June 24, 1835 - Cornerstone ceremony
January 9, 1837
- Description of 2nd church structure
July 26, 1859
- Progress of Building
March 8, 1864
- Re Dr. Armstrong's loyalty to the Union
March 29, 1864
- RE Dr. Armstrong's loyalty to the Union
April 14, 1864 - Session Minutes re replacement minister
June 29, 1891 - Forty Years As A Pastor
July 21, 1891 - The New Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church
(Reported between 1891 and 95) - Residence of Hon. John B. Whitehead
May 12, 1899
- Dr. Armstrong is Dead
October 15, 1901 - Organization of Ghent Church
October 1, 1902 - Rev. Rennie Approved by Presbytery
1902 newspaper announcements about Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie
April 23, 1910 - Sketch of Church and Rev. Dr. Rennie
March 16, 1911 - Mrs. Geo. Armstrong Lays Cornerstone for Ghent Church
December 3, 1911 - First Church Two Centuries Old Still Exists
February 19, 1912 - Ghent Church is Dedicated
March 9, 1912 - Letter from Dr. Rennie
March 18, 1912 - Two Churches Consolidate (1)
March 18, 1912 - Two Churches To Consolidate (2)
June 2, 1912 - Mrs. Taylor Gives Heirloom to Church
June 3, 1912 - News from First Presbyterian Church
July 29, 1912 - Dr. Hutchison's vacation plans
August 10, 1912 - Dr. Rennie visiting
February 15, 1913 - Landmark Gone
February 7, 1917 - The Presbyterian Church at Norfolk

(Index of next page.)

* * * * * *

June 24, 1835 - Norfolk Herald


The cornerstone of the new house of worship to be erected by the Presbyterian denomination of the Christian Church in this Borough, was laid on Monday last. The ceremony was performed at the early hour of six in the morning, in the presence of the assembled congregation, and with religious solemnity. After a brief but well adapted address from the Rev. Mr. Matthews, the stone was adjusted in its place by the builders, and a copper box imbedded therein, in which were enclosed a scroll containing the names of the Architect, William M'Clain, and the names of the Building Committee, viz. Robert Soutter, Sr., Joshua Moore, Sylvanus Hartshorn, Joseph Tyler Allyn, Benjamin Emerson, F. P. Goodridge and Richard H. Chamberlaine, with the date of the month and year; a Herald of Friday and a Beacon of Saturday; and an old Herald of 1835; a coin of the current year, and several of ancient date. The religious services of the occasion were closed by a prayer and a hymn. The whole ceremony, simple and unostentatious as it was, partook of a character at once impressive and interesting, inspiring fresh hope, and awakening a lively feeling for the cause, in all those who have at heart the prosperity of this portion of the Lord's vineyard.

The new Church will occupy the site of the Episcopal Church which was destroyed by fire in 1827,—fronting on Church street, 62 feet by 84 feet in depth. The front elevation will present a chaste and beautiful architectural ornament to our town, in the design of the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus, after which we understand it is to be modeled.

The simplicity of the ceremony of which we have spoken was in striking contrast with the imposing solemnities displayed on the same spot just 35 years before, the order and circumstances of which we distinctly remember, though then in our early boyhood. The cornerstone of the Episcopal Church (on the site of which is now gloriously rising) was laid on the 24th day of June, 1800, the Festival of St. John the Baptist. It was in the high and palmy state of Masonry—at a time when not to be a Mason was almost a reproach among men of spirit and respectability, that this ceremony was performed, in which it is needless to say the fraternity bore the leading part. We remember well the procession, and the solemn effect of the ceremony, never equaled by any thing of the kind which has since that day been attempted in our Borough. [The rest of the article goes on to describe the Episcopal ceremony in length.]

January 9, 1837 - American Beacon

[Will fill in blanks after viewing microfilm.]

It gives us pleasure to lay the following accurate description of this new structure before our readers. We would only add that the plan proposes a steeple, the construction of which will greatly enhance the appearance of the edifice. There are very few decent steeples south of the Potomac, and it is to be desired that the good people of our Borough will display their taste in erecting one that may reflect upon them. The face of the southern country is flat, and its cities require the relief of elevated structures. It is a little mortifying to reflect that there is not in the state of Virginia as decent a steeple as you will find in any of the country villages of New England. But to the sketch of our correspondent:

"The new Presbyterian Church is situated on Church Street between Main and Holt streets, in a re-entering angle made by a change in the direction of the street at that point. It has therefore, the advantage of presenting an oblique view of its front towards either end of one of the principal avenues in the Borough of Norfolk. The plan is rectangular, measuring 62 feet nine inches in front and in depth 84 feet. The basement is constructed of public stone masonry stuccoed in imitation of a course of dressed granite, which passes round the building above this story and upon which cross the brickwork of the next. Forty-two feet, one inch, of the front of the basement project 9 inches in advance of the plane of the front of the building, leaving a recess on each side of 10 feet, 4 inches, by 9 inches deep. Upon the granite course over this projection rests the principal ornamental work of the front, being composed of four pilasters with their capitals and entablature, having their proportions copied from the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus at Athens, being stripped only of the small cymatia which crown the capitals, and the small drops or guttæ which are suspend from the tower fillet of the architrave of that much admired work, although it be not in conformity with any one of the orders of architecture. The pilasters, architrave and frieze, are constructed of brickwork, covered with stucco of a light cream or freestone color. The caps are frescoes and the corpice is of wood. Between the pilasters are three windows 16 feet high and 6 feet wide. The frieze is ornamented with 7 wreaths carved in wood. Above the cornice is a pliath course of brickwork stuccoed and coped with freestone, being 20 inches in height, and having a honey-suckle carved in wood upon each end of it, and upon its center a subplinth of wood with a honeysuckle upon each of its ends, and a triangular pediment or low pitch occupying the space between them. Here it may be well to state that the elevation is divided into three distinct belts which pass round the building. The first being one basement stuccoed in imitation of dressed granite; the second corresponding in height with the pilasters and capitals being of brickwork, and the third of brickwork stuccoed like the pilasters and corresponding in height with the entablature which constitutes a part of it.—That part of this belt which corresponds in height with the cornice in front projects 2-1/2 inches, and has a plinth course above it coped with freestone, 10 inches lower than the principal plinth over the cornice in front. Behind this plinth course is fixed a gutter of copper to receive and carry off the rain water from the roof, which is hipped, truncated, and covered with zinc, and has a large ventilator through the flat upon the top of it. The interior of the basement is divided into three apartments by partitions running parallel with the front. The first is used as a vestibule; it is entered by a large door in front of the building, has in it two spacious flights of easy stairs ascending right and left from the entrance door to the vestibule on the next floor. The next is a lecture room 58 by 32 feet, and the third is a Sunday School room of the same size, having a furnace in it for the purpose of warming the whole, or any part of the house. The next floor is divided into two apartments, to wit: the vestibule and church room. In the vestibule are two flights of stairs leading to the gallery doors. The church room or principal room for service has three aisles each one of which is entered by a door from the vestibule, and has 18 pews on each side of it. At the upper end in front of the pulpit is a transept or cross aisle having 6 pews opening into it on each side of the pulpit. The pulpit is in modern style; a plain platform about 4 feet high supported by four small columns, having a piece of cabinet work upon top of it, upon which there is a cushion for the support of the Holy Bible. The gallery is low and light in its appearance, and is supported by Ionic columns and capitals. On each side of the pulpit is a pilaster with an Ionic capital. The entablature supported by them is continued round the room. The proportions of this work were taken from the Ionic Temple on the Illissus at Athens. The windows are the same size of those in the front of the building; there are four on each side of the room, and two in the end, one of which is on each side of the pulpit. In the center of the ceiling there is a circular opening of 9 feet in diameter filled by a new fashioned chandelier containing 37 lamps with as man reflectors. This brilliant machine light the Church as the glorious Sun light our planetory system.

July 26, 1859 - The Southern Argus

THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.—The work on this building is progressing with considerable rapidity. The ornamental stone work is being executed by Mr. John D. Couper at his works on West Main Street. The heavy brown stone caps for the pillars are most handsomely and elaborately wrought, and will add greatly to the ornamental and imposing appearance of the large structure.

March 8, 1864 - The New Regime

The Case of Rev. James D. Armstrong
[misprint of name]

Captain Edgar, the officer who investigated the charges of disloyalty preferred against Rev. James [misprint] D. Armstrong reports as follows:

Head'qrs, Dist. of Virginia,
Provost Marshall's Office,
Norfolk, Va., Feb. 24th, 1864.

COLONEL:—I have the honor of reporting, that after investigation, the Rev. James [misprint] D. Armstrong, D. D., Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of this City is not loyal in any sense of the term. It is true he "took the Oath" in December last, but he declines answering some very important questions which would doubtless involve some other Rebel as errant as himself. Most of his answers to my questions you will see prove him to be in perfect sympathy with the Rebels now. I therefore suggest that he be ordered before the Commanding General, that he may find the benefit of "Bread and Water," if he declines answering him, and to receive such other punishments in his judgment he deserves.

His past and present high social position in the community and his reputation as a Devine of the first order makes his case more heinous in my humble judgment.—I report in favor of disposing him from his Pulpit and placing more loyal man in his place.

Accompanying, please find a record of his investigation made by me, Feb. 22nd, as witnessed by several of my Clerks, and a copy of a Thanksgiving Sermon preached by him on the "Victory of Manassas" upon the recommendation of the Confederate Congress, July 21st, 1861. Now the Reverend Gentleman says he is opposed to bringing "Politics into the Pulpit."


Ques. Do you call yourself loyal man in letter and spirit today?
Ans. I prefer not answering.

Ques. What is the name of that gentleman who had taken the Oath and while coming out of the Custom House with you, made the remark that he "would like to spit upon Northern Yankees," of something to that effect?
Ans. I prefer not answering.

Ques.Have you ever in your Pulpit alluded favorable to the Southern cause?
Ans. I preached a sermon on the recommendation of the Southern Congress.

Ques. Did you object at that time for doing so?
Ans. No, Sir.

Ques. Have you since the commencement of the War preached in your pulpit a sermon favorable to the Union cause, one that would please the loyal and displease the disloyal?
Ans. No, Sir.

Ques. Where were you born?
Ans. In New Jersey. I came to Va. when 19 years old.

Ques. Have you determined in your mind not to pray for or allude to the President of the United States, the Authorities, the Armies and Navies thereof, that they may be successful in all their efforts to put down this wicked rebellion?
Ans. I have.

Ques. Do you think this is a wicked Rebellion?
Ans. No, Sir.

Ques. Have you since the commencement of the war, opened your church on any Fast or Thanksgiving day recommended by the President of the United States?
Ans. No, Sir.

Ques. Did you ever open your church in Jeff. Davis' recommendation?
Ans. There has been meeting for prayer.

Ques. Should the President of the United States within a short time recommend a day of Thanksgiving or Fast, with a view that Christians would unite in prayer for the overthrow of all Rebels in arms against the Government of the United States, would you willingly open your church and take charge of such meetings to that end?
Ans. I should not.

Ques. Are you religiously and morally opposed to capital punishment?
Ans. I am not.

Ques. Do you look upon Jeff. Davis or any of his confederates as deserving any severe punishment for their public acts against the government since the commencement of the war?
Ans. I do not.

Ques. Do you sympathize with the Union Cause or with the Confederate?
Ans. With the Confederate Cause.

Ques. Do you look upon Jeff. Davis, Wigfall, J. M. Mason, and their former colleagues in the U. S. Congress just preceding the year 1860 as perjured men, and deserving a traitor's reputation for all time, until they show fruits meet for repentance?
Ans. I do not.

Ques. Did or do you now, regret the Federal loss at Smithfield a few weeks since?
Ans. I do not.

Ques. Do you think the attack upon Fort Sumpter by the rebels justifiable?
Ans. I prefer not answering.

Ques. Do you think the South justifiable in having fired on the Old Flag?
Ans. I do.

Ques. Should you know of any Blockade runner or secret mail carrier to or from the Rebels, would you give immediate information thereof to our authorities that they might be detected and punished as traitors deserve?
Ans. I would not have anything to do with it.

The matter having gone before Gen. Butler for hearing, he looked into the matter and the clergyman was sent to Hatteras

March 29, 1864 - The New Regime

Examination of Rev. Geo. D. Armstrong
By Maj. Gen. Benj. F. Butler

General.—I have read a report, Mr. Armstrong, of an examination of yourself, by one of my Aid-de-camps, in regard to the question of your loyalty. Now I need not say to a man as experienced as yourself, that taking the oath of allegiance is only a manifestation of loyaltythat as a man might join your church and still be a very bad man after so doing; so a man may take the oath of allegiance and still be a very disloyal man.

Rev. Mr. A.—If you will allow me to make a statement to you I will do so, or I still answer such questions as you please.

General.Make your own statement, sir.

