As the first religious organization in Danville, the First Presbyterian Church dates back almost to the beginning of local history. Illinois became a state in 1818; Vermilion County was organized in 1826; the village of Danville became the county seat in 1827; and the First Presbyterian Church was organized in 1829. Thus, the history is interwoven with the history of Danville.
The organization of the First Presbyterian Church was recorded as follows by the Session of the church:
Danville, Vermilion County, Illinois
March 7, 1829
At the close of public worship on Saturday, conducted by Rev. Samuel Baldridge, V.D.M. it was decided to organize a church and Dr. Asa R. Palmer, an elder from New York, was elected to office of ruling Elder, prayer and previous consultant being had March 7, 1829 Lord’s Day, after the sermon by Dr. Baldridge, a church was truly organized under the style of the “Presbyterian Church of Danville,” composed of the persons: Asa R. Palmer, Mary Ann Alexander, Josiah Alexander, Solomon Gilbert, Submit Gilbert, Lucy Gilbert, Parmela Tomlinson. Asa R. Palmer was formally installed into the eldership over this church.
S. Baldrigge, V. D. M. Ministry
The first Communion noted in the church records took place on May 5, 1829. Later that year, on September 20, the session was enlarged by the ordination of Josiah Alexander as an elder.
On the second Sunday in January 1831, Rev. Enoch Kingsbury became the church pastor. He served as pastor for twenty years, and for seven more years as supply pastor.
For nearly six years the congregation had no sanctuary and met in such places as could be procured. In the year 1835, a house 40 by 26 feet was erected at the expense of $1,200 for the double purpose of church meetings and school. In 1858, a larger church was erected on the corner of North and Franklin and then in 1891, the cornerstone was laid for our present church. Since then there have been renovations, additions, and reconstructions.
When the present church building was erected (1893), a number of windows in memory of departed ministers and members were placed in the church. The following memorial windows were given by subscription or by family members:
- Rev. Enoch Kingsbury, pastor—The cross, palm branch, and crown symbolize Christ’s victory and sovereignty in the Kingsbury window.
- Rev. W. R. Palmer, pastor—The Palmer window shows Mary anointing Jesus, John 12:1-8.
- Benjamin Crane, an elder—The Crane window depicts Jesus raising of Jairus’ daughter, Luke 8:40-56.
- Rev. Asahel L. Brooks, pastor—The Brooks window shows Christ, the Good Shepherd, faced outward to the world. It was a gift of Misses Lottie, Mary, and Lydia Jones.
- Richard T. Leverich, elder who initiated the construction of the second church building—The quotation from Psalm 39:7 and the anchor is a symbol of the assurance of God’s dependability and constancy in the Leverich window.
- Solomon Gilbert, charter member—The Gilbert window is an allusion to Mark 4:29 with the wheat and sickle.
- James McKimir Culbertson, elder—The upper portion of the Culbertson window was rebuilt in the 1980-1981 renovation with glass salvaged from windows removed when the north addition was built in 1961.
The window behind the pulpit is identical to its counterpart across the room except for the center flowers. A hand-carved wooden reredos frames it. Upon close examination, multicolored faceted glass placed as jewels and lilies are featured as the centerpiece in the east window.
In our library are four stained glass windows with the following inscriptions:
- “That our daughters may be as cornerstone, polished after the similitude of a Palace” from Psalm 144:12
- “Hosannah Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord” from John 12:13
- “He Shall gather the lambs with his arms and carry them in His bosom” from Isaiah 40:11
- “Peace be within thy walls” from Psalm 122:7
In our lounge are stained glass windows with the following inscriptions:
- “Suffer little children to come to me and forbid them not” from Matthew 19:14
- “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” from Matthew 5:8
- A window that no longer has its inscription, but which is believed to have been “In Memory of Grace” given by Mr. & Mrs. C. R. Brown for their granddaughter
- An unnamed window, given by a mother, in memory of their little children in the then infant school who had been taken away by death.