In 1832 there were approximately fifty people in Hannibal and ten of them were Presbyterians. On August 19, 1832, Dr. David Nelson M.D. met with those ten Presbyterians in the home of Abner O. Nash, in the 200 block of Hill Street, to formally organize the Presbyterian church in Hannibal. Ten members formed the original body of the church, all presenting letters of regular membership in other churches. The ten charter members were: Abner O. Nash, Diana K. Nash, Matilda P. Nash, Pamilia P. Jones, Theodosia lnskeep, Tabitha lnskeep, Elizabeth Brown, Almyra Church, David Bills, and Emily Stewart. They gathered together to worship and in so doing the Presbyterian church became the first religious organization in Hannibal to meet regularly. We have been doing so ever since.
By 1837 the village population had risen to between 400 and 500. Services were originally held in a small frame building near the river. In 1839 construction of a church was begun but thanks to measles and cholera epidemics wasn't completed until 1843. The first building on the present site was built in 1860.
The political and social strains that later erupted into the Civil War were mirrored by splits in the protestant faiths and our denomination was no exception. Beginning in 1837, Presbyterians separated into a northern New School (N.S.) and a southern Old School (O.S.). Here in Hannibal, the church first left the Presbytery of St. Charles to join an independent synod which in 1843 associated with the N.S. General Assembly. It maintained this association until 1859 when the congregation voted to move to the O.S. church affiliation. It appears that in 1848, the 2ndPresbyterian Church (N.S.) was formed and a building constructed at the location of the present library. The two congregations existed until 1873 when the two merged and became the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal, located at the current location. The current structure was erected in 1894-95 and has been renovated several times, most recently in 1983-84.
Few histories of the early years in Hannibal can be written without the shadow of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, “Mark Twain”, being cast across its pages and this is true here. The Rev. Joshua Tucker recalled that Sam’s mother was “a woman of the sunniest temperament, lively, affable, a general favorite…”, the father was quiet and spoke little. Sam first attended Sunday school at the Methodist church and tells us of those classes in his autobiography. Mrs. Clemens and his sister Pamela joined this church in February 1841 and Sam attended Sunday school. Years later he recalled that his mother also used the church as punishment, making him attend Sunday evening services to atone for some “exaggerated impropriety”. He returned to the church in 1890 to attend his mother’s funeral, and later visited one last time on Decoration Day (Memorial Day), 1902. Did he sleep in the church? We have no way of knowing for sure, but we have to believe that the elbows of his sister or mother found his ribs if he even started to nod off!