Over 200 Years ago...
On March 14, 1819, the reverend doctor Henry Ruffner organized the first Presbyterian Church in the Kanawha Valley, however this endeavor was already some years in the making.
In the preceding years, with a license to preach from Lexington Presbytery, Ruffner began proclaiming the gospel all throughout the Kanawha Valley. He held worship services at the small courthouse in Charleston, in his father’s house at the Salt Works (Malden), at the schoolhouse by Burning Spring, and in various private homes, not neglecting the remote and destitute areas of the valley. These initial worship gatherings were small, fluctuating between 20–40 people, but sometimes as many as 60.
He later conducted services in a second-floor classroom of Mercer Academy in Charleston and in the “Ruffner Meeting House,”
at the Salt Works. Both of these buildings were erected on properties donated by his father, and constructed through family funds.
In 1818, Henry Ruffner was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Thereafter, the new reverend organized two Presbyterian churches in the Kanawha Valley. One in Teays Valley, and the second in Charleston which included the Salt Works.
Promptly thereafter he handed the newly-planted congregations into the care of other pastors to succeed him, as he took an appointment to teach ancient languages at Washington college.
Regretfully, the Teays Valley church dissolved for lack of strong leadership. The other, known at the time as the Kanawha Presbyterian Church at Kanawha Salines and at Charleston endured with some 16–18 members. The reverend Calvin Chaddock was installed as their first pastor.
Worship services were conducted in Charleston and in Kanawha Salines (Malden) on alternate weeks. Separated by a distance of 5 miles, the steamboat ferry on the Kanawha river facilitated transportation between the two locations.
Henry’s father, the colonel David Ruffner, was baptized in the Kanawha church on December 11, 1819, just nine months after the church was organized. The following year the Rev. Henry Ruffner had the privilege to ordain his father as an elder. The colonel served this office well and devoted himself to the church, determined to facilitate the singing, prayers, and Bible teaching at worship gatherings. Marked with compassion and charity, the colonel David Ruffner sought the needs of the poor–free and slave alike–and promoted religion and education throughout the valley. He invited slaves to attend worship services, some of whom were received into membership.
The church continued to meet in the upper classroom of Mercer Academy for eleven years, until 1830, when the small congregation managed to build a brick church building on Virginia Street East to be their sanctuary in Charleston. Still volleying between two locations, the Ruffner Meeting House remained their house of worship at the Salt Works (Malden) for another decade.
In 1839, construction began on a second brick church building to be their sanctuary in Malden. Upon completion, the reverend
Henry Ruffner accompanied the current pastor at that time, the reverend James Moore Brown, to dedicate the new sanctuary on December 13, 1840. The congregation numbered 48 members with 2 elders.
In 1840, the very next year, at Reverend James Moore Brown’s recommendation, the single church multiplied, forming two distinct congregations—one church in Charleston and one in Kanawha Salines (Malden). The reverend James Moore Brown remained pastor of the congregants in Charleston.
The members in Kanawha Salines chartered Kanawha Salines Presbyterian Church, and acquired the 1840-built sanctuary in Malden which is still in use today. The reverend Stuart Robinson was installed as pastor.
For the time, both the Charleston and Malden congregations remained under the care of the same governing Presbytery.
In 1933, Mrs. John Q. Dickinson donated funds for a Sunday school wing, added to the west side of the sanctuary. The original part of the building–previously painted white–was repainted red, though this new coat has since deteriorated, revealing matching brick colors between the old and new construction. Further renovations followed in order to preserve the original structure.
On March 14, 2019, Kanawha Salines PCA was awarded a Certificate of Recognition, signed by Governor James Justice, celebrating 200 years of spreading the Gospel and promoting spiritual growth in the Kanawha Valley. We are grateful to God for his enduring faithfulness and praise him for the work he has done in and through this local church body.
This heritage is cherished by those who presently worship here, thankful for the gracious blessings of God upon his house.
For the glory of God, we continue to teach the unsearchable riches of Christ, that there may be many who learn of Jesus Christ our Lord, who died to save his people from sin, and who indwells those who trust him.
All glory to God.