Our Rich History
Initial Organization, June 6, 1881
When Mr. G.W. McGrew, an ardent Presbyterian and elder in the Santa Clara Church, came to Los Gatos in 1881, he found that there was no Presbyterian church. His disappointment compelled him to do something about it. He rustled up some interest from others and a meeting was held in the Methodist Church at 4 p.m. on June 26,1881, at which Rev. J.W. Newell of the Santa Clara Presbyterian Church preached. After the service it was decided to organize a church in Los Gatos and a formal application, signed by 23 people, was made to the Presbytery Committee on Home Missions.
Mr. R.C. Moodie, a recent graduate of Auburn (N.Y.) Theological Seminary, had just arrived in Oakland with his bride and was available as a pastor. Rev. Newell asked him to come to Los Gatos to preach on Sunday, July 3, in the Lyndon Hall on West Main Street (shown above, on the left). The small group of Presbyterians were impressed with the young man and asked him to serve as “stated supply for one year”. The 23 members pledged themselves to the amount of $400 and the Presbytery Board of Home Missions “generously granted us the remainder of the salary”. In 1888 Rev. Moodie’s salary was $891.
The Presbytery of San Jose, which held its semi-annual meeting in San Leandro on October 5, 1881, adjourned to meet in Los Gatos on November 8, 1881 at 2 p.m. for the purpose of ordaining R.C. Moodie “to the gospel ministry and also to install him as pastor of the church in this place”.
Services continued to be held in the Lyndon Hall for a few weeks. On November 15, 1881, the Trustees sent a letter “to the members and friends of the Los Gatos Presbyterian Church” outlining the accomplishments and the financial standing of the church. The letter called on the people “to subscribe as much as possible to the church”. A subscription blank was enclosed in the letter which was signed by the Trustees: W.S. Butler, John Henderson, W.D. Hudson, E.W. Mills and Samuel Templeton.
First Church Property, Sept. 17, 1881
After several weeks in Lyndon Hall, the small congregation was soon worshipping in “a little chapel above Forbes Mill”. This had been the McMillan home, which was purchased by Rev. Moodie and converted into a chapel. On September 17, 1881 the Los Gatos Weekly News reported “The Presbyterian Church will have religious service and Sabbath School next Sabbath as heretofore, at Lyndon Hall, but hope to remove soon to their new chapel on the corner of Church Avenue and Mill Street”. The new chapel needed some repair and the next week the News reported, “under the skillful manipulation of Messrs. Hudson, Templeton, Henderson, and Butler, the new Presbyterian Chapel was neatly lined and papered last week”.
A permanent lot for a church building was needed. As early as August 1, 1881 the local press reported, “the Trustees and minister of the Presbyterian Church are looking for a suitable building site”. In 1882 the congregation purchased additional land around the chapel for $1400, most of the money having been raised by the women. The women staged a “big lawn party at the McMurtry home on Friday, September 10, 1881, attended by more than 250 people from as far away as San Jose”. On October 9,1883, Dr. W.S. McMurtry offered to donate land on Church Street and this offer was gratefully accepted. The Presbyterians now had land and were ready to plan their first church building.
First Church Building, May 3, 1885
With land acquired, a congregational meeting held on July 9, 1884 elected a Building Committee to begin plans for a church building. The committee was instructed to only accept bids from Los Gatos builders. Mr. N.S. Hitchcock was given the contract for the building which was to cost $1800. A Mr. Taylor was the architect. Rev. Moodie suggested that a belfry be added to the contract. He offered to buy the old chapel plus a 50-foot frontage on Church Street for $500, the money to be used for the belfry. As part of the agreement he would re-sell the lot and chapel to the church at a later date.
Since money was needed immediately the Trustees voted to borrow $600 from the Bank of Los Gatos for 90 days, “or until such time as the Board of Church Erection gives that sum”. The Board came through with that amount and continued its aid for four years.
The total cost of the church was $5,000 which included furniture, an organ, chairs, carpets, chandelier, fence, and shed. The ladies of the church purchased the chairs and organ; the young ladies got the chandelier and some of the furnishings. The church bell was procured by subscription primarily through the efforts of Mr. G.W. McGrew and was installed in the belfry.
The church building was dedicated on Sunday, May 3, 1885 with Rev. H.C. Minton of San Jose preaching. At this service $276 was raised making the congregation debt-free with $6.35 remaining. Mr. H.C. Woodham, the Secretary-Treasurer, expressed his pleasure at this response.
Following major fires in Los Gatos in 1888 and 1891, on September 8, 1892, the Trustees voted to allow the church bell to be used as a fire alarm bell “for fires only”. The use of church bells as community alarms continued until the turn of the century when Los Gatos installed its own fire alarm bell.
The 1860 Lectern Bible
Some of our rich history has been gifted to us from other churches. In 1900, the Rev. James Martin built a church called Lakeside Church on Black Road above Los Gatos. Rev. Martin and his wife had been missionaries in Jamaica and were on furlough when his wife was injured making it impossible to return to Jamaica. Some friends had sent the Martins money for their work in Jamaica, however, when he found that they could not return to the island, and realizing the need for a church in the mountains above Los Gatos, Rev. Martin built the church.
In November 1911, a Bible printed in 1860 and a lectern were presented to Lakeside Church by a J.W. Helmke of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland. Following Rev. Martin’s death, Rev. Wintler (of Los Gatos Presbyterian Church) conducted Sunday afternoon services at Lakeside Church, also known as Martin Memorial Church at Lakeside.
