The first building 1848-1888

Fellowship Hall


Hallway to Fellowship hall

Teng Ying

The Early Church

The first services were held in the school room of Miss Mary Calkins, located on the east                                                                 side of Third Street about midway between Washington and Columbia Streets,  about                                                                where the police department was located in 2018 before they moved to main street. 

The lot on which the church now stands was purchased in 1845 for the sum of $400.                                                                    The first building was completed in 1848 at a cost of $4,000., including the lot and furnishings. The pews had doors and the church was lighted by tallow dips placed in candlesticks on the wells or held in the hand until kerosene lamps were donated by a church in Cincinnati. The building was heated by stoves and in extreme weather foot stoves were filled with hot coals. 

The early years of the church were marked by divisions, debt and short pastorates. But as Burlington became less a frontier outpost, the church as well grew into maturity. With the leadership of Rev. J. C. McClintock, the church decided to erect the structure in which we still worship today. It was also under Rev. McClintock's leadership that the church chose to support a young man studying  at a mission school in China. This boy grew up to be the Rev. Teng Ying, an inspiration to the church for over 100  years. Mr. Teng and his family were martyred in the Boxer Rebellion, giving their lives rather than denouncing their faith.

The building at the corner of Fifth and Washington was completed in 1888 at a cost of $35,000. It was dedicated free of debt. You can find a copy of the news article from 1888 here. Surely the most striking feature of the sanctuary is the beautiful collection of stained glass windowns. truly a work of art.

A major remodeling of the church was completed and dedicated in 1951. At that time, the southern section of the facility, including church offices, the Edwards Chapel and the Sunday school department on the lower level were added. This was also when the magnificent Aeolian-Skinner organ was given as a gift by Mrs. Edward P. Eastman. The organ is a three manual instrument with 34 ranks and 2,138 pipes. Wide varieties of tone color and mechanicals together with the harp and chimes make it an importmant part of our worship of God and an instrument renowned in this part of the country. 

What brought those first pioneers to the rough and tumble outpost that came to be known as Burlington? They came for many reasons as pople still set off to find a new oppprtunity on the frontiers of today. A handful of them brought their belief in a sovereign God and an orderly way of conducting church business with them from the valleys of Ohio ad Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well as from hills of Scotland. Their dedication to their faith and theor knowledge that a visible presence for the church is a valuable asset for any city is our heritage today. Burlignton may now have a police force and a library and a hospital and many other "civilized" accoutrements. But it, like all of the United States in the 21st century, is a great mission field, full of people who do not yet know fo themselves the saving love of Jesus Christ. Our beautiful beacon on the hill is also our starting line in the marathon race to bring the sure knowledge of salvation to ourselves and to each one of our neighbors. 

                                                                                     In the year 1832, the Sac and Fox Indian tribes ceded to the United                                                                                    States government, by what is known as the Black Hawk treaty, six million                                                                                  acres of land in what is known as the southeastern corner of the state of                                                                                  Iowa.  In the following year, this fine tract of land was opened to settlement                                                                              by those of European decent. Settlers poured across the river; by the years                                                                              following the first gold rush to California, it is estimated that 20,000 people                                                                            passed through Burlington in one month. Among those who stayed put, beginning in the 1830's were, immigrants from the Ohio River valley who bore in their character and outlook on life the impress of their Calvinistic training and their Presbyterian traditions.

As early as 1836, the Rev. Launcelot G. Bell, a Presbyterian minister known for many years as Father Bell, came to Burlington. Although Bell started 9 churches in southeast Iowa, he was unsuccessful in launching a congregation in the rough and tumble atmosphere of early Burlington. In February, 1845, the Rev. Charles Cummins and the Rev. William L. McCalla were successful in planting the church that remains the First Presbyterian Church of Burlington today. The church had seven charter members, all of whom had been assembled into a group by Father Bell, but never officially constituted as a church.

For more information on Burlington, Iowa history go to GateHouseNews.com  or Burlington, IA Wikipedia..