Mr. A.—The view with which I took the oath was this: I believe the Military Commander has a right to demand of the citizens at any time that they shall take a parole. I regard Norfolk as for the present a conquered city; indeed, I have had no idea that the Confederates would again take it, and that if it ever again did become a part of Virginia, it would be by treaty at the end of the war. I wished, in accordance with the scriptural injunctions, to obey "the powers that be," and I believed the United States to be "the powers that be." I took the oath with the intention of keeping it so far as my actions were concerned. My feeling, of course, I cannot control. My words and actions I can.

General.That brings me, sir, to a matter to which I wish to call your careful attention. Your unrevealed thought I can only get by asking questions. Now, sir, I want to ask you a few questions.

Die you in any way advise, consult with, or give any information to Mrs. McIntosh in relation to selling any property in Norfolk?

Mr. A.Not that I recollect.

General.Let me try and quicken your recollection a little. You know her?

Mr. A.—Yes, sir.

General.She is a sister of Capt. McIntosh of the so-called Confederate States Navy.

Mr. A.—His wife; she is a member of my church. She was about selling her property.

General.Wait one moment. Don't you remember whether you advised her about selling it in any way.

Mr. A.—I talked with her. I don't recollect what I said. I believe there was a conversation about her selling her property and removing to Baltimore,no, not about selling her property. She told me, as her pastor, that she was going to remove to Baltimore.

General.Did you then, and there, say to her that she had better not remove or sell her property, because the Confederates would soon have the city of Norfolk, and her property would then be worth more, or words to that effect? Answer me that question now, without mental reservation or equivocation.

Mr. A.—No, sir. I urged her not to go away from Norfolk, on account of her church.

General.Did you say anything like it.

Mr. A.—No, sir.

General.Did you say anything as to the time when you thought the Confederates would have Norfolk?

Mr. A.—No, sir.

General.Anything of the sort?

Mr. A.—No, sir.

General.Well, sir, you may proceed. I will hear the rest of your statement.

Mr. A.—Well, in conducting the exercises of the sanctuary, I have read the prayer that was asked before the war, with the mention of prayer for peace.

General.You pray that God would sustain all rightful authority, or words to that effect?

Mr. A.—No, sir. I have not made that prayer for eighteen months.

General.You pray for the authorities?

Mr. A.—I pray for the authorities over us; and I publicly explained to my congregation, that in so doing, we were praying for the President of the United States.

General.Do your people so understand it?

Mr. A.—They do. I have publicly explained it.

General.Have you, since taking the oath of allegiance, or at any other time, checked one of the members of your congregation when he was praying for the President?

Mr. A.—Have I checked them?

General.Chided them in any way or form of words?

Mr. A.—No, that I recollect.

General.—I beg your pardon, sir; it is not a matter or recollection. It is a thing you cannot forget.

Mr. A.—No, sir.

General.Did not one of the members of your congregation pray for the President of the United States, and did not you say that it had better not be done; that there were two parties to please here?

Mr. A.—Never, sir.

General.Nothing of the sort?

Mr. A.—Nothing of the sort!

General.I perceive that in your former examination you declined answering this question: "Do you call yourself a loyal man in letter and spirit today?"

Mr. A.—I do not decline to answer now. If I were to put my own interpretation upon it, I should say I am; but I don't know, sir.

General.Well, sir, perhaps I can teach you. Now, sir, what is the name of that gentleman who had taken the oath, and while coming out of the Custom House with you, made the remark that he "would like to spit upon the Northern Yankees."

Mr. A.—Mr. Chas Reid. I declined to answer on my former examination because I had not his consent to tell, sir; but since that I have seen him, and he has given me his consent to mention his name.

General.Where is Mr. Reid?

Mr. A.—He is in Norfolk.

General.(To an Aide.) Telegraph to Col. Whelden, (Pre. Marshal, Norfolk,) to arrest Mr. Chas. Reid and send him here. He lives on Main Street.

Mr. A.—Yes, sir.

General.—With the oath fresh on his lips and the words hardly dry in his mouth, he said he "wanted to spit in the face of the Northern Yankees."

Mr. A.—Well, General, he took it with the same view as I did.

General.I agree to that, sir.

Mr. A.—I meant to say

General.Stop, sir. I don't like to be insulted. You said, sir, that that Infernal Secessionist wanted to spit in the faces of loyal men of this Union, and that you took the oath with the same view as he did, or rather he took it with the same view that you didit makes no difference which. I agree, sir, that you did. I have treated you, sir, during this interview, with propriety and courtesy up to this moment, and yet you, sir, here tell me, in order to clear this vile wretch who shall be punished as he deserves, that you took the oath to my Government with the same view that he did.

Mr. A.—Well, sir, it was a mortifying fact to confess that we were a conquered people; and it was the irritation growing out of that fact.

General.—You have not helped it, sir.You had not better go on in that direction any further, sir, for your own sake. Now, sir, while you did preach a very virulent sermon upon "The Victory of Manassas," at the recommendation of the Confederate Congress, have you ever since preached in your pulpit a sermon favorable to the Union cause or one that would be likely to please the loyal, and displease the disloyal?

Mr. A.—No, sir, I never have.

General.You have said you "do not think this a wicked rebellion." Do you still hold to that opinion?

Mr. A.—Yes, sir.

General.You have not opened your church upon any of the days recommended by the authorities. I want a more explicit answer, sir, than you have given previously. You know whether you have or not. How is it?

Mr. A.—I should have to answer, sir, that I did. There were prayer meetings held in the church. No addresses were made. There was a prayer for peace.

General.You said you "would not willingly open your church to any recognized minister of the Gospel from such denominations as before the war you would have exchanged with, did you know he would pray for the Union, and against the Rebels."

Mr. A.—Yes, sir.

General.—You said you looked upon the hanging of John Brown as just and right because he interfered with the peace of the country.

Mr. A.—Yes, sir.

General.Very good, sir. Now then would you look upon the hanging of the prominent rebels, Jefferson David for instance, as just and right. You know the rebels have interfered with the peace of the country and have caused rivers of blood to flow where John Brown only cause pints. What do you say to that?

Mr. A.—I would not, sir.

General.—Are you sympathies with the Union or the Confederate cause?

Mr. A.—With the Confederates.

General.You do not think that Davis, Wigfall, Slidell and their former colleagues are traitors, and you do think that if they so designed they should again resume their seats in Congress.

Mr. A.—I don't think they are traitors. I don't see why they should not again take their seats in Congress.

General.—I don't see, sir, what good the oath has been to you.

Mr. A.—I thought the oath was an oath of amnesty.

General.—You took the oath, sir, for the purpose of having the United States protect you while you should by your conduct and your life aid and comfort the Rebels. It is an oath of amnesty to those who take it in truth, and come back repentant to the United States. You are a Presbyterian. A man comes to you, you are about to take him into communion. You say to him, "You have heretofore been a wicked man." He says, "Yes, sir." You ask him if he has experienced a change of heart." He says, "No, sir." You ask, "are your sympathies with us or with the devil." He says, "the devil?" You ask, "which would you like to have prevail in this world, God or the devil?" He says, "the devil."You ask, "where are your friends?" He says, "with the devil." Then you ask him, "do you think you can join the church with your present feelings?" He replies, "I think I can, to get the bread and wine at the altar." Think of it, sir, anywhere else and as a man of christian professions, saying nothing of christian practice. I call upon you to think of it. Sworn to be loyal and true to the United States, here you are with your sympathies against them. You, sir, are a perjured man in the sight of God. It is an oath of amnesty to those who truly repent precisely as Christ shed his blood for them who repent, but not for those who would crucify him afresh. For you, sir, it was an oath of amnesty. I should be just as wrong in receiving you, sir, as a loyal man, as you would in receiving such a man as I have described, into your church. (To an Aide) Make an order that this man be committed to the Guard House, in close confinement, there to remain until he can be consigned to Fort Hatteras, there to be kept in solitary confinement until further orders; and send a copy of this examination to the officer in command there.

Session Minutes April 14, 1864.

A communication was received from Mr. I. G. Pollard, a Member of this Session, which being read was on motion received and ordered to be entered in the Minutes. It is as follows:

"To W. D. Bagnall, & W. H. Broughton, Ruling Elders.
As a church organization we are in God's providence without a building to worship in or a pastor to feed us with the bread of life. Head military power simply deprived us of our church edifice, submitting, as our duty would have been to submit, we could have worshiped God and had his blessing anywhere, but when that power assumes to control the person, and even the conscience, by imposing military service, and forcing a condition of things incongruous, faithfulness to Christ, His cause and peoples, requires me to express my views on the subject. This I have heretofore done to some of the members of the church who have asked my opinion, and now furnish you a copy of my written views, react to them.

Norfolk, March 14, 1864
Dear Brethren, As I cannot now meet you at our regular place of worship, except by acknowledging Military Authority over the church of Christ and as personally in God's providence, I may not be able to see all of you, and as the Superintendent of the Sabbath School has asked me the following questions: First - Why were you not at church? Second - Do you intend to give up your class in the Sabbath School?

And as some of the members of the church are much troubled on the subject, I feel it to be a duty I owe the church, apart from the interest I feel in each member, to express my views, and shall do so by answering the above questions. — To the first question, I answer I was not in my usual place on the Sabbath because the Presbyterians of Norfolk have now no place of worship as an organized body, and I felt it to be my duty, by my absence from services, imposed by Military power, to show my disapproval. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of America declares that "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and the Form of Government gives to the members of each church alone the right to select and elect their pastor, regulating however the manner of election and prescribing the qualifications as to doctrine of the one to be selected. Last Sabbath the pulpit was filled by Military order, and by the same order the people were expected to be present and the officers to perform their duty as usual. Now the first duty of a Ruling Elder would have been to protest against the whole matter, therefore a Ruling Elder as such, could not act in conformity with the order without violating the order in its essential particulars.

The second question I answer by saying that the Sabbath School is the nursery of the church composed mostly of its baptized members, the children of the church, and that the blow struck at the church must be felt in every department of this branch of the church of Christ.

Third question I answer by saying, that the School being no longer under the government of the church, ceases to be a Presbyterian Sabbath School. To maintain our Presbyterian organization, we must [be] left free from outside interference. It is a voluntary organization of Christians, subscribing to a certain form of government, contained in our Confession of Faith, which makes it a Presbyterian Organization. Any radical departure from which, from whatever cause, makes it different from, and consequently not a Presbyterian Organization.

And now, dear Brethren, having answered these questions according to my ability in the short time given me for reflection in this singular state of affairs, I would advise you to look up to Him who bought you with His blood, for instructions, laying everything upon the altar of sacrifice, seek His guidance, remembering that the path of duty is the path of safety always. Read God's word, meditate on it and give yourselves much to prayer and He who said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," will be with you, a sure, steadfast, powerful guide. I have often prayed that God would keep each one of you safely in the fold of Christ and now more than ever shall my prayers ascend, that He will give His angels charge concerning you, to keep you in all your ways.

Your brother in Christ,
(Signed) I. G. Pollard

The following resolution was then adopted,
Whereas, In consequence of the two following Military Orders having been promulgated from Head Quarters, this first dated Norfolk, February 11, 1864, to wit:

"All places of public worship in Norfolk and Portsmouth are hereby placed under the control of the Provost Marshals of Norfolk and Portsmouth respectively, who shall see the pulpit properly filled by displacing, when necessary, the present incumbent and substituting men of known loyalty, and of the same sectarian denomination, either military or civil, subject to the approval of the Commanding General.

They shall see that the churches are open freely to all officers or soldiers, white or colored, at the usual hour of worship, and at other times, if desired, and they shall see that no insult or indignity be offered to them, either by word, look or gesture on the part of the congregation. The necessary expense will be levied, as far as possible in accordance with the previous usages or regulation of each congregation respectively. No property shall be removed, either public or private, without permission from these Headquarters.

By Command of
Brig. Gen. E. A. Wild
Geo. H. Johnston, Capt. A A Gen.

The Second dated, Norfolk, March 9, 1864.

Owing to the vacancy of the Pulpit of the Presbyterian Church of this city, caused by the deposing of its late Pastor, the Rev. James [misprint] D. Armstrong, D. D., by the action of the Commanding General, the Rev. C. L. Woodworth, Chaplain of the 27th Reg't Mass. Vol's, will officiate as Pastor until further order. It is not doubted that the true loyalists of the congregation will approve of this change, and cheerfully cooperate in the usual services of the church. The church officials will continue on duty as usual, in their respective spheres.

CHAS. M. WHELDEN, Lieut. Col. and Provost Marshal.

Approved: By Command of Brig. Gen. WILD., Geo. H. Johnston, A. A. G.

Resolved, As the sense of this Session, That in view of the present condition of the church and of the circumstances under which it has been placed, we cannot, as an organized body of Presbyterians, continue to worship in our building. Yet we do not thereby either declare or imply that members of the church could not attend worship there if so disposed, but simply to affirm, that they do not and cannot, under these circumstances, worship there as an organized body of Presbyterians.

Session was closed with prayer.

The next Session Minutes entry is May 19, 1864, at which time Dr. Armstrong is again present.

June 29, 1891 - Ledger Dispatch

Forty Years as a Pastor
Reminiscences of Rev. George D. Armstrong, D. D.,
of the First Presbyterian Church.

