitat for Humanity house, a project from which evolved ongoing mission commitment of FPC labor and supplies to Hands on Housing. Other happenings that year included obtaining a long held dream of a concert grand piano for the sanctuary. The St. Cecilia concert series was started under Scott McNulty’s leadership. A welcoming program to offer loaves of bread to newcomers commenced and evolved into a literal welcome bread wagon. In August a third service co-existing with the Sunday School hour was introduced along with special adult education classes at 11:15. The First Presbyterian Church Historical Society was established September 25th, 1995. By the end of 1995 Lee Bowman had been called as part time Associate Pastor, other staff positions had been created and filled, all church indebtedness to outside lenders had been paid off and the choir was eagerly planning a trip to Scotland the following June.

Early in the summer of 1996 the choir was warmly welcomed in Lanark, Scotland, by the Greyfriars Parish Church, establishing a strong bond between the two congregations and their pastors. Also during this year contemporary music was added to the 9:30 a.m. worship service, Soul Food mid-week was started during Lent, and monthly Sunday evening Services of Wholeness commenced in October. Staff size increased, so a facilities study was initiated to determine how to get more space and better utilize existing space. Jackson, Galloway and Collier were hired for this and to prepare a master plan as Session started preparing for a Capital Campaign. Also a revised Vision and Mission Statement was adopted this year.

In 1997 the Reverends Donald Hauck, Mike Murray and Murdoch “Mac” Calhoun officially became Parish Associates, assisting with visitations and shut-in communion. This was timely because serious building plans were under consideration which necessarily involved some of the pastoral staff’s time. Plans were underway to: 1.) add adult classroom space and a youth activities room underneath the east wing of the main building, 2.) renovate the lower level of the Rissman Building for the Day School and children’s Sunday school space, 3.) remodel the upper level of the east wing of the main building into administrative offices, 4.) modify portions of the west and south wings of the main building as a parlor, history and library center, music offices and a rehearsal hall, 5.) enlarge and re-equip the kitchen in Fellowship Hall, and 6.) create a Memorial Garden in the courtyard. Also extensive interior painting, re-carpeting and re-furnishing of certain areas were included in the projects to be undertaken. In March of 1998 a three-year Capital Campaign to raise funds was launched with encouraging results.

Meanwhile in 1997 the third worship service on Sunday mornings was re-evaluated and discontinued for fall. Nine members of the Joy Class were received as members, and the congregation harmoniously dealt with issues swirling around Amendment B, ultimately endorsing documents that contained inclusive thinking and behavior regarding Christians who consider themselves gay. New member reception was changed to four times a year. Groups of inquirers convened in Sunday afternoon classes led by an Associate Pastor and were received by elders at that time. There seemed to be no shortage of inquirers.

1999 was a year of many challenges and grief. Rotting shingle siding on the buildings could not be ignored. When presented with the extent of the problem, the congregation rallied around a fourth year capital pledge campaign, pledging enough money to re-do all the buildings in durable Hardyboard. Also this was the year the congregation celebrated its 150th birthday on Pentecost Sunday on May 23rd. Dedication of the new educational facilities built under the east wing of the main building was part of that day’s docket. Long time custodian James Guyton, recently retired, was also honored on this Sunday. In July, a pulpit exchange between the Reverends David and Catherine Collins, pastors of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark, Scotland, and Pastor Bob Bruce occurred. Associate Pastor Lee Bowman also visited this Scottish parish in July.

While the other two pastors were abroad in July, the Reverend Jane Van Auken suddenly fell ill and died a few days later. First Presbyterian’s congregation was stunned and grief was great for this much beloved lady. Austin’s community of faith assemblage for the memorial service was tremendous. Plans soon took shape for the Jane Van Auken memorial fountain in the Memorial Garden which was dedicated September 3, 2000. In August, the Day School moved into their new facilities on the lower level of the Rissman Building to open classes for the fall, and in September, the Reverend Laura Taylor de Palomino was called as part time Associate Pastor. Contractor problems were manifesting so construction time schedules were on hold until the Building Commission under Herman Thun, Chair, could engage a new contractor. In November, Pastor Bruce accepted a new call in North Carolina and left FPC before the holidays. Associate Pastor Lee Bowman stepped into the breech and held things together for the next nine months, but the congregation was definitely shaken by the past year’s events. During Lee’s summer vacation, the Reverends David and Catherine Collins from Lanark, Scotland, were brought over to serve the congregation for a month. They were already aware of what the congregation did not yet know. Lee Bowman was planning to leave this congregation, too.

