HISTORY OF ST. PAULíS EPISCOPAL CHURCH, St. Joseph, Michigan
EARLY YEARSóBEGINNING 1835
The first Episcopal Church in St. Joseph was St. Peterís Mission, started in the year
1835 or 1836 by the Rev. James Selkrig, a missionary from Niles. The mission was then a
part of the diocese of Michigan under Bishop McCoskry. The following year, the Rev.
Marcus Cushman became the first resident rector, though still a missionary. At that time
there were 12 families in St. Joseph and 4 communicants.
The financial panic of 1837 and other causes led to the departure of many families. The
congregation dwindled away and by 1840, St. Peterís became defunct. Many efforts were made
to revive the Episcopal Church in St. Joseph but for years there were only occasional
visits from Episcopal missionaries; Niles showed the greatest interest. This
was then the Diocese of Michigan with Bishop McCoskry in charge.
In 1867 the Rev. Geo. de Normandie Gillespie came from Ann Arbor and performed a
service but was not favorably impressed. Years later he became
the first bishop of the Diocese of Western Michigan.
In 1870 the Rev. J. Rice Taylor of Saugatuck held an afternoon service and re-organized
the church under the name of Christ Church. In 1871 the Rev. V. Spaulding held ten services
in St. Joseph and in 1872, Christ Church was admitted as a mission. It had 30 communicants,
4 teachers and 16 students in Sunday School. The Rev. Spaulding was vicar.
By 1874 the number of communicants had doubled but by 1877 there came an unaccountable
falling off. The Rev. Spaulding resigned, his salary 4 months in arrears, the Sunday
School deserted entirely. A fire destroyed most of the church property and the
name of Christ Church Mission was stricken from the list of missions in 1878. Faithful
Episcopalians of this village began attending Holy Trinity in Benton Harbor.
1893 to 1913
St. Paulís Mission began in 1893 with regular services beginning in 1895. These
regular services were conducted by the Rev. Woodruff of Holy Trinity, Benton Harbor and were
held at the Swedish Lutheran Church, St. Joseph at 3:00 P.M. on Sundays. The church was
a small cottage on the site of the present day Saron Lutheran Church. By that time the
Rev. Geo. de Normandie Gillespie had become the first bishop of the Diocese of Western
Michigan and had presumably changed his mind in regard to St. Joseph Episcopalians.
In 1897, St. Paulís purchased a small lot at the corner of Main Street and Niles Avenue.
In 1900 the first Episcopal Church in St. Joseph was erected. It was a small, frame,
brown-shingled church with windows of amber-colored ground glass. The only access to the
tiny space for the furnace was by lifting a portion of the floor in the front vestibule.
The church contained the nave, choir area, the sanctuary, and on either side, microscopic
rooms for a sacristy and storeroom for choir vestments. The pine floor was covered with
a cheap, in-grain carpet that lasted until 1923 when its tattered remains were honorably
discharged from service. There were no kneeling benches at first but a few persons
brought hassocks or footstools from home. The church members looked up, not down,
for they had a beautiful light oak reredos to view. It was in the likeness of an
English cathedral and was a gift of the Olson family in memory of their father, Lewis
Olson. In 1901, the Pixley family gave the altar cross in memory of B. F. Pixley,
one of the founders of St. Paulís. That cross is still with us on the high altar.
Soon after, the high altar candlesticks were given and exist today, having survived
the big fire of 1948. One of them is slightly bent so the Altar Guild always turns
it with its best side toward the congregation. The altar cross survived in good
condition but the heat of the fire on the hollow brass base turned the wooden block
interior to a chunk of charcoal.
St. Paulís Mission lacked the money to finance the building so a loan was taken out from Rufus
Gates Rice who agreed to take the mortgage. He died soon after and his widow canceled the
mortgage; for this reason the original church building was called St. Paulís Memorial
Church. There was a bronze tablet on the west wall commemorating the fact. The name was
retained until 1951 when the present building was completed and the word ďMemorialĒ was
dropped since none of the original memorial remained.
From 1901 to 1902, a supply priest, Dr. Matrau, conducted services. For a few months we
were again under the care of the Rev. Mr. Woodruff of Benton Harbor. September 14, 1902, so
the Pixley diary says, the church was dedicated. Note: Because the fire destroyed so many
documents, Edith McConnell reconstructed a great deal of information from the diary of Jane
Pixley, long-time member of St. Paulís. The Rev. Henry Jones became our rector in 1903 and
remained until 1905. From 1906-1908 the Rev. Lincoln R. Vercoe was rector of St. Paulís.
While he was here the church built a good-sized parish hall behind the church and a large
boysí choir was started. The church took a new lease of life and its numbers increased
very notably. The number of services increased, especially during Lent, and all the
saintís days were observed for the first time. In the year 1907 (one record says 1908)
St. Paulís became a parish.