The Ledger-Dispatch is indebted to R. W. Santos, one of Norfolk's best-known citizens for the following taken from the issue of this paper of June 29, 1891:

Forty Years a Pastor

Owing to the weight of years, Rev. George D. Armstrong, D. D., will close his work as pastor of the First Presbyterian church, this city, tomorrow, when the East Hanover Presbytery will meet in that church, and formally sever the relation of pastor and people. The nearness of the end of his long pastorate—forty years—led the venerable preacher yesterday morning to review his work, which was listened to with deep interest by his congregation. He chose for his theme, "Obedience of Man as to the Dealings of God," taking for his text the second and third verses of the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy:

"And thou shall remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years * * * that he might make thee to know that man doth not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live."

He prefaced his discourse with an allusion to the guidance by God of Israel through the wilderness, and to His miraculous provision for their wants, and then excusing himself for a personal reference, he showed how God had been his guide during a long life, and especially during his forty years as pastor of this church. He said:

The Yellow Fever

I would refer first to the year 1855, when that pestilence—yellow fever— raged among us. In the midst of that time of trial the people became panic-stricken. I believe that panic was sent of God. I don't blame those who left, for in such a time I would advise those who can go to do so. But there are many who cannot go, and it is needful that some should stay and care for others. The panic was due in part to the fact that our means of communication was being cut off, and it seemed as if we were to be left grappling; starving, with the fever. I believe it was all sent for a wise purpose. I was urged to go, but concluded my duty was here. Out of seven Protestant ministers who remained four died, and every one of us had the fever. God gave me the grace to remain, and I can testify to you that in some particulars those months of the fever were among the most blessed of my life. The pestilence brought many to a decision, and it was my privilege to lead many of them to God. It was a time of a great spiritual peace: never was I enabled so cheerfully to go about my work; heaven never seemed so near. They were months of blessed communion with God—"man doth not live by bread alone."

Six years later came the time of the war. During three of those years Norfolk was a conquered city. Most of our men, especially the young men, were away, in the army; and many others not finding it pleasant to live here left. I at first thought of going but concluded to stay, and I preached every Sabbath till finally I was imprisoned. I enjoyed those months of trial while I preached in this house, and I never preached to larger or more attentive congregations—the other preachers being away—some of them in the army as chaplains. When I was imprisoned, only one other minister was remaining here. As the other ministers left, the people gathered around those who remained. When General Butler took charge of this department I expected to be imprisoned. I was told by one person that if I would leave and go North they would gladly give me a pass. They wanted to get me out of my pulpit. I couldn't do it, I staid here and preached, till by a foolish order of the commanding I was deposed and imprisoned. History hardly furnishes a parallel—a minister deposed. My sentence was

Solitary Confinement

The only book I had was my Bible, which I studied more than ever, and I enjoyed those months of confinement. After I was banished I was assigned to the Southern army, and it was a blessed service—that ministry to the soldiers in their log cabins, daubed with clay. The earth floors were covered with pine tags, and the soldiers sitting on those floors looked up into my face, and the light from the fireplace—the only light we had—as it shone on their faces, made a weird congregation. A piece of tallow candle we had could only be kept lighted long enough to read the text, after which it was extinguished, as a matter of economy. I have often wished for pictures of these scenes, that I might show them to my children. Those were trying times, but I came out of the war in better health than I went in—for "man doth not live by bread alone."

I want to refer to one other matter—of sixty years ago—when it came time for me to decide if I would serve God. I had a passion for natural science, and coveted a professionship in some college. My father was a Presbyterian minister, and at his table I often heard of the need of more ministers discussed and prayed over. I knew, too, that my mother (here the venerable man of God wept) had dedicated me in my birth to the ministry, and I felt that if I ever became a Christian I would have to serve God as a minister, but I looked upon that kind of life as hard and repulsive. It is no wonder, then that I hesitated, but I bless God that I was able to give up everything for Christ. In my love for natural science I had been making a collection of butterflies. I had one just about to leave its chrysalis state and it just then came out. It was

A Beautiful Butterfly

—a rare one, of a kind greatly prized. It was a great temptation to me in that moment, but I took it on my finger, went to a window and let it go—made up my mind then to serve Christ. I was, while studying for the ministry, elected Professor of Natural Science in Washington College. I took the letter to the faculty and asked them to decide for me. They said, unanimously, take it, and thus it was that I was led to the very position I had so much desired, and which I had give up for Christ. After fourteen yeas in that position I came to you have been your pastor for forty years. I want to say, that so far from it being true, as Satan would have had me believe, that I was giving up a coveted position to lead an unhappy life, it has been just the reverse: I have had a very happy life among you. I have been much happier as a minister than I could have been as a professor of science. The lesson of these forty years is, then, that when duty calls, no matter how dark the path appears, go forward, remembering that "man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord."

July 21, 1891 - Norfolk Landmark

The New Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.

A meeting of the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church was held Sunday morning for the purpose of calling someone to the pastorate, of that church, made vacant by the resignation of Dr. George D. Armstrong. The unanimous choice of the congregation fell on the Rev. James I. Vance, who is at present located in Alexandria. When the resignation of Dr. Armstrong was first mentioned in THE LANDMARK, mention was made of the fact that Mr. Vance was most prominently talked of in connection with the pastorate. Mr. Vance preached in the First Church in February last and made a very favorable impression. He is spoken of as a fine preacher and a deep student. Messrs. R. W. Santos, William H. Burroughs and John B. Whitehead have been appointed a commission from the church to present the call to him, which will be done at an early day.

* * * * * *

Norfolk Herald - between 1891 and 1895


Erected July 17th, 1791.
One of Norfolk's Interesting Landmarks, and a Bit of History
of this Well-Known Homestead.

The old Whitehead homestead, on the southeast corner of Freemason and Bank streets, one of the few remaining landmarks of the early history, was constructed during the latter part of the last century. A very pleasing memento of this occupancy is the granite facing on the north side, appropriately marking the date of its completion, "July 17th, 1791." This old house has stood the silent witness of the changes of more than a hundred years, and has seen the birth and passing away of successive generations now almost forgotten.

Built at a period when Norfolk was incorporated only as a borough, and when there were very few, if any, other buildings north of Freemason street, (except the old cottage still standing on the east side of Bank street, immediately south of the Academy lot) it came into the possession of the Whitehead family in the year 1808.

The "old bell church," on the corner of Bank and Charlotte streets, and known as the "Bank street Colored Baptist Church," was built a few years later, in 1802, and was the first Presbyterian church erected in Norfolk. Its first minister was the Rev. Benjamin Grigsby) who married Elizabeth McPherson, who subsequently, after his death, married the late Dr. N. C. Whitehead, whom many of our citizens will readily recall as the Mayor of the city during the yellow fever of 1855, (after the death of the Hon. Hunter Woodis) and many of whose descendants still survive him.

In recent conversation with the Rev. James I. Vance we learned an interesting bit of family history, which is worthy of record here, and that is the elements of the holy communion have been furnished to the First Presbyterian Church continuously from this old house since 1808, and by the Whitehead family since 1803, they have previously lived in the old cottage mentioned above, and is still so served by them; while G. D. Armstrong, D. D., LL. D., tells us that from 1808 to 1827 the regular weekly prayer meetings of the First Presbyterian Church were held in this memorable house. The old home is identified with many of the early associations of Norfolk, and is cherished by many friends of all communions. To visitors to our city its ivy covered wall has been the subject of much comment, and it has been for many years one of Norfolk's favorite landmarks, every one passing there being attracted by the handsome growth on its western side and northwestern corner. It has, of course, been much improved and modernized during its long life, but stands today, as shown by the HERALD's faithful engraving, apparently as firm and solid as it was more than "a hundred years ago."

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May 12, 1899 - Virginian-Pilot

Dr. Armstrong is Dead.
A Long and Useful Life.

SKETCH OF HIS LIFE.—Rev. George D. Armstrong, D. D., L.L.D., Emeritus Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, passed away at 3:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon. He was an eminent scholar, divine, debater and author.

Rev. George D. Armstrong, D. D., L.L.D., pastor emeritus of the First Presbyterian Church of this city, after a long, useful and honored life in the vineyard of his Master, passed triumphantly away to his reward in Heaven at his home, No. 33 Arlington Place, at 3:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon, surrounded by the surviving members of his devoted family. When the news of his demise was learned a feeling of profound grief at the loss of so valuable a citizen and eminent man of God pervaded the entire community, where for nearly fifty years he has been so conspicuous a figure.

Dr. Armstrong leaves a widow and two daughters, Mrs. Thomas L. Dornin and Mrs. R. E. DeJarnette.

The funeral will be held from the First Presbyterian Church at 4:30 o'clock Saturday afternoon.

The following sketch of the distinguished divine's life will be read with interest, not only in this city, but throughout the State of Virginia, where his labors are so well known.

Sketch of His Life.

Rev. George D. Armstrong, D. D., L.L.D., was born in Mendham, Morris county, New Jersey, in 1813. His father was the Rev. Amzi Armstrong, D. D., and his brother, the Rev. William J. Armstrong, was at one time pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Va.

A Princeton Graduate.

Dr. Armstrong pursued his literary course at Princeton, and was graduated from that celebrated institution in 1832. He early manifested a love for scientific studies, and after graduation he spent a few years teaching, chiefly in private schools in Virginia. His Virginia home was with his brother in Richmond.

College Professor.

In 1836 he entered Union Theological Seminary, and while a student of divinity he was elected Professor of Chemistry and Mechanical Philosophy in Washington College, (now Washington and Lee University) Lexington, Va. The young, modest and accomplished student, after consulting with the professors at the seminary, accepted the professorship and entered on his duties in 1838.

Licensed to Preach.

Dr. Armstrong was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Lexington in 1838 and ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry in 1843. He supplied Timber Ridge Church from 1839 to 1851. In this year he resigned his professorship to accept the call to be pastor of the First Church, in this city, and entered on the duties of the pastorate in July. For forty years he continued as pastor, living "in the fierce light that beats" upon such an office and winning and retaining and cementing the good will, confidence and affection of the people of his charge, and of the whole community.

A Long Pastorate.

Forty years constitute a long pastorate, and to maintain it with undiminished power and growing usefulness and honor shows the eminent wisdom and sanctity of this man of God. They were years eventful and memorable. The scourge of yellow fever swept the city in 1855, and the faithful and indefatigable pastor stood at the post of duty, a loving friend and comforting counselor, until himself stricken down by the pestilence, losing from his family four out of seven members. He remained also with his people during the Civil War as long as he was permitted to do so, and was subjected to shameful personal indignities and imprisonment. His life since the war has been spent in this city, known and read of all, and conspicuous for its usefulness, consistency, simplicity and fidelity.

His personal labors have been abundant and fruitful, and the church under his ministry has grown steadily. Nine Presbyterian churches now exist, where only two were found at the close of the war, and they peeled and dispirited. For many years Dr. Armstrong was the sole Presbyterian minister. His pulpit efforts were always edifying. He never bore unbeaten oil into the sanctuary. He was endowed with a rich melodious voice, and though preaching with great simplicity of manner, he was always clear, forceful and evangelical. More than once the church enjoyed seasons of gracious and continuous reviving.

An Able Debater.

Dr. Armstrong was an able debater on the floor of the church judicatories. He was a faithful presbyter, diligent in attendance, and faithful to the business of the court. He was often chosen to represent the Presbytery in the General Assembly—the highest ecclesiastical court in the Presbyterian system. He was orthodox and scholarly, thoroughly posted as to all matters of controversy, and in debate was an adroit and able polemic [disputant]. His disposition, however, was irenic [favoring peace, moderation and conciliation], and sought always to secure the ends of truth without unnecessary asperity [severity]. His scientific attainments constituted him a recognized leader in the church discussions of evolution.

As An Author.

Dr. Armstrong is also widely known as an author. During the years of his faithful labors as a pastor, he was also busy with his pen, and contributed freely from his stores of scientific and theological learning to reviews and magazines—notably in The Princeton Review, The Presbyterian Quarterly, The Southern Presbyterian Review, and the Homiletic Review. He is also the author of the following volumes:

The Summer of the Pestilence, 1856
The Doctrine of Baptisms, 1857
The Christian Doctrine of Slavery, 1858
The Theology of Christian Experience, 1860
An Exposition of the Common Faith, 1860
The Sacraments of the New Testament, 1880
Nature and Revelation, 1886.

One of the most memorable events in the annals of the Presbyterian story, and of the city itself, was the memorial service in commemoration of forty years of continuous pastoral service, held in July, 1891, as Dr. Armstrong gave up the active pastorate. The spontaneous tribute of the whole city, of Christians of every name and church, to the unflinching heroism and integrity of Dr. Armstrong, his eminent learning, his saintly piety, his wide and wholesome influence was a unique and becoming testimonial of the esteem and veneration in which he was held by the whole community. Rev. T. G. Jones spoke, representing the Baptists: Rev. Dr. W. E. Edwards, the Methodists; Rev. Dr. O. S. Barten, the Episcopalians, while his lifelong friend, Rev. Dr. Moses D. Hoge, voiced the devotion of the Presbyterians. It is no wonder an occasion so unusual and so interesting is so affectionately remembered, and that the venerable and beloved man to whom such honor was given felt most deeply the popular demonstration of love and esteem.

