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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  38 - Eau Claire Churches

Christ Episcopal Church

(-as transcribed from pages 525 - 531)

The first services of the Episcopal church of which at present we can find any record were held in the dining room of the Eau Claire House, in the summer of 1858, by the Rev. A. B. Peabody, a missionary of the church residing at Star Prairie in St. Croix county. Robert Tolles was the only communicant of the church who was present. On the evening of June 21, 1858, at a meeting of persons favorable to the building of an Episcopal church in the village of Eau Claire, the same being held in the school house, the following officers were elected: Mr. E. A. Frear, senior warden; Mr. N. B. Boyden, junior warden, and Messrs. D. R. Moon, W. G. Bridges, J. A. Grey. A. Meggett, C. M. Seeley and George Mulks, vestrymen. In the journal of Bishop Kemper, the first bishop of Wisconsin, we obtained the following: "On the 14th of July, 1861, at Eau Claire, I baptized James Henry and Emma Cora, children of James and Anna Bonell." The bishop also states that he held services and preached. For eight years after the election of the first vestry only occasional services were held, sometimes in the Eau Claire House and at other times in a hall or the home of Mr. James Bonell.

In 1866 the parish was made a mission and the Rev. C. H. Hendley was placed in charge. He was the first missionary who had a residence in the city and regular services were held, but at the close of 1867 he left and once more the church people had to depend upon occasional services, mostly held in the Reed boarding house. On May 1, 1870, the Rev. R. F. G. Page took charge of the mission. Services were held in Marston hall and in the old Universalist church building. This building stood on the land which is now occupied by the chancel of Christ church. The cause for the removal from Marston's hall was the destruction of the building by fire. This was a great calamity to the mission. as all the books and furniture, including a valuable cabinet organ was destroyed. The struggles and perseverance of the members of the church in those days are a matter of history and something to be admired. To compensate them for the difficulties and obstacles with which they had to contend for so many years they were at last able to secure sufficient subscriptions to justify them in commencing the erection of a long desired home of their own. July 7, 1873, lots 3 and 4, block 14, were purchased, and the cornerstone of the first church was laid by the Rt. Rev. William Edmond Armitage, S. T. D., assisted by the Rev. M. L. Kern, rector of Zion church, Chippewa Falls, and the missionary, Rev. R. F. G. Page, on September 10, 1873. This was the last official act of Bishop Armitage. The mission progressed rapidly under the ministration of Mr. Page, who was greatly beloved and respected throughout the whole community. It was indeed a severe blow when he sent in his resignation to the bishop in the month of August, 1874, and removed to the diocese of Illinois. The Rev. Peter Brown Morrison, B. D., was appointed to the mission on September 13, 1874, and immediately entered upon his duties. The first official act of the third bishop of Wisconsin, the Rt. Rev. Edward Randolph Welles, S. T. D., was to deliver a sermon in the hall on Barstow street the first week Mr. Morrison took charge. In the same hall on Friday, October 8, 1875, the bishop being present, the convocation of LaCrosse was organized and the first services of the convocation held.

Mr. Morrison undertook to complete the church building, which had remained incomplete since Mr. Page's departure. The work of building upon the foundation commenced August 3, 1875. On Sunday, the 14th day of November, 1875, the church being ready for use, though still incomplete, it was occupied for the first time. The sermon was preached by the missionary from the text I Kings, chapter 8, verse 27. The Rev. W. H. H. Ross, of Grace church, Menomonie, assisted in the services. Bishop Welles visited the new church on Tuesday, October 12, 1876, and in his diary wrote: "At 3:30 p. m., after a brief service read by the Rev. Mr. Kern, of Chippewa Falls, and the Rev. Mr. Page, of Baldwin, I preached in the new church at Christ Church mission, Eau Claire. At 6:30 p. m. preached, confirmed and addressed a class of seven persons presented by the rector. The new church at Eau Claire when entirely finished will be among the most beautiful churches in the diocese. It has been built at a great cost of self-denial, especially on the part of the devoted missionaries." Of the first services held in the new church the missionary wrote: "There was a large congregation present, and all happy to be in their own." One of the great joys of the missionary was to be able to place in the chancel over the altar a handsome memorial window to the two former bishops of the diocese under whom he had labored in the Master's vineyard. This memorial was made possible by the offerings of the Sunday school. During his ministry Mr. Morrison did a great deal of missionary work in the neighboring towns and villages, notably at Menomonie, Baldwin, Rice Lake, Black River Falls, Durand and Tiffany Creek. He established a mission at Altoona, and later during the year 1884 to 1886 had charge of the same along with the North Side mission at Eau Claire. After a rectorship of three and one-half years Mr. Morrison resigned the charge of Christ church, the resignation took effect March 22, 1878. After the departure of this priest, who had labored with great self-sacrifice for the building up of the mission, services were maintained by the Rev. S. Y. Yundt, rector of Christ church, Chippewa Falls, who gave us alternate services from his own parish.

