July 31: Robert Smith Chew (1873)

In the painting, Signing of the Alaska Treaty, by Emmanuel Leutze, Russian minister Eduard Stoeckl stands beside the globe pointing to “Russian America” while Secretary of State William Seward (seated) with pen in hand prepares to sign the treaty held by his chief clerk, Robert Smith Chew. For most of the 19th Century, the Chief Clerk of the State Department was the second-ranking official of the department. Chew joined the State Department in 1834. In 1866, he became chief clerk. His continuous service under seven successive administrations made him an authority on affairs of state.

The first known association of Robert Smith Chew with Epiphany is the 1860 confirmation of his first two children. Over the next thirteen years, his remaining six children were confirmed at the church. His eldest child (Richard Smith Chew) married the eldest child of John and Louisa Coffin (Louisa H. Coffin) at Epiphany in 1870. Chew lived to see two of his granddaughters baptized at Epiphany. Chew was confirmed in 1870 and buried from the church three years later. The Rev. Charles Hall, who had been Epiphany’s rector during the initial decade of Chew’s association with the church, returned to Washington to officiate at the funeral.

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