Posts by epiphany

September 30: +John Thomas Walker (1989)

John Thomas Walker was the sixth bishop of Washington. He was the first African American to attend Virginia Theological Seminary, the nation’s second black diocesan bishop and a candidate in 1985 for the office of presiding bishop. Walker earned a world reputation for his support of social activism. Through his friendship with South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he exercised an effective leadership of opposition to apartheid. Walker reached across denominational divisions to people of other faiths and was one of the founders of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. Walker was born in Barnesville, Georgia. His grandfather and great-grandfather were A.M.E. Church ministers. At age 23, Walker decided to join the Episcopal Church. When he was ordained in the 1950s, the Episcopal Church membership tended to be white, affluent, and mostly of English ancestry. Walker was among those whose work helped transform the Church’s makeup and mission.

Walker came to Washington in 1966 to serve as canon missioner at the Cathedral. This was about the same time Edgar Romig came to Washington as Epiphany’s 13th rector. Over time, the two became good friends and intellectual sparring partners. On May 1, 1971, Edgar Romig nominated John T. Walker to be bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Washington. Walker won out over three other African American contenders. On June 12, 1976, a special diocesan convention was held at Epiphany to elect a bishop coadjutor (having the right of succession to the diocesan bishop). After the first ballot, Epiphany rector Edgar Romig, one of three other candidates for the post, moved that the election be made unanimous for John Walker. When Bishop Walker died in 1989, it was his old friend Edgar Romig that came to the Canterbury Pulpit in Washington Cathedral to deliver the funeral oration. “For even in our grief we are thankful for all that John has meant to us, to the wider Church, and to the world; and we rejoice that he is now in the Lord’s nearer Presence, adding new joy to heaven itself.”

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September 29: Three Significant Events (1896, 1907, 1923)

Three Significant Events (1896, 1907, 1923)On this Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, three significant events related to Epiphany took place over a 27-year period.

Hurricane (1896)

Long before there was a Hurricane Harvey or Irma, “Hurricane #4” ripped through Washington, D.C. on the evening of September 29, 1896. One of the costliest hurricanes ever to strike the United States at the time, the small but intense storm sped northward; its rapid movement allowed it to maintain much of its severity over land. Extremely high winds up to 125 miles per hour accompanied the hurricane. In Washington, D.C., trees were uprooted, communications were severed, and localized violent gusts damaged many buildings. The steeple of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church was completely toppled. Epiphany’s four-tier 1857 tower was weakened and afterwards it was decided to remove the top two wooden tiers.

 Cathedral Cornerstone (1907)

The laying of the cornerstone of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul took place on Sunday, September 29, 1907. Although it was a diocesan event, Epiphany’s influence was definitely in it. The 1891 meeting, where the decision was made to build the cathedral, was held at the home of parishioner Charles Carroll Glover. Bishop (and former Epiphany rector) William Paret oversaw the creation of the new diocese and the plans for its cathedral. Rector Randolph McKim helped promote the cathedral concept in his roles as an incorporator of the cathedral foundation, an original cathedral trustee, and President of the House of Deputies. McKim began the foundation stone service. Parishioners George Truesdell, Ellen Parke, Margaret Buckingham, and Isabel Freeman contributed significant financial support to get the cathedral started. On the day before, Epiphany hosted the Brotherhood of St. Andrew for their corporate communion service.

 Freeman Consecration (1923)

Eight clergy associated with Epiphany have become bishops, four of whom were rectors. Eighth rector James Edward Freeman was consecrated bishop and became the third bishop of Washington at Epiphany on September 29, 1923. Freeman had only been at Epiphany two and a half years. He combined the talents of a spiritual leader with those of a business executive. After leading a successful national drive to raise money for the cathedral, he was a natural candidate to succeed Bishop Harding after his sudden death. An array of bishops and a score of clergymen high in the offices of the’ Episcopal Church either personally attended Dr. Freeman or occupied places in the chancel during the consecration service. In the congregation were men and women prominent throughout the country. Among them were former President and Mrs. Wilson, Chief Justice Taft and General Pershing.

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September 28: Phineas Jonathan Horwitz (1904)

Phineas J. Horwitz was a surgeon in the U.S. Navy for 37 years and served as the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the position that would later become the Surgeon General of the Navy. Horwitz was born in Baltimore in 1822 of Jewish parents. His father was a surgeon and attained great distinction as a fine classical scholar, a profound thinker, and eloquent lecturer. After graduating from the University of Maryland, the younger Horwitz continued his medical studies at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He entered the U.S. Navy in 1847, as assistant surgeon, and was assigned to duty on board the frigate Cumberland, and afterwards placed in charge of the Naval Hospital in Tabasco, Mexico during the Mexican War. He was promoted to a passed assistant surgeon in 1853 and was at sea much of the time in South America and Africa.

