Desiring to lend their influence to the spiritual improvement of Vicksburg, a boisterous, rowdy river town, a few responsible citizens in 1826 wrote the Superior of Princeton Theological Seminary to find a preacher. The church’s first minister was Zebulon Butler, a native of Pennsylvania, who arrived in 1826 but departed in 1828 to become the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson. However, through the continued efforts of a few, the Vicksburg Presbyterian Church was incorporated by the Mississippi State Legislature in 1830.
The church has occupied three locations; the first, probably completed in 1833, was on the corner of Monroe and First East streets; the second, constructed in 1855, stood at the corner of walnut and Clay streets; the third is the present sanctuary built in 1907 on the corner of South and Cherry streets. Recently discovered is a chiseled inscription on the cap stone (the highest stone in the steeple structure) which reads “last stone laid June 27, 1907.”
Initially, growth was slow in the nineteenth century and the church saw many pastors and supply ministers, financial panics, epidemics of yellow fever, and a civil war followed by a difficult reconstruction period. The members lent continuity and strength and endurance.
By the turn of the century under the leadership of Rev. James Hillhouse, the church had 265 members in a town which had become the largest in the state.
Following the pastorate of Dr. Hillhouse, 1893-1920, there have been only ten ministers to serve this church.. Dr. W.F. Mansell, had the longest tenure of some thirty-three years (1940-1943 and 1946-1975).
Counted among the highlights in the history of the church in the twentieth century are the addition of the educational building and another building including new offices, a conference room and classrooms; twelve young men and three young women going out from this congregation to become Presbyterian ministers; the election of women officers; the contribution of Westminister Presbyterian Church to southeast Vicksburg with about 100 members from First Presbyterian becoming the nucleus of the new congregation; the formation of a weekday kindergarten and preschool.
In December of 1980, proud of its heritage, the First Presbyterian Church celebrated its sesquicentennial. Likewise, October 7, 2005 marked the 175th Anniversary of the Foundation of First Presbyterian Church.
The Church offers a library, Wednesday evening activities for all ages, an active Junior high and senior high program, an active music and choir program for all ages, mission work, community service projects, bible studies and various other programs. Through the years, the people of the church have been a concerned, caring family and have allowed the church to maintain a comprehensive ministry and to continue to play a leading role in its city and its Presbytery. The First Presbyterian Church recognizes that its assets and blessings give the members more responsibility and greater challenges in fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ than ever previously faced, even in the perilous days of its origin. The greatest achievement lies in the peaceful, continued worship of the Lord and the doing of His work.
Even with the blessings of such rich heritage of worship and service in Vicksburg, we joyfully turn our sights toward the future knowing that Almighty God still has great work for you to do.