St. Paulís had two rectors with very short terms in our parish; the Rev. J.A. Baynton (1909-1911)
and the Rev. C. D. Frankel (1911-1913). During these two short rectorships nothing notable happened
and the history merely mentions various guilds and things done to make money.
1913 to 1930
In September 1913, the Rev. Frederick Ossian Granniss began as rector and he remained with us longer
than any other rector up to that time. He left in 1924 because of ill health and old age as he was
over 70 at the time. The mortgage on the parish hall was burned in 1920. There were then about 113
communicants and a Sunday school with 7 teachers and 41 pupils. During the early days of the mission
or parish the Sunday school sessions were held through the summer, but just before Rev. Granniss came,
they were discontinued. He instituted summer sessions again with a special course of lessons.
Rev. Granniss had many outside speakers preach to us, especially during Lent. Some were
bishops, others were notable clergy from Indiana and Michigan. Sunday evening services were held for
a few years but were discontinued because of poor attendance.
The Rev. Harry Bruce came to this parish in September 1924. The church purchased a house near the
church for a rectory. It was necessary to mortgage the church property and
another mortgage on the rectory itself covered the balance of the purchase price. Just before Mr.
Bruce came to town a new guild, St. Margaretís, was formed as well as a Menís Club. The latter
assisted the rector and also built up the Sunday School by driving about the Twin Cities to collect
pupils and bring them to St. Paulís.
There have been several guilds at St. Paulís and unfortunately names have been duplicated leading to
confusion. There have been two St. Catherineís, two St. Margaretís, two St. Ceciliaís and one St.
Maryís, which became the first Altar Guild. The Menís Club which was begun in 1925 existed until
In September 1926 the Rev. Harry Bruce went to Vermont and the Rev. Walter Stephen Dunlop took his
place and remained our rector until May 1930. The latter organized a chapter of the Daughters of the
King which bore his name. He also instituted St. Stephenís Mission for the colored people (written in
1958) of Benton Harbor. This was really building on the foundation laid by the Rev. F. O. Granniss who
spent much time working with them. The new mission took over the Holy Trinity church in 1927. So few
members of Holy Trinity were left that it was decided to close the church and the remaining members
transferred themselves to St. Paulís. A new
organ was put in St. Paulís to replace the ancient bellows-powered organ of the original building.
The church was also redecorated.
In 1935 a total of 190 communicants were reported and the church school had 96 pupils on the books
with 15 teachers. The following are Edith McConnellís comments on these figures: ďThese figures come
from Smithís History of the Diocese of Western Michigan but I doubt very much that they are correct
though I have no others to substitute. I was a teacher at the time and can recall only half as many
teachers. The parish hall wasnít very large and I canít see where we could have put so many. The
person compiling these figures must have seen a list of teachers somewhere, covering several
yearsóthe same with pupils, and mistakenly reported them all. So far as I know we NEVER had as many
as ninety-six until several years after we moved into the new St. Paulís in Highcliffe Terrace.Ē
The favorite means of raising money for the original church was having sales of baked good and
bazaars. Items sold at he bazaars were mostly aprons, rag rugs, quilts, knitted items, handkerchiefs;
most items were not fancy though there were embroidered pillowcases and luncheon sets. Every June a
Strawberry Festival was held on the lawn of Sweet Brier, the B. F. McConnell home, on the site of the
present Congregational Church. There were also many programs, parties, and church suppers.
Some were unique, like the womenís guild party which charged as admission as many cents as the
number of inches in our diameters. In 1907 a large fair called Kermis brought in the amazing sum
of $206. Previous to this, financial reports of money-raising cited less than $100. Remember that the 1907 dollars were much larger than the ones later in circulation
The early church had very few altar linens but some lasted until the 1920s. Hangings consisted
of only the green, white, and purple sets, with no red ones. Services at that time were: Communion at
7:30 A. M., church school from 9:30-10:30 and at 10:45 Morning Prayer three Sundays and Communion on one
Sunday. Evening Prayer was at 7:30 P. M. until it was discontinued in the mid-1920s. The Litany was
said quite often, especially during Lent. It was said at the Litany desk which stood at the foot of
the chancel steps. The desk was discarded sometime in the late 1940s.
1930 TO 1948
The Rev. A. Freeman Traverse came to St. Paulís in 1930 and remained here much longer than any other
rector, nearly twice as long a the Rev. F. O. Granniss. In 1935 a new St. Catherineís Guild was started
and in 1938, a new St. Ceciliaís. Neither one had any connection with the former guilds of those
In 1938 a member of the Menís Club suggested moving St. Paulís church from its noisy location
at the junction of Main Street and Niles Avenue to a place on the outskirts away from traffic.