In September Associate Pastor Lee Bowman departed to accept a call in Kentucky and the Reverend Roland Perdue stepped into the pulpit as interim pastor. More change was proving to be very hard for some people to assimilate. The fall stewardship campaign was disappointing. As had not happened for the past six years, operating budget problems for the present and the coming year surfaced. Membership reported on the active rolls at the end of 1999 was 750 members but attendance was down. However the move into new offices in the east wing of the main building was accomplished in November, the Memorial Garden was nearly finished and work was underway on the last phase of remodeling which included the music rehearsal room and the library-history center. Physically First Presbyterian Church was looking good.

Dr. Steven C. Brewer was called from California to serve as permanent pastor, commencing Ash Wednesday, February 28, 2001. During his first year more inevitable staff changes occurred. Some part time positions were eliminated, combined or re-staffed, and the administrative staff was again restructured. Associate Pastor Laura Taylor de Palomino resigned in February of 2002. Nancy Marroquin, who in the mid-1990's had been the FPC Children’s Coordinator and launcher of the Discovery Station learning system, had resigned four years previously to attend seminary. Early in 2002 the congregation was pleased to call her as FPC’s new Associate Pastor. In June Kinley Lange moved on in his musical career and James Brown joined the staff as Director of Music and the Arts in July. Church programs were busy under lay leadership and hope ran high that things would settle down for a while regarding staff changes.

 In the summer of 2002 the pastor and his wife were devastated by the sudden tragic death of their twenty one year old daughter. In May of 2003, Dr. Brewer resigned, so Session asked Associate Pastor Nancy Marroquin to serve as Acting Pastor through the summer of 2004. Parish Associates Mac Calhoun, Don Hauck and Mike Murray also volunteered to help with expanded pastoral duties. Organist Scott McNulty decided to accept employment elsewhere.

Nancy Marroquin accepted a call to form a new church in a local community and resigned on the last day of August, 2004. On September 26, 2004 the congregation called Dr.Terrence Sherry to serve as pastor and thus launched a promising new era. 

Dr. Terrence Sherry served for 9 years as FPC Head of Staff. A new search commettee was formed and Reverend Sarah Allen, a new graduate from Austin Presbyterian Seminary, was called to serve as Pastor for Children and Youth at FPC. She brought vision, energy and consistency to the programs for children of all ages at FPC. That same year the Reverend Sam Riccobene was call to serve as Pastor for Congregational care and Small Groups. FPC saw new growth and energy in all areas of program ministry. The Interfaith Hospitality Network welcomed homeless families into our facilities 4 times a year, annual mission trips for youth were organized, liaisons for youth with Westminster presbyterian and University Presbyterian were  forged and enjoyed by the new "WUFPAC". Rev. Riccobene began a cycling group, a Creation Stewardship team and other small groups based on parishioners gifts. Rev. Sam Riccobene retired in 2011 at a joyful "Sam I Am" retirement party.

In October of 2014, Rev. Terrrence Sherry resigned and his call was dissolved in November of 2014.  He and his family returned to his home state of California. The Session brought the Rev, David Meriwether to FPC in August of 2015 to serve as Interim Head of Staff. Under David's leadership, the church stabilized and staff were recognized and rewarded, bylaws were updated, church policies and procedures were reviewed and created, and a Board of trustees was instated to manage the balance sheet.  A call to commitment saw increased pledges and commitment to ministry efforts.

On January 1 2017, The Reverend Elizabeth Boone McLean was called to serve as Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church of Austin. She was welcomed with love and enthusiasm.  Her many years experience is shaping a motivated Session and Diaconate, renewed financial commitment and budget stability, and has seen membership growth.


WOMENS WORK - EWPW HISTORY

The First Presbyterian Church in Austin was organized on May 26; 1850, in the old Capitol building. Two of the five charter members were women. Membership grew during the next year, and a small frame church was built in 1851.

The women of the church had Sewing Circle meetings and programs about missions as they sewed clothes to send to mission fields and to give to needy people around Austin.

A women’s Aid Society” was organized in 1853 to raise money for more improvements to the church. They prepared a large dinner for the townspeople and the legislature, which was in session. Decorative items were also sold and the affair was a great success.

