St. Paul's Episcopal Church
The History of St. Paul's
Wallingford was founded in 1670 by about a hundred settlers who moved north up the Quinnipiac Valley from New Haven. At that time the religion of New England, the established Church in Connecticut, and the tax-supported religious society of the new town was Congregational. Every town was required by law to levy a tax for the support of a minister, and no church organization could exist without the permission of the General Assembly.
It was already recognized, however, that not all the inhabitants were of one religious mind. In 1665 Commissioners of King Charles II said that Connecticut "will not hinder anyone from enjoying the sacraments and using the Book of Common Prayer, provided they hinder not the maintenance of the public minister." The King, of course, was far away, but in 1708 the General Assembly passed an Act of Toleration. As long as they paid taxes for church support, "persons who soberly dissented from the worship and ministry by law established, that is the Congregational order, are permitted to enjoy the same liberty of conscience with the Dissenters in England." And they were given permission to levy additional assessments on themselves, in order to support their own worship.
At the opening of the eighteenth century, there were probably in all New England not more than seven hundred Anglican churchmen, served by two clergy. But in 1701 there was chartered in London a new organization which would feel special responsibility for these scattered Anglicans—the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The Society "clearly foresaw the future greatness of Anglo-America and resolved to make it a bulwark of Christian culture." Inspired by its motto, " Come Over and Help Us", the Society sent the Reverend George Keith across the Atlantic to survey the situation in New England.
Mr. Keith, a former Quaker, was already sixty-four when he was ordained, but the Bishop of Salisbury called him "a most learned man" and he was an acute observer. Preaching and using the Prayer Book in New London, he made a great impact on the people. Also he noted a vibrant Anglican sentiment, but he was too restless to stay at St. James and try to build a strong parish. After Mr. Keith departed for the South, the churchmen in Connecticut suffered indignities, despite the Act of Toleration. From Stratford an appeal went to Queen Anne, deploring the "daily reproaches, scoffings, and mockings, without the advantage of a minister to give us comfortable and ghostly advice and to administer the bread of life to us."
Meanwhile, in 1701, a small college had been founded in Saybrook, to train leaders in Church and Civil State. It was named after an early benefactor, Elihu Yale, and soon moved to New Haven. Here there was space to unpack and examine boxes of books, including eight hundred volumes supplied by the Connecticut Colonial Agent in England, Jeremiah Dummer. Ministers and students of the new college had time to study the religious works of authors like Bishop Berkeley, and they became individually convinced of the reasonableness and truth of the Anglican faith. In 1722 four of them, headed by Samuel Johnson, went overseas to be ordained. Returning from England to Stratford and Fairfield, these "Yale converts" were the real founders of Anglicanism in Connecticut.
Among those who studied the religious books at Yale, although he did not choose to go to England for ordination, was Samuel Whittlesey, who became pastor of the Congregational Society in Wallingford. It may have been under his influence that study of the Prayer Book began in Wallingford. Soon small groups of people were meeting in their houses to read the services together. Tradition gives 1729 as the date of the first instance of formal organization of this small colony of Wallingford Anglicans. Some internal evidence suggests 1739 as the more likely date but—whichever the year—it is the deed that is of great significance. A letter was addressed to the Bishop of London:
May it please your lordship:
We, the church wardens and parishioners of Wallingford and the adjacent parts in
the colony of Connecticut, in New England, beg leave to offer our humble duty to
your lordship. We are a church but newly planted, and however content we are at
present to have the service of the church only once a quarter by a minister, on
every Lord's Day besides we perform the service as far as is proper for laymen;
but in that part we are something deficient for want of sermon books, etc.,
which we can not easily procure in this country. We are sensible the Reverend
Theodore [sic] Morris can not leave his other parishioners oftener, yet we hope
God, in His providence, will so order it, that we may at last be oftener
attended; there are many ready to join in our communion and have nothing to
object to it but our having service so seldom by a minister. We greatly rejoice
that we are assisted in learning to know which is the true church of Christ and
the manner how we ought to worship. But with melancholy hearts we crave your
lordship's patience while we recite that divers of us have been
imprisoned, and our goods from year to year distrained from us for taxes, levied
for the building and supporting meeting-houses; and divers actions are now
depending in our courts of law in the like cases. And when we have petitioned
our governor for redress, notifying to him the repugnance of such actions to the
laws of England, he hath proved a strong opponent to us; but when the other
party hath applied to him for advice how to proceed against us, he hath lately
given his sentence "to enlarge the jail and fill it with them." But we
supplicate both God and man that our persecutors may not always prevail against
us. And now that God may bless your lordship and the charitable endeavors of the
honorable Society, and enable them to send more laborers to a harvest truly
plentiful, is the sincere prayer of your lordship's most dutiful and
Thomas Ives Shadrack Seagor
North Ingham Thomas Dewlittle
Ebenizer Wainwright Aaron Tuttle
John Bellamy Matthew Bellamy
Waitstill Abinather Enos Smith
Phineas Ives Thomas Williams
Ebenezer Blakesley George Fisher
Here is evidence that Anglicans in Connecticut were a struggling minority, seeking legal recognition but subject to imprisonment and confiscation of property because of their faith, and suffering from the absence of clergy and the shortage of materials. There is no record of a reply from the Bishop to this letter, but apparently churchmen increased in number and continued loyally to meet.
On Easter Monday, 21 March 1741, at the home of Thomas Ives, a group of citizens of Wallingford, Cheshire, and North Haven held a crucial meeting. Thomas Ives and North Ingham were chosen as wardens and six others—Ebenezer Blakesley, Enos Smith, Aaron Tuttle, Isaac Dayton, John Mackey, William Walter—were elected vestrymen. The vestry promptly voted "that the parishioners of Wallingford and North Haven be united in one church, by the name of Union Church." The vestrymen and three others—Thomas Williams, Matthew Bellamy, John Bellamy—obligated themselves to contribute specified amounts to the "ministerial rates" for the support of a clergyman. The Reverend Theophilus Morris was present at this meeting; it was he who selected Thomas Ives as Senior Warden. So it seems likely that he had been looking after the church here for some time. In his report of June 20th to the S.P.G., Mr. Morris wrote:
I have taken another church into my care at Wallingford, which consists of twelve families; I engaged to attend them once a quarter, which they seem to be satisfied with, for they know it is as much as I can do for them.
And in 1741 the name of Mr. Morris appears on the rolls of the Society as officially assigned to the Wallingford parish. The Union Church members constructed a small building in the Pond Hill area, the exact location being now controversial.
The founding of this parish coincides chronologically with the Great Awakening in the religion of the colonies. George Whitefield, who preached in Wallingford in 1740, said "Ye must be born again." Spiritual rebirth is the product of grace and faith. Reformers like Whitefield provoked controversy, arousing the religious societies from legalism and formalism and the people from indifference. There was a surge of interest in religious ideas and in Christian behavior. Although Anglicans, in their quiet dependence on the orderliness of the Prayer Book, may not have approved of the excesses of revivalism, the religious ferment probably brought numerous converts to the Anglican Church.
The Reverend Mr. Morris had actually resided in Derby, never in Wallingford, and in 1743 he moved to Pennsylvania. One of his assistants, the Reverend James Lyon, took charge in Wallingford and was present at vestry meetings in June and September. On 1 December 1743, however, the parish addressed a new plea for assistance to the Secretary of the S.P.G.:
Reverend Sir: We the inhabitants of Wallingford, members of the Church of England, make bold on behalf of ourselves and at the request of our brethren inhabiting in the neighboring towns, to inform you that we are twenty-five masters of families that are members of said church, and meet together every Lord's Day and edify ourselves, as well as we can, by reading; and while the Reverend Mr. Morris was in these parts, we were edified to our great comfort; our number then increased, and many more were coming in to join us, but he being removed from us, and Mr. J. Lyon can not attend us, we are now destitute, and our dissenting brethren from year to year are distressing us with executions for meeting-houses, rates, steeples and bells for them; so that our present melancholy circumstances crave your good offices with the honorable Society. We are willing to do the best we can toward the support of a minister, and make no doubt but in two or three years' time we shall be able to raise twenty pounds sterling per annum toward the support of a minister. We humbly pray we may be assisted with a minister, and . . . could a method be found for quelling the perpetual demands of our dissenting brethren, it would greatly add to the growth and consolation of our distressed churches.
