First Presbyterian Church, dating back to 1819, is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Presbyterian Church, like all Christian churches, traces its roots back to the early church in Jerusalem. The first presbytery in America was established in Philadelphia in 1706. Presbyterianism was so prevalent in America that some British called the American Revolution the “Presbyterian Revolt.” At least 14 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians (including clergyman John Witherspoon).
Presbyterians are a group of Protestants whose church is founded on the concept of democratic rule under the word of God. In the New Testament, Presbuteros , means “elder,” and refers to the custom of choosing leaders and advisors from among the wisest members of the church. The Presbyterian Church is a representative democracy governed by the elders elected from and by the congregation. Our denomination has a website that offers a thorough discussion of Presbyterian beliefs.
The PC(USA) is divided into regional units known as presbyteries. Our Presbytery spans the area between the eastern Kentucky border and West past Lexington, South to the Tennessee State Border and North to the Ohio Border and is known as Transylvania Presbytery.
What We Believe
There is no strict set of beliefs which unites Presbyterians or separates them from other followers of Christ. Presbyterians have always believed that the Bible is the most authoritative source for faith and practice for all people. We believe that the Bible is an inspired record of the revelation of God to all. Presbyterians do not beleive that the authors of the Bible were “pens of God” as the pre-Chrisitian writers believed, but rather that they were “inspired” by God to reveal God to all people.
All that is required to be a Presbyterian is to:
Confess the Christian faith
Trust in Christ as our forgiving savior
Promise to follow Christ and Christ’s example for living
Commit oneself to attend church and to become involved in its work.
We are guided by our creeds and confessions found in the Book of Confessions. The Book of Order contains the Form of Government, Directory for Worship, and Rules of Discipline. But these are all based on Scripture. Both the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions can be found on our denomination’s website: www.pcusa.org.
Our Congregation’s History
The Poage family, as early as 1790 were beginning to leave their settlement in Virginia, where within a stockade for protection from the Indians, they had built the Old Stone church. They began to explore the wild, untamed land of Central Kentucky. They moved slowly through the Mountain Gap and finally settled in what by 1799 became known as the Poage Settlement. Some later came by Flatboat on the Ohio River to the shore line that became known as Poage Landing. This was the first name of Ashland, KY and we celebrate Poage Landing Days every September to honor the founders of Ashland.
The Poage family was Presbyterian. They built a small log cabin in 1819 to use as a place of worship. It was attended by 22 members of the Poage family along with 2 slaves. In 1828, they moved into a pretty little brick church, nearly square at 36×40. As you came into the front door, you moved through the vestibule. The women entered on one side and the men on the other, each sitting on their own side of the church. They called the first church….Bethesda. The Poage family sort of ran the church, and it wasn’t until 1959…140 years later that there was not a Poage on the church registry.
The Poages were farmers, and owned 5,000 acres of land, with 1500 acres of farmland that would stretch from Russell to Keyes Creek (the old 45th Street). In the mid 1850’s they sold that 1500 acres of land to prominent iron workers, and then came the creation of the City of Ashland. By an act of the KY legislature, the City of Ashland was incorporated. The name was chosen from the Home place of Henry Clay in Lexington, which he had named Ashland. Some of the incorporators were members of the Bethesda church, and to encourage building uptown…the incorporators offered two free lots to anyone willing to build a church costing at least $3,000.00. In 1856, First Presbyterian Church of Ashland was incorporated and given lots 1 and 2 of the City of Ashland. The church was built in 1857.
In 1888…this first building was enlarged, adding a large auditorium which is now our current sanctuary. The entrance was on Winchester Ave with steps up to an archway entrance. At this time the bell tower was added along with our exquisite stained glass windows. The two smaller windows in the front of the sanctuary were donated to the church by the Children of the Church, who collected money week after week in small wooden barrels. One of these barrels can be seen in the Poage-Condit Lounge in the Case. In 1904, the pipe organ was built and installed. Over the years the building was added on to supply more Sunday School rooms. In 1952 there was a major change when a new organ with concealed pipes was installed. This organ still stands as one of the finest in this area, and has had numerous upgrades.
In 1972, our church was faced with major repairs to the roof and building at a cost of over $300.000. We faced this with many meetings over a couple of years, trying to decide whether to repair or to move to a new location and build an entirely new church. Our church is on the National Registry of Historic Places, which figured into the decision to stay. This is the oldest structure in Boyd County, and is the oldest existing congregation. There is a State Historic Marker on the Winchester Side of the Building.
In December of 1974, we rented an empty church on Carter Ave, while First Presbyterian Church was gutted and the entire Sunday School side of the building was demolished. The main door was moved to the 16th Street side. The basement on the alley side was dug deep enough for a basketball court, a new kitchen, and bathrooms under the offices and Sunday School rooms. An elevator and additional men’s and women’s restrooms were added upstairs. The stained glass windows were carefully removed, padded, packed and sent to Cincinnati for cleaning, re-leading, and protecting. The priceless pipe organ was dismantled pipe by pipe and packed and sent to Columbus, OH for cleaning and repairs. We moved back into our building in 1975.
Two rooms beside the new Narthex of the church were designated at the Poage-Condit Lounge to honor our founders ….the Poage family and our beloved minister of 55 years…..William C Condit who served as a minister here from 1866 until 1921, followed by 5 years as Pastor Emeritus until his death. Another pastor was Samuel Curry who served us for 36 years. Both of their portraits hang in the Poage-Condit Lounge, along with Dr, John Condit the father of William Condit, who served as pastor from 1835-1840. Members of the Condit family were members of this church for 132 years. It was not until 1967 that there were no longer any Condit’s in the membership directory. Also located in the Poage-Condit Lounge are the pulpit and three pulpit chairs from the 1859 chancel, two elder’s chairs in use prior to 1858, a small cherry desk from the Condit home and a grandfather clock that was a gift to Dr Condit from the congregation in 1915. Also, in the lounge is a large walnut wardrobe, from the Condit home, which has been converted into a display case for smaller items relating to the early church, such as the communion service from 1828.