There has been a Presbyterian presence in the town of Aurora since before 1826 when a "Seminary" was established here under the auspices of Judge Jesse Holman and other influential members of the community. The school was probably one of many "Sabbath Schools" which were being established across the American frontier of the time under the movement which became known as the "Sunday School Movement". As a denomination, Presbyterians were in the forefront of this endeavor, which offered both religious and secular educational opportunities in developing communities where public educational systems had not yet been formed. The school, under the leadership of Rev. Lucius Alden, lasted for two years, when it was closed (probably because of the ability of Aurora to establish its own school system). Presbyterians in the meantime were meeting in homes and other buildings as an "unorganized" congregation, essentially because the wheels of denominational organizational structures had not yet caught up to the Westward movement which was beginning to expand the territory of the United States.
Finally in 1844 a committee of the Presbytery of Madison organized the "First Presbyterian Church of Aurora, Indiana", including members of the Hancock, Gaff, Cannon, Kennedy, Lotham, McConnell, and Witherow families. Rev. W.A. Smith was the first installed pastor. The congregation grew and by April, 1848, land was purchased at the present site of the church building and excavation begun for the Greek Revival sanctuary and fellowship hall which still survives today. The first phase of construction was completed by 1850 when the congregation began to meet in what is now the basement of the church. Second phase construction followed quickly for the time, and in 1855 the second floor sanctuary and bell-tower were completed along with the installation of a four-faced clock which was the official time-piece of the City of Aurora until 1981 when it was formally donated to the Congregation by the city council. The first pipe organ in Dearborn County was installed in the church in 1860 when a boat transporting the instrument was wrecked at Aurora and the congregation purchased it as "salvage". The pipes were made of wood, and the bellows were pumped by hand.
During the years leading up to and during the civil war, strong but unofficial tradition in the church says that the church building was used as a stop on the "Underground Railroad" for runaway slaves. A small room in the church, now used for storage, is thought to have provided overnight shelter. It is also believed that the lack of any written archive in the church records of these activities is due to the fact that this was technically an illegal activity at the time, and the congregation was committing what today might be considered an act of "civil disobedience".
In the 1870's, a "Women's Missionary Society" was organized by Mrs. Amzi Freeman, wife of the church pastor. This was the first such society of any denomination in Southeastern Indiana.
A period of dissention developed within the congregation and for a time, a group wishing to align themselves with the Congregational Church denomination had control of the building and barred those loyal to the Presbyterian Church. This was finally resolved in 1883 by a decision of the Supreme Court of Indiana, returning ownership of the building to the Presbyterians, and setting a legal precident of church ownership which is still cited in legal matters to this day.
The church became self-supporting during the years 1884-1905 and no longer received an annual stipend from the Presbytery. It also organized the "Christian Endeavor Society" which may have been one of the first "Youth Groups" to come to this part of Indiana. Also during this period, the old organ was replaced with the current instrument and changes were made in the layout of the Sanctuary. The stained-glass windows, so prominent in the minds of many people who attend worship at the church were installed in 1928, most of them as memorials to those who had worked so hard in the early days of the congregation. Construction of the Christian Education building was begun in June, 1959.
Through the years, the congregation has had a rich and varied history of support for local, national, and international mission; a strong commitment to the community; and a boldness in being among the first to try something new and different. Currently, we are in a period of renewed activity and discernment to determine what new ventures we can undertake in the name of Christ, both as individuals and as a congregation. We remain proud of our Presbyterian ministry and look forward to continuing that rich tradition for many years into the future.