Since 1891 he has resided in Norfolk, preaching as long as his strength allowed and opportunity offered, until growing infirmities confined him to his home and compelled inaction. The tongue of the learned is dumb, the voice that so often melted with the story of Calvary is silent. Silent! nay, sounding the eternal praises of the Saviour he so faithfully served. Earth is poorer by such loss, and the city mourns the death of its most eminent citizen. Many are the hearts that throb with anguish as they read the words, "Dr. Armstrong is dead!"

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October 15, 1901 - Virginian Pilot


A commission of Norfolk Presbytery, consisting of Rev. Dr. Mack, Rev. C. W. Maxwell, Ruling Elder Frank T. Clarke and Rev. E. B. McCluer, organized the Ghent Presbyterian church of Norfolk on Sunday afternoon, October 13th.

The commission met the congregation of the new church at the home of Mrs. Dr. Armstrong and the organization was completed by the enrollment of 53 charter members, the election and installation of three ruling elders and five deacons. The officers installed are as follows:

Ruling Elders: George C. Reed, F. S. Royster, F. E. Nottingham.

Deacons: S. M. Price, J. Kraemer, C. F. Burroughs, J. T. Moreland, D. S. Phlegar.

One of the ruling elders and two of the deacons were also ordained, having never served in these offices before.

The church starts with a substantial and intelligent membership and a strong corps of officers.

A neat chapel will be built at once, located in the centre of the choice residence portion of the city, and it is expected that before long a church of modern design and complete equipment will be erected.

The new congregation will for the present use the kindergarten room in the rear of Quattlebaum's drug store, on Botetourt street, as a place of worship, and an effort will be made to secure a young preacher from Richmond to conduct service next Sunday. The first midweek service will be held by the new congregation tomorrow night.

* * * * * *

October 1902 - [newspaper names not given]

Small announcements concerning
Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie

The First Presbyterian church, on Church street, the pulpit of which had been vacant for some time, was soon to call a pastor. It was said that that choice was likely to be Rev. Joseph Rennie, of Covington, Kentucky. * * * A telegram was received from Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie of Covington, Kentucky, announcing that he would assume the pastorate of the First Presbyterian church here, to which he had been called, on October 1st. * * * The Norfolk Presbytery appointed as a committee to install Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie as pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Norfolk on October 15th; Rev. Dr. J. E. Thacker, of the Second Presbyterian church; Rev. A. R. Shaw, of the First church, Portsmouth; Rev. Dr. J. N. H. Summerell, of the Ghent church, and Elder R. W. Santos, of the First church.

October 1, 1902 - Norfolk Landmark

Presbytery Meets. [One segment of article.]
The Rev. Dr. Rennie Admitted.

. . . A motion was then made that before the close of the sessions that the Rev. Dr. Rennie, recently of the Covington, Ky., Presbytery, be admitted into the Norfolk Presbytery. Some discussion of the matter followed, after which it was decided to proceed with the examination.

Dr. Rennie was examined first on experimental religion by the moderator, and next on theology by the Rev. Dr. McCluer, and lastly on church government by the Rev. C. W. Maxwell. On all three of these examinations the Rev. Dr. Rennie passed and was admitted into the Presbytery by a rising vote.

April 23, 1910 - Ledger Dispatch

First Presbyterian Church Ancient One
Interesting Sketch of this Congregation and of its Pastor, Rev. Dr. Rennie

Careful historic search seems to have demonstrated, with reasonable certainty, that the oldest organized Presbyterian church in Virginia is the First Church, Norfolk. The evidence is distinct that the Rev. Francis Makemie—undoubtedly the first regular Presbyterian minister in this country, and who may justly be regarded as the father of the Presbyterian church in the United States—visited the region of Virginia lying on the Elizabeth River, and there found an organized Presbyterian church. In his own words, written 1684, he thus describes it: "In my visit to Elizabeth River, in May, I found a poor desolate people, mourning the loss of their dissenting minister from Ireland, whom the Lord had been pleased to remove by death the summer before. Here, then, was a band of Christians organized and worshipping under the services of a dissenting minister from Ireland. They could not have been anything else than Presbyterian. Recent investigation, made by Rev. Dr. Edward Mack, has revealed the name of this hitherto nameless pastor, the following item having been found on the records of Norfolk county: "August 14th, 1678, a marriage contract was fully, firmly and freely concluded between the parties following, viz: James Porter, minister of Lynnhaven, on the partie, and Mrs. Mary Ivy, lawful daughter of Captain Thomas Ivy, on the other." Rev. James Peter preceded Rev. Francis Makemie a few years. Their minister had been with them long enough to make the people love their church, and love him, and mourn his death; he died in the summer of 1683. The inference is assuredly reasonable that this church on Elizabeth River, Virginia, had been in existence for some years prior to 1683. It was, therefore, one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in America."


To this church Rev. Mr. Makemie ministered as he was able, until 1692, when Rev. Josias Makie took charge, continuing its pastor until his death in 1716. Respecting Rev. Josias Makie it is learned from the records of Norfolk county, that he received license from the court to preach at certain points on Elizabeth River in 1692. He probably succeeded Rev. Wm. Makie in charge of the church on Elizabeth River at that date, the latter thenceforward confining his labors to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The points at which Rev. Mr. Makie was licensed to preach were: A house at Mr. Thomas Ivy's, on the Eastern Branch; a house belonging to Mr. John Roberts, on the Western Branch; and a house of Mr. John Dickson, on the Southern Branch. From Rev. Mr. Makie's will, which is dated Nov. 7, 1716, and which was proved on the 16th of that month, it will be seen that he must have died between those two dates. Judging from this date, and the date of his first oath, June 22d, 1692, it is certain that he had been living on Elizabeth River not far from a quarter of a century.

From the time of the death of Mr. Makie in 1716, for a period of eighty-five years, nothing authentic can be learned respecting the history of this church, but there is reason to believe that it maintained a continued, though struggling, existence in the midst of many difficulties.

Some of these difficulties may be mentioned: 1. During most of these eighty-five years the Episcopal church was established by law in Virginia; strict conformity was demanded, and every one was required to contribute to its support. For a part of the time attendance at the meeting of non-conformists was punished by severe fines, and the rich were obliged to pay the forfeitures of their poorer brethren. (Hodge's History, p. 46.) 2. The fact of Virginia having an established church, dissenting bodies were not allowed to keep a record of their existence, and were limited to holding services in certain buildings designated as meeting houses.

In 1801, under appointment by the General Assembly of the denomination, at its session in Philadelphia, Rev. Benjamin Grigsby came "to itinerate through the lower parts of Virginia." He found an organized church in the borough of Norfolk, of which John McPhail and William H. McKinder were ruling elders. By invitation, he took charge of this church, and during the years 1802-3 succeeded in having a comfortable church building erected, which cost twelve thousand dollars, all of which was raised within the congregation.

The book containing the subscription list for this building, together with an account of the cost of the building itself, is now in possession of the First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk. Rev. Mr. Grigsby continued in charge of the church until the autumn of 1810, when he died of yellow fever, which prevailed as an epidemic in Norfolk that year.


On the 14th of April, 1814, the church was reorganized, and placed itself under the care of Hanover Presbytery. Rev. John H. Rice, D. D., preaching the sermon and presiding on the occasion. Before this, if any regular records were kept they have been lost—possibly the earlier records may have been destroyed in the burning of the city. From this date the records are full and complete. As reorganized the church consisted of forty-three members, with Rev. John D. Paxton as pastor, and Messrs. John McPhail, William McKinder, Robert Souter, Sr., Robert Robertson and William Maxwell (afterwards President of Hampden-Sidney College) as Ruling Elders.

The church building, erected in 1801, during Rev. Mr. Grigsby's ministry, was on the northwest corner of Charlotte and Bank streets (the latter was then Catherine street), but about 1827, there was a division of the church organization, and the part separating as another church put up and occupied, in April, 1837, the present First Presbyterian Church. A disastrous fire which broke out March 9, 1827, had destroyed Christ P. E. Church, which stood on the same site as the present First Presbyterian. The two churches, the first and second, subsequently came together again forming "The Presbyterian Church" (what is now "the First Presbyterian Church.")

Many years ago this old church began sending out colonies, from the parent stock, the following have sprung:

Portsmouth, in 1821
Second Church, Norfolk, in 1872
Colley Memorial, in 1882
Park Avenue, in 1884
Armstrong Memorial, in 1890
Lambert's Point, in 1897
Knox, in 1899
Ghent, in 1901


The First Church has had a long line of pastors, deservedly honored and distinguished as divines of ability and piety. Among them: Rev. Francis Makemie, Rev. Dr. John H. Rice, Rev. Shephard K. Kollock, Rev. Dr. George D. Armstrong, Rev. Dr. J. I. Vance, and Rev. Dr. J. R. Howerton.

The First Presbyterian Church though old in years still retains a large and devoted membership. Owing to its location there has been, from time to time, thought of removal to a more favorable and central point, but for the present, at least, it will remain on Church street. Though it has been instrumental in establishing many new churches, and is constantly sending members to these churches, yet the congregation holds its own in size and interest, always having its share of the strangers who may be in Norfolk, and drawing its membership from the entire city.


The present pastor, Rev. Joseph Rennie, D. D., is a native of Henrico county, Va., and was born and reared within the present limits of Richmond. The religious influence of a Christian home and a thorough training in the doctrines and standards of the Presbyterian faith was a fitting foundation for his life work as a minister of the gospel. Both upon his father and mother's side he is connected with and descended from many leading families of Virginia.

He considers that his family's connections with the Second Presbyterian Church, familiarly known as Dr. Hoge's, and the ministry of that famous preacher had no small part in shaping his ideals of a minister's work. The local environment both of country and city, made him familiar with both country and city life, and has contributed no little to his influence in after life

At the age of eighteen he joined the Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond and the year following entered upon his preparation for the work of the ministry. His earlier education had been in private and public schools, reaching the closing years of the High School grade. Then four years of business life. Two years were spent in Richmond College, which prepared him for entrance into the Sophomore class of Hampden-Sidney College, from which he graduated with degree of A. M. in 1885. That same year he entered Union Seminary, from which he graduated in 1888.

He was licensed to preach the Gospel by East Hanover Presbytery in spring of 1887 and ordained by Roanoke Presbytery in 1888, having accepted a call to Chasse City, Va. During this pastorate of three years he supplied churches at Boydton and in Lunenburg county. In the latter county during this pastorate the Evelyn Presbyterian Church, was rebuilt. The second year of his pastorate in Chase City he was called to supply the pulpit of the Oxford Presbyterian Church in conjunction with the Chase City Church. This joint pastorate he held for one year, then in 1890 accepted the call to Oxford, N. C. During this pastorate the present beautiful brick church was built. In the fall of 1892 the pastorate was brought to a close by removal to Louisville, Ky., where as pastor of the Stuart Robinson Memorial Church, he lived for three years. In November, 1895 the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church of Covington, Ky., made its second call, which was accepted. Seven years of a most happy pastorate were spent here, and in 1902, he removed to Norfolk to accept the pastorate of the First Presbyterian Church. He is now in his eighth year of this pastorate. During these twenty-two years of pastoral life there has never been the slightest unpleasantness between pastor and church. In the fall of 1888 he was married to Ellen Eugenia Goodall, and four children have blessed this union. The honorary degree of D. D. was conferred upon him by Central University of Kentucky in 1902. After his return to Virginia, he was elected a member of the Board of Trustees of Hampden-Sidney College, his alma mater.

March 16, 1911 - Norfolk Landmark

Mrs. George Armstrong Lays Cornerstone for
New Presbyterian Church in Ghent.

Members of the Congregation of Ghent Presbyterian Church looked on with solemnity and reverence yesterday as a woman, with hair silvered by the frosts of many winters and with hands wrinkled but firm to their purpose, placed the corner stone of the new edifice in its proper position. She was Mrs. George D. Armstrong, whose husband for forty years was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, the parent organization of the Ghent church.

The ceremonies were witnessed by many of the members and others. They were conducted by the pastor, the Rev. Stuart Nye Hutchison, assisted by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie, pastor of the First Presbyterian, and the Rev. Dr. Thornton Whaling, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church.

The new structure is being erected at the corner of Colonial and Redgate avenues and when completed will be one of the finest temples of worship in that vicinity. It will cost about $50,000 exclusive of the organ and furnishings.

The principal address was by the Rev. Dr. Whaling, who invoked the choicest blessings upon the congregation and the work it shall perform in the new house of worship.

"Our prayers, our hearts, our hopes are with you," he said. "We wish you the splendor of hard work, glorified by success. We wish for you a growth as solid and enduring as that of your church building itself. As every brick and stone counts and remains in the wall, so may every member count and every one of them in Zion appear before God." We wish for you the crown of leadership amongst a host of friendly rivals in the field of aggressive evangelism and home missions in our city."

