Church History

First Presbyterian Church of Morris, Illinois

The origins of First Presbyterian Church of Morris, Illinois, go back to 1856 when a core group of eight people became charter members. Before year’s end they had purchased the property at the northeast corner of Franklin and Jackson Streets. The church building was built in 1857 and dedicated in 1858. The congregation purchased the property immediately east of the church for the manse in 1870.

For thirty years, from 1919 to 1949, the Presbyterians were joined by the Congregational Church to form the Federated Church. At the end of the thirty year span the Congregational members voted to become Presbyterians to end the complications of the union.

A major interior remodel was initiated in 1953. Another piece of property, the two-family apartment building directly east of the manse, was added in 1973. Repairs and renovation to the original church building and the building of the Fellowship Hall addition were completed in 1989. The manse was removed to make room for the addition.

The church’s musical history includes many highlights. The pipe organ was installed in 1919, rebuilt in 1953, and restored and expanded with seven new ranks of pipes in 1990. The Chancel Choir which was begun in 1929 has had only three directors, Julia Torrence, Delight Belt, and Kim Struck. The Junior Choir formed in 1948, and continues to this day with its big performance each year being the Mother’s Day Musical. The Handbell Choir, begun in 1977, has expanded to three octaves and has been a model for other area churches to follow. A new grand piano was purchased in 2001 by Art and Mary Bridges to replace the sanctuary’s deteriorating grand piano.

Going beyond bricks and mortar, organization, and music, we find pastoral leadership. From the church’s first pastor, Rev. William Porterfield (1856-58), to our present pastor, Rev. Dr. Roy Backus, the church has had a total of twenty-seven pastors in a 154-year span. Many of the early pastors tended to serve for shorter terms. The more recent pastors from the early 1950’s on to the present have tended to stay for longer terms.