The parish, obviously, needed financial assistance and desired above all a regular minister. The General Assembly in 1727 had passed an important amendment to the Act of Toleration. Taxes paid for the support of the established church by members of an Anglican parish "where there is a person in orders .. . settled and abiding among them and performing divine service," would be returned to the parish for the support of its own minister. Such a parish, also, would be excused from paying taxes for building Congregational meeting-houses. The presence in Wallingford, then, of a regular, resident clergyman would remove from the loyal churchmen the serious burden of double taxation.
Apparently Mr. Lyon continued to minister to the church in Wallingford throughout the decade; his name apppears, for example, in the vestry minutes of 29 April 1745. And the parish grew. New rate-payers in 1743 were Samuel Brackett, John Williams, Abraham Blakeslee, Elnathan Taylor, John Ward, Lawrence Clinton, Henry Bates, Matthew Blakeslee, Jonathan Blakeslee, and new subscribers were Caleb Munson, John Parker, John Bennett, Samuel Allen, and Enos Abernathy. In 1748 Daniel Finch, John Peck, Jr. and David Brackett joined the church. In 1749 Dr. Samuel Johnson mentioned the increase of the Walling-ford church.
Because they had "extensive circuits to traverse," the ministers assigned to Connecticut by the S.P.G. could pay only occasional visits to the several congregations committed to their charge. In a letter of 18 October 1750, the Reverend Ebenezer Punderson wrote: "The next day I rode to Wallingford, preached to a pretty congregation, baptized three children." A graduate of Yale and a Congregational minister, Mr. Punderson had gone to England in 1734 for Episcopal ordination. Returned to the colonies, he became known as "The Missionary Patriarch" of Connecticut.
The Church in America has had few missionaries to match this now almost forgotten circuit-rider, who never was quite at ease out of the saddle... . He took literally his orders to serve all the places he could reach. . . . There was scarcely a village east of the Connecticut River that did not recognize him as a frequent visitor.
Established in New Haven in 1752, he ministered to six parishes in the county and in a ministry of thirty years he was reputed to have "officiated on every Sunday but one." It is said that Mr. Punderson took no pay for his services but donated all the tax money for the building of churches. The Reverend Ichabod Camp held his first service in Wallingford on 12 July 1753. A native of Middletown, Yale '43, he ministered from Middletown to Cheshire until 1760, when he moved to the South.
The building in Pond Hill was too small for the flourishing parish. A move was made in the early 1750's to larger quarters on South Main Street. But the house and shed purchased from a Congregationalist, Caleb Merriman, located on a lot thirty-six feet wide, were really not adequate. "The church so increased in numbers and in strength that it became expedient to make different arrangements," and a committee was appointed in 1756 to "conclude and order and preside over the affair relating to a convenient place and house of divine worship." A location in the center of Wallingford, meanwhile, was not proving convenient for the parishioners from other towns. They planned to break away and form parishes of their own: St. John's, North Haven, dates from 1759, and St. Peter's, Cheshire, from 1760. The life of the Union Church was drawing to a close.
New Church, New Name, New Rector
On 16 May 1757, the vestry voted to build a new church, 46 by 36 feet. In September the size was reduced to 40 by 30 feet, and David Cook, Joseph Rice, and Jehiel Tuttle were appointed to a building committee, which acquired six additional members by early 1759. A memorial dated 20 December 1757 was presented to the Wallingford Town Meeting:
.. Now having entered into a covenant to build a church [we] do now signify our desire, petition, and request to the inhabitants of said town that they would grant us to build a church on the west side of Mix's Lane . . . so as not to obstruct or hinder the passing of His Majesty's subjects and we hope and desire to cultivate, cherish, and maintain Christian charity, love, and friendship with our friends and neighbors, members of this community of all denominations of Christians. And shall esteem such a favor a mark of your good will, love, and affection.... Joseph Rice, Jr., Titus Brockett, David Cook, Abel Thomson.
Captain David Cook was a substantial merchant, who sailed a ship and three brigs from the Port of New Haven. Abel Thomson lived in what is now the Wallingford Historical House. The desired petition was granted and construction begun in 1758 on Mix's Lane, which would later be called Christian Street because of this church built on it. The location was at the intersection of the present North Main and Christian Streets—probably, but not indisputably, the southwest corner. When the structure was completed in 1762, Captain Cook installed in it an organ imported from England, the first organ in Wallingford and only the second in all Connecticut. (This organ was sold to North Haven in the 1840's and was still in existence in 1869, in the possession of William R. Gardner, an organ builder in New Haven.) The rectory was across Main Street, possibly the present Red House at The Choate School. In September 1761, the property on South Main Street was sold by members "of the Church formerly called the Union, but now called St. Paul's Church." This deed and another of June are the earliest mention of our parish by its new name.
Within the Congregational Society there was now raging the notorious "Wallingford Controversy". Quarreling essentially on the need of "conversion" for legal membership in the Society, a group of Congregationalists seceded from Dr. Dana, formed the Wells Society, and built a house of worship on the east side of North Main Street (on the present site of St. Paul's). To this rather common type of controversy, Mr. Johnson, writing from Stratford to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 13 July 1760, gave considerable credit for the growth of the Episcopal Church:
The Church is generally in an increasing and flourishing condition, and much the more so on account of the violent contentions of the Dissenters among themselves, which in effect drive people into the church... .
By this time the S.P.G. had done such effective work that there were four-teen Anglican missionaries serving over two thousand church members. Mr. Johnson and other Anglican leaders loyal to the King had pleaded for a bishop—without whom proper confirmations and ordinations were impossible. But the great bulk of the colonists fiercely resisted the merest suggestion of a colonial bishop, fearng that he would wield large political power and influence.
On 7 December 1759, the vestry had "appointed a committee to consult the clergy of the Church of England in regard to our present circumstances." With three separate parishes forming from the old Union Church, some regular provision for a clergyman was a clear necessity. Writing from Stratford to the S.P.G. at the very end of 1760, the Reverend Edward Winslow said of Wallingford:
The church congregation has so far increased that the people think them-selves in a condition to make some suitable provision for sending home for holy orders and for supporting a deserving young man who has for some time been employed as a reader among them. . . . I continue to officiate at Wallingford about once in six weeks.
In the Society's report for 1761 there is further mention of the "deserving young man."
[He] was admitted into holy orders and received into the Society's service as missionary to the people in Wallingford, Cheshire, North Haven, and Meriden, who have jointly contracted to raise fifty pounds sterling per annum, with a house and glebe of fourteen acres of land for his further accommodation.
This gentleman was the Reverend Samuel Andrews, the youngest of eight brothers. One brother, Laban, had paid court to the daughter of Mecock Ward, and the young lady had influenced him to join the Church. Although he never married Miss Ward, Laban persuaded all his brothers to become Anglicans. Together they collected funds to send Samuel to Yale, Class of 1759, and then to England for ordination. Returning to Wallingford in January 1762, he was undaunted by the rigors of winter or by the problems of his new and wide-spread mission. Burr writes:
He started hopefully and won the people's affection. He became one of the most popular missionaries, making many converts and performing a remarkable number of baptisms. . . . His visits to the sick and his catechism classes were innumerable. He rarely failed to preach on Sunday or at any other convenient time, and his mission became one of the largest and most devout in New England.
Parson Andrews, as he came universally to be called, has been described as "an enviable character for piety and benevolence." Arrangements were made for him to preach a proportionable amount of time in each of his three churches.
His growing reputation brought demands for his services from distant places; he preached, for example, at the dedication of Christ Church in Watertown in 1765. We read of him in Davis:
To a consistent and unaffected piety were added talents of a popular kind and attainments more than respectable. . . . Like most of the clergy of that period, Mr. Andrews was remarkable for his cheerfulness and amiability. In his intercourse with his people he had none of the gloom of the ascetic nor any of the forbidden levity of the man of the world. He remembered that he was charged with the holiness of his flock; and while he "taught them as one having authority," he did not forget himself to practise in private the lessons which he gave in public.