A box placed in the corner stone contained a brief history of the church, the name of the pastor, the names of the building committee, F. S. Royster, S. Millner Price, Harvey M. Dickson, James S. Tate and O. D. Heissenbuttel. The box also contained the name of the architects, Ferguson, Calrow and Taylor, the names of the builders, Baker and Brinkley, and the name of the constructor, H. P. Speer. A list of the officers of the church and Sunday School and the several aid societies were given with a complete roster of the membership. A Bible, a confession of faith, a shorter catechism, an original copy of James C. Tate's lessons prepared for the Bible class and copies of the three Norfolk dailies were placed in the box.

The new church will cost about $50,000 with the organ or furnishings. It was begun in December and will be finished about next Thanksgiving.

The Ghent Presbyterian church was organized in 1891. At first services were held in a building on Botetourt street. Afterwards the present church was built, which stands close by the new building. W. H. Summerel was first pastor. He was succeeded in March, 1910, by Rev. Stuart Nye Hutchison.

The old church will be torn down and a modern Sunday School room will be built on the site.

December 3, 1911 - Norfolk Landmark

Enlarge in browser.
[Note: The church on the right is the renovated version of the original Old Bell Church.]


Over two centuries ago a small band of Scotch immigrants settled on the shores of the Elizabeth River, and after patiently enduring religious persecution for many years organized the first Presbyterian church in Virginia. The successors of this congregation now worship in the First Presbyterian Church, on Church Street near Holt, enjoying the distinction of being the oldest religious body under the jurisdiction of the Southern Presbytery.

After surviving all of the hardships of the early days, they succeeded in firmly planting the banner of Presbyterianism in Tidewater Virginia. History shows they did this prior to 1683, the date of the formation of a congregation at Snow Hill, Maryland, which claims the distinction of being the earliest church.

After the congregations had worshipped for over 117 years in the homes of those who professed that faith, the first Presbyterian edifice in Virginia was erected in 1800 at the corner of Bank and Charlotte Streets. This structure, which has withstood wars and the ravages of time, remains as a monument to those who fought valiantly for religious freedom.

When prosperity became permanent and the little band of Scots and a few Englishmen allied with them began to grow, a larger and more modern house of worship was built on Church Street, and in this the congregation now worships.

Prior to 1683, the date of the founding of the church at Snow Hill, Maryland, the Rev. James Porter, a dissenting minister from Ireland, preached to a band of Christians on the Elizabeth River. When Francis Makemie visited Norfolk, which did not become a town until nineteen years later, he referred to these as "mourning the death of their pastor in the summer of 1684."

Makemie ministered in this tiny congregation until 1692, when the Rev. Jonas Mackie succeeded him, remaining in charge until his death in 1716.

A historical sketch by Dr. Charles Hodge says:

"The records of the Norfolk County Court show that Rev. Jonas Mackie was, in 1692, licensed by that court to preach at three points: at the house of Thomas Ivey on the Eastern Branch, in a house owned by Thomas Philpot in Tanner's Creek precinct, and at the home of John Roberts, on the Western Branch, and later in 1696, the home of John Dickson on the Southern Branch, was added to the places where he could conduct religious meetings."

Later the Presbyterians at all of these points in the county were united in one congregation and became members of the First Church of Norfolk.

In 1716 Rev. Mr. Mackie died and the pastorate remained, so far as records show, vacant until 1801, when the Rev. Benjamin Grigsby, then a member of the Lexington Presbytery, visited the borough of Norfolk, and after "preaching to the satisfaction of the people" at a meeting of the congregation, held March 17, 1804, he was invited to remain as pastor.

Early in 1800, according to an old volume of the records of the trustees, it was proposed to erect a house of worship and the amount necessary for this purpose was subscribed at a meeting held April 15 of that year.

A recently recovered volume of records establishes the fact that the church then erected, which is still standing at the corner of Bank and Charlotte Streets, cost a little over $12,000, all of which contributed by persons living in Norfolk or its immediate vicinity, the amounts of the eighty-seven subscriptions ranging from $25 to $300 each.

While many of the subscribers were of Scotch or Scotch-Irish extraction, a large number were Englishmen who belonged to some of the oldest families in this section of Virginia.

According to the archives of the church, the composition of this congregation was similar to that of the old Elizabeth River Church, the first established in Virginia. Records also show that at the time Mr. Grigsby came to Norfolk the Presbyterians had strongly entrenched themselves here.

Regarding a Question of Church History

Those inclined to dispute historical records have asked: was the First Norfolk Church of 1800 a continuation of the Elizabeth River congregation of which old records speak?

In answering this question, Rev. Dr. George D. Armstrong, who for forty years served as the pastor of the First congregation, said in a historical paper now in the archives of the church: "To give an affirmative answer to this question, the principal objection is the absence of all regular church records from 1716 to 1800. In estimating the force of this objection we should consider these facts:

"During all of these years the Dissenters were subject to severe persecution in Virginia, especially in the eastern portion of the State. On this subject Dr. Hodge, giving Bancroft for authority, writes: "Virginia was so completely an Episcopal province, and the laws against all non-conformists were so severe that we can expect but few traces of the Puritans in her early history. Unity of worship was there preserved, with few exceptions, a century after the settlement of Jamestown. As early as 1633 severe laws were made for the suppression of Dissenters who had begun to appear in the colony. In 1643 it was ordained that no minister should preach or teach, publicly or privately, except in conformity with the Church of England, and non-conformists were banished from the colony.

"During the time of Cromwell a spirit of greater moderation prevailed, but with the restoration of Charles II, the Assembly revived all of the laws against Separatists. Strict conformity was demanded and everyone was required to contribute to the support of the established church. In 1666 the laws were made more severe. Attendance on the ministry of the non-conformists was punished by severe fines, and the rich were made to pay the forfeitures of their poorer brethren.

"Cook says: The law was rigidly enforced. The Dissenters or Independents, as they styled themselves, had a large congregation in Nansemond. But the pastors had to go, their enemies being too strong for them. Some were fined, others were imprisoned and nearly all were driven out of the colony and retired to Maryland and New England.

No sessional records seem to have been kept during Mr. Mackie's ministry of twenty-four years, nor from 1801 to 1814, during the pastorate of Mr. Grigsby. In 1814, the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk became a part of the East Hanover Presbytery, and from that year the records of the congregation are complete.

In referring to the lack of records between 1716 and 1800, Dr. Armstrong's sketch says: "This state of things is not peculiar to the Norfolk church. In so far as I have been able to learn, none of the older Presbyterian churches of Virginia, neither those in the Valley nor those in the Hanover region, have sessional records extending further back than the time at which religious freedom was established in the State in 1785.

"Dr. Mackie came directly from Ireland to Virginia, and during his twenty-four years ministry never attended the meetings of any Presbytery in this country. Mr. Makemie was ordained by the Irish Presbytery of Laggan and was sent out by that presbytery to this country in response to a request from Colonel Stevens of Maryland. There may have been other ministers who visited this church between the years 1716, the date of Mr. Mackie's death, and 1801; and tradition intimates that such was the case, but of these visits we have no record."

Rev. R. R. Howison's History of the Presbytery of East Hanover says: "Careful historic search seems to have demonstrated with reasonable certainty that the oldest Presbyterian church in Virginia existed and still exists within the bounds of the East Hanover Presbytery. And we feel authorized to say that these researches have established a strong probability (which will stand until weakened or destroyed by evidence that may hereafter be discovered) that this was the oldest organized church of our denomination in America."

Dr. Armstrong Thinks New York Church Older.

Dr. Armstrong did not agree with the claim made by Mr. Howison, the venerable pastor of the First Church, contending that while this is the oldest in Virginia and within the bounds of the Southern Presbytery, it is not the oldest in America, he citing the formation of congregations in New York of 1640 and 1656.

Of the crises during the history of the First Presbyterian Church, a sketch prepared by the Rev. Dr. E. B. McCluer, for many years pastor of the Park Avenue Presbyterian Church says; "In 1855, during the summer of the pestilence, she was brought almost to desolation. In April, out of her 296 enrolled members, about 250 lived in the city. By the first of September only eighty-seven remained in Norfolk. Some had died, but the large part had fled. The pastor remained. Of this small number of eighty-seven, but few escaped the pestilence, and thirty-two died.

After the epidemic of yellow fever had been checked, the survivors of the congregation of the First Church, undaunted by their loses, resumed their fight for Christianity and prospered until the outbreak of the Civil War, when their ranks were again depleted and their troubles multiplied, their pastor, Rev. Dr. Armstrong, being removed under an arbitrary military order and exiled for fifteen months.

After the close of the war prosperity again returned to the church and has continued under the ministry of a number of distinguished divines.

Dr. Rennie Advocates New Church More Centrally Located.

During the nine years the Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie has been pastor of the First Presbyterian CHurch, the congregation has prospered greatly, though frequently the membership has been reduced by the organization of other churches of the same faith in rapidly growing sections of the city, but the church has suffered more from deaths in the past two years, especially of members of wealth, than by removals.

As compared with ten years ago, the congregations which attend the morning service have reduced 10 per cent. on an average, but the attendance at the evening services has increased at least 100 per cent.

The First Presbyterian congregation has often been referred to as being a thoroughly organized working body. The ladies' societies, the Men's Brotherhood and the Sabbath school are all contributing their share to the advancement of the work of God. The Sunday School is especially active in its campaign in behalf of Christianity, although its membership is smaller by half than it was nine years ago.

During the pastorate of Dr. Rennie the question of removal to a more suitable section of the city has often been discussed, the pastor contending that the Presbyterians of Norfolk needed a strong central church, he being of the opinion that the present edifice is located too far east and the Second and Ghent churches are too far west; but nothing definite has ever been agreed upon.

First Church a Liberal Contributor to Foreign and Home Missions.

The reports of the presbytery for 1910-'11 show that one-fourth of all of the money contributed by Norfolk Presbyterians to foreign missions was collected through the First Church, which also enjoys the distinction of raising a fifth of the total amount received by the presbytery for synodical and home missions.

During the past week Rev. Dr. Rennie has been invited to become pastor of a church in Mississippi, but has not announced what action he will take upon the invitation and will not do so until he returns home next week, but a number of his friends in the congregation seem confident that he will remain in Norfolk and realize his ambition to build another house of worship for the congregation in a more convenient section of the city.

Former Pastors.

James Porter, died in 1683.
Rev. Francis Makemie, 1683-1692.
Rev. Jonas Mackie, 1693-1716.
Rev. Benjamin Grigsby, 1801-1810.
Rev. Dr. Rice, 1811-1814.
Rev. Dr. John D. Paxton, 1814-1819.
Rev. Joshua T. Russell, 1820-1824.
Rev. Dr. S. K. Kollock, 1825-1834.
Rev. Dr. John D. Matthews, 1835-1840.
Rev. Samuel J. Cassells, 1841-1846.
Rev. Dr. S. J. P. Anderson, 1846-1851.
Rev. Dr. George D. Armstrong, 1851-1891.
Rev. Dr. James I. Vance, 1891-1895.
Rev. Dr. J. R. Howerton, 1895-1896.
Rev. Edward Mack, 1897-1901.
Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie, the present pastor, since October, 1902.

Church Colonies Organized by First Church

The Second Presbyterian Church.
Park Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Armstrong Memorial Presbyterian Church, Berkley.
Colley Memorial Church.
Lambert's Point Presbyterian Church, organized by Colley Memorial.

* * * * * *

February 19, 1912 - Norfolk Landmark

Ghent Presbyterian Church is Formally Dedicated

In spite of the inclement weather the new Ghent Presbyterian church was packed yesterday afternoon when the impressive dedication service was held at 3:30 o'clock.

Besides members of the church and ministers of the Norfolk Presbytery, the latter taking an active part in the service, a number of members and ministers from other congregations were present. The dedicatory address was delivered by Rev. James I. Vance, D. D., of Nashville. He preached a strong and forceful sermon on the prominent part taken by the church in the present day life of the people and how under the ever-increasing social unrest it is the one and only hope.

Following the organ processional, members of the Norfolk Presbytery, with Rev. Stuart Nye Hutchison, pastor of the church, and Rev. Dr. Vance leading and the elders of the church, marched from the entry to the pulpit, while the congregation stood. The invocation was by Rev. Robert C. Gilmore, the scripture lesson was read by Rev. R. A. Robinson, the prayer of dedication by the pastor, and the final prayer by Rev. W. H. T. Squires.

Mrs. Ernest H. Meeks sang, "The Lord is My Light." Another impressive feature of the service was the dedication hymn, "Come Jesus, from the Sapphire Throne," which followed the actual dedication passages of the ritual in which the entire congregation joined in repeating four times the words "To Thee We Dedicate This House."

To each person attending the service was handed a handsome program of the services held yesterday, the front of the booklet having a picture of the church on it and the names of the pastor, elders, deacons and the members of the building committee inside with a short sketch of the foundation of the Ghent Presbyterian church.

