A BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR CHURCH
Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church was officially organized on January 26th 1890, when the town of Oak Cliff had a population of 2,470. Dr. A.P. Smith, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, organized this church with the help of Rev. W.L. Lowrance, the City Evangelist of Dallas Presbytery and the first pastor of this mission church. Millard Storey was installed as the first ruling elder and Superintendent of Sunday School. Dr. Smith had selected the site at Ninth and Patton St. for the location of the new church, but according to pictures at the Dallas Public Library, some of the first services were held at Marsalis Park where the Dallas Zoo is now located.
In 1923, the congregation moved to a large brick building at 10th St. and Madison, where the North Oak Cliff Branch of the Dallas Public Library is now. At that church by the 1960s, it was already a tradition to decorate with poinsettia plants, a tradition we still follow. In 1974, we added a tradition of having a Chrismon tree in the sanctuary. (Chrismons, symbols related to Christ, are white and gold.)
As the city of Dallas began changing, people were moving out from the middle of the city, so the leaders of the church began to consider moving south and finally located this property. At first, it was just the part of the building that has Currie Hall in it. The choir and ministers sat on the stage with folding chairs for the congregation. The first service was on March 21, 1971, but most of the Sunday School classes were still meeting on 10th Street. By January 1974, all of the church’s activities were being held here on Hampton. But it wasn’t until 1980 that we were able to worship here in a formal sanctuary. The pastor at the time, Dr. Thomas Currie, Jr., was influential in seeing that the sanctuary has a wonderful collection of symbols of our faith.
The Centennial Building at the south end of the buildings was opened in 1986 as the congregation looked forward to their Centennial year, 1990.
When we located here, this was a white neighborhood. Of course, it didn’t stay that way and our congregation was soon reflecting this change in the community. Although it was 1949, when the first African American joined this congregation, it was 1973 and 1974 when our congregation began to grow seriously in its mix of ethnicities.
When we think about history, those of us who have been there for a long time, we think of the history of good music that brought many youth and singers to our church and sports, which did the same thing with both youth and young adults. There is a long tradition of young people being called to the ministry – 22 by 1990, men in the early years and later two women; there were also 3 women Presbyterian missionaries and a number from Wycliffe Linguistics Center.
If we think about some of the people who passed through our membership, we see names like: Kessler – as in Kessler Park; Storey – as in Boude Storey Middle School; Sprague - as in Sprague Field over by Kimball High School; Lively as in Bill Lively who promoted the new arts center downtown and the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. The daughter of the fourth minister (Thomas Gallaher who came in 1919) was organist from 1938 to 1959 and is still a member of OCPC – Sarah Gallaher Cramer. Sarah joined the church in 1926 - she was a member for 86 years. Her daughter, Cathy Henderson, sings in our choir.
Written September 2012 by Shirley Campbell
REF: On The Right Side of the Trinity
By Thomas W. Currie, Jr. & Alexander McLachlan