The Beginnings of CPC
The only church building in our area in 1852 was St. Joseph Church in Mission San Jose, the 1809 adobe church that survived from mission days. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes met in homes and then in the little church schoolhouse John Horner built in Centerville. Mrs. Charlie Henion said she heard John Horner preach a Mormon sermon to an assemblage of Protestants. The Methodist services were sometimes held at Captain C.C. Scott's place.
These pioneer meetings led to serious talk about forming a Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Hannah Breyfogle who was a Methodist, Mrs. William Coombs who was a Baptist, Mrs. Henion who was Episcopalian, Captain Richardson who was a Baptist, Charles Hilton, Captain George Bond and several others got together. Charles Shinn quoted Captain Bond as saying that he was "the very hardest shell of a hard-shell Baptist and yet he was willing to have any kind of a Christian church to take his family to."
That was the story the pioneers told of how the Centerville Presbyterian Church got started. Official minutes noted that local citizens held a meeting to organize a church. Reverend W.W. Brier was called to chair the group. Charles Hilton was appointed secretary and Charles Kelsey was chosen elder pro tempre.
At the meeting held June 4, 1853, nine people signed a petition requesting Reverend W.W. Brier to organize them into a church of Jesus Christ to be known as the Alameda Presbyterian Church and to be placed under the care of the Presbytery of San Francisco. It was resolved that the organization take place on the Sabbath, June 5, 1853, in J.M. Horner's School House. Those who signed the petition were: Charles Hilton, Elizabeth Brier, Hannah Breyfogle, Chauncey Cornell, Charlotte Cornell, Charles Kelsey, Eliza Beard and James Selfridge.
Reverend Brier preached a sermon on June 5 and then declared the church organized. Four weeks later, Mary Brier, Reverend and Mrs. Elizabeth Brier's daughter, was baptized at age seven months. The next year Mrs. Jane Beard was received into membership. Henry Clark and Jonathan Mayhew also became active workers in the church.
Jonathan Mayhew, Jesse Beard, Charles Kelsey, Henry Clark and Chauncey Cornell were elected trustees of the church in 1855. The trustees were to hold in trust all property of the church. Jesse was chosen president, Chauncey secretary, and Reverend Brier treasurer. Reverend Brier was authorized to take subscriptions and purchased a lot for a church building. George and Mary Jane Lloyd donated a 2 1/2 acre lot and trustees voted to contract with Charles Tool to build a brick church 24 feet wide and 44 feet long. The building was completed and dedicated in 1856.
Who were these pioneers who founded the Centerville Presbyterian Church and organized the cemetery that nearly surrounded the church. Most of them were farmers or merchants in the Centerville area. Many were prominent citizens in the town of Centerville, and several helped found Alameda County. Their leader was Reverend William Wallace Brier. He was born in Dayton Ohio in 1821 and was ordained in Indiana in 1848. He came to California in 1850 and served as District Secretary of Home Missions for California and Nevada. He ministered to Presbyterian Churches at Marysville, Centerville, Alvarado, Livermore, Milpitas and several other places.
Reverend Brier taught school at the mission in 1852 and served as the first Superintendent of Schools for Alameda County. His wife Elizabeth worked in the background to establish the church and keep it operating in the face of great obstacles. She once traveled to San Francisco to get donations for the church and returned with $203.00. Their daughter Mary was the first person baptized in the Centerville Presbyterian Church. Reverend and Elizabeth Brier built a home on the road from Centerville to Alvarado.
Want to learn more about CPC's history? Are you kind of a history nut? Thought so. Download the documents below to learn about our history. Happy reading.