In 1859 Horwitz was stationed in Washington as assistant chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Owing to the feeble health of the chief, the labors of the bureau fell almost entirely on Dr. Horwitz during the trying time of the Civil War. His position involved voluminous correspondence, the adjustment of pensions, the supplying of surgeons, apothecaries, nurses, medicines, and the general management of all financial matters pertaining to the office. These duties were discharged with such noted efficiency that upon the death of his predecessor he was at once appointed chief of the bureau. During his decade in Washington, Horwitz became associated with the Church of the Epiphany. Parish records contain the burials of two of his children – Joseph and Caroline and the baptisms of four children – Orville, Thomas, Theophilus, and George. Son Orville would go on to become a noted surgeon, a third generation Horwitz to follow that profession.

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September 27: Thomas Francis Bayard (1898)

Thomas F. Bayard was an American lawyer, politician, and diplomat. Bayard was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1828. He attended law school in Flushing, New York, passed the bar in 1851, and thereafter began practicing law. Bayard was appointed U.S. District Attorney for Delaware in 1853, but resumed private practice in 1854. In 1869, Bayard was elected as U.S. Senator from Delaware, and served until March 6, 1885, when he became Secretary of State under President Grover Cleveland. While in the Senate, Bayard also served on the Hayes-Tilden Electoral Commission in 1877. While in Washington, Bayard became associated with Epiphany and served as a member of the vestry. Following his tenure as Secretary, Bayard served as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain from 1893 to 1897.

As Secretary of State, Bayard moved away from patronage appointments, choosing instead to appoint diplomats known for their skill and expertise rather than their political loyalty. In foreign affairs, Bayard intervened in the ongoing disputes over U.S. fishing rights in Canada and Newfoundland. In addition to addressing fishing rights, Bayard also focused on Pacific affairs. In 1887, he oversaw the Senate’s ratification of the renewal of a reciprocity treaty with Hawaii. As Secretary, Bayard was also interested in increasing Japanese autonomy. After his tenure as Secretary of State, Bayard served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. As Ambassador, Bayard became involved in the Venezuela-Guyana boundary dispute. His public, pro-British pronouncements placed him at odds with then Secretary of State, Richard Olney, and President Grover Cleveland. Bayard remained as Minister until the end of Cleveland’s second term in 1897. Bayard retired, and died in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1898.

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September 26: Thomas Scott Fillebrown (1884)

Commodore Thomas S. Fillebrown, at the time of his death, had served in the U.S. Navy faithfully for over forty years. He served with distinction during the Civil War, and during the time he was in the Navy he saw about twenty-four years of active sea service. During his entire naval career he was noted for his unflinching integrity in the discharge of his duties. Fillebrown was born in Georgetown, D.C. and had always considered Washington his home. He entered the Navy in 1841 at age 17 and was present in all the naval operations on the Gulf coast during the Mexican War. In 1847 he attended the Naval Academy and was promoted to passed Midshipman. Until the Civil War, he was alternately at sea and the Naval Observatory in Washington. While in D.C., he became associated with Epiphany. In 1856, he was married to Mary E. Potts; in 1858 he was baptized; in 1858 and 1861, his two sons were baptized. All of these sacraments were performed by the Rev. Charles Hall, Epiphany’s rector at the time.

At the outbreak of the war in 1861 Fillebrown was attached to the steam frigate Roanoke off the Atlantic coast. As a Lieutenant Commander in 1862 he was assigned to duty at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In May 1864 he was in command of the ironclad Passaic in her operations against Fort Sumter. He was returned to the Naval Observatory at Washington having done meritorious service on each of the many vessels on which he served during the war. As Commander, Mr. Fillebrown was attached to the Hydrographic Office in Washington. For the next two years he was Chief of the Bureau of Equipment. As Captain he was Executive Officer of the Norfolk Navy Yard. His last duty was as Commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where Fillebrown died in 1884. Had he lived two years longer he would have been retired as Rear Admiral. Fillebrown’s funeral took place with naval honors from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The services were conducted by his old friend and rector from Epiphany, the Rev. Charles Hall, now at Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn.

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September 25: James Ferguson (1867)

James Ferguson was an American astronomer who made the first discovery of an asteroid from North America. Ferguson was born in Scotland, but moved with his family to New York when he was only three years old. It was not until 1842 that Congress decided to establish a national observatory at Washington, which was erected under the direction of Captain James Melville Gilliss (another Epiphany parishioner). From 1847 until his death, Ferguson was an assistant astronomer of the U.S. Naval Observatory. He was assigned to the Equatorial Telescope and began observing occulations of stars by the Moon. Soon he became part of the great asteroid hunt that had driven so many astronomers since Piazzi’s discovery in 1800 that such “small planets” existed.

Ferguson persisted in his asteroid research and using the 9.6-inch refractor, went on to make the first asteroid discovery from the United States. On the night of Sept 1, 1854, Ferguson had been observing the minor planet Egeria when he found nearby an unexpected object about equal brightness to it and proved through its motion to be an asteroid, the 31st found since Piazzi’s first discovery. Ferguson named it Euphrosyne, one of the three Graces in Greek mythology. Ferguson would go on to discover two additional asteroids – Virginia (#50) in 1857 and Echo (#60) in 1860.  A later asteroid (#1745) was named Ferguson in his honor. Ferguson was confirmed at Epiphany in 1863 and then buried from the church following his death in 1867.