Figures evidence the effectiveness of Mr. Andrews' ministry. Speaking in commemoration of Wallingford's 100th Anniversary, the Congregationalist Dr. Dana, his close personal friend, reported that there were sixty-three Episcopal families in Wallingford, numbering eighty-six communicants. Mr. Andrews had baptised one hundred and sixty-five people. In Cheshire there were forty-seven families with sixty-four communicants and eighty-six baptised; in Meriden six, fourteen, and twenty. By this time the Anglican Church was firmly established in Connecticut and numbered almost ten percent of the population. The S.P.G. had sent seventeen missionaries and a schoolmaster to reside in Connecticut's forty-three parishes, and by 1784 the Society would have paid them in salaries a total of 27,000 pounds. Three of the parishes supported their own priests.
As opposition mounted to the arbitrary measures of a distant government and a movement for revolt or even independece gained strength, however, public opinion turned bitterly against the Church. Its clergy were looked upon, often with justification, as centers of royalist sentiment. For their Tory sympathies they were persecuted or hemmed in with restrictions. The story of Titus Brockett will serve as our example of the fierce resentment of Anglican Tories. Captain Brockett, "a very staunch churchman," had contributed generously to the building of St. Paul's and in 1767 had presented its first notable gift—a silver chalice or communion cup shaped like an inverted bell. In 1773 Brockett died of smallpox, aged 74. So strong was the factional feeling of the Whigs that they very grudgingly gave permission for him to be interred in the Town Cemetery on Center Street. The burial place was at the eastern boundary of the cemetery, where the ground was so soft and swampy that water immediately filled the grave. It was necessary to sink the coffin and anchor it with two fence rails bound together where they crossed each other diagonally just above the earth. For a long time these rails remained standing and did not decay and some of the family supposed that the timber was supernaturally preserved, as a testimony against the wicked Whigs.
Brockett's will itemized his possessions—seven waistcoats, gold buttons, silver buckles, a wig-box—and testified to his wealth and standing in the community. To the church, after the death of his wife (in 1777), he left a dwelling, seven acres of land for a parish school for the poor, and a bounty of fifty pounds for charity, especially for fitting clothes for children to wear to church, subject to the life use of her two Negro slaves, Esau and Grace. It seems impossible to trace the outcome of these bequests; perhaps the Revolution upset the good Captain's plans.
Tradition says that Parson Andrews was arrested the very day after he had attended a dinner for General Washington, at which he had pronounced a benediction! He was required to remain within his parish, and Anglicans from Meriden were not permitted to come to St. Paul's for services. Mr. Andrews could call on his parishioners only with the consent of the local Vigilance Committee, of which his brother Laban was a member. Days of trouble were at hand and days of unhappiness for the devoted Parson Andrews. Our rector, to be sure, deserved the suspicions of the townspeople. He "offended public sentiment by his declared sympathy for the mother country," of which he made no secret. When the Congress in Philadelphia set aside July 4th as a day of fasting and humiliation, Mr. Andrews preached on a text from Amos 5:21, "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies."
1783-1841, The Lean Years
When the United States won their independence, the S.P.G. ceased its support of missionaries in this country. The parish, troubled by declining trade, taxation and inflation, could no longer support Parson Andrews. In 1785 or '86 he moved—an exile—to Nova Scotia. There in New Brunswick, he established St. Andrew's Church, installed the royal arms which had previously graced our church edifice, and served as beloved and effective pastor until his death in 1818. When he visited Wallingford in 1792-93, he was greeted with nothing but affection.
"The Anglican Church barely survived the war," writes Van Dusen in his History of Connecticut, and Davis says:
The close of the war found the Episcopal Church in a state of the deepest depression. Her altars deserted, her ministers gone or disheartened, her-self the object of political odium and suspicion, without the inherent power of perpetuating her own polity, her cause . . . seemed nigh desperate. So mourned her friends; so vaunted her enemies.
The membership of St. Paul's was reduced from seventy families or more to about twenty.
But the first step of recovery of fortunes had already been taken. Parson Andrews was one of ten priests who had met in secrecy in Woodbury in the spring of 1783. The Church could survive in America, they had decided, only if it were organized under a native bishop. They believed that our independence had ended traditional opposition to a bishop and that the difficulties of his consecration must in some way be overcome. Their choice for the first American bishop was Samuel Seabury, who traveled to England to request consecration by the Anglican Episcopacy. Objections were raised both in London and at home. Must a bishop pledge fealty to the Crown? Seabury met with "maddening delays." He complained:
Nobody here will risk anything for the sake of the Church. . . . This is certainly the worst country in the world to do business in. I wonder how they get along at any rate. . . . I assure you if I do not succeed, it shall not be my fault.
Would a Church governed by a consecrated bishop be acceptable to the new State of Connecticut? The clergy met in Wallingford, sent representatives to the General Assembly in New Haven, and found that the laws for religious freedom permitted an episcopal organization. "A bishop is no objection here," word went to Seabury; "the dissenters applaud the great zeal of the Church in their perseverance to obtain one." But the bishop "must be of the primitive style . . . unornamented with temporal dignity and without the props of secular power." The Church must support him, not the State. At last, on 14 November 1784, Seabury was consecrated at Aberdeen in Scotland. When he reached New London in June 1785, he was the head of the first regular Anglican Diocese outside the British Isles.
When it heard of Seabury's consecration, the Boston Gazette spoke of the "two wonders of the world, a Stamp Act in Boston and a Bishop in Connecticut." But now the sacraments could be performed, and episcopal succession was secured. All problems were not solved, however. The early years of our nation were not an age of religious fervor. The future of St. Paul's parish, decreased in membership and lacking in funds, was uncertain.
During the "lean years" of 1783-1841, sixteen clergymen or more served in Wallingford, on a more or less formal basis, for varying lengths of time and at dates which today can not be precisely ascertained. When their visits were, of necessity, infrequent, the laity appear to have assumed the responsibility of holding services. "Without the laity," says Mr. Flisher, "there would be no history of St. Paul's." Among the clergy was the Reverend Reuben Ives, born in Cheshire, Yale '86, ordained by Bishop Seabury. He was influential in having the new Episcopal Academy — Seabury had wanted it to be a college — located in Cheshire. It was ready for its first students in the fall of 1796. The Reverend Tillotson Bronson also preached in Wallingford. Ordained by Seabury, Bronson later became principal of the Academy and in a tenure lasting to 1826 won for it a nation-wide reputation. Another preacher at St. Paul's was Charles Seabury, youngest son of the Bishop.
The Reverend Seth Hart, native of Berlin, Yale '84, served North Haven and Wallingford for a number of years in the 1790's. During his time, the parish united in service temporarily with the members of the Wells Society, presumably for reasons of economy and, it is averred, with "no compromise of principle" as regards doctrine or liturgy. Perhaps it was this Seth Hart who used his material skill to supervise the surveying of Cleveland and then read the first services in that part of Ohio.
Others serving St. Paul's in the early nineteenth century were Joseph Perry—later helpful in establishing a church in upstate New York, Elijah Plumb, and Virgil Barber. The last, known as a brilliant scholar, moved also to New York and later entered the Roman Church. The Reverend James Keeler was here for five or six years as rector and schoolmaster; then he moved to St. Andrew's in Meriden. At about this period, says Mr. Wildman, chanting was introduced in St. Paul's by Judge Ezra Stiles of North Haven.
In this large group of ministers at St. Paul's, the Reverend Ashbel Baldwin was probably the most prominent—partly from his service to the diocese and the national Church and partly from his colorful appearance and personality. Born in Litchfield, Yale '76, ordained by Bishop Seabury, he had gone regularly from 1799 to 1823 as a delegate to the General Convention and was its Secretary for nine years. He is described in the Davis History:
His voice was very clear and loud and it seemed louder coming as it did from one who was considerably undersize. He walked a little lame as one of his legs through an accident was shorter than the other. He abounded in stories and evidently had a relish for them in his conversation with other people. His uncommon self-possession and promptness in giving expression to his opinions gave him great advantage in a deliberative assembly over many of his brethren who were not inferior to him in good judgment or in general ability. His kind and affable manners and social habits rendered him a welcome guest at the tables of the more wealthy parishioners and he had a way of accommodating himself with equal facility to those in the opposite extremes of society.
In 1827 there were sixty-seven scholars and twelve teachers in his Sunday School here. When he died in 1846 in Rochester, New York, he was the oldest priest in the American Church.
