Our mission is to be a community of faith working together to proclaim the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord and to minister to the needs of the people in our community.
The year was 1806. Thomas Jefferson was President, Napoleon Bonapart was on the throne of France, and George IV was England’s Monarch. George Washington, "The Father of our Country" had been at rest for seven years. Williamsburg, Virginia was the capital of our country, and Ohio had been a state for three years. The small village of Williamsburgh, the oldest in Clermont County, founded by General William Lytle in 1796, was growing and prospering.
The Rev. James Gilliland, in obedience to the will of the Chillicothe Presbytery, left his home at Red Oak, Brown County, Ohio, and traveled across an almost unbroken forest to preach here on the 10th day of November. We do not know the exact location of the ﬁrst services of this church - it could have been in an early settlers house or under the trees provided as shelter by the almighty God - but early records do show that from these ﬁrst services came the organization of the First Presbyterian Church in 1808, by Rev. Dr. Hodge, an evangelist. Among the ﬁrst members were Archibald McLean, Ephriam McAdams and wife, Jacob Harry and wife, Jacob Huber and wife, Mrs. Dorcas Lytle, Mrs. Margaret Sinks, Mrs. Sarah Smith and Mrs. Eleanor Kain. The ﬁrst Elders were Archibald McLean, who served for 47 years, and Ephriam McAdams whose descendants are still active in the church today.
Our-ﬁrst Pastor was the Rev. R. B. Dobbins. He came from South Carolina to the Smyrna Church near Felicity in 1807. He began serving our church as well as the Smyrna church until the 1830’s. While based at Felicity, he traveled to Williamsburgh once a month, coming 16 miles over bad roads and bridgeless streams, often having to swim his horse. In those early days the people did not get to hear preaching very often, so they would think nothing of walking ﬁve or six miles to church, and taking their dinners along with them. Each of the sermons was from an hour to an hour and a half in length, with an interval of 20 minutes between the two for lunch. For his labors, Rev. Dobbins received sometimes $20 per year and sometimes, nothing.
Worship services were held in the courthouse on the Town Square until approximately 1830. About 1827, the congregation decided to build a house of worship, and in 1829, General William Lytle presented the congregation with two lots on the northeast corner of Front Street. A building was constructed by the members of the church on one of the lots, and when completed, measured 30 X 40 feet, with a steep roof, two-storied external windows, a broad three-sided gallery and a high narrow pulpit. In 1830 the church was transferred from the jurisdiction of the Chillicothe Presbytery to the Cincinnati Presbytery, with which it continues to the present time.
In 1845, this church building was deemed to be inadequate, and a new structure was erected on the second lot. This building was remodeled in the 1870ʼs. The number of windows was reduced, a new ﬂoor and ceiling substituted, walls frescoed, the church reseated and a belfry was added. This building, minus the belfry, is still in use today as an apartment building. The ﬁrst church building was used by a number of different organizations, among them the Masons, the Sons and Daughters of Temperance and the school until it was razed in 1864.
In 1864 the church purchased a manse on the southeast corner of Third and Main Streets. It was used by the pastors of the church until 1903 when it was sold and the congregation purchased a large, two-story brick home on the southeast corner of Second and Gay Streets where our present-day church stands. This house was a twin to the historic Pease home on the opposite corner.
A major turning point for the congregation came in 1910. The 1845 church building was showing its age, industry and railroad were close neighbors and the village had grown considerably on the west side. After much deliberation, a committee appointed for the purpose, decided that the site of the manse on the corner of Second and Gay Streets was the best location for a new structure. The manse was torn down and a new residence for our pastors was built on the southwest corner of the lot in 1910. The old church was sold along with the lots on Front Street and the church bell was removed. The cornerstone of the new church building was laid on October 1, 1911, and this building, complete with the old bell, was dedicated on December 1, 1912.
As the church grew over the years, it became apparent that a larger building would eventually be a necessity. Thus, it was in 1954, that plans were approved for the addition of an educational wing to the church. The addition was built, and the dedication ceremony was held on April 8, 1956.
Today we are a busy church with an active adult Sunday school and an excellent choir under the direction of Julia Hess. The church is active in the community, helping with the Williamsburg Emergency Mission and Saul's Homeless Shelter. The church supports the mission of the Cincinnati Presbytery, the Synod of the Covenant and the United Presbyterian Church in the USA.
The First United Presbyterian Church has served Williamsburg on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ for over 200 years, preparing our members to share their faith with those of Williamsburg and the larger world who need to hear the good news of the Gospel. We thank God for all those who have led in the past and for those today who devote themselves to the service of Jesus Christ our Lord.