August 9: Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842)

The negotiation and signing of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842 closely paralleled the founding of Epiphany Church. The purpose of the treaty was to settle and define the boundaries between the United States and the British possessions in North America (what is today Canada). U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster and British emissary Lord Ashburton were the chief negotiators. Talks began in November 1841, about the same time the small cottage meetings started that led to the founding of the Epiphany congregation. Ten months of negotiations were held largely at the Ashburton House, home of the British legation on Lafayette Square. A decade later, this house would be sold to the Coleman-Freeman family, who played a significant role in Epiphany’s history of the day. Today, this dwelling is the parish house of St. John’s Church.

The treaty was signed on August 9, 1842 in the old State Department Building at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street, NW, where the Treasury Building stands today. As a result of the treaty, the United States ceded 5,000 square miles of disputed territory along the Maine border, but kept 7,000 square miles of disputed wilderness. In addition, the United States received 6,500 square miles of land along the Minnesota-Canada border. For some reason, the creation of the new Epiphany congregation caught the attention of Daniel Webster and Lord Ashburton. Webster is listed as a communicant in early church records. In thanksgiving for the successful completion of the treaty, Lord Ashburton presented the new Epiphany congregation with two chalices (see photo), which are still in the possession of the parish today – a precious link to events of 175 years ago.

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