The First Presbyterian Church of Milford has a rich history. Our roots go back to 1700 in Milford Delaware. The present church was built and incorporated in 1850, over 150 years ago!
In 1700-12 Francis Makemie organized a church by what is now the Presbyterian Branch off of Kings Highway. It was known as the “Three Runs Church.” In 1772 the Lewes Presbytery met here. It was a frame building with a brick floor. On January 11, 1819, it was incorporated as the “First Presbyterian Church and Congregation in Milford”
Some years later the church ceased functioning due to building decay. Worship was continued in a building on Montgomery Street. The worshipers ceased gathering; however, the Sunday School started by Miss Hester McColly (later Mrs William Marshall) continued.
The Sunday School, with a few loyal Presbyterians, called on the Presbytery to build a church. The Presbytery sent The Reverend G. W. Kennedy who succeeded in gathering the funds to erect a building at 101 S. Walnut St. The first roll of members contains 7 names. The deed stated that the plot was for the purpose of erecting “…a house of worship for the use of the members of the Presbyterian Church of the village of South Milford, in connection with the Presbytery of Wilmington.” The cornerstone was laid July 4th 1850.
Shortly after the church was built, a Thomas H. Truitt, purchased the land immediately in front of the church and built a blacksmith shop and several other unsightly buildings. Needless to say, this was a significant annoyance to the church members. Peter F. Causey ended the problem by buying the land and deeding it to the church.
In the early 1900’s the church building was remodeled. The manse occupying the rear of the building was demolished and the space converted into an enlarged sanctuary with classrooms and kitchen below. Stained glass windows replaced latticed inside shutters. Next, a manse was purchased several blocks from the church partly as a gift from Elder and Mrs. James Gilchrist.
Then in 1924, Dr. Frank L. Grier arranged to move the graveyard next to the old Three Runs Meeting House of 1712 -1825 to Milford’s Odd fellows Cemetery. Eleven bodies were re-interred and placed in plots purchased by Dr. Grier, which he turned over to the First Presbyterian Church of Milford.
In 1951, the present manse was built and occupied by the Reverend Kenneth M. Kepler and his family. He wrote on the 100th anniversary of the “First Church” – “keep their (church) in pace with the times so that the ‘light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ’ might shine even more brightly through First Church.”
If you visit the church, a clock that was funded by the State Legislature in 1851 is on display. It’s how folks in downtown Milford used to tell time. You can also see a painting of the Church as it looked in the 1850’s.
The pictures in the slide show which follows were taken from The Church Annual Report of 1937-38, A Historical Sketch done by S.C. Evans, and the 100th Anniversary Document in 1947, as well as some photographs provided by Pastor John Gilmore. Also, a special thanks to Mary Alice Smith for the notes she provided on the History of the First Presbyterian Church of Milford.