The Presbyterian Church 

Red Bluff, CA

 
 
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Past & Present
 
 

The First Fifty Years

 

Prior to the establishment of organized churches in Tehama County, the spiritual needs of the people were met by ministers and priests traveling through the Sacramento Valley.  Exactly when Presbyterian missionary services began in Red Bluff is not certain; however, in 1860 a church was organized.

The first meeting of eleven interested Christian men and women was held in the old brick schoolhouse on the Tehama County Courthouse grounds on November 4, 1860.  The next Sunday, November 11, 1860, the organization of the Presbyterian Church in Red Bluff was completed and Watson Chalmers was ordained as the first Ruling Elder by Reverend Brier.  This early church organization makes the Presbyterian Church of Red Bluff the second oldest church in the Sacramento Presbytery, the oldest being the church in Marysville, which was established in 1850.

The first two years of services were held at various sites, including the schoolhouse, the Courthouse, and sometimes even the great out-of-doors.  The first pastor of the  church was Reverend James McLaughlin. He had become a non-traditional student, first getting a BA, then graduating from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He married and sailed to California by the way of Isthmus, to become installed.  

In May of 1861, plans were drawn for a Presbyterian Church building and with less than $3,000 in the treasury, work was begun.

The new church building was located in the middle of the 500 block on Jefferson Street, just north of the present Episcopal Church.  Ceremonies were held on September 7, 1861, with Reverend W. Walsworth of Oakland conducting the dedication.  

The first pastor of the  church was Reverend James McLaughlin. He had become a non-traditional student, first getting a BA, then graduating from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He married and sailed to California by the way of Isthmus, to become installed. 

 

In 1871 Reverend Horace Mayhew became the minister and the church began to grow slowly.  During this active period the church was incorporated, by-laws were adopted, and the church took on new life.  Along with new life came a new name.  Originally “The First Constitutional Presbyterian Church in Red Bluff,” the name was changed in 1881 to “The First Presbyterian Church of Red Bluff.”

 

Reverend Mayhew continued to serve as pastor until 1887, when Reverend P.L. Carden answered the call to Red Bluff.

It was during the ministry of Reverend Carden that the Presbyterian  congregation witnessed the first of three fires it was to suffer.  The first Presbyterian Church in Red Bluff burned to the ground in August, 1889.

 

Deciding to move the location farther north, the congregation purchased the southeast corner of Jefferson and Hickory Streets where a new church was built.  Before the new building had been completed however, death took the well-loved pastor, Reverend Carden, on November 8, 1890.  Under his leadership, the Presbyterian congregation had grown in size and importance.

 

The new church building was completed and dedicated May 3, 1891, with the new minister, Reverend E.H. Jenks.

 

On May 2, 1898 fire struck again, destroying the elegant Presbyterian Church after a short seven years of existence.  The fire started in a woodshed, ignited a barn filled with hay, then caught the church aflame.  The cinders had not yet cooled before plans were being made and money being raised to construct a new church building at the same location. The beautiful stained glass windows were memorial gifts to the church.

 

The fiftieth anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in Red Bluff began on Sunday, February 27, 1910, at 10 o’clock with a Sunday School rally for the special commemorative service and ended Wednesday evening with a “social season of short addresses, music, song and refreshments.”  The Reverend Dr. Robert McKenzie of New York City, gave the anniversary sermon. 

 

 

The Following Years

 

November 16, 1935, marked the celebration of the church’s seventy-fifth anniversary.

 

In 1945, because of the increase in youth attendance and activities, it became necessary to enlarge church facilities.

The property, south of the church served as the church Annex for several years.  The Annex was used as the church office and for youth activities until it was torn down to make way for the Christian Education buildings.

 

In 1955, under the leadership of Reverend Wallace, the church expanded its activities and Christian commitment.  Among the various projects instituted by Rev. Wallace were attendance at summer youth retreats, broadcasts of Sunday services, holding monthly coffee hours, formation of a Board of Ushers, establishment of regular Family Nights of fellowship, and construction of the two Christian Education buildings, which were dedicated in November of 1959.

 

It was during the pastorship of Reverend Wallace that the Presbyterian Church of Red Bluff celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1960. 

 

As a result of a basement fire on December 17, 1967, the church was declared unsafe and the 68 year-old church building, which had served so many for so long, was condemned and a new sanctuary was constructed.

 

The summer of 1968 saw the removal of the beautiful stained glass windows that adorned the old church.  When the new church was completed in 1972, not all the windows were included in the new building. 

 

The new Presbyterian Church building was dedicated Sunday afternoon, April 9, 1972.  The modern building was in sharp contrast to the traditional edifice razed in 1968.  The exterior of the new church blended with the earlier expansion buildings completed in 1959.

 

The 125th anniversary was celebrated on November 16, 1985, under Reverend Wright’s ministry.

 

We celebrated our 150th anniversary in 2010, renewing our faith and endeavors so that future generations will look back and say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servants.”

 

The year 2015 finds the Presbyterian Church in Red Bluff secure in its rich tradition and resolved to grow in Christ’s service.  We give thanks for the many people who have joined in fellowship throughout the years to make our church a viable, concerned and dedicated force in the community.