In 1831 a group of dissidents in the Congregational Church joined St. Paul's. Our church building was far too small for this expanded congregation. On October 3rd, St. Paul's purchased the land and building of the Wells Society, with the understanding that all members of that Society would always be permitted to worship in St. Paul's Church.
What happened to the old church? A 1950 newspaper article recounts its removal, first to Center Street and then to Fair, numbers 42-44, where it was the home of Miss Ruth Blunt who taught school in New Haven. The article says:
Miss Blunt said that while her home was being renovated sometime ago, the paperhanger had removed several layers of wallpaper. Its removal revealed in the center of the ceiling a cross, a crown, and a rising sun which had been frescoed around the edge. The cross is the chief symbol of the Christian religion; the crown represents the glory of everlasting life, and the rising sun signifies that God is light and that He brings light to the world. The church services were apparently held on the second floor, where are found large oak boards for flooring, paneled wood wainscoting, and other indications that it was a church sanctuary.
William Lucas, William Curtis,
and Lemuel Hull served as rectors in the 1830's. In 1839 there were
ninety-seven families in the parish but only sixty-five communicants and only
three active male communicants. At St. Paul's the Reverend R. M. Chapman found
"yet more to hope for than to rejoice at."
It was in 1841, the 100th Anniversary of the organization of the Union Church, that the Reverend Hilliard Bryant, Amherst '31, and a former missionary in Greece, became rector of St. Paul's. Before leaving to join the faculty of the Academy in Cheshire, Mr. Bryant was to serve nine years as rector, to inspire a revival of churchmanship, and to inaugurate a new era of progress in our history. His essential task was one of building. He mentioned immediately the need of "a better house of worship," but first to be built was a rectory. Half an acre of land at 64 South Main Street was purchased for $256, and a comfortable house for the rector and his family constructed at a cost of $1,500. (When it was sold in the 1950's, this property was to bring a price in excess of $50,000.)
Then, in 1846 came the new church. The Wells House was taken down, and Mr. Bryant in his report describes the new structure in these terms:
It is in the Gothic style, 40
feet by 63, exclusive of the buttresses, tower, and vestry. The tower is 12 feet
square and 80 feet high. . . . All the angles are finished with buttresses and
pinnacles and the tower with battlements.
The windows are painted and
finished with mullions and glazed with diamond glass. There is a large Gothic
window in front, having twelve compartments. The exterior is painted and sanded
in imitation of light freestone.
The interior is very neat and finished to correspond with the Gothic style of architecture. The chancel, screen and gallery front are ornamented with a bold tracery in beautiful workmanship. . . . The whole interior (with the exception of the walls which are hard-finished white) is grained in imitation of dark English oak. . . . The pulpit, which is in the center of the chancel, stands against an oak screen which is attached to the rear wall. Through this screen and behind one of the wings of the pulpit is the door which leads into the vestry room. Directly against the pulpit, in front, stands a massy altar, painted in imitation of Egyptian marble, and at each end of the altar an oak lectern, dressed in maroon velvet, to correspond with the pulpit. The cost was about $5,000, the whole of which ( except about $400) was raised by the parish. The enterprise was commenced, conducted, and consummated with great unanimity and harmony, and all the pews below were immediately rented at a rate sufficient to meet all the current expenses of the parish. Having a neat and commodious church, and a convenient parsonage, and a united congregation, this parish has now all the external elements of prosperity. May the spirit of God be sent down to engraft the word inwardly. . . .
Further notes about this church tell us that the pulpit was ascended from each side by a spiral staircase and had a sounding board above it. Galleries were located on the rear and sides of the building, with the organ and choir in the rear gallery. The pews were square. A well-known parishioner was Dr. John Andrews, whose pew was near the front of the church. During the hymns it was his habit to turn and face the choir. He used a very large prayer and hymn book and he stood tall and straight, holding this book in front of him and singing loudly. It was said that when Dr. Andrews sneezed, he raised the shingles on the roof.
Before long, when the Reverend Joseph Brewster, father of the future Bishop, was rector, a lot in the rear of the church was made available "for the better accommodation of parishioners who come from a distance." In the early 1860's, the church was repaired and modernized and the chancel decorated at a cost exceeding $2,000, so that the rector, the Reverend John Townsend, felt justified in saying that "few parishes are so well provided as this with proper buildings."
After the consecration of his new church, Mr. Bryant preached two sermons of lasting importance to the parish. Reprinted in The Calendar at the time of his resignation at Easter 1850, they are the main source of knowledge about the early days of St. Paul's. And Mr. Bryant complained about the meagerness of the story. "Complete records," he said, "have either never existed or, with some fragmentary exceptions, are now lost." Isaiah 41:10 was the text of the sermons: "Fear thou not, for I am with thee." God is present always and every-where, Mr. Bryant told his congregation, but especially has He been present with His Chosen People, and particularly—in the course of over a hundred years—with this parish. Turning from past achievements to the future, Mr. Bryant concluded his historical account with these words:
And now, my brethren, in view
of the past, may we not take courage in regard to the future. In the history
which I have now given, is there not abundant evidence that God is indeed
present with His church—present with it, to shield it from the prejudice and
jealousy and persecution of its foes, to protect and sustain it in the darkness
of its adversity, to raise up for it friends and benefactors, and to bring to it
seasonable accessions when in feebleness and languishment it was ready to
perish. . . . From the history of the past has not the voice of God come to us
very cheeringly and encouragingly, "Fear thou not, for I am with thee"? . . .
Fear not, then, my brethren, under any future discouragements; only per-form faithfully your duty and improve diligently your privileges; become in heart and life what the church would have you be, pure and holy.
Destruction and Reconstruction
Not so many years passed by before the parish had need to take to heart Mr. Bryant's admonition to courage in the face of adversity. In May 1864, the Reverend Edward Gushee succeeded Mr. Townsend as rector. Born in Bristol, Rhode Island, Mr. Gushee had taken his M.A. at Brown, attended Berkeley Divinity School in Middletown, and served as Chaplain of the 9th New Hampshire Regiment in the Civil War. He would have preached in the field before President Lincoln had he not been laid low by dysentery—"the only time he had ever been sick in his life." The parish flourished under the able leadership of Mr. Gushee. The church was further improved, with the entrance hall incorporated in the nave to provide fifty more seats, and with the chancel walls frescoed. The cost: $800. But, early on Sunday morning, 27 October 1867, tragedy struck the church in the form of fire.
The conflagration must have been one of the most spectacular in the history of the town, and neighborhood newspapers gave it prominent mention. Here is the Monday account in the New Haven Daily Morning Journal and Courier:
At about half past nine
yesterday morning Chief Engineer Hendrick received a telegraphic dispatch:
Wallingford, October 27. To
the New Haven Fire Department: We want help immediately, engine and men. Church
and Public Hall and hotel on fire. Prospects will be a large fire. (Signed)
Chief Hendrick immediately
ordered Steamer No. 4 to be made ready with four horses and appointed a detail
of men from the Hook and Ladder Company and in the meantime telegraphed to
Wallingford that the Steamer was hitched and ready for a start and that if they
wanted the assistance as apprehended they must meet the engine in North Haven
with four fresh horses. To this dispatch came a reply:
You need not come. Think we
can stop it from going further. (Signed) Wallingford People
So no assistance was sent from
here, but at a later hour Chief Hendrick went up. . . . It appears that for the
first time this season a fire had been kindled in the furnace, and the sexton
[Andrew Smith] went home to his breakfast; when at eight o'clock the neighbors
discovered that the church was on fire, and without doubt it must have been
owing to some defect in the flue, the flames having apparently got underway in
the flooring over the vestry room.
Very shortly the raging
element was communicated to the Union Hall on the south side of the church, at
the same time catching on the building on the north side, known as Keeler's
Stove Store, wrapping it in a blaze. These were all frame buildings and are now
in ashes. On the south side of the Town Hall is Wallace's brick block, which
caught fire but the conflagration was arrested by the noble exertions of the
firemen of Wallingford aided by citizens... .
Had there been any considerable wind at the time of the fire, the result would undoubtedly have been more disastrous. Chief Engineer Hendrick was warm in his praise of the work done by the Wallingford firemen. Before noon all danger of further trouble was past.