Mrs. L. M. Shephard gave the church 3 lots in Highcliffe Terrace and later sold several other lots
adjoining, 300 feet along Morton and Thayer and 200 feet on Lane and Kingsley, so that the church now
has the whole of a large block. The church was moved at considerable expense and trouble and stood on
the prairie for almost two years while the church people were busily engaged in collecting the
resources to enlarge and remodel. The old parish hall was not moved so the rectory was sold,
helping the financial situation. The building was placed in the middle of the original three lots and the basement was finished off as a parish hall. Lack of space perhaps, caused the building to be turned
the wrong way. True, its front door faced north, as does the present church, but instead of turning
the nave toward the left, it went straight back from the north door, making the ecclesiastical east,
SOUTH. Many fine memorials were given, an organ by the Kaltenbrun-Chandlers, a set of chimes and
electric crosses on the gables of the transepts. The new pews (those we currently use) were given
as memorials, each with a small bronze marker. The markers were discarded after the 1948 fire.
The remodeled church had real kneeling benches for the first time.
NOTEWORTHY EVENTS 1948 TO 1970
Early in the morning of Epiphany 1948, the church building burned to the ground. Besides the loss of
the building there was a terrible loss of books, music, and vestments. Some things were saved: the
original chalice and paten, the altar cross, the Eucharistic candlesticks, the font and all but about
four pews. The reredos was totally destroyed as well as the hangings and altar linens. The day of the
fire, the Rev. Glen Frye of the Methodist Peace Temple in Benton Harbor offered his church for our use
until ours was rebuilt. The offer was accepted and until 1950 we worshiped there.
In 1949 and the first 3 months of 1950, the present St. Paulís was erected. Having no lack of space
now, we were able to locate the church building more advantageously and have the altar at the EAST
end, instead of the south as had been necessary before. Services were held for the first time on
Easter Sunday 1950 with Bishop Whittemore in attendance. The only stained glass consisted of
the Evangelist windows in the chapel and the Children of Prayer and Praise in the north vestibule.
Two years later the stained glass windows in the nave were installed, with the exception of St.
Paulís which came later and Christ the King in 1961. The windows along the sides of the nave were
all memorials but were not marked, to the great disappointment of the donors. Christ the King
window was given by the Shephard family and it, too, is not marked.
In May 1948, after his ordination as deacon, the Rev. H. Stewart Ross came to this parish as
Rev. Traverseís assistant. In November of the same year Rev. Traverse resigned and Fr. Ross became
locum tenens. Fr. Ross was ordained to the priesthood in the late summer of 1949 and had the unusual
experience of beginning his Episcopal ministry in a Methodist church. On April 20, 1952 the Rev. H.
Stewart Ross was made the rector of St. Paulís. In the summer of 1954 he took six months leave of
absence to study at Oxford. During this time the Rev. Paul D. Felton acted as locum tenens.
In the summer of 1959 an addition was built. It contained a library, a nursery, two classrooms for
church school, four rooms beneath these, and a good-sized supply closet. This addition has a south
entrance. The library was started by St. Ceciliaís, a large job for a medium sized guild with no
financial backing. From time to time there have been donations of books. A nursery school was held on
mornings in the parish hall for the first few years but it was discontinued. Also, from time to time
troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have met in our parish hall.
In 1949 a new Altar Guild was formed with Miss Edith McConnell as director. In 1958 there was a
junior and senior guild, also with an adult choir, a large junior choir of girls, called the
Choristers and a boysí choir, called St. Gregoryís.
In 1958, it was noted that three of the streets surrounding the church property have been paved and
plenty of sidewalks put in. Trees had been set out and ivy planted around the building as well as the grounds being landscaped. There are about 621 baptized persons in the church and about 288
names on the mailing list, most of them families with a few ďsinglesĒ. The church school had 13
teachers and about 137 pupils who attend fairly regularly. Beginning in July 1958, the Rev.
Robert Bruce Wheeler, vicar of St. Stephens Mission in Benton Harbor, assisted Fr. Ross on numerous
occasions. In 1961, St. Augustineís of Canterbury began with families from St. Stephenís and several
families from St. Paulís as the nucleus. In addition, in May 1962, Fr. Ross performed the first
service at St. Paulís first parochial mission in Lakeside, Michigan, several miles south
of St. Joseph. Services were held in parishionersí homes and for a time in a room at the Molly
Pitcher Winery which was owned by church members, the Ruttledges. In 1965 our parochial mission
became a diocesan mission and in 1967 it became the present-day, Church of the Mediator.
The Rev. Ernest K. St. Johns became our first curate in June 1962. During this period of time, Fr.
