It may have been a man, the Rev. Mr. Henry W. Bainton, who won the race against the Congregationalist’s Wyoming Mission Wagon in October of 1905, and thereby secured the right of Presbyterians rather than Congregationalists to establish a church in Cody; however, it was a woman, one Julia Goodman, who gathered the women of Cody together in the Irma Hotel Parlors on April 23, 1905, and formed the Woman’s Society as an arm of that Presbyterian Church, almost six months before the church was officially organized. Indeed, even as Henry W. Bainton presented the petition, with its 25 signatures, and received authorization at the Presbytery’s Spring meeting in Rawlins for a new church to be formed in Cody, the Women’s Society was stitching aprons to be sold to finance a building and to support a ministry that existed only in their minds and hearts.
Rev. Bainton, Pastor-at-Large for Wyoming oversaw the initial establishment of Cody First Presbyterian Church. The Home Mission Board procured W. O. Harper to supply the church beginning October 19, 1905. The church was officially incorporated on September 27th, 1905 and by 1906 had purchased two pieces of property, one for a church structure and one for a manse.
Because of the ill health of his wife, Rev. Harper resigned in February 1907, to be succeeded by Edwin L. Anderson. The church had begun with 58 members, and under Rev. Anderson not only was a physical structure built but also the size of the congregation increased substantially in number. The new church structure, located at the corner of 11th and Beck, was dedicated April 9, 1910.
Following Rev. Anderson, who left in August 1912, Harry B. Angus ministered as a student pastor during the summer of 1912. And with Mr. Angus comes a list of fairly short-termed pastors, though none with a tenure quite so short as that of Rev. Dr. Steele, who arrived one day in 1907, preached the Sunday sermon, and opted to catch the afternoon train to California.
Morten Joslin arrived in September 1912 as Stated Supply, was later called as Pastor, and served through April 1914. Under Joslin’s leadership a Young People’s Society was organized in September 1913 with 20 members. Walter Baker (1914-1915) was followed by Walter Pitkin (1916-1919) who had come as Stated Supply and was later called as pastor. Then came A. M. Sheppard (1920-1923), C.V. Brown (1923-1925), and C.E. Pitts (1925-1928). Following Rev. Pitts’ departure, there was no Pastor until the spring of 1930 when Frank Gregg arrived and ministered to the congregation until February 1931.
Lyman Winkle, who came to the area under the Board of Home Missions to work in the Oregon Basin field, served the Cody church as Student Pastor the summer of 1931, returning to Seminary in the fall, with the Church’s blessing, to complete his degree. During Winkle’s absence, the Rector of the Episcopal Church graciously filled the pulpit one Sunday per month. Winkle returned in 1932 and served until 1940. During his tenure, Hoopes Memorial Chapel, and addition to the north side of the Beck Avenue church, providing an overflow room for the sanctuary and extra Sunday School space in the basement was erected in memory of major Ellis S. Hoopes. Alvin J. Kamman served as Pastor from 1940
R.N. Buswell (1944-1978), Cody Presbyterian’s longest serving Pastor, was bestowed with the title Pastor Emeritus after his retirement. Under Buswell’s leadership, plans for the education wing in the Dakken subdivision, with 16 classrooms, a fellowship hall and kitchen grew to fruition (1959), as did plans for the new sanctuary which was dedicated November 28, 1968. The sanctuary construction included a celtic cross and the communion table, over which it hangs, made by members Glenn Hill, Sr. and his sons, Glenn Jr. and Kirk. Also during Buswell’s pastorate, the church’s growth made clear the need for additional, full-time staff. Sherwood McKay came as Christian Education Director in 1976 and was ordained as Associate Pastor in 1977.
C. Freeman McCall was called as Senior Pastor in 1978 and served until 1989. Associate Pastor McKay served with McCall until 1979. Mateen Elass served as Associate Pastor from 1982 until 1989.
John F. DeVries followed McCall in 1989 but left in 1990. The church continued for more than a year with no pastor. Roger A. Waid ministered as Pastor from 1991-1995, at which time the congregation once again found itself without a pastor. Dr. James H. Rucker came as Interim Pastor (1996-1997) to help prepare the congregation for the responsibility of choosing a new pastor.
Our current Pastor, Dr. Patrick M. Montgomery, arrived as Pastor in 1997 and met the task of building up the church in the wake of some very lean years. Bill Eaton joined the church staff as Associate Pastor December 1, 2000 and he and his family relocated in 2005.
First Presbyterian Church ended its first 100 years in 2005 as a healthy, growing, vibrant church blessed with a wealth of talented members and staff, a full calendar of church programs and activities plus an excellent physical plant. A year of celebration began in January of 2005 to mark the anniversary of the founding of this church and to look forward to
Associate Pastor’s Jonathan Warren and Siobhan Warren joined the staff in 2007 and moved from Wyoming in 2009. Christian Education Director, Tammy Scott, began in 2010 and served on several different committees up until May of 2018.
Together we look forward to the future, glorifying God and uniting in fellowship with one another.
The stained-glass window, Christ Knocking, was chosen by the children of Isaac and Mary Cody in 1909, when Cody First Presbyterian Church laid its corner stone and its members “were apprised of the need for windows to grace the brick edifice.” Ford Brothers Glass Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, designers and manufacturers of Art, Stained & Ecclesiastical glass, was commissioned to produce the several stained-glass windows for the church at 14th and Beck Avenue, including Christ Knocking. The original price of the window was $177. The building was completed in 1910.
