A Short History:Scottish settlers established their first place of worship in this area at Coolreaghs near the northern end of the present town during days when there was much opposition from the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of Ireland. At this time the Westminster Confession of Faith was drawn up (1646) owing much to the influence of Archbishop James Usher of the Irish Anglican Church, who had been trained, educated and influenced by Walter Travers, Provost of Trinity College Dublin and a great Presbyterian. In 1701 the congregation was forced, by opposition from the Anglican Church of Ireland, to move from Coolreaghs to the southern end of the present town, Scotstown ,now in the centre of Killymoon Golf Club. Here they erected their new building inside three months using materials transported from the previous site. In 1996 cairns were erected on both Coolreaghs and Killymoon sites with some of the above historical detail. In 1764, as the planned town of Cookstown (designed by an ecclesiastical lawyer, Dr Allen Cooke) was developing, the congregation bought the present site on Loy Hill overlooking the main shopping area of the town.Here the new church building was opened on 4 January 1764. The present building on Loy Hill was erected in 1841. The minister of First Congregation today The Rev Dr J Isaac Thompson, TD, BSc, CertEd, BD, MTh, HCF, was formerly a school teacher and a part time member of The Royal Army Chaplains' Department (1987-2005). Rev Dr Thompson is the sixteenth minister of the congregation. The second minister of the congregation, The Rev John McKenzie (1673-1696) was one of eight Presbyterian ministers who took refuge in Derry in 1688 during the famous siege and he took part regularly in Presbyterian services held in St Columb's Cathedral. Up until a few years ago the small communion table of 1673, made of bog oak, was the only one in use in the congregation and is now in the sanctuary beside the new organ console. In 1828 The General Synod met in Loy Hill.This was memorable because The Revd Dr Henry Cooke proposed to set up a committee to examine candidates for the ministry. The committee agreed to do so, and thus our denomination became established officially in the doctrine of the Trinity. From 1835 all ministers and elders have had to subscribe to ‘The Westminster Confession of Faith’. The eighth minister was Dr Hamilton Brown Wilson (1846-1892) (like the present minister a native of the Garvagh district),he was Moderator of the General Assembly in 1883. The present pipe organ, one of the finest church organs west of the Bann, was installed in his memory in 1910. The most recent organ renovation was in 1993 when a new trumpet stop was installed.In 2012, during renovations to the church buildings, the two manual organ console was moved to the north wall from the centre of the sanctuary just in front of the choir area.Choir Leader: Mrs Meta Bell,MBE,CertTCL
Statue of Dr Henry Cooke in Belfast.
Memorial to old Church at Killymoon...
..the present day view from the site.
Two church histories have been written.The earliest by Rev W.J McKinstry Wallace in 1946.A story of 300 years of Presbyterianism in ‘First Cookstown’ 1646-1946The second was compiled by George Shannon in 1989 .This one has an online version.’Down the Years 1646-1989’ The Story of Presbyterianism in First Cookstown.