Dedication Program

Organ Processional—Flagier.
Anthem—"O Bless the Lord," Berwald
Invocation—Rev. Robert C. Gilmore.
Hymn 633.
Scripture Lesson—Rev. R. A. Robinson, D. D.
Offertory—"Cansonetta," Gleason
Solo—"The Lord is My Light," Allitsen—Mrs. Ernest H. Meeks.
Responsive Reading.
Hymn 631.
Dedication by minister and people.
Prayer of Dedication—Rev. Stuart Nye Hutchison.
Dedication Hymn.
Address—Rev. James I. Vance, D. D.
Prayer—Rev. W. H. T. Squires.
Hymn 333.
Postlude in "D"—Lemmena.

The Ghent Presbyterian church is the outcome of a movement set on foot in the year 1901 by the Brotherhood Bible Class of the First Presbyterian church, then under the leadership of Joseph Brown. Members of this class selected the site upon which the church now stands and raised the first money toward the purchase of the lots.

The formal organization of the church was effected June 6, 1901, at the home of Mrs. George D. Armstrong. There were thirty-nine charter members, most of whom were received by letter from the First Church.

Early in 1902 the first church building was erected and Rev. J. N. H. Summerell, D. D., became the pastor. After seven years of service Dr. Summerell resigned to accept a call to New Bern, N. C., and a little over a year later, the present pastor entered upon his work.

In the meantime the great growth of the Ghent section of the city had made necessary the erection of a larger edifice. At a congregational meeting held May 1, 1910, over fifty thousand dollars was subscribed, half of which was the gift of Mr. Royster. Ground was broken in December and the corner stone was laid by Mrs. Armstrong March 15, 1911.

The church is designed in the late perpendicular period of the Gothic style and in its general plan and especially in its detail follows very closely good English precedents. The main feature of the exterior is, of course, the tower which was designed to give an impression of stability, dignity and repose. The interior varies from the usual Presbyterian ___ plan chiefly in the arrangement of the pulpit and the seats for the elders. The reading desk upon which rests the Bible is the axis of the plan and the focal point to which all the lines of the plan approach. In these features the church follows the idea of the Presbyterian churches of Scotland.

The large window in the tower is a memorial erected by Mr. Royster to the memory of his mother. It pictures Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha, and was designed and made by J. & T. Lamb of New York. In the vestibule is a bronze tablet which bears the following inscription:

BORN JUNE 29, 1818,
DIED JULY 12, 1863.

The exterior beauty and interior harmony of the church are due to the unceasing labor and careful attention to details of F. Finlay Ferguson, the architect, who is himself a member of the church.

The church is equipped with the Acousticon for the use of those with imperfect hearing.

[A similar article was written in the Ledger-Dispatch February 17, 1912.]

March 9, 1912 - Ledger-Dispatch

Letter From Dr. Rennie.

The many friends in Norfolk of Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie, till recently pastor of the First Presbyterian Church here, will be please to read the following extract from a letter received from him by this paper, he being now pastor of a prominent Presbyterian church in Greenwood, Mississippi.

"We are nicely settled in our new home, and gradually getting to work. The conditions are very different from Norfolk, but there is much to inspire a preacher in a large church filled with splendid people, ready to do whatever you ask. We are only temporarily fixed as to a home. The church is preparing to put up a beautiful new manse this spring. The winter here has been long and cold, and very much rain has fallen. Ordinarily all the fields are ready for the cotton and corn is already growing at this season, but this year scarcely any land has been ploughed. There is some alarm felt here on account of the boll wevil, but it means a diversification of crops, which is a great necessity for this section. We miss Norfolk and its kind friends, and I miss the Ledger-Dispatch. Send it to me!"

March 18, 1912 - Ledger-Dispatch

Churches to Consolidate About the First of the Coming Month.
First and the Ghent Presbyterian to Come Together Under the Name
of the Former, with Rev. Stuart Nye Hutchison as Pastor

The First and Ghent Presbyterian churches voted yesterday to unite with each other and form one church, under the name of First Presbyterian Church, the consolidation to occur about the first of the coming month, the Ghent Church, as pastor of the combined congregation, which is expected to number at least 400 communicants, and will be one of the strongest churches of that denomination in the South.

The place of worship of the united churches will be the handsome new edifice recently dedicated by the Ghent congregation, at Colonial and Redgate avenues, which cost about $70,000, and to which is soon to be added a new Sunday School building to cost $15,000. As the new edifice is practically paid for, the cost having been subscribed by the Ghent congregation, the combined church will find itself in excellent financial condition, in view of the neat sum the First Church property can be sold for, if it is decided to dispose of that plant.

It may be that the First Church property will be kept for mission purposes, as the Presbyterians feel that field, although the First Church had outgrown it, should not be entirely abandoned, and it is the intention of the combined congregations to give considerable attention to mission work in Norfolk in general. It seems certain that a mission will be operated by the Presbyterians in the old First Church field, but whether they will use for that purpose the old church property, or sell it and start a mission on another site in that part of the city, is yet uncertain. If it is decided to sell the old site, which is 96x110 feet, in the heart of the Church street business section, it is believed it could be disposed of to good advantage for commercial purposes, or it might be sold for use as a church.

It is expected that there will be a considerable scattering of the present members on the roll of the First church, but, it is thought, that the bulk of them will go the the combined church. It is the hope of the leading members of the old First Church, however, that a considerable number of their present communicants will go to the Second Church and to Park Avenue Church, so as to strengthen those churches of that denomination, and it is likely that this will be the result of the consolidation of the First and Ghent churches.

The Ghent Church, which was established about ten years ago, and has only had two pastors, Rev. Dr. Summerill, now of North Carolina, and Rev. Dr. Hutchison, has a membership of 225 in the church and 150 in the Sunday School, with Rev. Dr. Hutchison as superintendent of the Sunday School.

The First Church as 440 members on the roll of the church, but only about 300 are regarded as active members, while in its Sunday School there are 200 members, with J. T. Moreland as superintendent.

It is, of course, as yet unknown who will be superintendent of the combined Sunday School, but is is settled that Rev. Dr. Hutchison will not be, the enlarged duties being all that he could well perform

Just what will be done about the officials of the combined congregation is yet to be determined, but it was said today that there would be an election, following the actual union of the two churches, to select a set of officials, instead of combining the two present official bodies.

The Presbytery of Norfolk will be called together this week or next to approve the consolidation of the two churches, and they will not be worshiping separately for more than a few Sundays more.

Being the older of the two churches, and in fact being the oldest Presbyterian church in the United States, it was quite natural that the combined congregations should take the name of the First Church, which had its beginning 229 years or more ago, and is the mother of not only the Ghent Church, but of all the Presbyterian churches in the two cities.

It had its start certainly as early as 1683, and is spoken of in the annals of the denomination as the Church on the Elizabeth River, and it is conceded even by the Northern Presbyterian Church to be the oldest church of that denomination in America, an honor which, by inheritance, goes to the combined congregation that will worship in the present Ghent Church here after April 1st.

Before the erection of the present First Presbyterian Church, 75 years ago, that congregation worshiped in what is now a colored Baptist Church at the corner of Bank and Charlotte streets.

Former Pastors.

James Porter, died in 1683.
Rev. Francis Makemie, 1683-1692.
Rev. Jonas Mackie, 1693-1716.
Rev. Benjamin Grigsby, 1801-1810.
Rev. Dr. John H. Rice, 1811-1814.
Rev. Dr. John D. Paxton, 1814-1819.
Rev. Joshua T. Russell, 1820-1824.
Rev. Dr. S. K. Kollock, 1825-1834.
Rev. Dr. John D. Matthews, 1835-1840.
Rev. Samuel J. Cassells, 1841-1846.
Rev. Dr. S. J. P. Anderson, 1846-1851.
Rev. Dr. George D. Armstrong, 1851-1891.
Rev. Dr. James I. Vance, 1891-1895.
Rev. Dr. J. R. Howerton, 1895-1896.
Rev. Edward Mack, 1897-1901.
Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie, 1902-1912.

The pastor of the new First Church, Rev. Stuart Nye Hutchison, is quite a young man, being only 34 years of age, but highly cultured and of the pulpit ability, and has given great satisfaction to the Ghent congregation. The outlook for his pastorate of such a strong church as the new church will be is most promising.

March 10, 1912 - Virginian-Pilot & Norfolk Landmark

Abandon Old Edifice.

Two Churches to Consolidate
First and Ghent Presbyterian Congregations to Worship Together

As forecasted in the Virginian-Pilot of Sunday the First and Ghent Presbyterian churches of Norfolk have been merged into one congregation.

This action was taken at the congregational meetings of the First and Ghent Presbyterian churches held at the close of the morning services yesterday, both congregations voting to consolidate and petition the Presbytery of Norfolk to effect the merger.

It is expected that the consolidation will take effect April 1, the beginning of the church fiscal year. The name of the consolidated church is to be the First Presbyterian church of Norfolk. The new edifice recently erected by the Ghent congregation is to be the house of worship and the Rev. Stuart Nye Hutchison is to be the pastor. This merger will give to Norfolk one of the strongest Presbyterian churches in the State.

The First Presbyterian church of Norfolk is the oldest church of that denomination in America, having been organized in 1660 over two centuries ago.

It bears a splendid history throughout its long succession of years and its influence for good in this community through all these years can only be revealed in eternity. Its value to the Presbyterian denomination of Norfolk is duly recognized, hence the desire on the part of both congregations to perpetuate its name and noble achievements for the spread of scriptural holiness in this city, the real object being to let the glorious record of the mother of the Presbyterian churches of Norfolk go down in the future annals of time as a precious legacy to that denomination.

After the founding of the old First Presbyterian church in the sixteenth century it built and worshiped in the edifice on the corner of Bank and Charlotte streets, now known as the Bell Baptist church (colored), until [1836], when it erected the present edifice on Church street where the congregation has continued to worship for about seventy-five years.

During this period the late Rev. Dr. George D. Armstrong served the church as pastor for forty years. Since then the following ministers have served the church:

Rev. James I. Vance, D. D.
Rev. Dr. Mack,
Rev. J. R. Howerton, D. D.
and Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie

who, after a pastorate of nearly ten years, resigned the first of January, 1912, to accept a call to the First Presbyterian church, Greenwood, Miss.

From the old First church the following Norfolk Presbyterian churches sprang: The Second church, Park Avenue church, Colley Memorial church, Knox church, and Ghent church, hereafter to be known as the First Church of Norfolk.

June 2, 1912 - Virginian-Pilot and Norfolk Landmark, Sunday

(New Photo taken October 2006)

Mrs. Taylor Gives Heirloom to Church

The above cut is from a photograph of the silver communion service recently presented to the First Presbyterian church of Norfolk through Mrs. Washington Taylor in behalf of the descendants of the Whitehead family now represented by the children of Hon. John B. Whitehead, Mrs. Carter B. Poindexter, Mr. Hugh Blair Grigsby, Mrs. Henry Irwin, and Mr. William Whitehead. The occasion of the presentation was the union of the mother church with her daughter, the Ghent church.

The service consists of eight pieces, four baskets and four goblets, and its history is of unique interest, not only to the denomination, but also to those who revere things sacred and old.

Hugh McPherson and his wife, Lilias Blair, came to Virginia from Kippochan, County Argyle, Scotland, and settled in Portsmouth. After a few years of residence there, they made their permanent home in Norfolk. Mrs. Lilias McPherson, true to the faith of her fathers, became an active member of the Norfolk Presbyterian church, the building erected in 1802 on the northeast corner of Catharine (Bank) and Charlotte streets, was for years popularly designated as the "Bell church," it being at the time the only place of worship in Norfolk with a bell. The Presbyterians continued to occupy the building which is still standing until 1836, when the new church on Church street was completed and became known as the First Presbyterian.

The McPhersons brought with them from Scotland their personal effects and heirlooms, including their family silver which consisted in part of two baskets and four goblets. These were loaned to the church by Mrs. McPherson on sacramental occasions and were never used for other purposes. The silver was also loaned to the Portsmouth Presbyterian church from time to time. This valued member and devoted Christian died, in 1822 and the silver passed to her daughter Elizabeth who married in 1806, Rev. Benjamin Grigsby. Mr. Grigsby took charge of the congregation in 1801, and through his efforts the Catherine street church was erected in 1802. He was the father of Virginia's gifted son, Hugh Blair Grigsby, the scholar and historian. The beloved minister died of yellow fever in 1810, a martyr to duty. His widow married Dr. Nathan Colgate Whitehead, prominent  as a physician, citizen and Presbyterian.

The two silver baskets belonging to Mrs. Lilias Blair McPherson were found to be insufficient for the increasing number of communicants. Her daughter, Mrs. Whitehead, to meet the requirements of the church set aside for its use, but for no other purpose, four silver baskets to take the place of the old ones. These have remained the property of the family, but have been held for the benefit of the church, to whose service they have long been consecrated. The four silver goblets are those brought over from Scotland.