Traverse, now retired, assisted with many services. In 1964 the bronze statue of St. Francis of Assisi
by Faggi was anonymously donated and installed on the church property. In August 1965 the Rev.
Ray K Grieb became our curate until his resignation in 1968. Also in 1968, on June 2 the Rev.
Stewart Ross resigned. Until November there were numerous supply priests. At that time, the Rev.
Robert Forrest Andrews was selected to be our new rector.
In 1970, Edith McConnellís history ends with: ďYou may find mention of yourselves, families and
friends and odd bits of history by browsing in the library and reading St. Paulís history.Ē
1968 TO 1980
Fr. Traverse died on January 7, 1971 after many years of service to our faith, eighteen years as our
rector and many years assisting during his retirement. Also in 1971, parish member, the Hon.
Chester J. Byrns was elected to the National Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.
Edith McConnell died on April 19, 1973 and in February 1974, Fr. Andrews appointed Doris Hile as
In 1978/1979 first floor restrooms and kitchenette were created, plans were laid for a lounge on the
first level. The lounge became a reality in 1986. Though the boiler/furnace has a history all its
own, it was converted from oil to gas in 1981.
In June 1980 Fr. Andrews resigned to become rector at St. James in Grosse Ile, having been at
St. Paulís for 12 years. The Rev. Canon William P. OíLeary, retired, became our interim rector, and Fr. Frandsen from St. Augustineís helped with hospital visits.
1981 TO 1995
From 1981 until 1987, the Rev. Gerald Skillicorn served as rector of
St. Paulís. During his last year here, the Rev. Ruth Meyers, a doctoral
student at Notre Dame, began working as Fr. Skillicornís assistant. When he
resigned, she became our interim rector.
In August of 1988, the Rev.
Douglas Hadley was chosen as our next rector. When he resigned in April
of 1994 we experienced almost a year and a half without a full-time
priest. In this interim period, the Rev. Kenneth Davis served our parish well.
During this period and prior to selection of our next rector, several
parish meetings were held to discern our needs and wishes regarding St.
Paulís and it next rector. It was during this time that a Memorial
Garden was designed and planted. The remains of many members are interred in
1995 TO PRESENT
In August of 1995 we called the Rev. N. DeLiza Spangler as our rector.
During Mtr. Lizaís 10 years at St. Paulís, the parish membership
nearly doubled, we completed a major renovation of the lower level facility
with parish and diocesan financial support insuring handicap accessability
with the installation of a lift to the lower level as well other
modifications. Upstairs offices and the sacristy were renovated.
We established an
Endowment Fund whose purpose is to fund outreach and education
projects in the future and we added many beautiful items to enhance our
worship space. It was during this time that parish member, Bruce Leben
entered the monastery of St. Julian of Norwich in Wisconsin, following
a call to this life. Brother Barnabas continues to be supported by and
support the parish in prayer.
Another parish member, Paula Durren,
answered the call to ordained ministry and entered the seminary with
full parish support. Mtr. Paula was ordained to the Diaconate and the
Priesthood at St. Paulís in 2002 and currently serves as rector of
the Church of the Mediator in nearby Harbert, MI.
Through a special pledge drive in 2001 Mtr. Liza was able to call the
Rev. Jason Fout as her assistant to serve the parish needs. We began
Ftr. Jasonís time with his festive ordination to the Priesthood in
December of 2001. Ftr. Jason joined us for four years during which time he began
many small groups to meet the diverse needs of the parish. Ftr. Jason went
on to complete his Doctoral studies in Cambridge, England in September of
In August of 2005, Mtr. Liza called the Rev. Valori Mulvey Sherer as
her assistant. We celebrated her ordination to the Priesthood at St.
Paulís in September of 2005.
In November of 2005, Mtr. Liza was called to be the Dean of St.
Paulís Cathedral in Buffalo, New York. While Mtr. Liza will be missed, the
parish is pleased for this new opportunity that she has been called to.
Mtr. Valori was able to provide pastoral care with much parish
support until the vestry called the Rev. Thomas Toeller-Novak, recently
retired rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Holland, Michigan, as
our interim in March of 2006. Mtr. Valori was called in January
of 2007 to be the rector of St. Maryís Church in Cadillac, Michigan.
She was sent with much love, good wishes and prayers for a successful
In October of 2007, the Rev. Pamela V. Sten began
her tenure at St. Paul's. She had previously been the Assistant
Rector at St. David's Episcopal Church in Glenview, Illinois, where she
served for five years following her ordination. Mother Pan came
to us with a background in music education. She was also a member
of St. Thomas' Church in Battle Creek prior to entering seminary.
We look forward to writing a new chapter at St. Paul's full of wonderful