A brief history of the First Presbyterian Church of Lowville
Our church has a long and interesting history that began just north of the village in 1803, in a place called Stow’s Square. A number of pioneers thought that this area would be the center of the community. Rev. Ira Hart, a missionary from Connecticut, organized a Congregational Society there and church services were held for a time in members’ homes or the schoolhouse. In those days the Presbyterian churches in northern New York all began as Congregational congregations. In 1807, Silas Stowe deeded the site where our church today stands, to ”the citizens of Lowville for the erection of a building that might serve as a meeting house or an academy…” A wooden building (38’ x 52’, two stories tall) was built for just such a purpose and on September of the same year the First Congregational Society of Lowville was formed. The Rev. Isaac Clinton was installed the following year as pastor to both congregations (and as the first principal of Lowville Academy). The two churches shared pastors for the next fourteen years while each had their own membership they worshipped together on alternate Sundays in each other’s buildings.
All of this changed when the congregation in Stows Square decided in 1818 to join the Presbytery of St. Lawrence and become a Presbyterian Church. Right after this, they raised funds and built a church building.This seeming defection caused the break down of the Presbyterian Society of Lowville (the two congregations) and in 1822 the Lowville Congregation adopted a confession of faith and covenant and formed the Second Presbyterian Church of Lowville. The split of the two congregations was the killing blow, for in a matter of years the Stow’s Square church ceased to exist, and today nothing remains of it but the granite step stone on Route 26. The Rev. David Kimball was pastor at this time.
The Lowville village church had met for years in the small wooden structure that also housed Lowville Academy. After twenty years the school outgrew the space and it was sold outright to the new Society. They made arrangements to erect a new building on the site but within 18 months, it burned to the ground on December 25, 1827. Another wooden building was built and stood until January 3, 1830 when it too burned to the ground. It was a trying time for the church because their pastor, Rev. Kimball, had resigned after nine years during which the church had grown from twelve members to eighty-two. In the early spring of 1831 the members started to rebuild on the “footprint” of the old buildings, only this time in stone. In September of that year the present building was completed and dedicated.
The church moved along with the times, purchasing a brick house on State Street for the manse and building next door to it a “church house” for meetings and Sunday School. (The present home of Headstart) In 1865 the stone church underwent extensive interior renovations (sadly no pictures exist of the building previous to this time), which necessitated the holding of church services for nearly six months in the Court House. In 1860 a bell was installed in the church steeple, and in 1877 a pipe organ was installed in the sanctuary. Later in 1906, another extensive renovation was undertaken on the sanctuary, this time adding a choir loft, a porch outside the front doors (later torn off in 1937), the “upper kitchen” and many stained glass windows. In 1911 a former clock was replaced with the 3-faced one still working to this day.
The next huge change to the physical structure came about in 1952 when the current basement was dug out creating Sunday School rooms and the “lower kitchen”. Under the pastorate of Robert Stover, the house next door, owned by the Frederick Parker family, was purchased in 1968 and became the Andover House, a name created by the combination of the names of the then current pastor with the one just previous, Dr. O.T. Anderson. In 1976 our new pipe organ was installed, and in the mid 1980’s the west entrance was added making the sanctuary handicap accessible for the first time. This accessibility was continued with the installation of a lift and bathroom in 2007-2008. At that time the basement was redone and the nursery was transformed into a large kitchen appropriate for the preparation of free community dinners, which have become a central mission of the church.
The building, styled after early New England architecture, stands on a small rise above the little village park a juncture of North State and West State Streets. Its scenic location makes it a popular spot for weddings and picture taking.
The congregation that meets here has a long history of service to the surrounding community and beyond. Its members have been active in hospital volunteer work, the formation of Lewis County Hospice, Literacy Volunteers, Christmas Sharing, the local Food Pantry, bloodmobiles, Stephen's Ministry, Stone Soup Mission Dinners. and dozens of other vehicles for “bearing one another’s burdens”. They warmly welcome visitors and, like the building in the picture, they often have been a refuge from storms and a light on life’s path.