It was not until April 8, 1880, that the parish again obtained a resident priest. On that day the Rev. Joel Clarke took charge. He was a man of brilliant qualifications and many improvements in the interior of the church were made through his efforts. His rectorship ended probably about September 14, 1882. Bishop Welles brought the Rev. Henry H. Skinner to Eau Claire on December 8, 1882, and at a reception held in the church basement introduced him to the church people assembled, and placed him in charge for six months from date. The Rev. Charles S. Starkweather, B. D., took charge on September 1, 1883, and after a very successful pastorate resigned on September 30, 1884. The Rev. Reginald Heber Weller, Jr., B. D., the present bishop of Fond du Lac, was elected rector and entered upon his duties on the 30th day of September, 1884. During his incumbency the last mortgage on the parish property was cancelled. He also introduced much to improve the beauty and solemnity of the worship, and the quiet dignity and spiritual uplift which are the chief marks of the services today are greatly attributable to him. He resigned September 29, 1888.

The first record of the service held by the next rector, the Rev. B. F. Cooley, is dated November 28, 1888, and the last record August 18, 1889. After an interregnum of twelve months, during which time Mr. Morrison held the services, the parish called the Rev. C. A. Cummings, and he was rector from September 1, 1890, until February 7, 1895. The Rev. E. F. H. J. Masse then acted as "locum tenens" up to May 5, 1895. He recorded in the parish register: "It is the custom of this parish to hold the devotion of the three hours on Good Friday." This is a custom which still continues and we trust will always continue. After Mr. Masse 's departure for Massachusetts the Rev. 0. J. Ferris had temporary charge until September, 1895. The next rector was the Rev. T. C. Eglin, of Burlington, Wisconsin, who was duly called and took up his residence in the parish November 1, 1895. In 1889 the work on St. Edward's chapel, Bellevue avenue, commenced, but since that time had remained in a very incomplete state. On June 5, 1896, the present cornerstone was laid by the Rt. Rev. I. L. Nicholson, D. D., bishop of Milwaukee. The formal opening of the chapel was held on St. Peter's day, 1896, and on the third Sunday in Lent was duly consecrated by Bishop Nicholson as a memorial to the late Rt. Rev. Edward Randolph Welles, some time bishop of the diocese of Milwaukee. Mr. Eglin left the parish for missionary work in South Dakota, August 8, 1898. The Rev. Joseph Moran, Jr., became rector October 24, 1899. During his rectorship the rectory was built. Of this the bishop wrote in his diary: "Christ church has built a most beautiful rectory, chiefly the work of the zealous women of that congregation. Mr. Moran remained until January 10, 1901. On July 19, 1901, the vestry called the Rev. John F. Milbank, of Monticello, New York. He accepted and remained until October 26, 1902. After his departure the church was closed for seven months. On March 3, 1903, the bishop informed the vestry that he had arranged with the Rev. Francis Horatio Stubbs, B. D., of Baltimore, to take charge of the parish. This priest an-arrived on March 10, 1903, and remained as rector until the time of his death, March 29, 1906. He was a man of great spirituality and left an abiding impression on the parish. He was a most faithful and conscientious priest and all who knew him loved him.

A great act of foresight during Mr. Stubbs's rectorship was the purchase of a corner lot adjacent to the church property, the lot upon which the new church when completed, will stand. If this lot had not been purchased at that time, September 27, 1904, in all probability, owing to the rapid growth of the parish since then, the parish would have been forced to seek a larger site elsewhere in the city. Connected with the purchase of the lot on the corner of Jones and Farwell streets there is a matter of sentiment to the parishioners. On that portion where the chancel now stands in the early days a little building stood in which the first missionaries of the church used to hold services. The vestry extended on June 16, 1906, a unanimous call to the Rev. Philip Henry Linley, B. D., rector of Christ church, Chippewa Falls. The call was accepted and Mr. Linley entered upon his duties September 1, 1906. With the good foundations laid by Mr. Stubbs, the parish has rapidly grown during the last eight years, so that today it is one of the largest and strongest parishes in the diocese. And whereas, the property is the cause for great rejoicing, those who labored in former years, surrounded with innumerable difficulties and obstacles, and many discouragements, are held in high honor. They all labored in faith, looking forward to the day when the church they dearly loved would become a power making for righteousness in the city. They labored in faith and we today under the guidance of the holy spirit are reaping the fruits of their labor. The worship has been embellished by the introduction of a vested choir of some forty voices trained by a professional choir master. The vested choir sang their first service on the first Sunday after Easter, ]907. The time at last arrived when the building of a parish house and new church became imperative. It was therefore decided to build a parish house and the chancel of the new church. The last services in the old church, which stood on the land now occupied by the parish house, were held on Easter day, 1910. The church was crowded to its utmost capacity at all the services, and many were sad in the realization that they were assembled for the last time in their quaint and beautiful church, which was so rich with the memories of the past. To remove it seemed almost like an act of sacrilege, but it had well served its day and had to give way before the great need of a larger edifice to accommodate the congregation and a place for the parochial activities.

