Churches begin with dreams. Our dream began in 1847 with a group of Presbyterians who lived in Hendersonville and wanted a local house of worship. The dream came to fruition on October 9, 1869, when five people from Hendersonville and twelve from First Presbyterian Church in
Gallatin were chartered by the Nashville Presbytery to become a church. Those seventeen people purchased a piece of property for $232 from Margaret Branch Donelson, the wife of Major General Daniel Smith Donelson, Commander of the Department of East Tennessee.
General Donelson is one of fifteen Confederate veterans buried in the church cemetery, still on that original property.
Originally, various pastors traveled from Nashville by train to preach at local Presbyterian churches. At the south side of the First Presbyterian Hendersonville property was the railroad track bed for the “Blue Grass Line,” referred to as the interurban from Nashville. Pastors would
ride the interurban to Hendersonville, preach a sermon, and have a meal with one of the church families before returning to Nashville on the “four o’clock special.”
The early history of the church records the efforts of an active Women of the Church group called Ladies Auxiliary. These ladies promoted church-related activities and raised funds for the purchase of a pump organ and new roof on the sanctuary. In December, 1925, the Sumner
County News reported that “the church auxiliary sent thirty-five jars of canned fruit and vegetables to Monroe Harding Children’s Home in Nashville.”
Struggling into the Future
Complications from the Great Depression and two World Wars diminished church attendance throughout the early 20th century. During that time, the church met to worship only once or twice a month. The Methodist church used the sanctuary on alternate Sundays after lightning
destroyed their church. After WWII, with only two elders, one deacon, and a membership of fifteen, First Presbyterian could no longer afford to remain open. However, members remained attached to their home church building, even worshipping with a Baptist congregation that
used the sanctuary during that time.
Eventually, plans to create Old Hickory Lake and projected population growth rekindled the dream for Hendersonville First Presbyterian Church. In 1951, the church reopened with the help of First Presbyterian Church in Gallatin, funds from the Home Mission Board, and members of
the original congregation still in the area. The benches were refinished in a tobacco warehouse, a new floor was laid, other building repairs were made, and the grounds were cleaned up. William Alexander, a student from Louisville Seminary, became the pastor of the church
beginning June 3, 1951, sharing his time with the Shiloh Presbyterian Church.
In 1955, after membership had climbed to more than 300, an addition was built to the sanctuary to provide indoor restrooms, a kitchen, fellowship/classroom space, and a minister’s office. In 1958, eighty-nine years after the church’s formation, James K.L. McClaine was called
as its first fulltime pastor. That same year the original foot-pedal organ was replaced by an electronic one. The growing membership led to a new fellowship hall built in 1963 which was connected to the sanctuary in 1967. Some of original structure exists today. The stone steps
leading into the sanctuary date back to 1869, along with the window frames and some window panes. The front doors have been replaced, but are exact replicas and the shutters are reproductions of the originals, with the original hinges.
A day school was opened in 1964 to serve the growing Hendersonville community, and it remains a popular choice for parents today. The church became self-supporting in January of 1965, no longer receiving financial support from presbytery. That same year the wooden cross
in the sanctuary was made and installed by member James McCoy.