Money-raising projects continued and the women were able to buy the pulpit, blinds for the windows, backs for the church benches, and a communion table.

A new missionary group composed of young girls was organized in 1850. They called themselves “The Busy Bees.” When they grew older, the name was changed to “Young Ladies Missionary Society.”

In 1873 a new church building fund was started and the women worked hard to help raise money to complete the new, larger, stone building on the corner of 7th and Lavaca Streets. The church was built and dedicated free of debt in 1890.

The Sewing Circle which started in 1851 became the “Ladies Missionary and Benevolent Society” about 1880. It was a strong organization and the members continued to have mission programs and make clothes to be sent to missions.

On October 25, 1884, Synod and the Women’s Synodical Committee held meetings in the First Presbyterian Church.

The women went to the Synod meeting to obtain approval for organizing a Presbyterial, which would cooperate with the Boards of the church. Synod granted the request for the formation of the Austin (later Alamo) Presbyterial.

In 1900, a new pipe organ was purchased for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the church. The women gave over $1,000.00 to help buy the organ. A lovely memorial stained glass window in memory of Evelyn Bell Wright, wife of the beloved former pastor, was given to the church by the women in 1905.

The “Evelyn Wright Circle” was formed in 1907. Its members contributed gifts, clothes and money to an old ladies’ home, orphanages, hospitals, and missions. They provided flowers for the church sanctuary each Sunday. The Evelyn Wright Circle bought rugs and furniture for the church parlor and Sunday School rooms. They gave $150.00 toward the purchase of chimes for the church in memory of former pastor Dr. Wright.

In 1915, the “Pastor’s Aid Society” was formed to promote sociability and friendliness in the church and to raise money for local church needs. They had electric fans put in the church and made quilts, aprons, and other items for food/rummage sales. With the help of the Evelyn Wright Circle, they took care of small children during church services.

Another Ladies Aid Society started in 1920. This group sewed, quilted, and held sales to raise money for church improvements, relief for needy families, missionary pledges, and other projects.

On April 8, 1929, the different groups of women in the church combined their members, programs and work into one organization called “The Evelyn Wright Auxiliary.” It was renamed “The Evelyn Wright Women’s Association” in 1950. The association was divided into Circles for separate meetings of smaller groups to study and work together. Later, evening Circles were formed to accommodate business women.

Evelyn Wright Presbyterian Women is a charter member of the Austin Council of Church women. A former member of our First Presbyterian Church, Mrs. E. W. Norris, helped to organize the World Day of Prayer in Austin, and the first meeting was held at this church...

In 1961, the First Presbyterian Church moved to a new building at 4200 Jackson Avenue. The women dedicated themselves to beautifying the new church, promoting fellowship and spiritual growth, helping with mission projects, and giving money, clothes, and other necessary items to people in need.

The church moved again on April 23, 1978, to the present location, 8901 Mesa Drive, which was a newly-constructed building. After being stored for seventeen years, the pipe organ and many of the stained glass windows from the downtown church were installed in the new, modern, stone church building. Alamo Presbyterial’s fall meeting was held at the church on October 18, 1978.

Throughout the 1980’s the church women raised money for items such as a new refrigerator for the kitchen, and blinds for the new Fellowship Hall. A cookbook was published in 19889, with proceeds from sales being evenly divided between First Presbyterian Church and Manos de Cristo in East Austin.

In 1988 the organization became, officially, “Evelyn Wright Presbyterian Women in First Presbyterian Church,” retaining its historical identification, even as it moved into a new organizational design. In the 1990’s this organization continues to give and to serve, building on a rich tradition.
 

PASTORS AND ASSOCIATE PASTORS

PASTORS

* 1850-1865 WILLIAM MUMFORD BAKER
* 1866-1869 THADDEUS MCRAE
* 1869-1872 JEROME A. WILLIAMS
* 1872-1908 EDWARD BINGHAM WRIGHT - Emeritus
* 1908-1916 ARTHUR FENN BISHOP
* 1917-1919 NEWTON P. PATTERSON
* 1922-1925 LOUIS D. GRAFTON
* 1926-1927 WILLIAM E. HARRISON
* 1928-1939 DANIEL E. GRIEDER
* 1939-1956 FREDERICK EMERSON BROOKS - Emeritus
* 1957-1959 KENNETH T. MCGEHEE
* 1959-1969 WILLIAM P. CALDWELL
* 1970-1986 JAMES A. MAHON
* 1987-1991 NED HAROLD BENSON
* 1993-1999 ROBERT GRAY BRUCE
* 2000-2001 ROLAND C PERDUE (interim)
* 2001-2003 STEPHEN C. BREWER
* 2004-2013 TERRENCE O. SHERRY
* 2014-2016 DAVID MERIWETHER (interim)
* 2017-         ELIZABETH BOONE McLEAN

