An artists drawing of our church building at the corner of Burdick and Ransom
Drawing of the old Church building on the corner of Burdick and Ransom in Kalamazoo

We celebrate our anniversary every June. Below are some excerpts from historical accounts of North Presbyterian Church

From the archives of First Presbyterian Church Kalamazoo


The impulses out from which the North Presbyterian Church has developed were Christian.  Much Perseverance and labor was required to produce what we today seemingly take for granted. It took fourteen years from 1864-1878 to develop the Mission Woods Sunday School into an organized church. It took thirty-eight members, with the crudest kind of equipment into a church that could adequately serve the needs of a then rapidly increasing congregation.

In the city of Kalamazoo many churches have been developed out of the Sunday Schools.  The North Presbyterian Church has been developed out of the First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo.  The teachers in the parent Sunday School were teaching with more power and force than they believed., They were urging upon the pupils of their classes the importance of personal work and effort and the young people believed what they heard from the.ir teachers.  The young girls in one of the Sunday School classes were prompted by these teachings to form a prayer meeting.  They were looking for work to do. They found the work and entered the “opened door”. The work was among the unreached and neglected children of the northeast, part of the city.

There were fourteen girls who talked of this undertaking and agreed to begin. These were hours when only such young heroines of the Cross as had the spirit of entirely giving their lives in service could become the promoters of a scheme that looked toward the founding of a church.  When the hour arrived upon which they had agreed to meet in the woods that Sunday afternoon of the second Sunday in June 1864, there were but four that were brave enough to keep the appointment. These four young fourteen-year-old girls, Bertha Hilbert, Ada Haley, Helen Reid, and Eliza L. Valentine, there planted

a seed which under God’s care has blossomed forth into our North Presbyterian Church. They had no easy task but theirs was a fearless courage that comes from living in continuous close relationship with God.

Yes, with those four young girls as teachers, with song books borrowed from the First Presbyterian Sunday School and with seats improvised out of boards placed on stumps and legs a seed was planted.

The summer of 1864 was rapidly passing away, and with the approach of the winter it became necessary for the ”Mission Woods” Sunday School to have a shelter. There was a schoolhouse located on Trowbridge Street, between East Ransom and East North Streets.  The building had been erected for the colored children of that part of the city. Then ground where this building then stood was owned by an old colored man by the ·name of Thomas Soloman.  He was one of the scholars in attendance when the

Emancipation Proclamation was issued. It was into this schoolhouse, commonly called the little “Red Schoolhouse, that the “Mission Woods” Sunday School took shelter for the winter.

The work of this Sunday School was carried on in this place for about two years from the autumn of 1864-to August, 186, when the “Mission Woods” chapel ·was built on the site where the· present church now stands.  

The “Mission Woods” Sunday School continued to grow in its new chapel, under the competent leadership of its first superintendent, Frank S. Hillhouse.  Mr. Hillhouse was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, and a man called of God for service in a needy section of Kalamazoo.   On account of this growth, and the deepened interest of the members, on the sixth of March 1878 a petition was sent up to Kalamazoo Presbytery asking that a “religious society” be organized.

The Presbytery convened in the chapel, then still called the Mission Wood, on the 13th of March 1878 and organized the church.  Thus, the seed planted fourteen years previously blossomed forth into our North Presbyterian Church.

The inspiration of these historic times can not be written with pen and ink. We can

not photograph them but there are still some living amongst us who can still bear eye witness to the significance of these God lead pilgrims., What can have more power over human hearts and lives than the history of God’s dealings with His people.  

The Church has known its hard times in the years that have ensued since these early years. But we are now in the midst of a revival or interest and spirit in our church.  We must re-open these old walls of faith and tireless determination to move forward that so characterized our church founders.  We are returning to the basic purpose of a church committed to the task ·of perpetuating the Spirit of Christ to all peoples. Many years have passed since the “Mission Woods” Sunday School gave way to the name North Presbyterian Church, but we still have a mission to fulfill.  That mission is not only to make the Spirit of Christ a living reality within the physical boundaries of our church, but to also spread his influence to all in our community.

My earnest prayer for our church in the fruitful years that lie ahead is two-fold. First, may we continue our work in the strength of Him who said many years ago-“Where two or three are gathered together in my name., there am I in the midst.  Secondly., I hope that we shall all lose ourselves in support of our church by our attendance, giving and cooperation with its expanding program.

Yours in His Service.,

William W. D