Monday, January 20, 2014

St. Mark's Church: A History

Front Cover
One of the first sources we consulted on the history of the St. George's/St. Mark's Cemetery was St. Mark's Church: A History by Helena Rutherfurd Meade. This lovely little book is excellently written and researched and is beautifully illustrated by B. Shirley Carter. It contains an introduction by the Rev. Phil Porter Jr., the rector of St. Mark's at that time. In her acknowledgments, Mrs. Meade writes:

"Without Mr. Herbert Barber Howe's scrapbooks (in the possession of his son, Mr. David F. R. Howe) and his notes and articles on Saint George's Church, the early days of Saint Mark's Church and on Canon Prichard, the history would have been poor indeed." As you may know from this blog, at least one of the Rev. Howe's scrapbooks made it into to the historical society's collection, where I recently accessed it and transcribed it (read the full story here).

She also mentions "Mrs. Daniel Forgea" who "turned over to me her superb scrapbooks of [the town], from which, and from her memories, I learned much." Mrs. Forgea, known to my mother as Aunt Glynette, was the best friend and neighbor of my great-grandmother Ruth. This is a photo of the Forgeas (on the left) with my great-grandparents (on the right) in 1924.

Below, I have copied some select passages from the book that were of interest to me - for various reasons - and may be of interest to others.

Inside Cover
On the building of Old St. Mark's:
"Prior to the building of the new Church, it was necessary to obtain permission to build from the Vestry of Saint Matthew's Church, Bedford who were the successors of the original incorporation (i.e. Saint George's). This was granted in 1852, so Saint Mark's was built on the spot, but slightly behind where once stood Saint George's of Revolutionary background" (16).
On St. George's and St. Mark's:
"Neither church was large, although, at some later date, a steeple with a belfry was added to Saint Mark's but when, has not been established. Also, at some time later, a lych gate was added to the grounds at the opening of the stone wall where the walk to the church began. ('Lych' is old English, and means corpse.) This one seems to have been American Rustic in style, not English Gothic. In England at the entrance to most early churchyards, the lych gates were used to rest the coffins and the bearers before the final march into the church" (16). 
On the frustrations caused by vestry minutes:
"Vestry minutes can be as innocent, as cryptic and as secretive as are, often, the minutes of corporations, and the more there seems to have happened, the less appears in the minutes. Only by close study of many years, and, even then, only by having the genius of a ferret, is it possible to learn what actually happened" (17-18).

"Minutes are very scarce and very sketchy documents in the early days of Saint Mark's. Only a few scattered ones are in the Parish scrapbook. This scrapbook is a catch-all of all sorts of valuable and/or curious papers that actually go back to the Articles of Incorporation of 1850. There are letters of resignation of Rectors, and others as well, and it is fortunate there is even the little that there is" (20).
 On disagreements surrounding the building of New St. Mark's in the 1910s:
"But, alas, a few, not too many, but a very nice few could not fall in with the Rector's and the architect's and ultimately the Vestry's choice, so they resigned from the Church and went to Saint Matthew's in Bedford. Isn't it the same old story? People must have their own way, and how often it happens in a Church! Those who go may not realize how hurt are those who remain, and, of course, how it hurts God's body! Never leave your Church because you disagree with a decision that has been fairly made. We are all members of one another. Ephesians 4:25" (39).
On the donation of Old St. Mark's to the St. Francis A.M.E. Zion Church (notice that Mrs. Meade could only say how the vestry voted - not what actually happened!): 
Illustration of New St. Mark's
"In 1915 came the death knell of the old Church in the burying ground at New Castle Corners. The vestry voted to wreck the building; then they voted to give the timbers to The African Methodist Zion Congregation for building a church and to pay for their moving" (52).
On the contents of Old St. Mark's that were transferred to the chapel of New St. Mark's:
"Here it might be well to mention the gifts in the Chapel. These were all originally in the Church at New Castle Corners and were given either by the Cowdins or their kin and are in memory of members of the Cowdin family. These include the Altar, two Tiffany glass mosaics once the Reredos in the old Church, now on either side of the Chapel, the three windows, all, it would seem, Tiffany windows and the memorial tablets. The Altar rail was given by Mrs. Henry Marquand for the first Saint Mark's and moved from there" (63). 
On the Rev. Prichard's influence on Herbert B. Howe (he did convert him, after all!):
"Mr. Prichard's influence on Mr. Howe brought him into the Episcopal Church. Their letters show great warmth and love and understanding between them. In 1944 he became a lay reader and during the Canon's illness he conducted a large number of the services at Katonah. This relieved some of the heavy pressure on the Clergy. The lights over the lectern in Saint Mark's, where he read the lessons so often, were installed in his memory by his son" (76-77).
And lastly, on the cemetery and Mrs. Brundage (I wonder who was privileged with the task of breaking this to her):
"In 1898 it was voted that Mrs. Brundage be asked not to use the cemetery any longer as a thoroughfare" (28).
Mrs. Meade's signature: "How far this little candle throws its beam"
Mrs. Meade was quite an interesting person herself. I did a bit of research on her for the exhibition, as her book is featured in it. Born Helena Rutherfurd Ely in Vernon, New Jersey, she married Richard Worsam Meade IV, a veteran of the Spanish-American War and transportation entrepreneur, in 1905. They joined St. Mark's in 1913.

Mrs. Meade's mother, also named Helena Rutherfurd, was a founding member of the Garden Club of America and the best-selling author of A Woman's Handy Garden (1903).

Mrs. Meade's other books included The Story of the Bedford Garden Club (1955) and A Garden and a Book (1951), a memoir about her mother's career.

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