A Brief History of
The First Presbyterian Church,
First Presbyterian Church of Jackson was organized on a Saturday
afternoon, April 8, 1837 by the Reverend Peter Donan and four
persons: Mrs. Margaret E. Mayson, Mrs. Susan Patton, and John
Robb and his wife, Marion. The organization meeting was
held in "the Old State House," Mississippis first
capitol, a small two-story structure on the northeast corner of
E. Capitol and N. President Streets. Peter Donan continued
as the churchs pastor for four years. There were no
elders for two years, no deacons for six years, nor a Presbyterian
house of worship for nearly nine years. In the first two
years of its existence, the church had but three new members.
In 1841, Reverend Donan was followed
by Reverend S. H. Hazard, who was pastor for little more
than one year. He was succeeded by the Reverend Leroy
Jones Halsey, a dynamic man and preacher, under whose ministry
the congregation commenced to grow. Halsey spurred the building
of the first sanctuary on the northwest corner of North State
and Yazoo Streets. When Dr. Halsey resigned in 1848, the
pulpit was supplied until February 22, 1849. The congregation
then called as pastor the Reverend Isaac James Henderson, who
served until he was succeeded by the Reverend L. A. Lowry on December
3, 1853. Mr. Lowry was a fine pastor and effective
preacher, but died of Yellow Fever after but two years service.
The pulpit was supplied from March, 1855, until a call was extended
to the Reverend John Hunter on January 24, 1858.
The Reverend John Hunter was born
and raised in North Ireland, received his seminary training at
the Presbyterian Seminary in Danville, Kentucky, and was a vigorous,
faithful and able preacher of Gods word, and pastor of First
Presbyterian Church for 37 years. John Hunters wife,
Rosa Farrar Petrie Hunter, worked ably with him through all his
Hunters pastorate was followed by that of James Buchanan
Hutton, a native of Virginia and graduate of Union Theological
Seminary at Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, who with his wife, Rosalind
Gwin Hutton, were loved and admired by our congregation through
his pastorate of almost 44 years.
Our next minister, R. Girard Lowe,
was another consecrated, spiritually-minded, conservative man
of God, who also was a fine athlete and who had unusual rapport
with the young people of the congregation, many of whom he was
instrumental in leading to the Lord. His ministry ended
with death by cancer, and it was a saddened congregation that
buried this fine, attractive, much-loved man. During Dr.
Lowes ministry our present sanctuary was built, the final
service in the old church of North State at Yazoo Streets
being on August 29, 1951.
Dr. John Reed Miller, a native
of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then was called and served as pastor
from 1952 until 1968. Previously he held pastorates in Ohio,
West Virginia, and Tennessee. He had served as president
of Knoxville College, taught at Belhaven College, and was the
founding pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson.
Under his leadership, First Presbyterian Church became more vitally
interested in missions, and the Church began holding annual World
Mission Conferences. In 1962, he led the church in founding
a Winter Theological Institute, which was continued at Reformed
Theological Seminary after that institution was founded, with
Dr. Millers counseling and encouragement. Dr. Miller was
known for his commitment to pastoral ministry and to biblical
preaching. His scholarship and careful sermon preparation
were always apparent, as was his love for his Lord, and his conviction
that "the message must be saturated with the profound conceptions
of God's Word." With Dr. Miller's profound sermons,
for the first time the sanctuary was filled to capacity for Sunday
evening services.For 16 years his evening sermons were broadcast
on WSLI radio, and beginning in the early 1960s, the morning worship
services also were televised. Also under the leadership
of Dr. Miller, the church established in 1965 The First Presbyterian
Church Day School, which to this day has provided outstanding
scholastic training and strong biblical teaching to thousands
of young people in this city.
Dr. Donald B. Patterson was installed
as the next pastor in September, 1969, and served until 1983.
Under his leadership theWorld
Mission Program was greatly expanded and the Church experienced
substantial growth. During Dr. Pattersons pastorate Twin
Lakes Conference Center was developed, an outstanding addition
to our Churchs ministry. Also during Dr. Pattersons
ministry at First Church, The Presbyterian Church in America was
formed, with Dr. Patterson and several of his churchs ruling
elders serving on the various committees which wrote the fundamental
documents for the new denomination. Dr. Patterson served
as Chairman of the Steering Committee that formed The Presbyterian
Church in America. During Dr. Pattersons pastorate,
his wife, Jeanne, served as the leader of the Explorers
Bible Study, which involved more than 450 women from 72 churches,
and continues to attract men and women from over the city of Jackson.
Subsequent to his retirement, Dr. Patterson was appointed "Pastor
at Large" for Mission to the World, the foreign mission arm
of the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. and Mrs. Patterson
traveled throughout the world, counseling and encouraging our
growing numbers of missionaries (over 60 have come out of First
Presbyterian Church). When Dr. Patterson asked to be relieved
of this responsibility in 1993, his pastorate included more than
600 missionaries located in 60 countries. He then was named
"Special Representative," which enabled him to represent
Mission to the World in various special capacities, one of these
being "Vision Trips." He many years he organized
"Vision Trips" for pastors and interested laymen to
go to various mission fields, see the work, and become involved
in evangelization efforts in those areas.
Dr. James M. Baird succeeded Dr.
Patterson as Pastor of First Church in November, 1983. Dr.
Baird was a popular minister and an able preacher of Gods
word. The church continued to grow under his pastorate,
and he gave leadership to three successful building programs to
increase the church plant size. Dr. Bairds TV ministry
was widely followed and was instrumental in bringing numerous
persons from all over Mississippi to a saving knowledge of the
Lord Jesus Christ. He was instrumental in involving First
Presbyterian Church in the Mission Mississippi movement, and he
met regularly with black and white ministers from over the city
in promoting that work. Until his resignation in December,
1995, Dr. Baird was ably assisted by his capable, delightful wife,
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, our present
minister, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, and the son
of an eighth generation Southern Presbyterian Ruling Elder, became
the Minister of First Presbyterian Church in August of 1996.
He is a graduate of Furman University, Covenant Theological Seminary
in St. Louis, and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
In 1990, Dr. Duncan joined the faculty of Reformed Theological
Seminary as Chairman of the Department of Systematic Theology,
and The John R. Richardson Professor of Theology. During
this time he also was assistant to the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian
Church, Jackson, and in 1993 served as Interim Pastor of First
Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City.
The space allocated for this very
brief history doesnt permit mentioning by name the ruling
elders of first Church of Jackson, men elected to that office
for lifetime. It will suffice to say that our deceased ruling
elders through all the years of life of this churchs existence,
guided and directed First Presbyterian Church in such paths that
the state of this church today is attributable in large degree
to the faithful and God-centered efforts of these ruling elders.
Mention must be made of the work of these ruling elders, and deacons,
too, in founding the First Presbyterian Day School, which has
provided outstanding scholastic training and strong biblical teaching
to thousands of young people from the congregation and from all
over Jackson. The Day School is now one of the strongest
programs of the church, and the church's continued growth and
strength can be attributed in large part to the efforts of the
Lord in His working through the Day School.
In all things, to God be the glory.
History Background information and history of the Presbyterian
Church in America.