The Rich History of the First Presbyterian Church
The sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church, organized May 22, 1858, is the oldest church structure on Amelia Island.
A few short years after the sanctuary was built, worship was interrupted when members of the congregation took refuge during the Civil War to the relative safety of the interior of the state. During the war, the sanctuary was used to house a primary school run by the Freedman’s Bureau.
A young Union officer named Major W.B.C. Duryee, who was stationed in Fernandina during the occupation, saved the church bell from being melted down for armament during the metal scarce years of the War Between the States.”
Nannie Wickliffe Yulee, wife of David Levy Yulee (the first US senator representing Florida), was a member of our church and she is listed in our old session minutes. David Yulee cannot be verified as a member, but previous histories state that he was a “communicant” of our church. After the Civil War, Yulee played a key role in Fernandina’s remarkable emotional and economic recovery — a time of slow and painful reconstruction for many other southern communities. There is no doubt he attended church often with his wife who was very devoted to our church.
First Presbyterian Church has a long history of community service. One early example of this was a small hospice, located behind the sanctuary. For many years before and after the turn of the century, members of the congregation cared for sick and destitute sailors, or anyone in need. A more recent example of community service is the Nassau County Volunteer Center, which was established, housed (until recently), and supported by the church. The dream of Nassau Habitat for Humanity also was born and nurtured among many members of our Church family. To date, our financial support has exceeded $100,000 in addition to thousands of volunteer hours.
In 1976, the simple, elegant architectural details of the church and its interior were included in a Bicentennial Historic American Buildings Survey of the nation’s most important structures.
First Presbyterian Church — indeed a great heritage!