History of our church
Over one hundred and sixty-some years ago - 1858 - our church was founded.
More than 8,000 Sunday sermons and 150Christmases and Easters have come and gone , two world wars, the harnessing of electricity, the recorded voice, the atomic bomb, and man's first steps on the moon. Computers, internet, and cell phones have arrived. You have entered the world and are here to read this. With all that has come, and with all that has gone, we still practice what we preach.
At no point have we ever lost sight of the true purpose of Christian worship.
Founding of "The Presbyterian Church of Frostburg"
In the fall of 1857, at the suggestion of some of the citizens of Frostburg, the Committee on Missions of the Winchester Presbytery took measures to have occasional preaching in Frostburg.
Subsequently, the Synod of Baltimore requested the committee to attend to this “matter of having occasional preaching in that destitute place called Frostburg, Md.”
The Rev. John Phillips, pastor of the Keyser Presbyterian Church, preached regularly during the early part of the summer of 1858 in Frostburg, at the Redmen’s Hall, located at that time, on Broadway Street.
In September of 1858, the first ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was administered according to the order of the Presbyterian Church. It was administered in the Methodist Church (which was offered for the occasion), by Rev. W. H. Foote, pastor of Romney Presbyterian Church and Rev. John Phillips, to those who wanted a Presbyterian Church in Frostburg.
At the close of this gathering the fourteen persons who had taken Communion presented the petition requesting that a Presbyterian Church be organized in Frostburg. All who had signed the petition claimed they had been members of some Presbyterian Church elsewhere, but most of them were from Scotland.
The petition was taken to the Winchester Presbytery. The Presbytery met on September 16, 1858, in Mount Zion Church, Hardy County, Virginia. The Presbytery appointed Rev. William. H. Foote to lay the matter of the Frostburg church, before the Presbytery of Carlisle, Pa., and the Baltimore Synod, which met there also. Both bodies, willing to organize a church in Frostburg, requested Winchester Presbytery to go ahead with the organizing of the church.
The Winchester Presbytery them appointed Rev. Wm. H. Foote, Romney, Virginia; Rev. M. W. Woodworth of Burlington, Virginia; Rev. John Phillips of Keyser, Virginia, and Elder J. C. McCarty of Keyser Church to proceed with the organization of the church in Frostburg.
On Saturday, December 11, 1858, they came to Frostburg and met with those who had signed the petition. One of the ministers preached that evening and afterwards called the names of the fourteen persons who had signed the petition, all answering, and making profession of their faith publicly. They were admitted to membership under the care of the Winchester Presbytery of Virginia, and the church was to be known as “The Presbyterian Church of Frostburg.”
Rev. Woodworth, Rev. Foote and Rev. Phillips preached off and on until 1864. At this time the war was going on between the North and the South. Winchester Presbytery was in the South and Carlisle Presbytery in the North, and there was enmity between them. The Winchester Presbytery wanted a dividing line, to which the Carlisle Presbytery agreed, but wanted the Winchester Presbytery to take Hagerstown and all west of it in Maryland. The latter was willing to take Hagerstown and Cumberland, but did not want the Coal Valley (Georges Creek).
Agreement was finally reached, whereby the Potomac River would be the dividing line with the Winchester Presbytery taking the south side and the Carisle Presbytery taking the north side. This continues to be the dividing line between the two Presbytery’s.
The land was purchased for the church on December 27, 1859 from an individual named Newton for the sum of $400.00.
Tales from the 1800's
In 1948, Enoch Prichard, presented a history of the church at the 90th Anniversary celebration. He related the following story: One woman, accused of being drunk and disorderly, was called before the session. She admitted being disorderly but said she was "not drunk," but may have had “a few too many.” A charge was brought against two men for drunkenness; both pleaded “not guilty.” They were later found guilty and suspended."
About the year 1871 a large group of Welsh people came from South Wales and settled in Frostburg. They wanted a church home and asked permission to use the church, since the Presbyterian were not holding services at this time. (Worship had been suspended in 1870.) Permission was granted by the elders of the church on condition that they elect Presbyterian ministers and be governed by the Baltimore Presbytery, to which they agreed.
Rev. G. Humphrey, a Presbyterian minister from New York, was their first pastor. A man by the name of Zephaniah Jones, a great choir leader from South Wales, soon became affiliated with the church, and was elected director of the choir of forty-five or fifty singers. Rev. Humphrey suggested that they challenge the Welsh Baptist choir in a singing contest, which they did, with the result that the Presbyterians won most of the prizes.
The minister evidently did not approve of their singing for money, for on the following Sunday at class meeting, after the preaching service Rev. Humphrey said: “All those who took part in the singing contest are suspended from the roll of this church unless they come before the session and apologize for taking part in it.” All the singers and others who “were active in the affair,” arose and walked out. Rev. Humphrey was compelled to leave because he had no congregation.
There were transaction records kept during the time the Welsh immigrants used the church, however, it was written in Welsh, and an elder with access to the records tore it out because he couldn’t understand it.
Troubles and Triumphs
1874: Some of the people of Frostburg were eager to re-open the church again for services after the Welsh congregation collapsed, so on April 8, 1874, quite a number met at the home of the only elder left in the church. With the assistance of a pastor and elder from the Lonaconing Presbyterian Church, three elders were elected and installed. The church was reformed with thirty people; a pastor was found and installed. This new beginning was initially incorporated as The Old School Presbyterian Church. Only later was it changed to the name it officially bears today: "First Presbyterian Church, Frostburg, Maryland, inc."
On Good Friday, 1918, the church was reborn in faith after the north wall, facing Water Street, crumbled and fell. The church was extensively damaged. Massive damaged included destruction of some of the seating, damage to the floor damage and the crushing of two beautiful memorial windows. The pastor felt the church was "done for" and recommended that the Presbytery take over the church and get what money they could from the sale of the property. He soon left and, in true Christian fashion, members of the church "rolled up our sleeves" and went to work. Rubble was removed, repairs made, and in three months time the church reopened to hold services. Except for one bill of less than five hundred dollars, all the repairs and materials were paid for. Two members of the church conducted services until a new pastor was called.
Beginning in 1930, many improvements were accomplished. Under the leadership of Rev. Henry Little, the interior of the church was re-decorated twice, a pipe organ was acquired, a steam furnace installed, and $1,600.00 collected toward a Restoration Fund.
1947 began a period of rapid growth. Under Rev. John Cameron Taylor, 54 new members joined the church and societies were organized to include every age group in the church, including the Westminster Fellowship for teenagers, Door-Keepers for young adults, and two choirs (one for children 7-12 and one for adults) as well as the previously existing Deborah Society, Sunergoi Society, and Missionary Society. In addition, the Restoration Fund was paid off and a kitchen built (mostly by members).
1950s - 1970's
The sanctuary was again remodeled in 1954.
May 19, 1959 saw a wonderful and memorable celebration of the church's 100 years.
Work began in 1960 on "new educational building" was built to the rear and north of the church to replace the old wooden structure that had been in use for many years.
In 1969, the manse immediately to the south of the church was removed.
On May 19, 1974, exactly 25 years after the centennial celebration, the completion of a new narthex with indoor steps was celebrated with a service of dedication.