A History of Episcopal Churches in the City of New York Part V


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Episcopal Mission Churches

The Episcopal City Mission was organized in the autumn of the year 1831, when it was resolved to establish Mission Churches, for the more destitute portions of the population in the city. The first church of this description was in Vandewater street.

A house of worship had been built there ten years before, occupied successively by the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Reformed Dutch. This house was purchased for $16,000, consecrated by the Bishop according to the forms of the Episcopal Church on Nov. 19, 1831, under the title of "The Mission Church of the Holy Evangelists." The Rev. Benjamin C. Cutler was appointed to labor there, and entered on his labors in December of that year. During the first year a congregation of about 400 persons was generally gathered on the Sabbath, a large number attended communion there, and about 30 gave in their names as permanent members of the church.

On the 14th of March, 1833, Mr. Cutler resigned his station as Missionary, having been elected Rector of St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn. He was succeeded in the Mission Church by the Rev. Hugh Smith, of Hartford, Conn., who labored here until early in the spring of 1836, and was succeeded by Rev. Alexander Frazer. The church was in a prosperous state, with 92 members, and a large and flourishing Sabbath School.

Rev. Ezra B. Kellogg succeeded Mr. Frazer, and remained until Nov., 1838, when he was succeeded by the Rev. Jesse Pound, who remained in charge of the church until Feb. 1, 1842, at which time the number of communicants was something over 200. Mr. Pound was then transferred to the Mission Church of St. Matthew; since which time the Rev. Benjamin Evans has had charge of this church. In Sept., 1845, this church was received into the Convention, and its connection with the city mission was dissolved.

Church of the Epiphany

The origin of this church is full of interest. On a Sabbath, in the autumn of 1832, the Rev. Dr. McVickar had occasion to pass through Stanton street, the lower part of which was then a wretched and neglected quarter of the city. Here he encountered throngs of idle and destitute children, playing in the street, or lounging in the sun. Addressing one of the groups with the question why they were not at Sunday School, he was answered that there was none; and why they were not at church, that there was no church. His heart was moved with the situation of those children and their parents, and on reporting this case to two Christian ladies they at once placed in his hands $75, saying, "We will have on that spot a Mission Church; do you preach, and we will help you." Thus encouraged, a room was sought for, and with some difficulty obtained, not far from that spot. It was a small dark room, over an Engine House, facing on Allen street. Here, as the first congregation, there were assembled six adult worshippers, with two prayer-books, and a few ragged children that were persuaded to enter. On the second Sabbath the room was filled, and a Sabbath School organized; and on the third Sabbath the congregation assembled in a more commodious place, being a Hall on the corner of Allen and Houston streets, then called North Street. This was on Jan. 6th, 1833, being most appropriately Epiphany, or the day of the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

In looking for a permanent missionary to cultivate this new and interesting field, one of the ladies above referred to, named the Rev. Lot Jones, then settled in Massachusetts, as a suitable man, offering to guarantee his support for the first six months. He was accordingly written to and obtained, and entered on his labors in February following. On the 26th of August, of the same year, a site having been purchased on Stanton street, near to the place where Dr. McVickar met the boys, the cornerstone of the "Church of the Epiphany" was laid by Bishop Moore, of Virginia; and it was completed and opened for service on June 28th, 1834; the whole establishment having cost about $19,000. Here Mr. Jones has continued his labors to the present time, being the regular Rector of that church; and as we look into this house of worship now, containing on every Sabbath a large and attentive congregation, including more than five hundred communicants at the Lord's table, and a flourishing Sabbath school of three hundred children, under the care of forty devoted teachers, and compare it with the beginning, as above stated, we are constrained to exclaim with gratitude, "What hath God wrought?"

The Church of St. Matthew

In the early part of the year 1842, a legacy from the estate of Mr. Charles Morgan, of $15,000, was confided to the disposal of his pastor, the Rev. Dr. Eastburn, but with a suggestion concerning the purchase of a building then known to be for sale, standing on Christopher street, which was built and used by the Eighth Presbyterian Church, with a view to the establishment of a third Mission Church. To this sum there was afterwards added a legacy of $5,000, from the estate of Thomas Otis, Esq. In consequence of these liberal bequests the building was purchased for $15,000, and consecrated as "the Church of St. Matthew," on March 15, 1842. Rev. Jesse Pound, who had previously had charge of the Mission Church in Vandewater street, was transferred to this, and is now its regular Rector. The first communion here was attended in April, 1842, by about fifty communicants, forty of whom expressed a wish to become permanently attached to that station. A Sabbath school was commenced with about seventy children. They have now one hundred and seventy, and in May, 1845, reported one hundred and seventy-seven members in communion.

"Free Church of the Redemption."

This was a Mission Church, formed about the year 1836. They met for worship in the "Minerva Rooms," Broadway, near Canal street, under the ministry successively of the Rev. John F. Fish, Rev. Edward C. Bull, and the Rev. Calvin Colton, each for short terms of time. A considerable congregation attended these services; a large Sabbath School was gathered, and a hundred and twenty members were reported in communion. But these services were all suddenly discontinued, and in 1837, seventy members of the church and many of the congregation mingled with Zion Church in Mott street, then under the charge of the Rev. William Richmond, and the "Free Church of the Redemption" is no longer known.

"Church of the Messiah."

An Episcopal church by this name was organized in 1836, and met for worship in the Hall of the "Lyceum of Natural History" on Broadway, near Houston street. At the session of the Convention in October, 1837, they applied to that body to be received, but were refused on account of informality. The Rev. Calvin Colton was at that time reported as Rector, but no other parochial report was made. In the next year the Rev. Mr. Shimeall was reported as Rector, and after this the church became extinct.

St. Matthew's Church (Colored).

In the year 1840, an Episcopal church of colored persons was gathered, principally by the labors of the Rev. Isaiah G. De Grasse, a respectable colored preacher. They met for worship in a Hall on the corner of Elizabeth and Grand streets, and removed afterward to Mott street. Mr. De Grasse preached here about two years, and a considerable congregation was gathered around him. But his health becoming impaired, he made a voyage to the West Indies, and died there, and the congregation ceased to meet. thus things remained for more than two years.

In April of the year 1845, an effort was made to resuscitate this church. Mr. Alexander Cromwell, a young colored preacher, was obtained, and a meeting was opened in a Hall, at 592 Broadway. It was found necessary, however, to reorganize the church, which was done with about twenty members; and as another church had been formed under the name of "St. Matthew," it became necessary to change the name, and it was styled.

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Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A History of Episcopal Churches in the city of New York Part V
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A history of the churches of all denominations in the city of New York: from the first settlement to the year 1850
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