First Presbyterian Church, San Jose; Joining hands with Christ in the Inner City

A Blast from Our Past
This column looks back at our history. We intend it to generate conversation and welcome your information for future columns. Published in May 2009 Messenger newsletter.

First Presbyterian Church, San Jose, 1924

San Jose Mercury News, October 6, 1949:
A Hundred Years Ago

“From the viewpoint of religious people, October 7, 1849, was one of the most important days in San Jose history. On that day the First Presbyterian Church was organized. Also on that day the St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish was founded. Apparently both Catholics and Protestants in the little Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe were dead-set upon carrying on religious activities in this community.

“Anniversaries are a convenient time for looking back. And a most interesting look it is. On October 7, 1849, San Jose consisted of a number of houses, built of adobe, bricks or wood, most of them grouped around the plaza which is now known as City Hall Park.

“There were some stores, mostly one-story structures, and a few hotels. The village streets were ankle-deep in dust in Summer and hub deep in mud in Winter. Transportation was by stage-coach, buggy, or on horseback. Only a tiny percentage of the valley was under cultivation, most of the valley floor being covered with grass and willows. Water was abundant, with streams, flowing all year around…

“In 1849, the Rev. J. W. Douglas organized the Presbyterian Church at the old Juzgado, the Alcalde’s Hall of Justice. After the legislative hall was completed they worshipped there. In the latter part of 1850, under the pastoral charge of Rev. Isaac H. Brayton, a church edifice was erected. Of this building the doors, windows, blinds, and pews had already performed many years of sacred service in the old Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York under Rev. Dr. Cox, and for a short time were used by the Plymouth Church, under Henry Ward Beecher. When this church was demolished to make room for Beecher’s new church the material was sent to California and sold. This church was build on a 50 vara lot on the east side of Second Street, between Santa Clara and St. John and cost $5,000. The cost of the building was $3,000. The society at that time was composed of three members. In 1853, this building was cut in two and twenty feet added, at a cost of $1,000. In 1864, a new and larger church was desired. The old church was removed and a new brick church, at a cost of $22,000. was erected in its stead. This building has been extended since its erection by the addition of a large lecture room in the rear. This addition is two stories high. The lower is used as a lecture room and Sunday School room. The upper contains two handsome and spacious parlors and the offices and study of the pastor. The new church is one of the handsomest in the city and has a very large congregation. The Rev. H C. Minto is pastor.

First Presbyterian Church | 49 N. 4th Street | San Jose, CA  95112 | 408-297-7212 | Site Map