The New Haven Daily Palladium mentioned the recent repairs and painting in the church and went on to describe the fire-fighting and the reactions of the people:
There is but one engine in
Wallingford, a hand engine, the "Accanant" and the company worked
bravely and are entitled to much credit for their efforts. They exhausted eleven
wells and were obliged to suspend their work for want of water. Of course a
single engine could make little headway against so large a fire. The house of
the company which stood in the rear of the church was also unfortunately burned.
. . .
It is not to be wondered at that the people of Wallingford were greatly alarmed and excited. They have met with a severe loss, but with their well-known enterprise they will soon repair it, and they will put things in shape again. They may be congratulated that the fire spread no further and that the work of destruction was no greater.
In his report for the Columbian Weekly Register, New Haven, November 2nd, Samuel Simpson wrote:
. . . As the fire first
appeared, it seemed that a few pails of water would subdue it; but it had worked
its way between the walls of the chancel and the main building and up over the
arches and under the roof, so that it had a good draft and plenty of room to
spread. The engine was soon there, and the firemen worked as well as they could
to save the building, but in spite of their efforts the flames spread. . . . The
wind was from the north, and it seemed at one time as if it would drive the fire
south and east and sweep all the buildings in that direction, and we telegraphed
to New Haven and Meriden for help; but fortunately the wind subsided and our
citizens one and all lent a hand in carrying water from the wells and cisterns.
After the destruction of the church, Union Hall, and Mr. Keeler's
building, the fire was arrested to the great joy of all, for it is so rare to
have a fire in our village that it struck a great terror in the hearts of all.
As a selectman of the town and a citizen of the village, I would, in behalf of the people, return our thanks to the firemen and the citizens generally for their aid, for without it we can not tell how far the fire would have extended.
So the church of which Mr. Bryant and others had been so proud was gone. The financial loss was set at more than $15,000, with less than one third covered by insurance. Irreplaceable records were destroyed. Very little was saved.
But the bishop's and rector's chairs, presented by Samuel Simpson in 1860, were carried from the burning church; they are now in place in the sanctuary. Despair lasted only momentarily, however, and was replaced by firm resolve.
The following story is told of the birth of plans for building a new, larger, and more handsome church:
On the afternoon of the fire Mr. Gushee called on Mr. Simpson and found a couple of the ladies of the church mourning the loss.
"I am afraid that we never shall have another," said one of the ladies.
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Simpson,
"we must go right about building one. I will pay one quarter of the expense."
"If you will do that, we shall have a new church," said Mr. Gushee.
The next day Mr. E. Hinsdale Ives suggested the building of a stone church to cost $30,000. If Mr. Simpson would give $8,000, he would give $6,000, and if they could get Moses Y. Beach (at that time badly inflicted with paralysis) to give $6,000, he thought the other $10,000 could be raised from the parishioners. Mr. Simpson assented. Then Mr. Gushee said that Mr. Simpson must go and see Mr. Beach. This proposition was not so pleasant, but Mr. Simpson said, "Tell Mr. Ives that he must go with me," and this was agreed upon.
The next evening Mr. Ives and
Mr. Simpson called on Mr. Beach who was "not feeling very well."
After initial conversation with Mrs. Beach, through whom Mr. Beach offered
$2,000, Mrs. Beach suggested that the two visitors go into the sick room and
talk with Mr. Beach. Mr. Simpson pointed out that the stone church would be
nearly opposite Mr. Beach's palatial residence and "a pleasant thing to him."
After further conversation of a light nature, Mr. Beach agreed to give the
A parish meeting was then held in the basement of the Baptist Church [which had been generously offered for the use of St. Paul's people]. When it was suggested that a tower be added, at an additional cost of $10,000, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Ives each increased his contribution by $2,000.
The architect chosen for the new structure was Mr. George P. Harney of New York. He designed the building in the decorated Gothic style with an open timbered roof. A local quarry was purchased to provide stone for the exterior, but bitter winter weather prevented its use. So brownstone was purchased from Portland. It reached Wallingford by train and was hauled to the church site by oxen, driven by Russell Cook and his son William. (The oxen were stabled in a barn in back of the present Town Hall.)
The new building was to measure 124 by 58 feet by 62 feet high and to accommodate about seven hundred people, the tower to be 91 feet high and to contain a 2,500 pound bell. Master stone mason for the job was William MacKenzie, the carpenter was Elijah Williams, and the frescoes were done by Clark and Fales. A New Haven paper of September 3rd said that the work of all these craftsmen was done "in a style uncommonly creditable to the builders and for quality not surpassed by any in the state. It is certainly a matter of pride to Wallingford that it possesses such accomplished workmen within its limits." The chancel window depicts Saints Paul, Peter, John, and James. Mr. Gushee was responsible for the design of the rose window. The gold altar cross and two vases were done by Simpson, Hall, Miller and Company. The organ came from Hook of Boston. The pews were of black walnut with green upholstery. Wilkie Collins described the building as "the most churchly church in New England."
In the cornerstone were placed the contents of the box taken from the cornerstone of the church destroyed by fire, along with contemporary church publications, a list of parish officers, a list of the clergymen connected with the church since Mr. Morris in 1740, a small cross made from the wood of the earlier churches, and some miscellaneous coins. Special windows were installed in memory of our early missionary clergy, Mrs. Gushee, Mrs. B. Paddock, Mrs. Andrew Hall, Mrs. Peter Hall, Dr. John Andrews, John B. Johnson, Herman Williams, and the children of Samuel Simpson. The building committee was composed of E. H. Ives, Samuel Simpson, John Munson, and Ira Tuttle.
The cost of the church came, finally, to almost $70,000. When it was learned that the service of consecration could not be performed while a debt remained, the vestry assumed the debt, which was later canceled by parish subscription.
After long months of labor and anticipation, Bishop Williams came to Wallingford on 2 September 1869 to consecrate the new St. Paul's. Thirty-one clergy, and eight young girls dressed all in white, were in the procession. A reporter commented: "It has been said that local music was at a low ebb in Wallingford, but those who attended the consecration will believe it no longer." The organist was Miss Fannie Ives, who later became Mr. Gushee's second wife. Following the consecration, a dinner was served for the distinguished visitors at the town's leading hostelry, the Beach House, A. W. Smith proprietor. "The galaxy of theological wisdom rested from their spiritual labors to regale their appetites." We smile at our superiority to the Victorian Age when we read the further note that there was "a cold collation in the basement of the church for the visiting ladies."
During the rectorship of Mr. Gushee, a major example of religious spirit and concern for others was the establishment of the Mission of St. John in Yalesville. In 1869 Mr. Gushee submitted his resignation. The vestry requested him to reconsider:
Having at great personal sacrifice retained the rectorship during the days of trial and discomfort . . . and now that we have a new and pleasant church and are entering, as we trust, on brighter days, we can not consent that Mr. Gushee should give up the enjoyment of what he has been largely instrumental in obtaining.
But in 1870 he departed to take a church in Salem. Mr. Gushee lived until 1917. His successor here was the Reverend J. Edmund Wildman, born in Brookfield and an 1867 graduate of Berkeley Divinity School, who was to remain in Walling-ford for the next forty-one years.
Under Mr. Wildman's inspired and popular guidance, St. Paul's expanded both in membership and activities. An 1887 issue of the Wallingford Witness gives details of the children's Easter Service and of the donations which were sent to struggling parishes in Texas and the Far West. 1889 was a significant year. 289 communicants from 190 families were on the parish rolls. Early in November the new choir of boys sang its first service. In an "able and entertaining discourse . . . giving biblical authority for surpliced singers," Mr. Wildman said the "vested choir acquitted itself so well as apparently to win general and hearty commendation." Mr. Wildman went on:
Did you know fully with what zeal and regularity these boys have volunteered to attend the six months bi-weekly rehearsals, . . . their enthusiasm and eagerness in responding to all required of them, their own desire to become more and more proficient that you might derive more pleasure and profit, their generally excellent deportment that they might not disgrace their office . . . and, not least, the development of their better natures as shown in their increasing respect and fraternal feeling for one another, you would be inclined to take them in your warmest embraces and bid them God-speed in this work which may prove a schooling for their own good.
(Would such an encomium be deserved today? If given, it might encourage more active and numerous participation in the choir.) Early in December a chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew was instituted, with William Whittaker as Director.
