First Presbyterian Church started its ministry as a Congregational church in 1843. At the time, the Congregational and Presbyterian assemblies had a plan for bringing their denominations together, and one of their churches could have a minister from either denomination. Our first pastor was Rev. E.C.A. Wood, a Congregational minister, and the church held services in the Louisa County courthouse (where the Lutheran church is today). A decade later, a church building was erected on Second Street, but not long after that Rev. Wood died, the church was unable to pay off debt on the building, and the Congregational Society discontinued its work in Wapello.

Church building under construction

Construction phase of the present building

In 1857, the church was reorganized as a Presbyterian congregation, First Presbyterian Church of Wapello, Iowa. It had thirteen members, and its first pastor was Rev. O.H. Miller. There were many years during its early decades that supply ministers served the church, rather than an installed pastor, but the church continued to grow. In 1869, the church had grown to 27 members – with Sunday School attendance nearly four times that number! By 1890, membership had grown to 81, with 135 in Sunday School. A larger building – on the present site at the corner of Main and Jackson – was built in 1892. With the growing membership, funds were raised and the building was completed free of debt.

Harrison Addition in 1930Membership continued to grow, to 166 in 1915, and 175 by 1930. During the next two decades, the growing church excavated the basement to make room for more classrooms, a kitchen, and a fellowship hall. In 1955, the sanctuary was remodeled, adding a center aisle and repairing the stained glass windows. Additional renovations were done on the building in the mid-1970’s.



  1. Was Reverend Hugh Blair Turner minister of this Church about 1889-1890?

    • No, A. Willard Cooper was the minister at that time. There is no Turner listed as a minister any year.

  2. i am trying to find the gravesite of my 3rd great grandmother, Anne (Anderson) Newell. She was an early member of your church, along with some of her children, including sons William, Oliver, daughter Agnes, beginning @ 1857.She is listed on the Iowa census of 1856 as living in Columbus Twp., Louisa Cty. She is not listed on the 1860 Federal Iowa census, while some of her children are, which leads me to believe she passed away between 1856 and 1860. Did your church have its own cemetery at that time or would there be another cemetery in the area? I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me. Thank you, Rich Newell

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