Did President Lincoln visit Zachariah Chandler’s church?

B. Nash at The Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit


Zachariah Chandler was a member of  The Fort Street Presbyterian Church located in downtown Detroit. It is still an active church today.  Abraham Lincoln often attended The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church pastored by Phineas Gurley in Washington, during the Civil War years.  Lincoln developed a friendship with Rev. Gurley over discussions of faith and theology. Lincoln even rented a pew in the church for fifty dollars a year. Interestingly, Pastor Gurley also conducted funerals for two Lincolns: William “Willie” Lincoln (President Lincoln’s son) and Abraham Lincoln (himself).  Although Lincoln didn’t formally become a member of The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, it was as close as he was going to get to doing so. Rev. Gurley made a statement that Lincoln had changed during the war years-and became a person of faith in Christ as his Savior.

So did Abraham Lincoln ever have the opportunity to attend Zachariah Chandler’s church? No, he didn’t. Abraham Lincoln’s only visit to Michigan was to Kalamazoo (before he was president).  Mr. Chandler was present in at that Kalamazoo event, interestingly enough. Lincoln had also traveled down the Detroit River-past Detroit, but he didn’t step foot in Detroit. A United States President did visit The Fort Street Presbyterian Church. At the invitation of church member Russell A. Alger, Theodore Roosevelt worshiped there. The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church would have several presidents inside it’s walls for service, including: Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Nixon.  One minister at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church preached a  Lincoln day sermon February 7, 1954 with President Eisenhower in attendance. The sermon is largely credited as the basis for the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States having Lincoln’s Gettysburg phrase “under God” inserted into it by the U. S. Congress.

On November 27, 1879, the Rev. Arthur T. Pierson delivered a Memorial Address for U. S. Senator Zachariah Chandler at The Fort Street Presbyterian Church.  Zachariah Chandler had died November 1, 1879 in Chicago. His body was brought back to Detroit. In the address, Rev. Pierson invoked the name of Abraham Lincoln. That was as it should have been. They were both “giants” in their day-in the cause of freedom and Union.

The Fort Street Presbyterian Church still stands as a visible reminder of its history and that of Detroit. Its overshadowed by the much taller buildings of the downtown area. But what the church has done (and is still doing) cannot be measured by mere building size.

The Fort Street Presbyterian Church, Detroit





B. Nash at Zachariah Chandler's grave in Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit


Some sources include:

Life of Zachariah Chandler, The Detroit Post and Tribune, 1880

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