In 1848, James G. Birney and his wife led Bay City's earliest Presbyterian services in a schoolhouse. Birney twice ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. on the antislavery ticket. The Reverend Lucius Root organized the First Presbyterian Church of Lower Saginaw on September 5, 1856. Services continued to be held in the schoolhouse and other public buildings until the first church was built in 1863. In 1886 church elder Alexander Folsom donated $50,000 for the founding of a college in "northern" Michigan. His donation funded the organization of Alma College.
In 1906 the college established the J. Ambrose Wight Memorial scholarship fund in honor of First Presbyterian's minister.