History

Congregations observing Presbyterian order were established early in the 1600's and in 1706 several churches in and around Philadelphia formed the first Presbytery. The only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence or to serve in the Continental Congress was Presbyterian, John Witherspoon. Half of the eighteen drafters of the Constitution were Presbyterian. The model for most of the governmental organization for the new nation was Presbyterian Church order. Wherever people settled who had Presbyterian leanings, churches soon developed.

Church life began in Tonkawa soon after the first settlers arrived at the townsite. As early as June of 1894, William Davis, a Presbyterian Sunday School Missionary, conducted the first religious gathering in the new town of Tonkawa. He began holding Sunday evening service in Reed's Hall, the unfinished second floor of C. S. Reed's dry goods store. Mr. Davis welcomed members of all denominations, "particularly infidels and skeptics". In 1903 the groups had grown sufficiently to make them feel that a church would be possible. Other denominations soon followed. The actual organization of the Presbyterian Church did not take place until June 7, 1903 when elders from the Blackwell Presbyterian Church, under the authority of Presbytery, organized the Tonkawa Church. The Rev. James Craighead preached the sermon at this historic meeting.   G. C. Brewer and Nathaniel A. Bleakley were elected Elders and installed.

Charter members were G. C. Brewer, his wife, Martha and daughter Bertha, from the Presbyterian church of Newkirk; Nathaniel A. Bleakley from the Congregational church of Graville, Illinois; Mrs. Minnie Bleakley from the Congregational church of Belmont Illinois; Harrison and Martha Grimes from the Presbyterian church of Dover, Indiana; Mrs. Mae Wood from the Cumberland Presbyterian church of Brookline, Missouri; Mrs. Sarah G. Wilcox from the Methodist Episcopal church of Tonkawa; Mrs. Dorinda Stahl from the Congregational church of Oedia, Kansas; Mrs. Fred E. Cragin of the Ponca City Presbyterian church; Mrs. B. H. Woodfrod from the Congregational church of Dayton, Wyoming; A. D. Wiley, from the Presbyterian church of Kay, Ohio; Mrs. Nancy Kate Jones from the Presbyterian church of Dover, Indiana; and Miss Sarah Carmichael of Tonkawa.

Our Church was built and then dedicated on June 5, 1905. The First Presbyterian Church is the only church in Tonkawa still holding service in the same building at the same location with very little structural changes. The architectural classification is Vernacular Side-steeple. Mr. J. M. Schwab, the local carpenter and contractor supervised the construction and the first called pastor, Rev. E. M. Snook had the distinction of doing manual labor on the building and was the leading spirit in getting the church building started. He was also instrumental in securing the beautiful stained glass windows from a church in the east. Between 1907 and 1913 the rear addition of the church was built and in the spring of 1925 the basement under the church was excavated and finished.

Our closing statement was written by Rev. Chal Henderson and was used in our bulletins for many years... "Our church is the expression of our faith that we can fulfill the dream of what a church ought to be. We want to create that which cannot be measured in terms of  numbers or size --- a Fellowship of Christians, united by a common Lord and bound to each other by understanding, love, and obedience to a great purpose. We invite you to share our fellowship of worship and ask that you pray God's blessing on this - Our Church."