First Presbyterian Church

Dixon, Illinois

A hundred years ago next month, on June 23, 1851, The Telegraph reported that "some Presbyterians wising to worship in accordance with their own views and customs," began to have preaching services in the district school house. Formal organization of the church followed less than two years later, on January 29, 1853.

This spring members of the First Presbyterian church of Dixon plan to begin a building improvement program voted by the congregation on June 27, 1947, and have raised more than three-fourths of the costs.

Services were held somewhat irregularly from the time the Presbyterian flock first met in 1851, until Reverend George Stebbins and Ithamar Pillsbury, a committee of two, appointed by the Presbytery of Rock River, came to Dixon to formally organize the First Presbyterian Church.

The ten original members included; George Sharar, Mary Sharar, James Means, Isabella Means, Margaret Richardson, John Beatty, Nancy Beatty, Robert McBride, Mrs. James Smith and Mrs. James Little. Two children were baptized on this Sunday; Samuel Little, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Little and George Smith, son ofMr. and mrs. James Smith.

First pastor was Dr. W.W. Harsha, who came to Dixon to establish a college under auspices of the Presbytery of Rock River. He laid the cornerstone of the college, the Dixon Collegiate Institute, July 4, 1855, the institute being backed by a $25,000 endowment and donations from Dixon citizens of $12,000 and grounds in Bluff Park.

Dedication of the first church building followed February 17, 1856 by Dr. Harsha, on the present Presbyterian lot.

Soon after the organization of the church a group of New England Congregationalists enlarged its fellowship and it became necessary to seek a larger building.

The congregation met for awhile with the Methodist, but this was not satisfactory because of the growing membership of both church. On January 5, 1861 the Presbyterians moved to a building in North Dixon formerly occupied by the Unitarians.

During th Civil War years congregations became divided on the question of slavery and states rights. It was during this period that Dr. Harsha left the pastorate of the local church to accept a call to one of the Chicago churches.

Dr. E.C. Sickels, the second pastor of the church, was installed June 1, 1853. His was the longest pastorate on record. It was during Dr. Sickels pastorate that the present edifice was built, April 16, 1864, at a cost of $5,000.

Dr. Sickels active ministry came to a close in 1895 because of a stroke of paralysis. During the 32 years of his ministry, the congregation doubled in size, and Dixon grew from a small village to sa city.

The third pastor, Rev. A.R. Bickenbach, was installed November 21, 1895. During his pastorate an organization of ladies known as the Candle Lighters was formed. It was necessary during Mr. Bickenbach's ministry to increase the size of the edifice, and the new addition wsa formerly dedicated January 9, 1898, at a cost of $3,500.

The Rev. Mr. Bickenback closed his ministry in the fall of 1899, and the following January a call was accepted by Dr. S.S. Cryor. During his ministry $5,100 was raised for a new organ, and the present arrangement of sanctuary was made at that time. The congregation voted to use the individual communion service, and to accept the rotary system of electing church officers, a year prior to the close of Dr. Cryor's ministry.

Ministers who followed Dr. Cryor had very successful pastorates. It was during the ministry of Dr. A.J. Holland in 1916 that the present manse was purchased. Before this time it was necessary for the minister to provide his own home.

Two organizations wer formed under the ministry of the Rev. Herbert J. Doran, the Women's Association (unifying all the women's organizations) and the Board of Deacons. The local Women's Association was the first to be formed in the Presbytery of Rock River.

During the present pastorate two new organization have been formed, the Mariners Club for the young married couples and the Presbyterian Men's Club for all men of the church.

Present pastor is the Rev. B.B. Cartwright, who will complete his eight years at the First Presbyterian church in June.

Other pastors serving the church have included the Revs. R.M. Chrissman, A.J. Holland, J.M. Tidball- D.D., P.H. Case - Ph.D and J.F. Young. Organizations are: the Session Board of Trustees, Board of Deacons, Church school, the Candle Lighters, Women Association, Mariner's club and Junior and Senior Westminster Fellowship.

From the Dixon Evening Telegraph - Anniversary Edition 1 May 1951

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