Excerpts Taken from Bidwell Presbyterian Church History Booklet
A small band of Presbyterians met on Wednesday, August 26 to elect ruling elders and deacons. On August 30, George P Farr and Watson Chalmers were ordained as elders and J.F. Wayland and John Kennedy as deacons. John Bidwell was baptized on this day as well. There were originally 16 members of the congregation. This is the day the church was founded.
At this service, Reverend S. F. Wells addressed the congregation with the church’s first covenant. To this day, we still refer to this covenant and provide copies of it to our New Members.
The Presbyterian Church was the 4th or 5th of the churches organized in Chico. Preceding it were two Methodist churches, North and South and a congregational Church. Roman Catholic services had been conducted in Chico as early at 1864. There was an African Methodist Episcopal congregation which had a house of worship by 1872.
Alexander Fairbairn was the first permanent pastor to be secured for the Presbyterian Church. His term was 1868 – 1873. Since then, we have had 18 pastors to date.
Because of the Bidwell generosity, the Presbyterian Church was self-supporting from its inception.
The Chico Presbyterian Church was located at the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway between 1871 and 1909.
The need for a church building was discussed at a congregational meeting November 1, 1868. Two issues dominated discussions concerning a building for several months
Type of building
Time to build
Controversies were resolved by the Bidwell’s by contributing $10,000 in addition to the land at fourth street and Broadway
Because additional funds would still be needed for a building a subscription committee was formed. It was also determined that a Corporation was needed in order to secure a loan for $3,000.00 to complete construction.
Chico Presbyterian Church was incorporated June 17, 1915
The new church building was dedicated December 1871 by Reverend W. A. Scott of San Francisco. Alterations were made in 1877 to make room for the addition of a pipe organ.
2 matters of great consequence in the life of the church took place in 1868 at a congregational meeting.
The organization of the Sabbath School and the Ladies Mite Society.
The Sabbath School was held each Sunday preceding church service .
The Ladies Mite Society was an organization of women whose important function was to supplement the regular church receipts. They held their first “fair” June 21 and 22, 1871 and sold refreshments and fancy articles manufactured by the ladies themselves. They also provided contributions to home and foreign missions. There was a separate Women’s Missionary Society that was organized in 1877.
Annie Bidwell was the major person behind the mission to the Indians and the oriental populations in the Chico Area.
Because of the growth of the town (principally because of the establishment of the Diamond Match Company), the congregation entered a period of growth during the first decade of the twentieth century.
The Congregation grew from 16 in 1868 to 73 in 1883, to 161 in 1899 and by 1909 the figures stood at 429.
Decisions to either remodel the church building or to build a new building faced the congregation during the years of 1906-1908. A building committee was formed and persuaded the congregation to consider a new site. The committee investigated three sites.
3rd and Salem
3rd and Chestnut
1st Street adjoining the Normal School “Chico State”
The Congregation approved the purchase of the lot at 1st Street. The land was owned by the Bidwell’s and they purchased the land for $7,000 which represented a savings of $11,000 over the cost of the second choice site which was Third and Salem.
The congregation approved the sale of the first church building. This excluded selected items from the sale (the pipe organ, furniture, and the new bell. The original cornerstone donated by J. Leet in 1871 as well as part of the granite fence were included in the new site. Also included was the Bidwell memorial Window which had been set in place on April 3, 1901 a year after John Bidwell’s Death.
The congregation met in the Masonic Hall during the construction of the new building. The building committee accepted the building on September 13, 1910 and was dedicated later after Annie had returned from Abroad
On the morning of February 13, 1931 is when the church caught on fire. Only the brick walls were left standing. The 2 auditoriums and Sunday school area were in charred ruins and only a few papers and some of the pastor’s library was saved. The Bidwell Memorial Window was saved – probably due to the fact it was on the opposite end of the building from the point where the fire started.
The building committee selected an architectural firm from Sacramento and it was determined that the walls of the burned building could still be used.
The church was rebuilt and dedicated February 14, 1932 just 1 year and 1 day from the day it was burned.
The education wing was partially remodeled to create a small worship chapel in 1952. Phase II of that building program brought much needed repairs and the addition of the office building (which also provided meeting and classroom facility) That building was dedicated November 18, 1956.
A needlepoint tapestry project started in 1974 and was completed and dedicated in April 1982. Mona Spoor Associates of Montvale, New Jersey designed the tapestry. About 50 women (mainly) were the major contributors to this project. There are 2,764,800 stitches in the tapestry. 10,120 hours devoted to needlepoint.