Excerpts from a “Brief History of the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford”
Written by Leonard Adair for the Installation of the Reverend Alan D. Cutter,
January 15, 1978
Since the village was then known as the Head of the Delaware, the new church was called the Presbyterian Church at the Head of the Delaware and 24 persons, members of the Harpersfield Church were transferred to become charter members . . .Among these were the names of Champlin and Churchill, names that are still common today, the latter still is found on the church membership roll.
The first Church building was a Union Meeting House used by four denominations: Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Universalists. . . The Rev. Fordyce Harrington was the first minister, serving nine years during which time 114 members were added to the church roll.
Rev. Warren Mayo became the minister in 1853 with the desire of Presbytery that he lead the people to break away from the Union Meeting House and build a new Church. . . . . It was voted that a subscription be started for the building of the new church. The amount pledged at that time by subscription was $940, and the new building was dedicated two years later approximately on the same site as the present building. . . . . Two stoves at the front of the church had stove pipes running to the chimneys at the back, which gave adequate heat for the long services.
Among the many men of Faith who served this church was one, the Rev. Leonard W. Richards, who became Pastor in 1864 serving for 39 years. During his pastorate a parsonage was built on South Delaware Street, the 50th anniversary of the church was celebrated, 187 names were added to the membership roll, the church finances were improving and in 1886 steps were taken to build a more convenient Presbyterian Church. . . . Rev. Richards was truly a man of vision and was respected by all. The plaque at the front of the sanctuary at your left commemorates his long and fruitful ministry in Stamford.
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Another distinguished pastor was the Rev. Walter Cavert who served the church from 1915–1920. During his years here, 58 persons joined the church. Many of us recall the service two years ago when Rev. Cavert returned to occupy the pulpit one Sunday. He is the oldest living former Pastor but still very keen of mind and full of vision.
Time does not permit a lengthy account of church history to the present time, but these names should not go unnoticed because each in his own way has made a contribution toward the over-all growth of our church. Rev. Peter McKenzie, Rev. Lee Fairchild, Rev. Mark Smith, Rev. John MacInnes, Rev. Earl Naegele, Rev. John Sonnenday and two recent supply Pastors, Rev. Everret Gray and Rev. Eugene Umberger have added their bit in enriching the history of our church to the glory of God.
Music has played a great part in the history of our church. Mrs. Richards, wife of the Rev. Leonard Richards, was one of the first choir directors. During the leadership of Harold Rushmore in more recent years, such presentations as Stainer’s “The Crucifixion” and Handel’s “Messiah” have been noteworthy. The presentation last May of “Celebrate Life” by a community choir under the leadership of our present director, Mrs. Marcy Davis, added to the appreciation of music as a part of worship.
In more recent years a Board of Deacons has been organized as well as other Youth Groups to aid in the work of the Church. The Hearth and Cricket Club, consisting of young women of the Church was organized in the 1950s. Proceeds from their money-making activities were used for the re-modeling of the kitchen. During the Pastorate of Rev. John MacInnes, excavating was done downstairs to make more space available for Church School classrooms.
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Another highlight in the history of our church was the celebration of its one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary in June 1959. It was a two-day celebration consisting of a pageant depicting many scenes typical of its early history, a smorgasbord dinner and two worship services on Sunday. Rev. Cavert returned to preach the anniversary sermon and a service of dedication and music was held in the evening.
In these few moments, one can only mention a few highlights from a long and fruitful history. The story of the lives and vision and dedication of the former ministers of this church would fill a book in itself. God had led them and the people that they have served to accomplish great things.
But what of the future? Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our church under the leadership of the Rev. Alan D. Cutter. With God’s blessing and guidance, we look forward to adding to the rich history of the past as the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford continues to carry out its mission in this community.