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History of the First Presbyterian Church of East Aurora

The pioneer settlers of the area that became the Town of Aurora were predominantly New Englanders who inherited a strong Christian heritage. Upon their arrival on the Western Frontier their most urgent tasks were to build shelters for their families, clear a plot of land to grow crops and establish a place of worship.

 A Congregational Church had been organized in Griffins Mills in 1810. In July 1818, the East Aurora Church was founded under the “Accommodation Plan” that existed between the Presbyterian and the Congregational Churches. Services were held in the Union Church. For two years, while the Presbyterian Church was being constructed, worship services were held on a second floor of a shed on the corner of Main and Church Streets. The First Presbyterian Church structure was erected on that site and completed in 1844. Dedication services were held in 1845. The Rev. Richard M. Sanford became the minister that year and served for 43 years until 1888, the longest-serving pastor in First Church’s history.


Other ministers who have served First Church include Rev. Charles Alexander Richmond (1888-94), Rev. Henry W. Tolson (1894-99), Rev. Samuel Colgate (1899-02), Rev. Henry Seymour Brown 1903-1905), Rev. Herbert Scholey (1905-1906), Rev. Ralph Hickok (1906-13), Rev. Russell S. Gregory (1914-35), Rev. S. Edward Young (1935-47, with 1943-44 as Director of War Community Services), Rev. Ernest Y. Campbell (1943-44), Rev. B. Gibson Lewis, Jr. (1948-68), Rev. Robert E. Backstrom (1969-76), Rev. Paul R. Watson, Jr. (1976-97), the Rev. Langdon C. Hubbard, III (2001-2022). 

Associate Ministers have included Rev. John B. Paterson (1956-60), Rev. Charles E. Kinzie (1960-63), Rev. Robert E. Backstrom (1964-68), Rev. David R. Lewis (1969-78), and Rev. Thomas R. Robinson (1978-84).  Rev. Charles Morey also served as Parish Associate (1994). Recent Interim ministers have included Rev. Edwin H. Sprague (1997-2000) and Rev. Dorothy Kirk (2000-2001).


In 1892, a new building was constructed on the current site of First Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Paine and Main Streets in the Village of East Aurora. That building subsequently was destroyed by fire in 1902 and rebuilt. In 1933 that building was also destroyed by fire, and the current building was constructed on the same site.


Three organizations in particular have been important in the life of First Church, the Boy Scouts of America, Troop 19 which was formed in 1926 and continues to operate a strong program; the Presbyterian Women of the Congregation, originally formed in 1950 as the Women’s Association, and then re-organized in 1988 under the current name; and the Youth Program for Junior and Senior High Youth which has led a strong summer youth mission program since1980. The church has been known particularly for its strong music and mission ministries.