In 1854, the first Protestant services in this infant village on Big River were conducted in the gangmill cookhouse of the Mendocino Lumber Company. Then, as now, the attendance was a blend of religious persuasions. The first ministers to conduct worship services were Methodists. Almost four years passed before other visiting ministers came – Baptist and Congregational.
In 1858, realizing that the small congregation needed a permanent Sanctuary for worship, Jerome B. Ford and William Heeser were elected to collect subscriptions to build the first church in Mendocino, a small building on the northeast corner of Lansing and Ukiah Streets, across from the future location of the Masonic Temple. Mendocino pioneer Peter Kelly was an ordained Presbyterian elder from Prince Edward Island, and it was he who superintended the little flock when no minister was available. In 1859, with eight charter members, the congregation applied to and was received by the Presbyterian denomination as an established church, to begin its slow, painful, but triumphant course in survival through years of economic change and social upheaval. In 1861, J.B. Ford donated the money to build a steeple and a church bell for the first church. However, the congregation grew so rapidly that in nine years it was necessary to abandon this church and build a much larger one.
The present Sanctuary, started on October 7, 1867, was built of local redwood for a cost of $10,000. Half of this sum, as well as the land the church was built on, was donated by Jerome B. Ford. The new building was dedicated on July 5, 1868, with a sermon preached by the Reverend Dr. Laurentine Hamilton(for whom Mt. Hamilton is named), pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Oakland. Architects S.C. Bugbee and Son of San Francisco designed the English Gothic edifice that faced the ocean on the Old Coast Road coming up from the river flats. This thoroughfare has now passed from use, but when the church was built, it was the main entrance from Big River crossing into town. That is why the church now seems to turn its back on Main Street.
In 1870 J. B. Ford ordered and paid for a new 1000 lb Meneeley bell made in West Troy, New York, to be shipped around the Horn. The bell is still rung every Sunday to announce the start of the church services.
Hours Open to Visitation
Worship services: Sundays 8:30 a.m. & 11:00 a.m.
Sunday school: Children during 11:00 a.m. service; Adults 9:30 a.m. in the library
For More Information, Contact:
Mendocino Presbyterian Church
PO Box 105, 44831 Main Street, Mendocino, CA 95460