September 21: James Lewis Edwards (1867)

James L. Edwards was the first Commissioner of Pensions and a founding member of Epiphany Church. Edwards was born in Petersburg, Virginia to Lewis and Mary (Danforth) Edwards on May 25, 1786. He served with the U. S. Marines during the War of 1812 and was awarded a medal for bravery. Although many sources refer to Edwards as a colonel, records show that he resigned from the army with the rank of first lieutenant. In 1816, he began working as a clerk in the War Department. He eventually became the principal pensions clerk, where he was responsible for many of the pensions granted to veterans of the Revolutionary War. When the Pension Office was created in 1833, Edwards became the first Commissioner of Pensions. He held this post until retiring on November 27, 1850. Edwards died on September 21, 1867 in Washington, D.C.

James Edwards would have been 56 years old when Epiphany was founded in 1842. In March of that year, Edwards assisted in writing the articles of association for the new congregation and was chosen as one of two temporary wardens. Edwards was one of eleven men who made a pledge for the rector’s salary. In August, Edwards was elected as one of eight vestrymen of the new congregation and was then chosen to head a three-person committee to find a building lot that the church could afford. In March 1843, Edwards served as a sponsor at the baptism of Mrs. Elizabeth Magruder, wife of Dr. William B. Magruder. In August 1844, Edwards was the sponsor at the baptism of Fannie Gilliss, the first person baptized in the new church building. One of Edwards’ sons was married in the church and one was buried from it. Following his death on September 21, 1867 at age 82, James Edwards was buried from Epiphany, a church he had helped found 25 years earlier.

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