Wednesday, April 18, 2012

First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia

First Presbyterian Church of Augusta
First Presbyterian Church of Augusta celebrates a remarkable anniversary this year: its 200th year in the same sanctuary!

Designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument, the magnificent church was completed in 1812, 200 years ago. The congregation itself is even older, having celebrated its bicentennial in 2004.

Much of Mills' original design can still be seen at First Presbyterian, although the Augusta church was "modernized" in 1847 with the addition of crenellations and Romanesque windows. The shape and scale of the historic building, however, is classic Mills.

Woodrow Wilson, ca. 1870
The church appears almost identical today as it did in 1858 when the Rev. Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson became its minister. His family included a young boy who would become the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

The future President, then called "Tommy," likely was present for at least parts of the session when the church hosted the first meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of the Confederate States of America in 1861. He definitely witnessed the conversion of the sanctuary to a hospital following the Battle of Chickamauga. Pews were removed from inside the building to create the floorspace needed to treat badly wounded men from both sides.

First Presbyterian Church of Augusta
The boy who would become President attended First Presbyterian Church of Augusta until 1870 when he moved with his family to Columbia, South Carolina. His boyhood home, now a museum, stands just across Telfair Street from the sanctuary. Later in life, Wilson would remember his boyhood in the South with the significant quote, "The only place in the country, the only place in the world, where nothing has to be explained to me, is the South."

First Presbyterian was a gathering place for soldiers who came to Augusta to train during World War I, then sometime's called "Mr. Wilson's War." The former boy from Augusta was President of the United States when the country joined the allies to battle Germany in Europe.

To learn more about historic First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, please visit

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