The nave was moved during the week following to the corner lot, so that the services were continued without interruption and the work of building commenced. The new church and parish house are of the early English perpendicular. The church is of Vermont granite and Bedford stone, and the parish house is of the same materials in the first story with a pebble dash stucco encased in panels in the second. The group of buildings are among the most handsome, dignified and permanent in the state. The first service after the completion of the new chancel was held on October 30, 1910, and the parish house was formally opened on December 21, 1910. The chancel is commodious and arranged with the greatest care, with every provision for any need which occasion may require. The one bond which materially associates the new with the old is the pipe organ. This instrument was the first one erected in the city, and was given by Mrs. William J. Starr, as a memorial to her father, Francis DeLong Hill, M. D. The years have increased the sweetness of its tone with a mellowness which cannot be surpassed. At the time of its erection in the new chancel the same was considerably added to and the action changed to a tubular pneumatic, with a newly extended console containing all the latest devices for control, etc. The crowning glory of this chancel is the chaste and beautiful altar made in Italy of Carrara marble in a pure gothic design. This altar, as well as the three paneled windows of the best English antique cathedral glass representing the risen Christ, are placed as memorials to Mr. and Mrs. D. R. Moon, and were presented by their sons and daughters. The altar is also furnished completely with bronze furniture by the same donors in memory of their grandmother, Mrs. Cornelia Baker Ellis. Mrs. Ellis was a tower of strength in the parish in her day. The altar and furniture thereof was duly consecrated by the Rt. Rev. William Walter Webb, D.D., on May 6, 1911. Many other memorials have been given, including a large solid silver alms receiving basin in memory of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Squires) a fumed oak credence table in memory of Mr. and Mrs. John Marsh; solid silver credence lights in memory of Lillian Bundy, and a large silver chalice of unique design and workmanship in memory of Miss Nettie E. Thurston. The communion silver was given previously in memory of Mrs. Betsy Moffat, of blessed memory. By unanimous action the vestry have recorded their intention of having the nave completed in time to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the present rector. Many memorials have been promised to beautify this completed church, and the one which will fill the greatest need is the memorial chapel which will be built on the south side of the chancel. The wisdom of completing the parish house before erecting the nave is most apparent to all the congregation. It has provided a thoroughly up-to-date work shop for the parish, and during the winter months especially is a hive of parochial industry. In it the various organizations have a permanent home, and from it as a center radiates many a noble influence made concrete by some definite act which tends to build up the kingdom of righteousness. By degrees through the deep interests of certain individuals the parish house is being equipped and adorned, so that those who gather within its walls will be surrounded by the beautiful and the useful as incentives. The parish is entirely free from debt, and takes much pride in running all of its affairs in accordance with the strictest business ethics. It is the desire that a parish should be an example to the community in its business affairs, which, alas, is not always the case.

In conclusion, one regrets that the history of the parish should be so largely taken up with the account of the coming and going of the various priests who have had charge and of the accumulation of things material. It is well nigh impossible to even give a vague idea of the great spiritual good that has emanated from Christ church. No one can tell of the lives that have been redeemed from worldliness and sin; no one can tell the souls that have been led to Christ and have found in Him a Savior. The large record of baptisms and confirmations does not tell the story. The story is written in the hearts of men and women who have quietly engaged in the battles of peace and have endeavored to be Christ's faithful soldiers and servants until their life's end. After all, the material prosperity is an outward and visible symbol of the love and devotion which the congregation has for Christ and His church. People do not give except to that in which they believe. Christ church has been tested again and again, and today loved and respected she gives the honor to those loyal sons and daughters who remain faithful to her in the hours of shadow. (Signed) Rev. Philip Henry Linley.

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