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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  38 - Eau Claire Churches

The First Presbyterian Church

(-as transcribed from pages 515 - 517)

In August and September of 1856 Rev. W. W. McNair, of the Presbytery of Winnebago, was employed by the Board of Home Missions to explore that part of Wisconsin lying between the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. In this work Mr. McNair visited Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls and preached at both places. He returned in the spring of the next year and in July, 1857, the following named persons were organized by him into the First Presbyterian Church, of Eau Claire, under the jurisdiction of the Chippewa Presbytery: Mr. and Mrs. Jacob S. Cook, Mr. and Mrs. Wells, Mr. McVickar, Mr. Donald Kennedy, Mrs. Hendershot, Mrs. O. H. Ingram, Mrs. Silvers, Mrs. Charity McNair and Mrs. Bissell. During this year Mr. McNair and Mr. Kidder, pastor of the Congregational Church, preached alternately in Reed's Hall in an unfinished schoolhouse and other temporary quarters. Meanwhile, through the liberality of the early village proprietors and the united efforts of the pastors and their followers, a substantial church edifice had been erected at a cost of $4,000 on the corner of Barstow and Emery streets, and was dedicated on the first Sabbath of 1858. Considerable growth in membership followed, and on January 1, 1860, the first session was selected which, by public vote, comprised the following officers: Elders, Joseph G. Thorp and Charles Pringle; deacons, Donald Kennedy and J. C. Callahan, who were duly ordained the following Sabbath. Rev. Mr. McNair closed his labor in Eau Claire on January 1, 1865, after a pastorate of nearly nine years in which he had greatly endeared himself to the church and the community. He spent the remainder of his life, over thirty years, in ministering to the spiritual life of the Italians, whom he found among the mines in eastern Pennsylvania and in New Jersey. Through his efforts a chapel was erected and most efficient Christian work was carried on at Audenride and in its neighborhood. Mr. McNair and his wife had visited Italy and gained a knowledge of the language and the customs of the people, which was of much value combined with their love and their tactful zeal in winning the hearts and the reverent attention of these alien laborers on our eastern shores. The missionary spirit which actuated him in the Wisconsin valley was the same potent influence in the mining district of Pennsylvania, and his reward was not delayed for he had the hearty co-operation of fellow workers in Italy, and in his lifetime saw abundant harvest. Mr. McNair was succeeded by Rev. William H. Lockwood, who was pastor for twenty-five years, which is evidence as to the sincerity and efficiency of his work. He possessed a clear, philosophical mind, well stored with learning, and a heart filled with true brotherly love, and many who had been led to Christ through his ministrations, could testify to the spirit of charity, the divine grace possessed by their loved pastor. Mr. Lockwood was followed in 1890 by Rev. William N. Sloan, an able minister and a good financier, and during his pastorate a second Presbyterian church was organized, which has, however, since become a mission of the first church. As the church building was now old and a too limited capacity to house the large membership of the church and auxiliary societies, a new and modern edifice was begun in the fall of 1891 upon the site of the old one which had been removed, and this was dedicated in the Fall of 1892.

On October 6, 1898, after eight and one-half years of very active work in which a large addition had been made to the membership, Dr. Sloan accepted a call to Helena, Montana, and his place was filled by Rev. Lathrop C. Grant, of Hamilton, New York, in February, 1899. After nearly seven years of active service, in which he had become identified as one of Eau Claire's most effective workers in behalf of the city's poor, and had increased the membership of the church considerably, Mr. Grant requested the session to unite with him in asking the presbytery of Chippewa to dissolve its pastoral relations with this church. Many promises of earnest support, and more faithful attendance were made by men of the church and congregation, and the public ballot was in favor of his remaining, but the presbytery declared the pulpit vacant, and Mr. Grant accepted a call to the First Congregational church, of Menomonie, Wisconsin, in January, 1906.

Rev. John McCoy, of Appleton, Wisconsin, began his pastorate in March, 1906, and though a scholarly man, good orator and sincere minister, he remained but two years and three months. Rev. Carlton L. Koons, of Baraboo, Wisconsin, became the pastor in November, 1908. During his four years' stay, exceptionally good work was done among the young, such as the reorganizing of the Young People's Christian Endeavor Society, the grading of the Sabbath School, and the organizing of several new clubs.

A legacy of nearly twenty thousand dollars, bequeathed by the late Conway B. Daniels, made possible the erection of a beautiful manse located on South Farwell street, the renovating and refurnishing of the church building, and other improvements being advisable. These and work already done have made this one of the most beautiful and modern sanctuaries in the city. Rev. William T. Angus, the present pastor, came to the church in 1912, and all departments of the organization are prospering under his administration.

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