EARLY CHURCH HISTORY
In 1674 the English established a township, in the current Oceanside area, called “Christian Hook”. In Christian Hook, as early as 1844, a Sunday school was conducted in the public school located diagonally across the street from present church property. In 1868, Mr. Wright Pearsall, the Superintendent of this Sunday school, invited The Rev. Mr. Marcus Burr, the minister of the Freeport Presbyterian Church, to lead regular church services after Sunday school. Rev. Burr agreed.
The First Presbyterian Church was organized and dedicated to God on October 31, 1871. Its First Corporate Meeting had been held on February 25, 1871, and the incorporation paper subsequently filed on July 8, 1871. The church was the first in the area, now being called “Oceanville”. Rev. Burr became its first minister. Each week after leading the services at the Presbyterian Church in Freeport Rev. Burr walked to the public school to lead the services for this new First Presbyterian Church. When the church started the town population was approximately 200 families.
The original building, still apparent in today’s structure, was built during the summer of 1871. The front is the same, but the building extended only to the steps of the present chancel. The pulpit was elevated and located near the present front door. In the beginning there was no instrumental church music, and the church bell was not installed until 1874. Land for the building was donated by Townsend F. Southard and the church erected at a total cost of $2,200.
Through the years, many improvements and enlargements have been made. The first was in 1892 when the present chancel area and a south entrance were added. The chancel area was used for Sunday school and a nursery. The new entrance afforded carriages the ability to discharge church goers under the portico in times of inclement weather. The present front door was not reopened until 1914.
In 1913 and 1914, the sanctuary was completely redone, modeled after the chapel at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. The present organ, the first pipe organ in Oceanside was purchased and operated manually until 1939. Church services were held at the Salamander Fire House during this renovation. In August 1914 the beautiful stained glass window dedicated to The Rev. Mr. Burr, and purchased through donations of friends and relatives, was installed. Mr. Burr, the founding pastor, preached his final sermon in the church on that day. Seven weeks later he died and was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
In 1925 when the parish hall was started. It was completed in two stages, the basement being built in 1925, with the remainder completed in 1929. The parish hall contained the only basketball court besides the one in School #1 in Oceanside. As a result of the construction of the parish hall, the stable in back of the church was torn down. Later, in 1928, the outdoor sanitary facilities were declared “unsafe” and removed. The parish hall was and still is to this day a focal point for church activities and gatherings. In 1929, the additional land was purchased which is now the parking lot. An effort was made at that time to purchase the land where the stores are now, but the trustees were outbid.
The installation of stained glass windows in the sanctuary occurred in 1937. The stained glass windows were designed by the minister at that time, the Rev. Mr. Humphrey Walz.
- The south Windows depict faith, hope and charity
- The north windows represent the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
- Two other windows were also designed, one being emblematic of the Ten Commandments, the other an open Bible.