But 1891 was a still more outstanding year. Communicants numbered 310. Bishop Williams returned to Wallingford on June 11th to open the Parish House, which was the gift of Mrs. Samuel Simpson "to the glory of God and in loving memory of her departed children." It was to be deeply appreciated by the Sunday School and other parish organizations which kept it in constant use. Taking the appropriate text from I Chronicles 4:38, "The house of their Fathers increased greatly," Mr. Wildman preached a notable sermon to memorialize the 150th Anniversary of St. Paul's. He reminded his listeners of the difficulties churchmen had faced in colonial times:
Whoever then for conscience
sake would worship God in any other way than that of the standing order, was
subject to civil and social lets and hindrances and forced to pay, not only what
his conscience would incline him to withhold, but that which lessened his
ability to support his own forms of worship. Recalling all this and remembering
the temper of the age, we can understand how these people were likely to remain
a few and feeble folk, and also how staunch those would become who did adhere to
But in spite of all such disadvantages, and oftentimes without clergymen to inaugurate the initiatory steps, these people did knit themselves together in tentative associations and maintained the common worship of their fathers as best laymen could, thereby increasing their strength, and preparing foundations for better things in the future.
Then he went on to recount the early history of our Wallingford church:
Of course they were without many of the adjuncts and accessories of the worship of the Church which we deem so desirable now. . . . They were content for the present to have the privilege of the more essential things of their religion, leaving to future and better circumstances the beautifying of the House of God and the enriching of the services thereof.
The church continued its growth and development. In 1894 a chapter of the Daughters of the King was established, and the next year there were 350 communicants and 200 in the Church School. The building seemed likely to "last for centuries." Both St. Paul's and the Yalesville Mission were freed of debt. Proprietary right in the pews was abandoned and the seats opened to all comers. The Reverend Joseph Brewster had long been a leader in the movement for a "free church". He had asserted that a free church did not necessarily imply inferiority or dependence. Neither was it a church for the poor exclusively . . . but a church which, recognizing no human ownership, no worldly distinctions, and depending on no worldly motives of pride and fashion for its revenue, gives equal privileges to all.
Mr. Wildman reported all this progress in his memorable sermon of 1895—the 25th Anniversary of his installation as rector. He described the changes in Wallingford since the Civil War. The parish, he felt, had been slow to respond to these changes. Was it now ready to adapt itself to the needs of modern times and a larger, more heterogeneous population? God, said Mr. Wildman, puts ample means in the hands of each individual to achieve salvation and full powers in the hands of the Church to accomplish its purposes. Then he continued:
I invite your attention to a
view of our own parish, that there may be a better realization of what we are
and of what we may do for the cause of God in the field opened wider and wider
before us. . . . When I was first introduced to this parish as rector, you,
whether you realized it or not, were just passing out of an important and
significant crisis in your history. Wallingford was just beginning to take on a
somewhat different industrial and social life. Always "beautiful for situation",
.. . it had been in other respects scarcely different from hundreds of the
smaller towns in New England. Its inhabitants, for the most part descendants
from the first settlers, were a homogeneous people, conservative in spirit,
closely bound together by common interests and traditions, and though
interesting in many respects and charming in character, were pursuing a quiet,
slow-going, humdrum sort of existence, with no large enterprises, very little
change, and hardly more progress.
This parish . . . partook very largely of the same characteristics. . . . The clergyman who served here in 1840 told me, on his visit forty years later, that pretty much all he could remember of the life of the parish beyond the regular Sunday ministrations was a company of nice families and a constant round of delightful tea parties. . . . The congregation was a kind of happy family in which each one knew all the others; contented with themselves; mindful of little more than to get along harmoniously and to come out even in expenses at the end of the year. . . . The position assumed was rather a defensive and somewhat apologetic one.
But a new order of things was at hand. Silently, and almost imperceptibly at first, an industrial and social change was creeping over the town. Soon after the Civil War, manufacturing enterprises on a larger scale than ever before were springing up. . . . These invited people from various parts, and so began that tide of immigration whose flow has increased until . . . our population has not only nearly trebled, but from simple has become exceedingly complex, and so radically changed in temperament, manner, and customs. . . .
But what was this parish doing to meet this new order and these increasing opportunities? . . . You may form an opinion from the statement that there was not enough appreciation of the situation to pay off a long standing debt amounting to no more than four hundred dollars, when urged to do it. Duty was not realized; opportunity not seen. But this was not to continue.
[Then came God's
warning in the form of the burning of the "pretty little church." The
parish responded vigorously and "builded wiser than it knew." There followed a
period of transition, requiring gradual adjustment to new conditions and
surroundings.] What has been accomplished has been more your work than mine, for
a clergyman can accomplish little without the support and cooperation of the
The main thing is to realize how we stand today and with what spirit we are looking out into the future.
Your quiet, little rural town has changed into a bustling manufacturing village [or] a thriving little city. Its population has reached eight thousand, and . . . improvements in all directions give the evidence of prosperity and progress. . . . There are within the limits of this town 313 families, containing 1,308 individuals, who voluntarily profess a preference for this church. . . . Now in what condition are we?
Mr. Wildman then mentioned the church buildings in Wallingford and Yalesville, both free from debt and with pews open to everyone. He listed the Sunday School, the Daughters of the King, and the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and made a plea that they be better and more widely supported. He noted "great progress" in twenty-five years—"the deepening of spiritual life," "fuller and more regular attendance," "a disposition to get out of ruts." He went on:
Are we holding ourselves ready for these changes as they come and eager to spring to the task, or do we need another disaster to lift us out and up to broader views and a higher plane of duty? [Are we] alive to our responsibilities and opportunities? [Is there] an adequate rallying of forces and directing of energies? . . . You now occupy the vantage ground for great things. May you more and more be persons having understanding of the times and be ready to do your parts in the places assigned to you.
In his twenty-five year ministry, Mr. Wildman had baptized 500, had brought 300 to confirmation, and had officiated at 200 marriages, of which only three had ended in adversity and divorce. He had held 500 funerals.
A newspaper article of 1 December 1896 reported a notable gift to the parish. It was a pair of handsome brass candlesticks for the altar, "given to St. Paul's Church, Wallingford, in memory of Reverend Samuel Andrews, some time rector of the parish." The donor was Sherlock Andrews, an attorney in central New York and a great grandson of Parson Andrews. The article noted other memorials and gifts to the church. Among them were a silver chalice given in 1810 by the grandmother of Sherlock Andrews, the font given by Mrs. Gushee, and the font railing given in memory of Mrs. Wildman.
Mr. Wildman was a Trustee of the Academy in Cheshire and was, at the end of the century, Archdeacon of New Haven. For a short period he had as his assistant here the Reverend S. Wolcott Linsley (whose death in April 1966 was reported in the Meriden Record) and as his curate the Reverend D. H. Verder. In 1902 Mr. Verder was reported as preaching his first sermon in his hometown. To visit parishioners the curate rode through the outlying districts of the town. "Few towns," he said in pride, "have richer natural beauty than Wallingford: clear brooks, shaded roads where oak and birch arch gracefully to cool the tired traveler, and glorious hills...." If Wallingford was beautiful, so must the church be attractive and in good repair. In the Parish Paper plans were discussed for the expenditure of an estimated $325 for installation of a hardwood floor in the chancel and in the nave aisles. "This is a thrifty town," wrote the editor, "and the people earn good salaries. . . . Why can't we raise the sum quickly by subscription?"
In 1906 Mr. Wildman decided it was time for him to retire from the rector-ship. He remained active in the church as Rector Emeritus until his death on Christmas Day, 1911. The newspapers wrote in tribute:
For forty-four years as a clergyman of the Church, he served God and man with a firmness in matters of principle, a child-like gentleness in affairs of personal preference, a simple fidelity and a silent patience which revealed the secret of his inner consecration.
Mr. Wildman, like Mr. Bryant in the 1840's, had guided our church through a turning point in its history. Under him St. Paul's had become a large church and had moved into the modern world.
