First Presbyterian Church’s History
First Presbyterian Church today is located at the end of the Oregon Trail on the corner of Warner-Milne and Linn Avenues in Oregon City, OR. However, it has moved its location at least twice. It first began in the Day and Robertson store in Linn City (today’s West Linn), OR in the 1840’s when three men with pioneer missionary vision began a new church there. They were supported and encouraged by a cooperative missionary venture by the National Congregational and National Presbyterian mission associations back east. It was unofficially called Presbyterian because their eldest member was Presbyterian; however, the other members were Congregationalists (meaning they were independent from any connectional relationships such as Presbyterians have).
Two years later, at the urging of a Mr. Atkinson (a Congregationalist), the church was moved across the river to Oregon City and became First Congregational Church of Oregon City. After many years as a Congregational body, several members sought admission into the Oregon Presbytery on October 6, 1888 in order to have a Reformed church in Oregon City. The Presbytery’s missionary in the field, Reverend E.T. Ingle, arrived and visited 78 families to see who might be interested; and 14 families responded. Those 14 families became the 8th Presbyterian church to be established in the Portland region. The location selected for a new church building (costing $500) the following year was Jefferson and 7th street in Oregon City. Its original, modest design was drawn up by church member W.A. White in whose home the church would temporarily meet for worship that first year. It saw several expansions as the church grew. In 1889 Rev. E.T. Ingle telegraphed an order for a church bell to be installed upon completion of the church building. This is the same bell that now rings every Sunday in the bell tower in front of the current church building.
In 1922 an arsonist started a fire in the church. The building was destroyed and some of our historical records were lost as well. Until it could be totally rebuilt the church met in Shively’s Opera House and in the German Evangelical Church nearby. The church was rebuilt on the same site a year later and rededicated on April 23, 1923.
When the church outgrew their building (membership was approaching 500) and parking spaces in the late 1950’s they moved to the 10 acres it sits on today; which used to be a farm and is also one of the highest elevations in Oregon City known as Mount Pleasant. It was purchased for $25,000. At that time it was a difficult move for everyone to embrace since they were leaving a sacred space and the new land seemed too remote and detached from the city. This was a painful time and a hard transition for the church membership. However, the move was made on October 18, 1959 beginning with worship in the old location and then moving up the hill to conclude worship in the new location which consisted then of an education wing and a fellowship hall. The sanctuary was later completed in 1964. Today that “remote” piece of property upon which the church worships and serves its community is in the heart of the growing sections of Oregon City.
A brief history of our senior pastors follows…
E.T. Ingle (1888-1889) Missionary and founding pastor. He retired for health reasons. He had been responsible for the new church construction and this may have proven too much for him.
George W. Giboney (1890-1894) He was hard working and poured himself into those early years; especially with ministry to the youth.
Andrew J. Montgomery (1894-1902) An outdoorsman and mountain climber, he served the church with great joy.
F.H. Mixsell (1902-1904) During his time the church built their first manse.
John R. Landsborough (1905-1917) He and his wife were the first to live in the new manse. He organized a boys club called “Knights of King Arthur.” Many of the boys, when they grew up, commented how meaningful this club was for them.
Solomon W. Seeman (1917-1919) Not much is known about him except he was married to Carrie and was born about 1863.
H.G. Edgar (1919-1923) He came from a mission trip to France where he had worked for the YMCA. It was during his time that the church was burned down and rebuilt. He was very community minded, belonging to several organizations and a charter member of the local Kiwanis Club.
Mortimer M. Stocker (1923-1929) This was his first pastorate. He was the first to include “children’s sermons” and enjoyed outdoor activities with the men. The church grew spiritually and numerically during this time.
Roy Achor (1929-1947) He was the first pastor to truly have a long tenure. He was very community minded, kept a good sense of humor, and received an honorary doctorate from Lewis and Clark College.
Lee E. Knoll (1947-1963) He and his wife were the first to live in a new manse the church had built. The church grew spiritually and numerically during his pastorate. The Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in West Linn was begun during this time with charter members from First Presbyterian. Our current sanctuary’s corner stone was laid during his time.
Lloyd Carrick (1963-1964) Served as an interim pastor. During his time the church celebrated its 75th anniversary and the old tower bell was placed on a stand next to the present sanctuary. Fundraising began during his time here as well to finish the sanctuary.
Sydney A. Walker (1964) Another interim pastor, born in London, England.
George R. Ashwood (1964-1978) Known for his booming voice and strong singing voice (especially “Trust and Obey” and “How Great Thou Art”), he was the first to see Children’s Church begin and the sanctuary finished. He organized the prayer chain, and taught Bethel Bible courses. He was voted Pastor Emeritus by the congregation upon his retirement.
Dr. Frank Moss (1978-1979) An interim pastor who saw good spiritual growth in the church. Known for his great sense of humor, he could quote biblical passages at length as well and taught Sunday school. The church grew numerically during his ministry here.
Dean F. Rowley (1979-1994) Biblically rooted, he served the church well with biblical sermons, Sunday school classes and in the choir. He led the church during a time when theological difficulties with the PC(USA) were increasingly evident. He retired after his service here and is well remembered.
Dr. Richard Neese (1994-1996) An interim pastor who went on to serve Canon Beach, OR.
Bruce J. Marten (1996-present) He continues the biblically rooted preaching of his predecessors. It was during his ministry, on January 25, 2013, that the church was legally dismissed from the PC(USA) and affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) after a long and prayerful two year process.