The Whitehead home on the southeast corner of Freemason and Catharine (Bank) streets, erected in July 1791, is still standing, but has not been occupied by the family for some years. Its striking and artistic lines in addition to its age makes the building one of the city landmarks, but its chief interest arises from the fact that it was the home of the Whitehead family for so many years, and a center of Presbyterian life. Its first occupants were the McPhersons. It them passed by inheritance to their daughter Elizabeth, who became the wife of her pastor, Rev. Benjamin Grigsby, and second marriage wife of Dr. N. C. Whitehead, and the mother of Honorable John B. Whitehead, also of Mrs. Poindexter, Mrs. Irwin and Mr. William Whitehead.

In the quiet borough days of Norfolk, the Presbyterians gathered weekly within the walls to hold their Wednesday and Friday evening prayer meetings. This practice continued for years. The Bible, in four parts, used at these services is still in the possession of Mrs. W. W. Galt, the granddaughter of Rev. Benjamin Grigsby, and from this home were sent the elements used on communion occasions by the old mother church, lovingly furnished by the family through all the generations, without expense to the church.

When Mr. Whitehead died in 1903, and the old home was occupied by strangers, his daughter Emily (Mrs. Washington Taylor) kept up continuously the custom of her forefathers and furnished the elements until the congregation left the old church building on Sunday, February 4, 1912. The consolidation, however, did not take place until April 1, 1912.

The descendants of the family which have been so closely identified for generations with the most solemn service of the Christian faith, have presented to the mother church these sacred memorials of the long ago, the connecting links in holy things, between the past and the present. May the gift long remain a pleasant memory with those who give and those who receive.

The First Presbyterian church of Norfolk, the mother of all her faith in this section, now gathers her worshipping children in the new sanctuary and says to them—"this is home," and her children, although still remembering and treasuring the old temple and its glory, answer back in love and faith—"this is home."

June 3, 1912 - Ledger-Dispatch

First Presbyterian Church.—Rev. Dr. Hutchison of this church spoke at the Hampton Presbyterian Church yesterday afternoon, in connection with the installation of Rev. Charles Friend, as pastor of the latter church.

Rev. Eugene Bell, of Korea, now here on vacation, preached at this church last night.

The old communion service presented to this church by Mrs. Washington Taylor, on behalf of the Whitehead family, will be used in the church at the next communion service. It was used for nearly a hundred years in the old First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, but was the property of the Whitehead family.

July 29, 1912 - Ledger-Dispatch

Dr. Hutchison's vacation.—Rev. S. N. Hutchison and family will spend some time at Montreat, N. C. He preaches there next Sunday and takes part in the August conference there. His pulpit at the First Presbyterian Church, in his absence, will be supplied as follows: Rev. I. S. McElroy, D. D., of Columbus, Ga., first three Sundays in August; Rev. J. S. Lyons, D. D., of the First Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Ky., the fourth Sunday in September; Rev. James R. Howerton, D. D., of Washington and Lee University, the second Sunday in September—Rev. Dr. Hutchison getting back to fill his pulpit on the third Sunday in September. During Dr. Hutchison's absence there will be no Sunday night service at his church here.

The foundation of the new Sunday school building for this church is laid and the construction work is awaiting the arrival of stone.

August 10, 1912 - Ledger-Dispatch

Rev. Rennie Here.—Rev. Dr. Joseph Rennie, formerly of the First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, and now of Mississippi, is here on a short visit to friends, and is being heartily greeted by his old parishioners and other acquaintances. Mrs. Rennie and three children are also here.

February 15, 1913 - Ledger-Dispatch

In the Passing of the Old Presbyterian Church
Norfolk Loses a Beloved Landmark
By H. B. Bagnall

The old Presbyterian church which stood on Church street for so many years no longer exists, its passing marks the close of another chapter in the religious history of Norfolk. Today so few of the landmarks remain which bind our city to the borough past and even these must soon give way to the demands of commercial expansion; of course St. Paul's Church will long be spared because in addition to the reverence which attaches to her sacred walls, there is the sleeping dust which hallows the ground.

In the early part of the year 1802, the Presbyterians of Norfolk were holding services in one of the rooms of the Town Hall, but their new church was nearing completion; the board of trustees, consisting of Messrs, William K. Mackinder, Robert Maitland, Christopher Fry, William Cuthbert, William B. Lamb, Tristam Butler and Thomas Allan, having bought the property on the northwest corner of Catherine (Bank) and Charlotte streets caused to be erected thereon at the corner, a brick church, handsome and even stately for the period; the frontage of the lot was 128 feet on Catherine street with a depth of 159 feet on Charlotte; the building cost $12,000; the spacious grounds added much to the beauty of the church home; within these walls the Presbyterians of the borough and county worshipped for a generation; the initial service was held Sunday, March 14, 1802, at 10:30 a. m., with Rev. Benjamin Grigsby its first pastor.

The Old Bell Church

Norfolk was now to hear the sound of the church bell for the first time, as neither the old parish church, not Christ Church, on Church street, possessed one. The bell for the new Presbyterian church was installed a few weeks prior to March 22, 1803, at a cost of $209.34. The novelty of its sound was pleasant to the people at first, then so deeply touched were their hearts by its call to prayer that they soon forgot the denominational designation of the church and spoke of it only as the bell church and even today when the aged who treasure the past stand before the modernized building they never forget to tell this part of its history; it is now occupied by the colored Baptists.

Friday morning, March 9, 1827, Christ Church on Church street, built in 1800, was entirely destroyed by fire; the congregation at once secured a site on the northwest corner of Freemason and Cumberland streets and upon it erected the church which for eighty-five years has been so familiar to all who know Norfolk.

Some years passed and the Presbyterians wanted another church building, the site of old Christ Church was still vacant and appealed to the trustees; the land was bought by Messrs. N. C. Whitehead, Benjamin Emerson, Robert Soutter, Sr., Charles Reid, C. R. Stribling, E. P. Goodridge and R. H. Chamberlaine, who caused to be erected thereon the church which is the subject of these lines. The original building was without the ornamental front and steeple which made the old landmark in more recent years so attractive; the church was dedicated Sunday, November 20, 1836, with ceremonies most impressive; its doors closed to open no more Sunday, March 31, 1912.

Church Street Edifice

The architecture of the building was changed from time to time as has been stated; the borough's old relic, Norfolk's first church bell, remained in the old belfry until 1844, then it was carefully removed to its new home and tenderly hidden away to await the completion of the long delayed steeple. The officials discovered April 2, 1849, that the bell in some unaccountable way had been cracked and could not be re-hung; in 1854, one from Maneeley's, West Troy, N. Y., was placed in the steeple, and this is the bell which the Norfolk people now recall as one of the memories which their hearts will long retain; its voice was heard every Sunday, and when death entered a home of the congregation it mourned with the mourners at the funeral hour.

This bell of 1854 was rung Sunday, March 31, 1912, at the morning and evening service, and as the record now stands for the last time.

How can the work of a faithful church be measured, who will undertake to tell what was accomplished from 1736 to 1912; consecrated pastors ministered at her altars with increasing devotion; when the blessing of peace rested upon the land their services were unceasing; when pestilence and war came and Norfolk felt their blight, sorrow only drew pastor and people closer to each other; in this list of the servants of God there is one whose name shines forth with a radiance peculiarly its own that of Rev. George D. Armstrong, D. D., LLD., 1851-1891, who led his people for forty years; no word of praise can add anything to his fame, the silence of love is the heart's highest tribute.

From the mother's bosom have gone forth many sons and daughters to establish other churches of her name and faith; these have planted and reaped abundantly, many blessings have come to them but their hearts have never changed in their veneration for the old mother, not in their love for her past.

Sunday, March 31, 1912, will long survive as a precious date. In the evening the last regular service was held within the old sanctuary; the scene comes back, the benediction has been received; its words linger in the heart, farewells are spoken in subdued voices, the organ still plays and in softest tones delivers its final message from the past, one long lingering look and then all is darkness within her walls, only the golden light of memory is there.

The old First Church may look young in her new dress, but she is still the dear old mother, her children with pride in her past and unquestioning faith in her future kneel at her altars, not only with all the devotion of bygone years but with an ever increasing love which shall know no change through all the coming years.

Man's judgment has acted and the people have accepted its verdict as wisest and best, it declared that the days of the church on that spot had been accomplished, then came the end; as the passerby calls it the building has ceased to exist.

The old sanctuary can never be forgotten because "love makes memory eternal," and love has enshrined her walls within many hearts, finally rises higher and higher the thought which crowns the whole with its heavenly glory; whatsoever has been done "In His Name" can never die, it is faith's farewell note of victory from the ruins around.

February 7, 1917 - The Christian Observer

The Presbyterian Church at Norfolk: Its Origin and Development
By W. H. T. Squires, D. D.

The origin of the Presbyterian Church in Tidewater Virginia is lost in the mists of obscurity. Here and there a gleam of light, here and there a bit of information gathered incidentally comes down to us from the far distant twilight land of long ago. Francis Makemie is hailed, and rightly hailed, as the Apostle of American Presbyterianism. He was the moderator of the first Presbytery that held Session in the New World. Yet before the coming of Makemie we were here! He visited the Presbyterians on the Elizabeth River and found them lamenting the death of their late pastor, Rev. Mr. Porter, who had passed away during the summer of 1683. Of this early servant of the Lord we know almost nothing. Whence came he? To whom and where did he preach? How long did he minister before his death? These pressing questions rise unbidden, and no doubt they will be answered wholly or in part for the processes of history are long. Mr. Porter belonged to the generation that wrote the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms. He was a contemporary of Thomas Lord Fairfax, greatest of English Presbyterians.

Grave of Francis Makemie.
Statue that marks the grave of Francis Makemie, Accomac county, Va. Makemie was the "Apostle of American Presbyterianism." He preached frequently to the Presbyterians of Lower Virginia. He probably secured Jonas Mackie for them as pastor in 1692.

This "Makemie Monument" was unveiled on May 14, 1908, at Holden's Creek, Accomac county, Virginia. Inscription on the monument: Erected in gratitude to God and in grateful remembrance of His servant and minister. Francis Makemie who was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland, A. D. 1658 (?), was educated at Glasgow University, Scotland, and came as an ordained evangelist to the American Colonies A. D. 1683, at the request of Col. William Stevens, of Rehoboth, Maryland. A devoted and able preacher of our Lord's Gospel, he labored faithfully and freely for twenty-five years in Maryland, Virginia, the Barbadoes and elsewhere. A Christian gentleman, an enterprising man of affairs, a public spirited citizen, a distinguished advocate of Religious Liberty, for which he suffered under the Governor of New York, he is especially remembered as the chief founder of organized Presbytery in America, A. D. 1706, and as the first moderator of the General Presbytery. He died at his home, whose site is nearby, in Accomac county, Virginia, in the summer of A. D. 1708, and was buried in his family cemetery, located on this spot, now recovered from a long desecration and dedicated with this monument to his memory, A. D. 1908, by the American "Presbyterian Historical Society," seated at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The new town of Norfolk was laid out on fifty acres of land in 1682, did not become a town until 1705, nor a borough until 1736. There were Presbyterians in Norfolk before there was any Norfolk!

The condition of religion in Virginia in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century was simply deplorable. There was one church and one clergyman, when there was one, such as they were, for all Lower Virginia. This parish stretched away over the thick swamps, the broad waters, the magnificent forests, seventy-five miles from Smithfield, Virginia, to the Atlantic and from Hampton Roads to the North Carolina line, which was no line, the very location of which was not determined for many years yet to come. A chapel of ease had been erected on the site of the future city. It was a small frame building that eventually rotted away, the site of which is hopelessly forgotten. But from the chapel of ease the Borough Church developed— almost a hundred years later. This church, now known as St. Paul's, is far and away the oldest building in Norfolk, though the country side is filled with ancient residences, still in excellent repair, that are much older than this church. The stout walls of English brick were laid three feet thick in Flemish bond and successfully withstood the conflagration that swept away the entire city on New Year's Day, 1776. The destruction of the loyal and Tory city of Norfolk by that stubborn and stupid Scot whom the ministry had sent to us as a parting gift, was of a piece with the intelligence and character of John Murray, Lord Dunmore. The Continentals were at the threshold of the city. His Lordship took refuge on His British Majesty's ship "Liverpool" and dispatched sailors to fire the warehouses along the waterfront. A stiff wind caught the flames and when the day's work was done Norfolk, the metropolis of Virginia and one of the most prosperous ports on the Atlantic seaboard, lay a smoking and blackened ruin. Not a place of human habitation, not even of the most humble description, remained upon the spot where 6,000 people had but shortly made their homes. For six months the charred debris remained untouched. In the midst of this utter desolation the stout walls of Borough Church lifted their piteous, roofless sides. The House of God was as deserted and as silent as the tombstones that marked the resting places of two generations lying thick about under the heaving sod. One of the "Liverpool's" cannonballs tore a great, gaping hole in the south gable of the church, for it is to be remembered that Lord Dunmore not only fired the town but added to his infamy by cannonading the stricken inhabitants that fled the roaring flames! The cannon ball may still be seen now firmly fixed in the hole it once tore. Though so old this ancient and historic church was not built until Rev. Mr. Porter had been in his grave fifty-six years.

