Historical Storylines

Central Presbyterian Church
The First Ninety Years
1844 – 1934

Overview of Central Presbyterian Church written to celebrate the 90th anniversary.

“Our Father God, from out Whose Hand,
The centuries fall like grains of sand,
We meet today united, free,
To thank Thee for the era done,
And trust Thee for the one to come.”

“1844 – when the United States had had a Constitution only fifty-six years, only forty years after Lewis and Clark started exploring the West, thirty-two years after the War of 1812, thirteen years after Missouri had been admitted into the Union as a State, thirteen years after Baltimore and Ohio had put into operation its first steam engine, four years before gold was discovered in California, two years before the Declaration of War with Mexico, Texas was not yet a state, the National debt was less than sixteen million dollars, and St. Louis had a population of 34,140 people, (but no railroads, no concrete highways, no telephones, electric lights, water connections.)

1844 – the year in which the YMCA was organized in London, when Joseph Smith succeeded Brigham Young as head of the Mormon Church, when James K. Polk was elected the eleventy President of the United States, in which S.B. Morse invented the magnetic telegraph and Goodyear patented a process for vulcanizing India rubber. In this year, on the 19th of April, in a frame building on the southeast corner of 6th and St. Charles Streets, was born a new church with thirty-two members. This church, a daughter of Second Presbyterian Church, was christened the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Saint Louis.

Who then dreamed of the changes ninety years would bring? Broad paved avenues, electric lights, steam and electric railways, automobiles, radios, X-rays, etc., and Saint Louis a metropolitan area of a million people. For the church itself, who could foresee: four buildings – one at 8th and Locust (1848-1873); one at Lucas and Garrison (1873-1906); a third at Delmar and Clara (1809-1929); the fourth at Hanley Road at Davis Drive (1931-); one merger, with the Clayton Presbyterian Church. (This church had been organized May 8, 1892, and for thirty years preceding the union with Central, had been served by Dr. Walter M. Langtry); ten ministers: Rev. Alexander Van Court, Rev. S.J.P. Anderson, D.D., Rev. Robert Brank, D.D., Rev. Edward G. Mack, D.D., Ref. A.S. Carr, D.D., Rev. J. Layton Mauze, D.D., Rev. Donald McLeod, D. D., Rev. James L. Fowle, D.D., Rev. Walter M. Langtry, D.D., Pastor Emeritus and Rev. Theodore S. Smylie, D.D., and ten decades of faithful testimony and magnificent usefulness.

These years have enlisted the devotion of prominent men and families too numerous to mention: leaders in the past and present civic life of this great city, statesmen, financiers, layers, bankers, publishers, theologians, businessmen. Its membership, influenced by the times and three removals Westward, has fluctuated up and down. Never less than the original thirty-two, in 1922 it reached a total of 1106. Its strength for service is indicated by the contributions of a single year. During 1928, the congregation raised for all causes $59,685.88.

Throughout the Mexican War, the Civil War, the War with Spain, the great World War, through a dozen panics, through the Old School-New School theological controversy, though the divisions and animosities that arose in the wake of the Civil War, in good times and bad, this church has ministered with unfaltering fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Its sons have heard the call of the Gospel ministry, its wealth has promoted missionary activities around the world. Under its ministry the hungry have found the Bread of Life, the sinner has found forgiveness, the sad and lonely have discovered comfort and the discouraged have found new hope.

1934 – Central finds itself located in one of the most beautiful and promising sections of the city, with a plant distinguished for its beauty and second to few, if any, in the excellence of its equipment, with 978 members on its rolls, its different branches of service well organized, and the future as radiant as the promises of the God who has blessed the church through the years. We thank God and take courage.”

(from the service commemorating the ninetieth anniversary of Central Presbyterian Church on April 22, 1934)

The Central History Project will weave the stories of Central Presbyterian Church
into the stories of the City of Saint Louis.