History of the First Presbyterian Church

On September 13, 1828 only three years after the founding of the City of Canton, the Reverend John Millot Ellis, a Presbyterian missionary came to Canton at the request of area pioneers. A church was organized as the Presbyterian Church of Fulton County. On Sunday, September14, 1828 William Proctor, Samuel Mallory and Nathan Jones were elected ruling elders and the Lord’s Supper was administered in Canton, Rev. Ellis presiding. On September 16, 1828 the Lord’s Supper was administered in Lewistown and Nathan Jones was chosen as Presbytery delegate. Church services were held alternately in Canton and Lewistown with missionaries and laypersons serving as ministers. At that time there were in Illinois only 3 Presbyterian missionaries and 21 churches, all far to the south of Canton.

By 1830 church membership reached 86 names and in August 1831 two missionaries, the Rev. Romulus Barnes and Rev. Lucien Farnum, were secured as the church’s first pastors. The first church building was erected in the spring of 1833 on a lot in what is now Jones Park on the Canton Square. This was the first church building in Canton. The 5th and current church structure at 275 Linden Street held its first services May 19, 1968.

Church membership continued to grow and on December 6, 1835 dismission papers were granted for 14 members for the purpose of forming a church in Lewistown. In June 1836 a church was organized in Ipava, in July one in Farmington and a few months later another in Vermont, all drawing from membership of Canton.

In the spring of 1838 a dispute over governmental policies and theology by the Old School/ New School groups led to a split in the Presbyterian Church, nationally and locally. Of the 200 members of the church at that time, 21 members of the Old School group remained as the Presbyterian Church of Canton. In 1840, the Rev. Samuel McCune became the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Canton. Those members of the New School group eventually became the Canton Congregational Church.

On July 4, 1976 the people of the church met for regular worship, rededicated the church bell which had been cast 100 years before and celebrated the 200th Anniversary of the nation’s Declaration of Independence. In September 1978 the congregation celebrated its Sesquicentennial Anniversary during which a time capsule to be opened in 2028 was buried on church grounds.

In the spring of 1998 the Canton Session accepted an offer by the Rev’d. Andrew MacLean and his Session to link with St. Andrew’s Church of Port Glasgow, Scotland. Six members of the St. Andrew’s congregation including a bagpiper took part in Canton’s 170th Anniversary celebration in September of 1998. A second group including Rev. MacLean visited in 2000. A delegation from Canton visited Port Glasgow in 1999 and another in 2003.

In 1996, the Rev. Dr. Robert K. Holler was named as Pastor Emeritus of the First Presbyterian Church of Canton and still serves in that position. On March 22, 2012, the Rev. Dr. Timothy Bauler was installed as the 23rd pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.

Ministers of the First Presbyterian Church:

1831-1834 Rev. Romulus Barnes & Rev. Lucien Farnum

1834-1838 Rev. Robert Stewart

1840-1850 Rev. Samuel McCune

1851-1856 Rev. Isaac Bennett

1856-1857 Rev. George Stebbins

1857-1859 Rev. J.V. Dodge

1859-1861 Rev. John Cochran

1863-1865 Rev. S. M. Crissman

1865-1868 Rev. Carson Reed

1868-1869 Licentiate Josiah Moore

1869-1873 Rev. Josiah Moore

1873-1880 Rev. Samuel McCune

1880-1893 Rev. A.R. Mathis

1903-1918 Rev. Alfred Elliott

1918-1921 Rev. Raymond Kearns

1922-1925 Rev. Henry Snyder

1925-1928 Rev. Lewis H. Knight

1929-1954 Rev. Garland Hinkle

1955-1957 Rev. Dale Brubaker

1958-1968 Rev. William Anderson

1968-1994 Rev. Dr. Robert Holler

1995-2000 Rev. James P. McCracken

2002-2009 Rev. Stephen Knudson

2012-present Rev. Dr. Timothy Bauler



Below is the fourth First Presbyterian Church building, located on Walnut Street in Canton, IL.