History

We are an historical church serving this area for over 150 years. Our history paves the way to our future.

An armed congregation once worshiped God In Mt. Vernon. During the Civil War when Gen. Sterling Price was making his threats to this part of Missouri, Presbyterians met for worship with the male members of the congregation fully armed. Steadfast in the face of advancing armies, the members put on their Sunday best, complete with six-gun, and went to worship.

During the Civil War the church was used as a hospital by the military forces. The church at that time was a Cumberland Presbyterian Church, founded on April 4, 1848, by the Rev. A.A. Young. In 1858, the first brick church building in Lawrence County was dedicated, debt free, on the site of the present First Presbyterian Church at Cherry and Main. It was used until the present building was built in 1892. This new building was to cost $4,000, with brick supplied by the congregation. The new furnace wasn’t installed until December 1893. New pews were installed in July 1902.

On February 27, 1888, the Presbyterian Church of Mt. Vernon, Missouri, was formed by the Presbytery of Ozark, in connection with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA.

The 13 original members came from Ozark Prairie Church, north of Mt. Vernon, the Cumberland Church and Calvary Presbyterian in Springfield.

The new congregation built a building southeast of the Cumberland church, almost in the center of what is now College Street. The building was a two-story wooden structure built at a cost of $7,000. Its purpose was to be a place for both worship and a school. It became a flourishing academy dedicated to the idea that young people might have a greater chance for learning.

When the academy was built, there was not a four-year high school in Mt. Vernon. Students could go to the academy for a year, and then finish up at the high school, or they might go for a year after high school to help prepare for college. Harold Bell Wright, author of The Shepherd of the Hills, was a teacher at the academy. It was eventually closed, sometime between 1915 and 1918, and the building was torn down. Materials from it were used to help build a house in 1918 now located at 410 College.

The congregation worshiped at the academy building until May of 1905 when they and the Cumberland congregation began worshiping together.

On October 28, 1906, a congregational meeting was held at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for the purpose of union and consolidation of that church with the Presbyterian Church of Mt. Vernon. The vote was taken with 32 cast for adoption and 1 against.

On April 21, 1907, the merger of the two congregations was completed. The Cumberland church building (at what is now Cherry and Main) was then used as the worship site.

A Sunday school annex was added in 1927 at a cost of $4,000. It contained classrooms, a basement dining area and a kitchen.

During the Depression little was done to the church because of the struggle just to keep the doors open. Beginning in the early ’40s, a remodeling and painting program was carried out, and a new Hammond organ was installed in August 1945. New pews were installed in the south wing of the sanctuary in February 1954.

In 1957 an educational wing was built that added a parlor, several classrooms and a new kitchen.

In June 1972 the old Manse at 512 S. Vine was sold and a new one purchased at 534 Valley View Drive, to be occupied by the Rev. James Marlett and family.

The Hammond CV Circa Organ which was installed in 1945 was traded in on an ADVENT Organ, Overture I Model 50 years later, in February 1995.

In 1996, the church was awarded a major capital improvement grant by the Presbyterian Church (USA). The money was used to renovate the roof to a pitched design. Other projects added for a pledge drive included replacing sidewalks and painting all the trim.

A bequest from the George Millsap estate was added to the church’s steeple memorial fund for replacement of the steeple and spire to its original design. This project was coordinated with the other renovations in 1997.

The church’s witness over the years has been faithful in dire times of Civil War and Depression and the good times of merger and prosperity. By God’s grace that witness will continue.

(This history includes excerpts from the 1974 Lawrence County History and the Mt. Vernon Alumni Association Newsletter.)