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The Story of FPC Missoula - The Early Years

The Presbyterian Church of Missoula has a long and rich history, going back to the 1870s. On April 11, 1872, the Rev. Sheldon Jackson held a service in the village courthouse to organize a church here. There was one ruling elder, J. W. Cunningham, and one member, Mrs. M. E. Mckee. Unfortunately, after Rev. Jackson departed for Helena, Mr. Cunningham seems to have left town, followed by Mrs. McKee, who eventually wound up at a church in California.


On April 12, 1876, the Rev. James R. Russell started traveling once a month by horse and stage from Deer Lodge to Missoula to meet with ten initial members in their homes. The Methodist Church kindly shared its building for services. Once the church's first full-time pastor, Rev. Milton L. Cook, arrived, the church began to meet in his home, with Rev. Cook also pastoring congregations in the Bitterroot and Philipsburg. It's interesting to note that Rev. Cook proved to be the first of 31 pastors to shepherd First Presbyterian Church Missoula.


The first of three church buildings was built in 1884 to hold a congregation of 50 people. Rapid growth under the leadership of George M. Fisher resulted in the construction of a new, larger church building in 1889, at the corner of Stevens and Pine, with Rev. Hugh Lamont serving as pastor. A year later the Olivet Chapel was built on North 2nd Street near Grand Avenue, in order to allow families to walk to Sunday School without having to cross the railroad tracks. Continued growth during the tenure of Rev. Walter Hays led to the construction of an annex in 1901, and in 1906 the drafting of plans for our current church building south of the Clark Fork River was begun.

Continued at Modern Times


Dr.Sheldon Jackson, first to try and start a church

What became our first church building


First services were held in the Kennetts' parlor

Early group of members