Our church has a proud history that is older than Hanford or Kings County! By the mid 1870s, a few hardy settlers, lured by the promise of a land “as rich as the Nile Valley,” had come to the Mussel Slough area and had begun the backbreaking work of turning the plains into farms, orchards, vineyards and towns. Lacking modern conveniences, the essential tasks of daily living left little time for social activities.
A 1943 history of our church, written on the occasion of our 66th anniversary, described the area in this way, “the entire area would have been miles of wheat broken perhaps by lengths of dusty roads and shining sloughs of water.” That account went on to say “down dusty roads would come herds of wild horses endangering the expansive wheat fields, the precious gardens and young orchards newly planted.”
Cumberland Presbyterian ministers, who were affectionately addressed as ‘Father’, came into the area to minister to the residents at camp meetings. These gatherings, which were held by several denominations, not only furnished the settlers with their only source of religious experience outside their home, but also were “the last word” in social events.
As the outcome of an 1878 camp meeting led by Rev. Warren Compton, eight members banded together to form a mission that continued until November 18, 1878 when the first church was organized with Rev. William Smith and seventeen members. This group met in the Exchange Saloon, where they read and sang.
By 1880, with Rev. N. W. Motheral as pastor, the congregation expanded and our first church was built at the corner of Eighth and Douty Streets on property donated by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. The largest donation toward the building was from the saloon owners. A wagon train of five large teams hauled lumber from the Tollhouse lumber mills. A frame church was erected, complete with a 600 pound bell. This building served until 1912 when the land was sold to Kings County for expansion of the courthouse. A new sanctuary, the large grey building so fondly remembered by many of our members, was then built at our present location and served until the early 1980s, when it was razed after being replaced by our current sanctuary, which was dedicated on February 22, 1981.
In 1899, a Chinese Mission was started in Hanford with Mrs. M.A. Harlow, an early missionary of the church, taking an active role. Gradually it became a mixed mission of Chinese and Japanese. In 1905 a Japanese mission was established with Mrs. Harlow as Superintendent. This mission developed into Harlow Memorial Presbyterian Church. When declining membership led to its closing in 1962, the remaining members were absorbed into our church family. The church began as a dream of a few faithful and lives on as we continue to be faithful to their dream and, more importantly, to the Christ of their faith.