The Twentieth Century
The long rectorship of Mr. Wildman set a new precedent. In the nineteenth century at least seventeen clergy had served the parish. In the sixty years since Mr. Wildman's retirement, the parish has had only three rectors. First among these was the Reverend Arthur P. Greenleaf, and the parish went far afield to find him. Born in New Orleans in 1857, Mr. Greenleaf had taken degrees at Racine College before graduating from New York's General Theological Seminary in 1881. Then he had served parishes in Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Massachusetts. So he was a New Englander only by adoption. Unlike the pure scholar and ascetic, he was very much of a clergyman in the world. The secular affairs of the community concerned him and he was a vital participant in its activities. For example, Mr. Greenleaf served the Red Cross and the Boys' Club. He was a member of Rotary and Compass Lodge A.F. & A.M. and was Chaplain for both these organizations.
For the material comfort of the parishioners, $6,000 was spent in 1909 for improvements to the kitchen and dining room in the Parish House. A memorial service for King Edward VII was held on 22 May 1910. In January 1914 the Girls' Friendly Society was organized. The moving spirit was Mrs. Herschel Taber, who gave the girls wise and sympathetic counsel for many years. Apparently the war brought hard times to St. Paul's. The Church School in 1917 had only 131 pupils. In 1923 the whole budget of the parish amounted to $6,438, and the rector's salary was down to $1,900, he having relinquished his "war bonus".
Since its founding before the turn of the century, the Choate School had had no chapel of its own. The boys had become accustomed to marching to St. Paul's for services on Sunday afternoons. The townspeople were invited to attend and often heard sermons from distinguished guest preachers. Now, under its Head-master George C. St. John, the School was embarking on a vigorous program of expansion, including the construction of a handsome and spacious chapel in the Georgian style. One day the boys paraded to the rectory behind their band to present an automobile to Mr. Greenleaf, in token of the School's appreciation of the long and warm hospitality of St. Paul's. "I never get into the car," he said once to Mr. St. John, "without being thankful."
In 1925 Mr. Greenleaf resigned as pastor to become Chaplain and Librarian of Choate. When he died in 1931, services were held both at the School and in St. Paul's. Bishop Acheson wrote of Mr. Greenleaf: "His lightness of heart and joyousness of disposition never led him to lower the dignity of his calling." And Bishop Brewster remembered him as ... a genuine scholar and, in the best sense of the phrase, a broad church-man. His mental gifts and qualities of spirit, his winning personality, his high character, his devotion to the work of the ministry, were well known. ... It is for his people to follow his teaching and be thankful for his memory and high example.
The next rector of St. Paul's had also been born far from New England—in Logan, Utah, in 1890. The Reverend Donald Warner Greene had graduated from Hobart and from General Theological Seminary. His parish service had first been in upper New York but later in Bridgeport and Bethel, Connecticut. On his first Christmas Eve in Wallingford, he instituted the midnight celebration of the Holy Communion in the church lighted entirely by candles—a service which was to become a favorite in St. Paul's. After a year here, Mr. Greene said in a sermon, "A friend told me before I came that the people of this parish were known for their faithfulness and devotion to church customs and traditions... . I have learned that that reputation is based on fact."
Even in the expanding economy of the late 1920's, St. Paul's could scarcely be called flourishing. In the boom year of 1929, the parish budget amounted to $8,137 and the rector's salary to $2,500. But money was not the only consideration. Mr. Greene was known for his work with young people. In 1931 seventy-three pupils were commended for perfect attendance at Sunday School and a class of twenty were confirmed. The Young People's Fellowship was very active, as were the various organizations of the ladies of the parish. The Messenger for June—the publication of the churches in Wallingford, Meriden, and Yalesville announced that the Guild was continuing to serve delicious suppers on the first and third Thursdays of each month, at a cost of thirty cents!
While at St. Paul's Mr. Greene was prominent in the work of the Church outside the parish. Long-time Chaplain at the Masonic Home and Gaylord Sanatorium, he served also on the faculty of the Young People's Summer Conference and became Secretary of the Standing Committee of the diocese. In 1945 he was chosen Archdeacon of New Haven and delegate to the Provincial Synod. When he resigned in 1948, it was to become the first Diocesan Missionary of Connecticut and to assume "wider duties of greater responsibility and service."
In the summer of 1940 Hitler's mechanized armies dominated Western Europe. England stood alone in desperate defense of freedom, and the sympathies of Americans were deeply involved in her struggle. On 26 January 1941, a service of intercession for the British Commonwealth was held in our church and the offering was given to "Bundles for Britain".
On 5 October 1941, the Reverend William A. Beardsley, Rector Emeritus of St. Thomas, New Haven, preached at the 200th Anniversary of St. Paul's, saying to the congregation: "You have a noble past to live up to, a rich record to emulate and surpass." The parish was increasing in stature in the diocese.
Among the later years of Mr. Greene's rectorship let us take 1945 as typical. There were eighteen baptisms, eighteen confirmations, thirty-six burials, three marriages, and 116 enrolled in the Church School. Expenditures for church and missions amounted to approximately $7,250. When he came to St. Paul's for confirmation on 15 December 1946, Bishop Budlong dedicated the new lighting system in the church. The fixtures, made in Meriden, were all given as memorials to members of families long associated with our parish.
The Contemporary Church
On 24 October 1948, the Reverend Leonard H. Flisher came to St. Paul's. For their new rector the parish had reverted to the earlier tradition of finding a native of Connecticut. Born in Waterbury, Mr. Flisher had worked there after graduating from Lehigh University. He had attended General Theological Seminary and been ordained in 1937 by Bishop Budlong. He had served parishes in East Hampton and Middle Haddam, and in Wickford and Saunderstown, Rhode Island. He was particularly interested in the work of missions, Christian education, and Christian unity. One of his early important functions here was participation in the spring of 1949 in the ceremonies in Hubbard Park, Meriden, commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer—the basis of all Anglican worship.
As Mr. Flisher took charge of the parish, its financial position was weak. The Every Member Canvass of November 1948 had a goal of only $11,600. But in December the first issue of a new monthly publication, The St. Paul's Church-man appeared, and soon improvements to the church edifice were being planned by a committee headed by Mr. Philander Cooke. On 18 June 1950, a service of thanksgiving was held for the redecoration of the church interior, including complete rewiring, and for the dedication of a new altar. The Reverend Maurice G. Foulkes, son of the Senior Warden, preached the sermon. The new altar of black walnut was given by Miss Clara M. Barbour in memory of Georgia Hall Benham. Other memorial gifts were the brass altar cross given by the Thomas family, the red velvet dossal in memory of the late Senior Warden Harry Norton, and the Book of Remembrance given by the Church School to record all memorial gifts.
On 29 October 1950, our organist, Mrs. Thomas Till, gave a recital at the dedication of the rebuilt organ. Mrs. Till had originated the first Junior Choir in Wallingford and was to serve as organist for twenty-three years before her retirement in 1960. Our organ had been in use since 1869. Now it was electrified and dedicated to the memory of Gertrude L. Helliwell. The original pipes were retained, and the strong musical tradition of the parish maintained.
Other physical improvements were introduced in due course: refurbishing the Parish House and landscaping in front of the church in 1951; a new heating system in 1952; installation of hearing aids and demolition of the sheds in back of the church in 1953 and a gift of new pews for the choir, in memory of Mr. and Mrs. George Hall. In 1960 the rectory family moved into new quarters—a spacious house at 582 North Main Street. The old rectory was sold and demolished to make room for a banking office.
In the life of the Church a new development after World War II was the parish life conference, to bring people together in a community of understanding and love. A conference was described as "an intensive weekend discussion of what it takes to be a Christian and how a parish can and must create the conditions in which Christianity can flourish." Burr writes, "The first conference in Connecticut met in St. Paul's parish, Wallingford, in 1953. . . . The conferences soon became an accepted part of diocesan and parish life, often meeting at St. George's Inn."
In a material sense the major need of the parish was enlarged facilities for Church School and for parish organizations. Many children, for example, had to bundle up and cross Main Street to the Masonic Hall for their Sunday classes. A campaign to provide a new Parish House was undertaken in the spring of 1955 under the leadership of Mr. Craig Munson. People were incredulous at the size of the goal set—$120,000; but the parish performed "an act of faith" and 250 pledges totaled more than $135,000. The architect, Gordon Orr, and the builder, John Wooding, were both members of the parish. On 18 October 1956, Bishop Walter H. Gray presided at the dedication of the completed structure, and on 4 June 1959, the mortgage was burned. Mr. Flisher described the addition as "a gift to the future of St. Paul's—free and clear of all debt." It is estimated that over five hundred meetings are held annually in the new Parish House.
