Civil War 150: “The Presbyterian Church on State Street. Former School and Civil War Hospital.”

By Admin, BuyLocalBG.com, BuyLocalBg@gmail.com/
Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 9:00 AM CST

The Presbyterian Church at 1003 State Street is a significant feature to anyone wanting to learn the Civil War history in Bowling Green. The Presbyterian existing a hospital during military occupation of Church, on this site from 1833. Windows, pews,and other furniture were removed to save the building from destruction. Reverend Richmond K. Smoot held services at another site while the building served as a hospital.

Per the church’s website:

When Reverend Joseph B. Lapsley founded the Bowling Green Presbyterian Church in 1819, the nearest established church was Caney Fork in Butler County. Ordained ministers of the denomination had visited the Three Springs area to conduct services, but none had remained. Several rural Cumberland Presbyterian congregations had formed following the fervor of the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, but none existed in the village of Bowling Green. Lapsley gathered the local Presbyterians (many of whom were relatives and friends from Rockbridge County, Virginia) and soon built a church in the public burying ground [now called Pioneer Cemetery and located in the block bounded by College, Center, Fifth, and Sixth Streets.] Lapsley also taught school there but unfortunately lived only four years after the founding. Session records of the early years are sparse, giving no hint of how the church came to be in the cemetery and no indication of what happened to it. By the time the congregation’s next full-time pastor arrived in 1831, the building was gone. Reverend Samuel Wilson Calvert (grandfather of popular Aunt Jane of Kentucky author Eliza Calvert Oberchain) immediately pulled together the fifty-odd members and managed to build a structure far ahead of its time architecturally and substantial enough to have survived occupation as a Union hospital during the Civil War, an 1895 fire in the steeple, two splits, three reunions, and multiple remodelings. In addition to raising the nearly $7,000 necessary to construct their sanctuary, Bowling Green Presbyterians supported an excellent female academy in the structure’s basement until 1862.

Shortly after completion of the building, the congregation split into Old School and New School factions. Nationally, the disruptive issues were in the areas of polity and theology; locally the dividing points were sectional difficulties and personalities. Between 1849 and 1858, the two “schools” had separate ministers and met on alternate Sundays in the church sanctuary. The breach was healed in 1858, just in time for the disruption of the Civil War. Although nationally the Presbyterian Church split along Union and Confederate lines, the local church did not divide until 1868. This division was not as amicable as the former, and the courts had to intervene in splitting the church’s property. Former Old School supporters formed First Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Southern) and retained the building. Prominent Unionist families, mostly New Schoolers, formed Second Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.(Northern) and moved to the corner of Eighth and Center Streets. This schism ended in 1888 with the reunion of the congregations as First Presbyterian Church, U.S.

You can check out the Presbyterian on facebook or via their website.

Also check out the Civil War Trail (website link for trail) via the Convention and Visitors Bureau or Kentucky Museumon WKU’s Campus.

Past Civil War 150:

Part 1: Mt. Moriah Cemetery, resting place of “African American Union Soldiers.”

Part 2: The Confederate Graveyard and Monument of Bowling Green. Also, the Most Dangerous Confederate.

Part 3: “Defending the L&N Railroad Wayside Exhibit.”

Part 4: “Mt. Ayr & Fort Underwood”

Part 5: “Baker Hill and Downtown Bowling Green”

Part 6: “Confederate Defense Line and Rifle Trench.”

Part 7: “Fort C.F. Smith and College Hill.”

Part 8: “Fort Webb Park”

Part 9: “Hines Boatlanding and Civil War Hospital Exhibit.”

Part 10: “Bowling Green Courthouse displaying Confederate Medal of Honors and Federal Army Officers.”

Part 11: “Jonesville.”

Part 12: “Bowling Green’s Official Sesquicentennial Event.”

Part 13: “Henry Grider, Veteran of 1812, Whig, Unionist Congressman, Abolitionist and the 14th Amendment.”

Part 14: “Fort Lytle or Fort Albert Sydney Johnston.”

Part 15: “Kentucky Museum.”

Part 16: “L&N Railroad, ‘Civil War and the Railroad’ exhibit.”

Also, there is a much better trail tour (we love this so much), check out the Civil War Trail (website link for trail) via the Convention and Visitors Bureau or Kentucky Museumon WKU’s Campus.

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