First Presbyterian Church was organized August 1, 1821 and immediately became a member of Concord Presbytery. The thirteen original members were Albert Torrence, Sr., Elizabeth Torrence, Hugh Horah, Mary Horah, Thomas L. Cowan, Elizabeth Cowan, Dr. Alexander Long, Mary Long, John Fulton, Charity Gay, Mary T. Holland, Ann Murphy, and Margaret C. Beckwith. The Reverend Jonathan Otis Freeman served as their first minister until 1826 when the first church was built on the corner of West Innes and Jackson Streets; he had come to Salisbury as a teacher of the classics at the Salisbury Academy housed in what is known as the Wrenn Building. The lot on which the first church was built had been given to this congregation by Rebecca (Nesbit) Troy Caldwell, half-sister of Maxwell Chambers who, at his death, willed to First Presbyterian Church all the property on the square where the church stood (except the Wrenn Building) and the entire block on which the present manse, educational building and church stand. The church purchased the Wrenn Building from Nathaniel Boyden in 1870, completing title to both square blocks.
Maxwell Chambers bought the house built in 1811 by Judge James Martin on the corner of Jackson and Innes Streets, once known as the Maxwell Chambers House and now as the Rowan Museum, in 1847 for use as the manse; it was moved back and turned to face Jackson Street when the present manse was built in 1913. The brick Greek Revival Session House, built in 1855 over the graves of the Chambers and Nesbit families, served for many years as a Sunday School for the children. The second church, built on the site of the first church, was completed in the fall of 1892; its tower, known as the Bell Tower, was preserved when the church was torn down in 1971. Architect for the building was Charles W. Bolton of Philadelphia who incorporated some of the materials from the original church; the church was cited as a outstanding example of Romanesque Revival style. The Educational Building was completed in May, 1952. The first service was held in the present church on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1969. It was designed by John Erwin Ramsay.??Other ministers serving First Presbyterian were The Revs. Jesse Rankin (1827-1831), Thomas Espy (1831-1833), P.J. Sparrow (1834-1836), Stephen Frontis (1836-1845), Archibald Baker (1846-1859), Dr. Jethro Rumple (1860-1906), John H. Grey (1906-1907), Dr. Byron C. Clark (1907-1925), Edgar A. Woods (1925-1929), Dr. Marshall Woodson (1930-1937), Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge (1937-1945), Dr. Sidney Austin Gates (1946-1960), Herbert L. Underwood (1962-1970), Dr. William W. Williamson (1971-1978), Dr. Robert M. Lewis (1979-2002), Dr. James C. Dunkin (2004 to present).
First Presbyterian Church Salisbury, North Carolina and Its People 1821-1995, is the title of a privately published book by Jo White Linn, the Church Historian. This research, its writing and its publication was done over a five year period and is a gift of this author to the church. It is an excellent history and was made available on the 175th anniversary of the church. There are still copies of this publication available.
The church membership has doubled since 1980. The Strategic Planning Committee has conducted a two and one half year study and they, as well as the Session have given unanimous support and commitment to a new building project. This will create additional facilities that will meet the needs of our growing Congregation. We have been blessed with the Seeds of Promise of many special and dedicated people. Over one half of the cost of this growth was committed prior to the formal announcement. This is just one more Leap of Faith for First Presbyterian Church Salisbury.
On January 1, 2006, this project came to fruition with the opening of our much-anticipated Family Life Center. This new facility has relieved numerous over crowding conditions brought on by the growth of this congregation. The Family Life Center has also become home for our contemporary service, which began in our original Fellowship Hall as an adjunct to our traditional services.