In 1811 when Stephen Hempstead, a hero of the Revolutionary War, moved to St. Louis, he found that there was not a single Protestant Church in the entire area. Due to his persistent pleas to the Congregational Missionary Society of Connecticut, the Society sent Rev. Salmon Giddings to St. Louis in 1816.

On October 4, 1816, Rev. Giddings organized Bonhomme Church in the log cabin home of Capt. Joseph Conway. The following Sunday, October 6, he held the first worship service and ordained the Elders, one of whom was Stephen Hempstead. Bonhomme became the second Presbyterian congregation organized west of the Mississippi River (the first is in Caledonia, Missouri) and the first in the St. Louis area.  Altogether, in the 12 years of his ministry, before his death in 1828, he organized six congregations in Missouri and six in Illinois.

Because of the Congregational-Presbyterian “Plan of Union” or agreement in effect until 1852, all of these churches became Presbyterian as they were west of the Hudson River.

The Presbyterian Church in the United States has split and parts have reunited several times. Currently, the largest group is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has its national offices in Louisville, Kentucky. It was formed in 1983. The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is located at 2236 Tower Grove in St. Louis.

Two other denominations of the Presbyterian Church in metropolitan St. Louis are the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church of America. The Historical Center of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) is located on the campus of Covenant Theological Seminary at 12330 Conway Road.

As some records vary based on opening dates versus incorporation dates, please be flexible. Presbyterian Churches are now required to have church registers of membership, baptisms, marriages, and deaths as well as the data in the session records.

Kevin T. Kelly, then president of St. Louis Genealogical Society, wrote an article about Presbyterian Churches in St. Louis for the 1981 St. Louis Genealogical Society Quarterly, volume 14, number 4, pages 127–128. Rev. Edward C. Wicklein, former Pastor of the Pacific Presbyterian Church, contributed further information. His article appeared in the 1982 St. Louis Genealogical Society Quarterly, volume 15, number 2, pages 41–43.


Directory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy

Vogt, Mrs. Leo J. Webster Groves Presbyterian Church 1866–1966, Beginning a Second Century of Christian Witness. St. Louis: Webster Groves Presbyterian Church, 1966.

Last modified: 12-Feb-2019 11:21