ASSOCIATE PASTORS

* 1905-1908 ARTHUR FENN BISHOP
* 1981-1989 ILENE BRENNER DUNN
* 1989-1999 JANE MACINTOSH VAN AUKEN
* 1996-2000 LEE WILEY BOWMAN
* 1999-2002 LAURA TAYLOR DE PALOMINO
* 2002-2004 NANCY MARTIN MARROQUIN
* 2007-2011 SAM RICCOBENE
* 2007-         SARAH DEMAREST ALLEN
 
 
CHURCH RECOGNITIONS
 
World War II Awards
 
1. Wartime Service Program of the General Assembly for 1943-1944
Citation of honor for distinguished service to God & humanity, April 1, 1944
2. UNITED STATES TREASURY DEPARTMENT
In recognition of the patriotic and generous donation made to the United States, this citation is awarded to Women’s Bible Class, FPC, and Austin, Texas.
 
Austin Chapter American Institute of Architects, 1978.
 
Honor Award to Church Building of FPC, Austin, Texas
 
Synod of the Sun Presentation using FPC as an example of good care of history.

 
CHURCH LAY NOTABLES
 
Col. Abner H Cook
 
James H Bell
 
Evelyn Bell Wright
 
Miss Fanny Andrews & Mrs. Laton Stanberry (Christy Kniffin)
 
According to Blanche Rogers (1988) Miss Fannie Andrews and Mrs Laton Stanberry were the first women Elders in the First Presbyterian Church in 1942 during World War II.
 
Artist, Waymon Adams painted a portrait of Miss Fannie Andrews. This portrait was hung in the Austin Public Library on 8th St.
 
Fannie’s sister, Jessie was the first women to enter the University of Texas, the first women to graduate from UT and the first woman to be on the UT’s faculty. Noted by Frances Spinney
 
Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Robertson
 
In 1848 Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Robertson purchased a home on a hill that was known as Robertson's Hill in Austin TX in the vicinity of 7th and 11th Streets east of IH 35. The home remained in the family until 1949 when it was acquired by the state and designated as the French Legation. The Robertson estate also provided financial help to underwrite maintenance of the private cemetery there that eventually became the Texas State Cemetery.
 
The wooden structure that was the first physical home of First Presbyterian Church was relocated in 1890 to Robertson Hill on Patalca St. between 12th and Olive Streets. It became the Daniel Baker Memorial Chapel and was used for church school services until 1898 when it was closed. The building became too dilapidated to repair, so was eventually torn down.
 
Some of the Robertson family were dedicated members of First Presbyterian Church. Records show Warren Townsend Robertson joined in 1898 and died in 1954. John Benjamin Robertson joined in 1899 and remained on the rolls until his death in 1976. Margaret Robertson, who never married, joined the church in 1905 and died in 1972. Mrs. Julia Robertson joined the church in 1934. She created a lovely painting of the family home which hangs today in the French Legation. She died in 1962.
 
John Robertson's will bequeathed funds in four equal parts to two children's homes and two churches, one of which was First Presbyterian Church. Receipt of that bequest enabled the church to accelerate building plans when they relocated in 1977 to Mesa Drive.
 
Florence Bissell
 
Noel Amstead was the second Eagle Scout in Austin and the first Scout Executive of the Capitol Area Council. He was program chairman of FPC Centennial Anniversary Committee.
 
William Harris Bell
 
Ernest Rissman at the time of his death in 1993 had been a member of First Presbyterian Church for over sixty years. He served the church as Clerk of Session for many years and also served as Trustee on the first board of Westminster Manor. Ernest was also a member of the first Boy Scout Troop, Troop 1. Troop 1 still meets at First Presbyterian Church.
 
 

 

Last Published: April 5, 2018 4:51 PM
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