History of First Presbyterian Church
The Old Church
The Winona Presbyterian Church, with membership of 115 and Sunday School enrollment of 119, was organized in 1838 by the Rev. Alexander Newton, in Middleton, Carroll County (now including Montgomery County), Mississippi. With the coming of the Illinois Central Railroad, which missed Middleton by three miles, the population moved to the railroad at its present site in Winona.
About 1861, the Presbyterians moved their wood frame church building from Middleton to Winona, locating it on property of Col. O. J. Moore, just west of the present church. For a time the church building was used for a primary school, taught by Mrs. Emma Nabors.
In 1881, the Presbyterians purchased a lot 40 x 80 feet on the corner of Summit and Sterling Alley, from Jesse Pace who had a blacksmith shop there. The Church was moved from the Moore lot to a lot on Webster Street, where it was used as a primary school, taught by Mrs. Ruffin Thompson. Later it was sold to Mr. O. W. Sturdivant, who used the lumber in the construction of the home of Mrs. B. A. Talbert on Jones Street.
At a cost of $2500.00, a new building was erected at the Webster Street site. This building housed the Presbyterians until 1913, when it was moved to its present location on Webster street, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Spencer. The Current brick Church was begun at this time, and during the time of its construction, the Presbyterians were accorded the use of the Episcopal Church for their worship services.
The first service in the present brick church edifice was held January 11, 1914. This building was completed at a cost of $14,000.00 and the pipe organ was installed by the Women of the Church. Portraits of the exterior and interior of the old wood frame church are preserved in two memorial windows in the vestibule of the present church. The need for a new educational building was urgent and work on this building was started in April, 1951. The Educational Building was dedicated March 2, 1952.
By 2015, the original zinc dome over the sanctuary had been in place for more than a century and was leaking badly. After raising the necessary funds, a copper dome was installed in the summer of 2015 by Lipford Sheet Metal.
The Rev. E. W. Ford brought his wife to Winona as a bride in 1891. She was the daughter of Rev. A. H. Mecklin, who has supplied the Winona Church from 1883 to 1884. Ministers serving church since its organization are: Rev. Alexander Newton, 1838-44; Rev. Troy, 1845-47; Rev. Morgan, 1847; Rev. Smith, 1847-48; Rev. J. M. Morrison, 1848-54; Rev. Chas. Hart, 1854; Rev. C. M. Atkinson, 1854-55; Rev. F. A. Tyler, 1855-57; Rev. James Naylor, 1858-65; Rev. E. M. Richardson, 1866-70; Rev. S. S. Brown, 1870-71; Rev. I. J. Daniels, 1883; Rev. A. H. Mecklin, 1883-84; Rev. J. C. Carothers, 1884-85; Rev. J. A. Mecklin, 1885; Rev. John H. Boyd, 1886-89; Rev. Robert Price, 1889; Rev. John S. Shaw, 1889-91; Rev. E. W. Ford, 1891-98; Rev. J. W. Cobb, 1898-1900; Rev. Robert W. Mecklin, 1900; Rev. J. A. Mecidin, 1900-1901; Rev. A. F. Laird, 1902-07; Rev. S. Gordon Hutton, 1907-09; Rev. J. C. McMullen, 1910-20; Rev. J. P. Anderson, 1920-21; Rev. J. N. Brown, 1922-25; Rev. Horace L. Villee, 1926-34; Rev. R. S. Lowe, 1935-64; Rev. Frank Scarlett, 1966-68; Rev. Thomas R. Patete, 1969-75; Rev. Harold Richardson 1976-2007; Rev. David Malcolm Dennis 2007-2009; Rev. Grover Gunn 2009 to 2012; Rev. Ryan Biese 2013 to present.
In 1915, Miss Nellie McMullen became the first member of the church to volunteer for foreign service, though Dr. Robert J. McMullen and Mrs. Kitty McMullen Farrior, children of the pastor, had already volunteered for foreign service and entered upon their work in China.
Four people have entered the ministry from this church since 1889; these are: Leslie Alsworth, Dr. G. T. Gillespie (later became president of Belhaven College), John Mecklin Simpson (ordained 1934), Gordon Smith.
In 1879, the first Ladies Aid Society was formed, with Mrs. Elizabeth Moore as president. Mrs. B. F. Ward succeeded Mrs. Moore and served until 1905: followed by Mrs. A. F. Laird, Mrs. E. Dunstan, and Mrs. W. S. Webster. During Mrs. Webster’s administration, the first permanent Missionary Society was formed in 1910 with Mrs. J. C. McMullen as first president. In 1920, the Ladies Aid Society and the Missionary Society merged into the Woman’s Auxiliary.
Mrs. M. C. Staples became the first president, succeeded in 1923 by Mrs. M. K. Home, Mrs. W. S. Webster in 1924, Mrs. J. L. Whitehead in 1926; then Mrs. Johnson Rowe, Mrs. B. C. Scott, Mrs. M. M. Bardwell, and Mrs. J. A. Dantzler. In May, 1954, Mrs. M. A. Dantzler, who was 81 was honored by the Women of the Church by being the first member of the organization to be presented a lifetime membership. Mrs. Dantzler had been an active member of the Ladies’ organization of the church since she joined the church in 1900.
In May, 1973 a Convocation of Sessions across the Presbyterian Church met in Atlanta, Ga. for the purpose of “discussing future steps that should be taken to maintain a Presbyterian Church faithful to the Scriptures”. On July 16, 1973, the Session of the First Presbyterian Church Winona adopted a recommendation to the congregation that this church ask to be dismissed from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in order to associate ourselves with the Continuing Presbyterian Church (now the Presbyterian Church in America PCA). On August 5, 1973, the congregation voted to ask to be dismissed from the PCUS and September 18, 1973, the petition was sent to the Presbytery of St. Andrews for dismissal. Constitutional Documents required for membership in the Continuing Presbyterian Church were adopted November 18, 1973 and the church officially became part of the National Presbyterian Church December 4, 1973. The name was later changed to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).