As the result of a disagreement, Rev. Wintler was asked to give up his work in the mountains. The little church slowly disintegrated and died. On April 10, 1934 the Presbytery of San Jose dissolved the congregation. Some of the people transferred their membership to our church and others joined with neighboring congregations.
Our church inherited two items from Lakeside Church; a lectern which is in our Fireside Room, and the 1860 Bible (shown above) which faces the congregation on the sanctuary lectern each Sunday. With its recent repair and restoration it will remain an integral part of our historical legacy.
Wintler Memorial Stained Glass Window
The stained glass window (above) now located in the Fireside Room was one of three memorial stained glass windows in our former facility on Church Street. Two of the windows, the Bean Memorial Windows, were given to the Antioch Baptist Church in San Jose in 1959. The remaining window, the Wintler Memorial Window remained in storage until the Humanities and Arts Committee provided funds for its restoration and installation in the Fireside Room. There is an expanded description of the windows on the wall near the window.
As you enter the PCLG sanctuary from the narthex through the central double doors you pass under a small, low wattage chandelier (above). This fixture was given to the church when it was located on Church Street by Ethel Kretsinger, a member of the church from 1926 through 1984. The lamp was relocated from the Church Street facility in 1953, to the Shannon Road Church, which is now the Social Hall, and then to its present location with the completion of the sanctuary in 1958.
The “Memorial Light” was given in memory of the young men of this church who lost their lives in World War II and the Korean War—Kenneth C. Bailey, William B. Coleman, Ralph Elsman, Jr., Neal C. Jones, Robert W. Jones, Kenneth F. Kretsinger and Hamilton W. White.
There is a small brass plaque commemorating the perpetual light lamp on the wall above the pews on the north side of the door. Make note of the light and its meaning as you enter the sanctuary.
Exterior Sanctuary Symbols, 1956
Construction of the sanctuary commenced in 1956. One of the committees formed was the Symbols Committee which was tasked with selection and design of the various symbols to be incorporated into the new structure. The committee consisted of Mrs. Robert Lundy, chairman; Mrs. Edward Buhler; Mr. William Buckman; Mrs. Stanley Bear; Mrs. James B. Fulk; Mr. William Firth; and Rev. Frank G. Mar.
The exterior symbols selected by the committee were acquired for $650 and installed during the masonry construction. The interpretations below are taken from the “Symbols in Christian Art and Architecture” website.
Madeline Thomas Fund, May, 1958
Madeline S. Young Thomas was a native of Arkansas and joined the church in March 1951. She was married to William D. Thomas, a Los Gatos realtor and was a resident of Los Gatos for over 30 years. She was an active member of a number of local clubs, including the Saratoga Hill Club, the History Club, and Daughters of the American Revolution. At the time of her death, in January 1957, she had been in a local rest home for over a year with a protracted illness. Her husband; a son, John Preston Young; and two sisters, Mrs. Ida May Kenneday of San Jose and Mrs. S.W. Tappan of Helena, Arkansas, survived her.
In May 1958, the church received a bequest of stock certificates from the Madeline Thomas Estate. In September, faced with the prospect of borrowing additional money to complete the sanctuary, the Board of Trustees decided to sell the stock in 19 different corporations. These funds were utilized to install the organ in the sanctuary and complete its construction.
In 2001, following a search for surviving relatives, the estate was liquidated with the church receiving approximately $800,000. The Madeline Thomas Fund was established and a portion of these funds has been utilized for recent capital improvement projects and to meet current operating budget requirements. The church is extremely grateful to Mrs. Thomas for her generous gift.
Redwood Grove, May 29, 1960
The redwood grove, located in the back of the church property, was established in 1960 as a living memorial to Nottley Stever Hammack, our pastor from 1939 to 1954. Reverend Hammack was invited to preach in Los Gatos on December 19, 1938 after the Pastoral Search Committee heard him preach at the Cupertino Church. He came to Los Gatos from Coronado and attended his first Session meeting as Pastor-elect on January 22, 1939. Over the fifteen years he served our church he developed a close relationship with many of the members and originated the concept of couples clubs, helping to form the Clipper Club in December 1939.
In 1953, while attending a Synod meeting at Occidental College in Los Angeles he suffered a heart attack. Reverend E.C. Thomson, a previous pastor, was asked to be the acting minister during Rev. Hammack’s recovery. In April 1954, Rev. Hammack resigned as pastor and moved to Pleasanton and served as Pastor at the Presbyterian Church until his death on June 2, 1958.
Friends of Rev. Hammack wanted to establish a living memorial to him. In October 1959, a committee composed of Mrs. Robert Lundy, Mrs. George Kretsinger, Mrs. A. L. Cilker, and Miss Dora Rankin asked for contributions for a redwood grove. The grove was planted by volunteers and dedicated on May 29, 1960.
In 1999 the Redwood Grove was upgraded to allow more church activities. A pathway, landscape lighting, additional plants and trees were added. These improvements were a donation by Mike and Pat Moore in memory of her mother, Eva Duran Vigil. Subsequently, two Eagle Scout projects have added benches along the pathway. Two bronze plaques commemorate the establishment of the Grove and its upgrade.
When you enter the Redwood Grove remember to be thankful for the care, concern, and stewardship, which has provided this wonderful gathering area from which we all benefit.
PCLG’s 132-year long history has uniquely positioned it as a church that has evolved and grown, yet has never left its roots as a gathering place for people of the community to grow closer to God and to one another. There are members who have been with the church for decades and some that are brand new. Stop by for worship sometime—we think you just might see a future with us.
By Bob Ekstrand with excerpts from: History of the First United Presbyterian Church of Los Gatos, 1881-1972 by George W. Bruntz 1972