A Look Back:
History of First Presbyterian Church of Monticello, Indiana
The First Presbyterian Church of Monticello, Indiana has been at the current location since 1836. In 1835, a large group of Virginians joined the first settlers here and made plans to form a Presbyterian Church. Townsmen gathered at the John Wilson log cabin, west of Monticello, and the Rev. John Stocker, of Delphi, officiated. It was May 7, 1836.
The first resident pastor in 1839 was Rev. Alexander Williamson, a hearty soul, who was known to preach the morning service in Monticello, then travel 10-15 miles over rugged trails to preach again that night. His undoing was a split in the church on the question of slavery. Decades later, the reunited church formed plans to replace a cabin built in 1843 at the present-day site.
Construction of the church at the corner of Illinois and Broadway took some 13 years to complete. Work had scarcely begun before the Panic of 1873 gripped the country. Money was tight, and the sanctuary’s interior was not completed until 1886. The church cost approximately $17,000.
The first pipe organ cost $2,600 with $1,000 of that amount given by Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate. But the music was always a part of the church. The earliest members began their hymns with the help of a tuning fork, and a reed organ provided accompaniment after 1865.
Monticello experienced a tornado on April 3, 1974, eight citizens were killed and 105 downtown Monticello Buildings and countless homes were damaged or destroyed. Two landmarks were destroyed: the eighty-year- old county courthouse and our beloved Presbyterian Church. Only a portion of the east and west walls of the sanctuary remained standing. The remnant of the west wall still bore the cross of the Lord.
The church took another blow when a four-alarm fire August 16, 1988 destroyed the church’s north education wing, which had survived the tornado 14 years before. The fire was ignited by a stereo unit’s faulty wiring and spread through second-floor classrooms to the roof. The building and renovation of the smoke-damaged sanctuary, the southwest library area and north wing was set at $1 million.
We were lucky to have good insurance and our church building was, once again, made whole. Throughout each time of struggle we have come together and worked to rebuild and have continued to work diligently to do the work of our Lord.