Our Heritage
   Our heritage goes back all the way to 1832.  It was a little touchy there in the beginning, but everything came together in January 1888 at the dedication of the building that you see now at the corner of North 5th and Washington in Burlington, Iowa.  I have scanned some of the historical documents and share them here with you.
   As I was going though the boxes and boxes of historical paperwork and artifacts, I imagined all of the people who started this church and what they had to endure to make this a successful church.  Think about it, in the beginning these men and women had to go out and knock on doors and talk to people to get more people in the pews. Reading some of the papers and stories that are told, it seems that not only did they work hard, but they worked together. They met with each other nearly everyday in worship, prayer, music and fellowship. They didn’t have TV to watch or computer’s to fill up their time. Their “email” was on paper and delivered by horse and wagon. What I am trying to say is, the founders of our church worked hard and considered each other as siblings in Christ. 
I will be updating the Heritage page every so often. So please come back often. 
-Kelle Haller, Office Administrator and Communications Director
Revised on January 17, 2021 

The New Frontier

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 descent. 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.                 

Information from the FPC history book.

George Catlin, Múk-a-tah-mish-o-káh-kaik, Black Hawk, Prominent Sac Chief, 1832, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.2

The Early Years

   The first services were held in the school room of Miss Mary Calkins, located on the east sided of Third Street about midway between Washington and Columbia Streets.

   The lot on which the church now stands was purchased in 1845 for the sum of $400.00. 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. 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 $35,600. It was dedicated free of debt. Surely the most striking feature of the sanctuary is the beautiful collection of stained glass windows, truly a work of art.

  Information from the FPC history book.


   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 2138 pipes. Wide varieties of tone color and mechanicals together with the harp and chimes make it an important 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 as many reasons as people still set off to find a new opportunity 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 and Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well as from the hills of Scotland. Their dedication to their faith and their knowledge that a visible presence for the church is a valuable asset for any city is our heritage today. Burlington 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 for 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.
                                                            Information from the FPC history book.