Lake Street Presbyterian Church

- by Bruce E. McKinney

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Elmira, New York

1861 – 100th Anniversary – 1961


Our Church History


The historical events shaking the country in the early days of the Civil War had a significant effect upon the church life of Elmira, and those years saw the formation of at least two new churches. It is understood that during those years dissension rose in both Trinity Church and First Presbyterian Church over the question of slavery. A group from Trinity formed Grace Church, which met first on the present site of the Colonial Theater, and 116 members of First Presbyterian Church.

When Lake Street Presbyterian Church was incorporated on December 27, 1860, and formally organized on February 8, 1861, it was known as the Second Presbyterian Society. Later the name became the Second Presbyterian Church and finally Lake Street Presbyterian Church.

The Rev. David Murdoch, D. D., pastor of First Presbyterian Church, had spoken out strongly against slavery, saying that “The church must certainly stand for freedom for humanity.” When the new church was organized, Dr. Murdoch accepted a call to become its first pastor. Its first trustees elected were David H. Tuthill, Ariel S. Thurston, Erastus L. Hart, Robert Covell Jr., Lyman Covell and Henry M. Partridge. Those chosen and ordained Elders of the church were Erastus L. Hart, William R. Shepherd, Adam Dewitt, Daniel E. Howell and George Mabee,

The first place of worship was the old church building then at the southwest corner of Railroad Ave. and W. Church St., formerly used by Trinity Episcopal Church. In 1861 the Hepburn lot at the corner of Lake and Church Sts. Was purchased. The ground for the foundation of the new sanctuary was broken in the month of September, 1861, and on June 13, 1862, the finished sanctuary was dedicated, an event made more solemn because it was the first anniversary of the death of the beloved first pastor, Dr. Murdoch. A tablet in memorial to Dr, Murdoch was placed in the entrance hall of the church, where it can be seen today... The dedication address was given by the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, pastor the Congregational Church of Elmira, the present Park Church.

The following is the text of the Memorial Tablet to Dr, David Murdoch given by members of “Second Presbyterian Church,” now in the vestibule of Lake Street Presbyterian Church.