Francis Makemie made occasional visits to the Presbyterian people who live on the Elizabeth River. He lived in the north end of Accomac county near the Maryland line, preaching regularly both in Virginia and Maryland. He was never a pastor to our people in any proper sense. That would be a geographical impossibility even in this day of steam and gasoline, how much more so two centuries since!

A real pastor did come to the flock ere long, however, in Jonas Mackie. He secured from the county court of Norfolk the coveted privilege of preaching the Gospel. It was exceedingly difficult for any man, it mattered not how noble and good, how devoted, learned or pious he might be, to secure permission to preach anywhere in the colony of Virginia, unless he had taken orders in the Church of England. In that day Norfolk, Virginia, was more devoted to the English Church than London or Canterbury. In 1692 the court permitted Rev. Mr. Mackie to preach at the house of Thomas Ivey on the Eastern Branch of Elizabeth River, at the home of Richard Philpotts on Tanner's Creek, at the home of John Roberts on Western Branch, and four years later at the home of John Dickson on the Southern Branch. For twenty-four years this good man continued his ministrations to the Presbyterian flock. His will is still on record at the office of the clerk of Norfolk county.

There was no church building erected. One naturally inquires the reason. It was against the law to erect any church in Virginia except only a Church of England. A Presbyterian church might have been erected in any town in England, for a Dutch Presbyterian was king, but not in Virginia. Had the spiritual needs of the people been reasonably supplied, the bigotry of such laws might be forgiven, but when they did not supply that need, or even pretend to supply the need their arrogance is unpardonable.

The situation recalls the reproof of Jesus to the Pharisees, "Ye shut the Kingdom of Heaven against men. Ye enter not in yourselves neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter."

A company of Baptists had the temerity to settle in Nansemond county, but were soon forced to flee to North Carolina, lock, stock and barrel. Quakers were not permitted to land, but they did land notwithstanding. Some were driven forth to Maryland, some to Carolina and others to New England. Not only might no house of worship be erected, but no record of any religious meeting might be made. Rev. Jonas Mackie preached at Private houses by special grace on the part of the authorities, but never a record of session or of congregation might be kept. That is why the history of these long suffering Presbyterians cannot be narrated now with more precision and satisfaction. To their eternal honor be it said that laws so unjust and so arrogant were strictly observed. Not a single Presbyterian, minister or layman, ever infringed them.

With the Revolution came at last religious with civil liberty.

In 1792 just one hundred years after the coming of Mr. Mackie, while Washington was still serving his first term as President of the United States, the Presbytery of Hanover, which had care of all the Presbyterians in this state, ordained two young men to the Gospel ministry—and what fine young men they were! One was Archibald Alexander, educator, author, preacher and one of the most brilliant clergymen Virginia has produced. He was the founder of Princeton Theological Seminary. The other young man was Benjamin Porter Grigsby. Young Grigsby was born in Orange county twenty-two years before. While yet a lad his father moved to Lexington and the little fellow was put to Liberty Hall Academy, now Washington and Lee University. He was one of the first graduates of that famous school. Presbytery ordered the two young ministers to itinerate in the lower parts of Virginia. They traveled together as far as Petersburg, where they separated, Alexander traveling south toward Caroline. So he leaves our story. Young Grigsby "with his sole personal possessions in a pair of saddle bags" continued his journey to the flourishing city of Norfolk. He gathered the Presbyterians together, comforted and encouraged them. They asked him to remain permanently as their pastor, but he was called to the churches in Lewisburg and Union, of the present state of West Virginia. This was a great discouragement to the little flock. They remained pastorless. In 1801 the General Assembly met in Philadelphia, indeed the Assembly may have been said to have the Philadelphia habit as they never met elsewhere. They took order that Benj. P. Grigsby should return to Lower Virginia and organize the Presbyterians. It is a clear case of General Assembly's Home Missions and no doubt one of the most important on record as viewed in the light of a century of blessed history. But why did they in this summary manner lay hands upon Grigsby? Had he never forgotten the distracted little flock by the sea? Had they communicated to him their anxiety and long discouragement? Was there a tinge of regret that he ___ them nine years before?

He came. For nine years, all too short, he labored as our first pastor in the new order of things. His success was conspicuous. It is to recall the obstacles against which he must toil. Norfolk has ever been the head center of Toryism in Church and State. From the first the population was largely made up of English and Scotch factors, merchants and agents. They spoke of Great Britain as "home" and considered Virginia but an abiding place. The wealth of the mighty city of Glasgow was built largely at the first upon Virginia tobacco, and the tobacco of Virginia was for the most past shipped from Norfolk. The Presbyterian Church in Tidewater is largely English and not Scotch as in other portions of Virginia and the South. The Scotch who came to Norfolk did not seem to bring any considerable strength to Presbyterianism, the more's the pity. That Grigsby met the situation with wonderful adroitness and tact is sufficiently attested by the mere record of his accomplishments. What an able man he must have been! As we see his figure through the accumulated mists of the full century he stands forth before us in truly heroic size.

He built the first Presbyterian church in lower Virginia. It cost the congregation $12,000 and could not be duplicated today for thrice that sum. It was far and away the finest edifice in the city, and it still stands with more than a century of service behind it, one of the most substantial building in the city. It is now owned by a colored congregation. The old folks knew it as the Bell church, for it was the only church in the city that had a bell.

Grigsby was called upon to bury a sailor lad. He had died Saturday of yellow fever. Mr. Grigsby on Sunday afternoon, laid him away. He caught the terrible disease from the dead man, died the following Saturday, and was buried Sunday afternoon at the same hour that he had laid the sailor to rest.

In memory of
Rev. Benjamin Grigsby
Who was born in the county of Orange, Va.
In September 1770
And died in the borough of Norfolk
on the 6th of October 1810
He was the first pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Virginia
and in the faithful discharge of the duties of his calling
fell a martyr to the yellow fever.

The physicians tell us that it was impossible for Mr. Grigsby to have taken the yellow fever in any such manner. No doubt they are right. But it must be remembered that Grigsby did not know these modern scientific discoveries, so he caught the yellow fever in an old-fashioned way and died an old-fashioned death. He sleeps in the Trinity church yard, Portsmouth. A modest obelisk of marble marks his grave just at the entrance to the little cemetery, and so near the Presbyterian church of Portsmouth that the congregation never sing the Long Meter Doxology, without which Presbyterians can never get comfortably started in the worship of the Lord, but that the sweet strains are wafted over the grave of Benjamin Porter Grigsby, a fitting requiem. He has never received his due need of honor. I delight, therefore, to lay this wreath or rosemary, upon his all but forgotten grave.

When he died he left a 4-year old son destined to become more famous and more useful even than his honored father—Hugh Blair Grigsby, editor, author, historian and educator.

The Presbyterian church had all this while been independent of Hanover Presbytery. In 1814 a commission of which Dr. John Holt Rice was chairman, received the church into Presbytery. After Grigsby many pastors came, labored and left. In 1822 five members were set off as a church in Portsmouth and in 1833-34 Rev. R. F. Cleveland served this church. His famous son, Grover, was born three years after the family moved to New Jersey (1837). By so narrow a margin did the great President miss being a Virginian and the son of the Portsmouth manse. His elder sister Anne was born while her father was pastor here. The old manse has gone long since. It stood in High Street and the site is now occupied by a bank built of pure, white marble, which ministers to the financial needs of the people as the Rev. Mr. Cleveland ministered to their spiritual needs from the same spot. No doubt it was well, for if Grover Cleveland had been the son of the Portsmouth manse and Woodrow Wilson the son of the Staunton manse that would have been too much glory even for such a staid and sober body ecclesiastic as the Presbyterians of Virginia.

In 1840 a new church was erected in Church Street directly opposite the historic Borough church. This also was a First church. It is gone, a hallowed memory. The first First church still remains and the First Church that now is, is the third First church. It seems that Norfolk Presbyterians are partial to First churches.

In the early seventies during the ministry of that devoted servant of God, Rev. Dr. George D. Armstrong, a revival of unusual power broke forth. It was the more remarkable for it came not with observation. There was no special preaching. Sabbath by Sabbath multitudes came voluntarily seeking the way of life. First and last more than a hundred were thus received.

One direct result of this gracious revival was the spontaneous desire for the organization of a Second church in the western section of the city now growing and developing rapidly. There were two strong Episcopal churches, and soon to be three, two Methodist and two Baptist churches. There was room and need for a second church of our faith although much opposition developed at the time. The wisdom of the step has been fully justified in the event. Indeed had the Second church not been formed, it would have proven an irreparable loss to Presbyterianism as the most casual reader cannot fail to understand. In this new church the fires of missionary zeal burned brightly. No less than three of its members are now missionaries to Korea and among the most devoted on our rolls.

It is a well known spiritual law that once the missionary spirit grips a people they are never content with lesser things. The spirit of missionary enterprise like every noble quality of heart and life grows from more to more. The Second church was but hardly established ere it placed a mission Sabbath school on a peninsula to the west of the city. That little school is now the Colley Memorial church with a membership of 150 and an immensely valuable property.

The First church moved to the east and took possession of a peninsula, planting a mission school in the Brambleton addition to the city. That little school is not the Park Avenue church, one of the active and vigorous churches of our Presbytery with a devoted membership of 250.

On another peninsula to the south of Norfolk a few Presbyterians had found themselves in the village of Berkeley. The Sabbath school there established was taken under the care of the First church and has grown into the Armstrong Memorial church doing a fine work for the Master with a membership of 150. This church bears the name of Dr. George D. Armstrong, for 40 years the Nestor of Presbyterianism in Tidewater.

If the First church had once been indifferent to Presbyterian expansion, it was now thoroughly alive to the necessity and the blessedness of city missions. At the request of a member of the church who resided in the village of Huntersville and who is now an honored elder of Knox church, a prayer meeting was held in the parlor of his home. From that modest effort a Sabbath school was established in a peninsula to the north of the city and is now Knox church with a membership of four hundred. Knox church is but seventeen years old, but though so young in years the church considers itself old in wisdom. It is to recall that Knox church covers the territory once served by Rev. Jonas Mackie when two centuries before he preached at the home of Richard Philpotts in Tanner's Creek. The Park Avenue church is the residuary legatee of the meeting in the home of Thomas Ivey on the Eastern Branch and the Armstrong Memorial of the meeting at the home of John Dickson on the Southern Branch. There yet remains the meeting at the home of John Roberts on the Western Branch on the Portsmouth side. That church has not as yet been born.

The First church now established her last daughter, the wealthiest and stateliest of them all. It was placed on the peninsula called locally Ghent. To this church in later years the mother church bequeathed her name, her property and her membership in large part.

Five candlesticks were now set in a complete half-circle about the two parent churches. These be the seven candlesticks, no, gentle reader, not of Asia but of Norfolk —Presbyterian Norfolk.

Meantime the expanding city was offering fine opportunities for a larger work and a still more aggressive future. Colley Memorial took possession of a peninsula to the north and established the Lambert's Point church, a comparatively strong organization though claiming a small membership of only fifty. This is the only church as yet in the fourth generation from the mother church.

Knox church established a mission at Sewell's Point, another peninsula still further north.

The buildings of the Jamestown Exposition were as beautiful as a dream of fairyland. But two years after the captains and the kings departed and the tumult and the shouting died, they present an appearance of desolation and dilapidation absolutely unparalleled. One would never care to see again so fallen a place of human habitation. Here, after an active canvass, a Sabbath school was opened but only two little boys attended the first Sunday, and they were hired to come!

The following Sunday the two little boys had evidently had their fill of religion for not a soul attended! Yet from this disappointing and hopeless beginning a neat church of 40 members is now at work with good prospects for future usefulness.

The Second church had for years maintained a mission school in the strawberry fields of Norfolk county on the far edge of the ever expanding city. That is now the La Fayette church with 50 members and constantly growing. These are the three candlesticks set in the outer circle about the five candlesticks of the inner circle about the two parent churches of the old town. Two excellent and useful mission points have not as yet matured; one in Highland Park, and one on the edge of Princess Anne county near Berkeley.

It is now a far call to the early colonial days of Rev. Mr. Porter, our first dissenting "clergyman, a missionary out of Ireland." But through the cycle of the years the hand of the Lord has been upon this land and Church. If the spirit of aggressive evangelism and missionary effort continues to develop, as in recent years, the Presbyterian Church in Tidewater Virginia will become a mighty factor in the life of the people as it is already a very influential factor. We have a potent enemy—Indifference. Smug self-satisfaction discourages every effort to accomplish more for the Master. But unfortunately its trail is not confined to this section of our fair land.

Fair opportunities have been allowed to pass unimproved but the imperial land of this Virginia Holland, is but in its infancy. The millions that will inhabit here have already been born. The Church that gladly rises to each opening opportunity and steps in with each new beckoning of the hand of Providence will win amongst us a matchless realm for Jesus our King.

Norfolk, Va.


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