In 1959 (?) the Beck Avenue church was sold to First National Bank to make room for a parking lot. The stained-glass windows were removed from the old church in 1963, prior to demolition of the building, and stored by Bill Henry. Construction was begun that same year at FPC’s present location at 2025 - 23rd Street. However, the first phase of the building project consisted only of the Christian education wing. Christ Knocking and the other stained-glass windows salvaged from the old church had to wait until 1967, and the completion of the worship area, to be brought out of storage. Before their installation, however, it was decided that the windows were in need of refurbishing. Big Horn Glass & Paint was hired to crate the windows ready for shipment to Hauser Studios of Stained Glass: Design–Creation–Restoration in Winona, Minnesota. There the windows were to be refurbished, although later it was decided to re-lead them as well; as Hauser wrote, “The difficulty with the lead in the original window was apparently due to age and oxidation. It appeared to be in good condition until it was moved about in transit. Upon receipt of the window we found a number of places where the lead had cracked open, and ... were afraid...similar cracking might occur...returning or installing them. This difficulty with the lead cames is sometimes experienced when a church is damaged by wind storms... ” Ah, the Cody winds. Total cost: $2458.91.
~ information from First Presbyterian Church records.
In Memory of Isaac and Mary Cody by their children.
So reads the inscription on First Presbyterian’s stained glass window Christ Knocking. Who were Isaac and Mary Cody, and why did their children choose, more than forty years after their deaths, to memorialize them through the gift of a stained glass window to a church hundreds of miles from any place the two might have called home?
Isaac Cody, born in Canada in 1811, married Mary Ann Laycock (born in Pennsylvania, 1827) in 1840 in Ohio. They soon moved to Iowa, where six children were born to them. In 1854, Isaac moved his family to Kansas Territory. He had been actively involved in politics in Iowa, though he had no intention to involve himself in the politics in Kansas, a territory struggling violently with the decision of whether to declare for or against slavery. Isaac’s brother, Elijah was pro-slavery, and many assumed the brothers shared this view, although they did not, Isaac being an abolitionist. However, because of their assumption, one day in the summer of 1855, the pro-slavery faction of the community asked Isaac, noted for his oratorical skills, to make a speech in behalf of Kansas entering the Union as a Slave State. In spite of his protests, they compelled him to “take the box”; the following is from that speech:
"I have no wish to quarrel with you. But you have forced me to speak, and I can do no less than declare my real convictions. I am, and always have been, opposed to slavery. It is an institution that not only degrades the slave, but brutalizes the slave-holder, and I pledge you my word that I shall use my best endeavors -- yes, that I shall lay down my life, if need be -- to keep this curse from finding lodgment upon Kansas soil. It is enough that the fairest portions of our land are infected with this blight. May it spread no farther. All my energy and my ability shall [be spent in] the effort to bring in Kansas as a Free Soil state. [Then apologizing to those who’d asked him to speak,] Friends, you are mistaken in your man. I am sorry to disappoint you."
Enraged by the speech, a mob engulfed him, and one of the men stabbed him with a knife. Isaac Cody escaped with his life that day, but spent the remaining two years of that life being pursued by the pro-slavery faction and ever working toward Kansas’s declaration as a Free Soil state. He was part of the Legislature which, on “March 4, 1856, chosen under the provisions of the Free-state constitution, convened at Topeka [Kansas], and [fully established] the provisional forms of a State Government.” In 1857, at age 46, Isaac Cody succumbed to the effects of his wound and the months of constant physical and emotional upheaval.
Helen Cody Wetmore, in writing of her mother’s death, assures us that Mary Cody was “an earnest Christian character.” In fact Wetmore’s book, Last of the Great Scouts is dedicated “to the memory of a mother whose Christian character still lives a hallowed influence.” Wetmore, only 13 when her mother dies, goes on to speak of her last visit with her mother:
[B]ut at [the time of her death] I alone of all the children appeared religiously disposed. Young as I was, the solemnity of the hour when she charged me with the spiritual welfare of the family has remained with me through all the years that have gone. Calling me to her side, she sought to impress upon my childish mind, not the sorrow of death, but the glory of the resurrection. Then, as if she were setting forth upon a pleasant journey, she bade me good by, and I kissed her for the last time in life.
Of later years Wetmore writes, “We know our parents are buried on the summit of Pilot Knob Hill [outside of Leavenworth, Kansas]. Further than that we know nothing. Whether because of the spite of enemies, the carelessness of those in authority, or of war’s unevitable [sic] havoc, their graves today are unknown, unhonored, and unmarked.”
In 1909-10, Julia Goodman, William Cody, Helen Wetmore, and May Decker Bradford, the surviving children of Isaac and Mary Cody, set about establishing a memorial to honor their parents’ lives, the lives of a man who literally laid his life on the line to bring about a just society, and a woman of earnest Christian character who reared three women who matured into the roles of honoring their deceased parents by helping to establish a Church in Cody, Wyoming, and in beautifying that church through the gift of a stained glass window.
Wetmore, H. (1899). Last of the Great Scouts.
Grosset & Dunlap.
Cutler, W.G. (1833). History of the State of Kansas.
A.T. Andreas: Chicago