The First Presbyterian Church was founded on March 1, 1835, when Rev. J.F. Cowan from Apple Creek Church met with eight members in the home of Captain Ezra Dutch. The church struggled for members, and since Rev. Cowan could only serve the church occasionally, and most of the original members moved away, our church became inactive and was removed from the roll of the Presbytery in 1839.
Our church had a new beginning when it was reorganized with 18 members on Saturday, June 8, 1850, by a commission of Potosi Presbytery that included Dr. David Edward Young Rice. Dr Rice, who became our pastor, was also principal of the Washington Female Seminary located on the northeast corner of Broadway and Lorimier. It was in the dining room of that Seminary where our church’s worship services were held.
Under Dr. Rice’s leadership, a lot was purchased on Lorimier Street, at the approximate location of our present church office. On this lot a two story brick building was erected facing Lorimier. As was the case with many churches of that day, the sanctuary was on the second floor. The first floor was used for Sunday School and during the week by the Cape Girardeau Academy for Boys. That same ground floor later housed, for a number of years, the first public school in Cape Girardeau. This first house of worship was finished shortly before the death of Dr. Rice in June of 1854. The church bell was hung on a wooden scaffold to the south of the new building. It was used not only to summon worshipers, but also as the community fire bell, as an alarm when prisoners from the nearby jail escaped, and to summon students to school. This bell hangs today in our bell tower and is rung each Sunday for worship services.
In 1857 the congregation obtained a full time minister, the Rev. Franklin Patton. He and his successors put the church on a more solid footing, but the Civil War brought on a new crisis. The congregation split and many people left the community rather than take a loyalty oath to the U.S. Government. Nevertheless, the church prevailed and, under a succession of faithful ministers, it grew.
About the turn of the century, the church acquired more property at this Broadway and Lorimier location in order to embark on a building program. The first church building was razed in 1901, and the second building, completed in 1902, was dedicated in 1903. The second house of worship was remodeled and redecorated in 1929, as part of an improvement program that included construction of an Education Building beside the church.
The second church building was the historic site of several “firsts” for Cape Girardeau. In 1908, Cape Girardeau’s first Public Library began in the church’s basement. In 1912, the first public high school class to graduate held the graduation
ceremony in our church. In 1924, Boy Scout Troop 4 was chartered at our church and remains the oldest in continuous existence in Southeast Missouri. Girl Scout Troop 1 in Cape Girardeau was organized at our church in 1928.
Through the years, a number of improvements were made to the church, but it became apparent in 1958 that another more extensive building and remodeling program was needed. As a result, our present Tudor Gothic building was built as this church’s third house of worship. It was dedicated, along with a remodeled Education Building, on November 27, 1966.
The next major renovation project became necessary 35 years later. From 2001 to 2005, major interior and exterior changes, that included the addition of an elevator and atrium, were taking place and being funded successfully by a congregational capital campaign.
Historically, members of First Presbyterian Church have served God through community service. Especially significant were the decade-long efforts of our members to conceptualize and plan Cape Girardeau’s full service retirement community, Chateau Girardeau, which opened its doors in 1979. Through other dedicated efforts of members, our church has also been in on the beginning and ongoing operations of FISH, Habitat for Humanity, Safe House for Women, and Love INC. By faith and through the vision and passion of our members, this church continues serving God and community.
This is a list of those who have been ministers of the First Presbyterian Church of Cape Girardeau.
Rev. J.F. Cowan 1835
Rev. David Edward Young Rice Stated Supply 1850-1854
Rev. A. Mercyson 1855
Rev. Franklin P. Patton Stated Supply 1857-1859
Rev. A Bartholomew 1859
Rev. William Wallace Faris 1869- July 1871
Rev. Oscar William Gauss Jan 1873-Aug 1875
Rev. Thomas Carr Barrett Sept 1875-1880
Rev. Joseph Armstrong Graves Stated Supply 1881
Rev. James Williamson Roseborough Stated Supply July 1882-Aug 1882 Rev. James Williamson Roseborough 24Pastor Sept 1882-Apr 1885
Rev. Eber G. Matherson Stated Supply May 1886-Oct 1887
Rev. William Flisser Stated Supply 1889
Rev. John Brown Supply preacher 1882-1895
Rev. Samuel Addison McElroy Called Pastor Sept 1891-Apr 1899
Rev. Llewllyn Humphreys Stated Supply Jan 1900-Nov 1901
Rev. John Leslie Alsworth Called Pastor June 1902-July 1903
(died while pastor, July 29, 1903)
Rev. Robert Brown Nov 1903-May 1905
Rev. Adolphus Kistler Stated Supply Oct 1905-Oct 1906
Rev. Adolphus Kistler Called Pastor Nov 1906-Sept 1910
Rev. Eugene Francis Abbott Called Pastor Jan 1911-Sept 1911
Rev. John Franklin Lawson Called Pastor June 1912-Oct 1917
Rev. Thomas D. Batesman Called Pastor Sept 1918-May 1919
Rev. Charles Hay Morton Called Pastor Oct 1919-Sept 1940
Rev. Bernard Ashby McIlhany Called Pastor Apr 1941-Sept 1947
Rev. Charles Eric Mount Called Pastor Dec 1947-Jan 1967
Rev. Robert Crawford Bankhead July 1967-Sept 1967
Rev. Edwin Charles Brasington Called Pastor Feb 1968-July 1986
Rev. Carl Linck Schlick, III Associate Pastor Sept 1971-June 1976
Rev. J. Samuel Peters Associate Pastor Jan 1977-Dec 1985
Rev. W. Ralph Kier Interim Pastor July 1986-Oct 1987
Dr. R. Charles Grant Called Pastor Nov. 1987-Jan 1994
Rev. Charles B. Dreyer Interim Pastor May 1994-July 1996
Rev. Brandan P Dempsey Called Pastor July 1996- Feb 1999
Rev. Hugh V. Stewart Interim Pastor June 1999-Aug 2000
Rev. Paul Kabo, Jr. Called Pastor Sept 2000-Feb 2010
Rev. William Vincent Interim Pastor May 2010-Apr 2013
Dr. Kim L. Nelson Called Pastor Sept 2013-June 2016
Dr. Terry Epling Interim Pastor October 2016-Present