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September 24: James Brewerton Ricketts (1887)

James B. Ricketts was a career officer in the U.S. Army, serving as a Union Army general during the Civil War. Ricketts was born in New York City. He graduated 16th in a class of 31 at the U.S. Military Academy in 1839 and was assigned to the 1st U.S. Artillery. His pre-Civil War career was unexceptional. The Civil War, however, put Ricketts at the forefront of the action. In the war’s first major engagement at Bull Run he was wounded four times while commanding a battery.  Left for dead in the wake of the Union retreat, he was captured and held in a Richmond prison.  In an attempt by the Confederate government to prevent the Lincoln administration from executing Rebel prisoners, a number of Federal officers were marked for execution—Ricketts among them.  Fortunately, no executions took place and the prisoners were eventually exchanged. When Ricketts finally returned to the field it was as a brigadier general.

Ricketts’ division participated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam.   At Antietam, Ricketts—who had already had one horse shot from under him—was badly injured when a second horse was killed and fell on him.  Though he refused to leave the field, the injury compelled Ricketts’ relief from command. At the battle of Cedar Creek, Ricketts was shot in the chest.  Though not mortal, the wound nevertheless crippled the general for life. Ricketts’ war wounds forced his retirement from the army in 1867 with the rank of major general. In that same year, Ricketts’ youngest daughter, Fanny, was baptized at Epiphany and then a year later, his youngest son, Basil, was baptized there. Basil Norris Ricketts would follow his father in a military career. The younger Ricketts fought with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War. After James B. Ricketts’ death on September 24, 1887, his funeral was at Epiphany before his interment at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Joshua Daniel

Before seminary, Joshua Daniel and his family lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he worked both as a graduate student in philosophy (finishing his Ph.D. in 2015) and as the Episcopal Chaplain at the University of Arkansas. He and his wife, Jenna, live in Alexandria with their two children, Jude (aged 7) and Ruby (aged 3). Joshua is in his last year of seminary (God willing) and will hopefully be ordained early next year (God willing).

September 23: William Farand Prosser (1911)

In his 77-year life, William F. Prosser lived in many places and did many things. When twenty years old, after teaching school and surveying in Pennsylvania, he set out across the plains in the trail of the gold rush, hoping to strengthen a frail physique. When he reached California, in 1854, he was as rugged and hardy as the other prairie schooner voyagers, and he served as an officer in the volunteer company that was raised to fight the hostile Indians of that district. With the outbreak of the Civil War he returned East, and was offered a commission in the regular army by President Lincoln. Passing through the battles of Shiloh, Stone River, Chicamaugua and the siege of Knoxville, the close of the war saw him in command of the cavalry of the District of North Alabama. Once he was taken prisoner and had a narrow escape from death.

Colonel Prosser figured in the stormy scenes of reconstruction in Tennessee, serving in the legislature, and in 1868 he was elected to Congress. While in Washington, he became associated with Epiphany. He is listed as a communicant in the parish records and he was confirmed at the church in 1871. He was later appointed postmaster at Nashville, and was named as commissioner for the state of Tennessee to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. For ten years, partly before and partly after this first big exposition held in America, he acted as an official, and made trips to Europe to study other exhibitions. Prosser was perhaps the first conservator of government timber in the Northwest, having been sent to the Pacific coast in 1879 as special agent of the general land office, with Washington, Oregon and Idaho timber in his charge. He founded the town of Prosser, Washington, which was named for him. Elected auditor of Yakima County, he moved to North Yakima and from there was sent as a delegate to the Washington state constitutional convention in 1889.

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September 22: Beatrice Aitchison (1997)

Beatrice Aitchison was a pioneer government career woman and also Epiphany’s first female vestry member. Aitchison was born in Oregon and raised in Washington, D.C. She was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Goucher College, and she received a master’s degree in economics from the University of Oregon and master’s and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In 1942, Aitchison began her long and distinguished career as a transportation economist with the U.S. government. In 1961, she was one of six women, chosen from a field of more than 25,000, who were awarded the government’s first Federal Woman’s Award for their careers in government. At the time of the award, Aitchison was transportation branch chief in the Post Office Department, the highest-ranking woman to ever serve in that department.

When Beatrice Aitchison began her government career in Washington, she joined her father and stepmother as an Epiphany parishioner. Having sung in church choirs since she was a teenager, Aitchison joined Epiphany’s choir. When her stepmother died in 1944, the funeral was held at Epiphany. Similarly when her father died in 1962, the funeral was at the church. An etched stained glass window, featuring King David, was placed in the rear of the church in his memory. At Epiphany’s annual meeting held on April 15, 1963, the church broke a 121-year trend and elected Beatrice Aitchison as its first female vestry member.

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