At this time the church purchased the Keeler house at 75 North Main Street. This house had been in existence since 1867 and was perhaps originally built by our rector, the Reverend James Keeler. It was now razed, to provide an open landscaped area on the north side of the church. This area became useful for another purpose in 1961 when the church sponsored the establishment of the Nursery School and the children came out on the lawn for play and exercise.
Statistics provide the bare facts of the story of the growth of St. Paul's. The 1950's were a decade of "population explosion" in Wallingford, from about 17,000 to 30,000, and the parish expanded markedly. Here are approximate figures for representative years:
Organizations tell more of the activities and interests of the parishioners. In the past twenty years a host of them have been created or revived. Many of them have been planned for both fellowship and service, such as the Men's Club, the Couples' Club, the Young Adults, and the Girls' Friendly Society. Others, like the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, had as their purpose prayer and concern for others, and the Junior Brotherhood was revived in 1956 under the leadership of Mr. James Clifford. Still others, like the Enquirers Group and the Bible Study Classes and the prayer group of 1964, were organizations of adults who wished to understand more deeply the scriptures and the services of the Church. Mrs. Alexander Brown established the Guild of the Christ Child in 1953. To improve the practices of the Church School, a Christian Education Council was created, and in 1965 the School began to use the Seabury lessons in all classes.
More essential to the well-being of a parish than its myriad activities is its spiritual life. Periodic teaching missions have stimulated the thought and the faith of our parishioners. Our missioner in 1949 was the Reverend J. Warren Hutchens, in 1957 the Reverend Verne Adams, O.H.C., and in 1963 Canon Clinton Jones. As the parish grew in numbers, the responsibilities of the rector became too extensive and arduous for one man. To help him in the conduct of services, Mr. Charles Wooding was installed in 1951 as our first lay reader. The next year a seminarian from Berkeley Divinity School came on a regular schedule to assist with the parish work and, coincidentally, to learn of the pastoral ministry. From Robert Rodie in 1952 to John Allen in 1966, we have constantly had seminarians assigned to the parish, and they have come from Texas and North Carolina, from Iowa and Indiana, as well as from Connecticut. Benefits have accrued to both parish and seminarians. Even more significant than the coming of the seminarians was the assignment to St. Paul's by the Bishop in 1958 of a curate. The Reverends Norman Catir, William Congdon, and Robert Bretscher have come to St. Paul's successively as deacons and have duly been ordained to the priesthood, Mr. Bretscher by Bishop Hutchens, and later have moved on to other parishes. These curates have been more than "assistants" to the rector. As he says, they have joined him in "an equal and shared ministry, in the name and love of Christ." During an interim in the tenure of our curates, St. Paul's was fortunate to secure the help of the Reverend Ian K. Siggins, a professor from Australia at the Yale Divinity School. In instruction periods following Morning Prayer, he expounded to the congregation the Gospel of St. John.
An integral part of spiritual life is liturgical practice. In 1950 Mr. Flisher instituted a new service for St. Paul's—the Family Service in which all generations could share at 9:30 on Sunday mornings. A nursery was later provided at this hour for the youngest generation. With the arrival of a curate it was possible to inaugurate the daily reading in the church of Morning Prayer. On Sundays special prayers are read for particular families in the parish. In 1963 the Sunday Family Service and eleven o'clock service were combined into a single service at ten o'clock, so that the whole parish may worship as one body. In 1965 parish participation in the Holy Eucharist was intensified: a layman reads the Epistle; a procession from the altar takes the Gospel to the people; the bread and wine are carried to the altar by parishioners as part of the offering. And one Sunday in 1966 we had a folk-song Communion.
There are always some notable events in the life of an institution that defy classification. For example, in 1950 Mrs. Gilbert Boyd became the first lady to be elected to the vestry. In 1952 Christopher Flisher was born, the first child born in the rectory in seventy years. A Parish Fair was held in 1953 and has since become an annual joyous and profitable occasion. A Parish Life Mission in October 1961 stirred our hearts and minds. But on Sunday, 4 August 1962, occurred a near disaster. At five o'clock in the afternoon fire broke out in the cellar of the nave. Prompt discovery of the blaze by James Freeman, faithful Sexton of over twenty years service, saved the church from the fate of its predecessor in 1867. In the body of the building there was considerable smoke damage; Sunday services for five weeks were held in the Parish House.
And what have the existence and expansion of St. Paul's during the rector-ship of Mr. Flisher meant to the larger Church beyond the parish boundaries? What has been the outreach of the parish? Never enough, to be sure, but certain incidents are worthy of attention. The church has maintained its custom of making gifts to distant parts of the nation and the world—gifts from the children of the Church School to the Dakota Indians, clothing from the Young Peoples Fellowship for relief in Korea. In 1901 the missionary quota of St. Paul's was $94.64; in 1962, $6,700. At times of need St. Paul's has contributed to the rebuilding of other churches—in Yalesville, Putnam, Shelton. The rector has served the diocese on its Standing Committee, ultimately as President; he is a Trustee of General Theological Seminary.
Gary Rundle, a young member of St. Paul's, was ordained at Hartford on 23 June 1962. The parish may take pride in the event and in his letter to explain why he felt the need to become a minister. He wrote:
I find that my association with St. Paul's stands out as the basic reason. The happiness I found in your community was my first and greatest encounter with Christianity and the Episcopal Church. For the direction that St. Paul's gave me, I thank you one and all.
In 1963, in memory of another of its sons, the Reverend Maurice Foulkes, the parish established annual scholarships in the amount of $1,200 for seminarians. John Martiner was one of the earliest recipients of a scholarship. He preached on theological education as a Foulkes Scholar on 25 January 1965. On July 15th, following his ordination, he became curate of St. Paul's.
Early in the 1960's it was recognized, at long last, that our Hook and Hastings organ, aged more than ninety years, must be replaced. A committee under Dr. Harold Anderson investigated organs and selected the Holtkamp Company to provide the new instrument. The quest for money to buy the organ grew in 1964 into the drive for the 225th Anniversary Fund. $70,000 were pledged, to purchase and install the organ, to refurbish the sacristy, to provide carpets and kneelers in the church, and to build partitions in the Parish House. A tithe of the total pledge was set apart so that we could make a significant gift to the work of the Church outside St. Paul's. At this time the beautiful and useful All Saints Chapel was given and furnished by Mr. and Mrs. Taber in memory of her mother and father. And new red altar hangings were given by Mr. and Mrs. Foulkes in memory of their son. The new organ was dedicated on Palm Sunday 1965 and the event celebrated by a recital by Charles Krigbaum.
And so we have come to the present day and the actual celebration of our 225th Anniversary. We have enjoyed a series of recitals by distinguished organ ists. On April 2nd in our own church, Mr. Martiner was ordained priest by Bishop Esquirol. The Lenten season culminated in the Holy Week Focus, with the Reverend Ian Siggins as our learned preacher. On Sunday, May 22nd, we shall join in a festival service and afterwards in a birthday banquet at the Waverley Inn in Cheshire.
It is expedient for us, at this juncture in our affairs, to recall some words from the 1941 Anniversary Sermon. Mr. Beardsley said:
In the list of our forty-two
colonial parishes [St. Paul's] stands the sixteenth. And so, you see,
you have something to live up to, the honor and prestige of antiquity.
... However one ought not to
bring to a close a sermon looking to the past without saying just a word of the
future. For, after all, no matter how fine the past may have been, it is the
future which vitally concerns us... . What will be the history of this parish in
years to come? That question each one of you must ask himself, for that history
will be what you make it.
... As you contemplate the past, I call upon you to go forward into the future with faith and courage, with loyalty to your God and to your country, and make this ancient parish, or better yet keep it, the power for good in the community which your forefathers intended it to be.
And the parishioners who read this story should remember, as Mr. Flisher has said, that "all of us are writing the history of St. Paul's Church right now."
thanks to P. Gordon B. Stillman who supplied this history of St.
Paul’s in his "Commemorative History of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church" for the
occasion of the 225th Anniversary in 1966.)