First Presbyterian Church of Paris, TN has served the City of Paris and Henry County for over 200 years. The last 100 years have been in our current building. We have gone from renting out rooms in the Paris Lodge and the City Hall to build a small
house of worship and Mance to accommodating the growing congregation by building our current structure on the corner of W. Blythe St and S. Market St starting in 1913. When the continued to grow we added on to the building in the 1960s to accommodate our congregation.
The First 100 Years at a glance
The history of the Presbyterian Church of Paris dates considerably more than 100 years, possibly as early as 1820.Rev. Grimble was one of the first Pastors to preach at Presbyterian Church in Paris, TN about 1820*. A small band of Presbyterians bought property and built a house of worship and a manse on
North Market Street between 1820 and 1830. Ten persons, nine men, and one woman, each gave $100 toward the cost. The first pastor of whom there is a record was Rev. Grimble.
When the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized later, it took almost the entire congregation. Grimble moved east of town, built a dwelling and schoolhouse, opened a school for young men and used the school building for church services.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was partially organized in 1857. Rev. Abner Cooper conducted the first service, preaching just three hours. Others who preached to this church were Revs. Charles Bradley, Rueben Burrows, B. W. McDonald, and Rev. Ben Luskey, who preached the dedication sermon.
The organization of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was finally completed in 1866. Its first official act of record was to ordain O. F. James an elder in 1868.
In 1906 the Cumberland Presbyterians, by an act of the General Assembly, merged with the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. The church remained part of the Presbytery of West Tennessee until reunion created the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the church became part of the Presbytery of Memphis.
Negotiations with the Paris Lodge F.&A M. for a place to worship were begun before the Civil War, but it was some years thereafter when deed was made by the Masons to the trustees and elders of the church for the consideration of $1,000. The building stood on the corner of Poplar and Ruff Streets until 1914. The Masons owned the lot and used the second story of the building for the Masonic Hall,
while the church occupied the lower floor as an auditorium for worship services. An early historian says that this the same room was first a ballroom and that some of the oldest members said they had “both danced and shouted” in the building. The church in May 1913 purchased the present site on the corner of Market and Blythe Streets. The congregation worshipped in the circuit courtroom of the courthouse, one block away, for several years pending the building of the new church. The cornerstone was laid for the building in the fall of 1916, during the pastorate of Rev. B. B. Lavender. Lavender enlisted to do Y.M.C.A. work for World War I in 1917. but before leaving preached the first sermon in the new church using the basement, the main auditorium not being finished. The first service held in the auditorium was the funeral of the late Dr. S. H. Caldwell, an elder who had been chief surgeon to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Civil War, in December 1917. The women’s organization of the church dates to 1913 with the organization of the Westminster Guild. Later, the Molly Caldwell Missionary Society was organized, named in tribute to the late Mrs. S. H. Caldwell, then the oldest member of the congregation. Still later, the Women’s Missionary Society was organized in the church and the three societies operated for a number of years until they were
Dr. E.W Grove, he is famous for making E.W. Grove's Chill Tunic that was made in Paris, TN. Most of the financial contributions to the church during the construction era were mainly funded by Dr. E.W. Grove. In appreciation for his contributions to the church, the congregation erected the stained glass you see to the right in his honor. First Presbyterian conducted the first daily vacation Bible school in Paris in the 1920s, and other Paris churches sent representatives to observe the pioneer undertaking. Mr.
Lavender returned to hold the service. Friends worked almost the entire night putting in the seats for the funeral. Lavender also preached the dedication sermon in 1923. It would have been difficult to erect the building without the financial help of Dr. E. W. Grove, patent medicine entrepreneur who built Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., and who was an elder in the church. Grove’s funeral was held in the church in early 1927. For years, an electric cross given by Mrs. Grove hung over the front entrance. She was buried from the church in 1928.
"Rye moved to Paris, Tennessee, in 1902, where he became the district attorney general of Henry County from 1910 to 1914 and earned a reputation for strong law enforcement and a firm stance against bootleggers. Rye became an acceptable Democratic candidate for the 1914 gubernatorial race. In an effort to unite the party, the Democrats wrote a platform favoring prohibition." Owens, Anne-Leslie. “Thomas Clarke Rye.” Tennessee Encyclopedia, Tennessee Historical Society, 1 Mar. 2018, tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/thomas-clarke-rye/. Gov. Tom C. Rye and his wife regularly attended worship for many years. Rye died in 1953 at the age of 90.
Governor Tom C. Rye
Our church also pioneered in another field during the 1965-66 school term when it sponsored a kindergarten for 4 and 5-year-old of all denominations. The venture was a success, and continues today as the Presbyterian Pre-Kindergarten for 4-year-old.
Photo from Wikimedia
During the 1970's ministry, constructed a major addition to the church building, adding a fellowship hall and kitchen, church offices, a combination of chapel/meeting room, and restrooms, at the same time installing an elevator and renovating the rest of the building. You can see the aerial view of the addition of the right. This addition helped the growing congregation have more space to have meetings and updated workspaces for the church secretary and pastor.
Rev. Arthur L. Lodge, joined First Presbyterian Church of Paris, TN in 1991 making him the 24th known pastor to have served the church. Two of his predecessors, W. M. Bigham and Harry E. Flowers, both served the church for more than 25 years. During the Flowers ministry, the church built a new manse and also constructed a major addition to the church building, adding a fellowship hall and kitchen, church offices, a combination chapel/meeting room, and restrooms, at the same time installing an elevator and renovating the rest of the building. The manse was sold when Rev. Lodge became pastor in 1991.
Photo By Google Maps
Rev. Authur Lodge
Rev. Arthur L. Lodge decided to leave Fist Presbyterian Church Paris, Tn due to health issues in 2008. Rev. Bonnie K. Pettijohn becomes our interim pastor in 2008. In mid-to-late 2009 First Presbyterian Church of Paris, TN accepted Rev. Jennifer G. Goggins 2009 as the new pastor.
Rev. Dr. Jenna Goggins left First Presbyterian Church of Paris, TN in 2016. In the 2017 First Presbyterian Church of Paris, TN accepted Rev. Carol Wade as the Interim Pastor.
In 2016 First Presbyterian Church of Paris, TN celebrated one hundred years of worshiping in the same church building.
Rev. Dr. Jenna Goggins
Stain Glass Windows
The sanctuary is distinguished by four large stained glass picture windows taken from religious paintings by recognized artist: “The Light of the World” by Holman Hunt, “The Good Shepherd” by Bernard Plocqhorst, “Christ in Gethsemane” by Johann Heinrich Hofman and “The Ascension” by Gottlieb Pater Biermann. The manufacturer was so pleased with them he asked permission to display them in a New York museum before shipping them to Paris.
Member Who Went on to be Ministers
Three members of the congregation, Charles Ernest Williams, Jack Edmission and Douglas Scott have been ordained to the ministry, and two other members who entered the ministry after leaving Paris were Dr. J. M. Corum, Jr. and Paul E. Doran.