Posts by epiphany

August 26: Abraham Gilbert Mills (1929)

Baseball pioneer Abraham G. Mills was the fourth president of the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, and is best known for heading the “Mills Commission” which controversially credited Civil War General Abner Doubleday with the invention of baseball. Born in New York City, Mills lived there until the outbreak of the Civil War when he enlisted with the Fifth New York Volunteers. The war did not curtail his baseball playing opportunities. Mills packed his bat and ball with his field equipment. On Christmas Day 1862 at Hilton Head, South Carolina, Mills participated in a baseball game witnessed by 40,000 soldiers. After the war, Mills enrolled in Columbian Law School (now George Washington University) to study law. While in Washington, Mills became president and occasional player for the local baseball club.

On June 5, 1872, Mills married Mary Chase Steele at the Church of the Epiphany. After being admitted to the bar, Mills moved to Chicago. Here, his career took an unexpected turn. Mills wrote a newspaper article outlining a plan to prevent the raiding of non-league teams by league teams. In 1882, the National League unanimously elected Mills as their president. A debate came up at the time as to the origins of baseball – whether it was based on the British game rounders or an American invention. A commission was established with Mills as chairman. With much pressure and little research, the commission concluded that the game was truly American and invented by Abner Doubleday, a Civil War hero and friend of Abraham Mills. This conclusion has since been proved to be inaccurate. Coincidentally, Mills and Doubleday were both married at Epiphany, exactly twenty years apart.

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August 25: Seth Eastman (1875)

Seth Eastman made his career with the U.S. Army. He became an accomplished artist and painted many scenes of Native American life. Eastman was born in Brunswick, Maine, the eldest of thirteen children. He convinced his parents to let him join the military, entering West Point at age 16. He graduated in 1829, the same class as Robert E. Lee. He served his first duty assignments at frontier posts in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Eastman’s interest in painting led him back to West Point in 1833, where he taught drawing for the next seven years. In 1841, Eastman returned to Fort Snelling (MN) with his wife, who wrote about the native Americans in the area. One of her publications reportedly provided Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with material for his poem “Hiawatha.” Eastman painted a number of interpretations of native American culture to illustrate his wife’s writing.

In 1849, the Army sent Eastman to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. to work on a report on Indian tribes in the United States. During this time, Eastman and his family became associated with Epiphany. The baptism of his youngest child, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft Eastman, was at the church. H.R. Schoolcraft was an explorer and Indian agent. Eastman illustrated a massive six-volume study that Schoolcraft did. Eastman was baptized at Epiphany in 1855, with his wife serving as his sponsor. Eastman held various command positions during the Civil War. Following the war, Congress authorized Eastman to paint two series of paintings for the U.S. Capitol – one set regarding native American scenes and the other set a series of seventeen military forts. In addition to various baptisms, confirmations and marriages of his children at Epiphany, Eastman was confirmed there in 1870, and following his death in 1875 was buried from the church prior to his interment in Oak Hill Cemetery.

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August 24: Pamela Pauly Chinnis (2011)

Pamela P. Chinnis was elected President of the House of Deputies during the 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1991 – the first woman to preside over the House in its two-century history. She was re-elected without opposition in 1994, and again in 1997. Her groundbreaking ministry began with lay leadership roles she held at Epiphany.

The following is excerpted from an introduction to Decently and In Order, a collection of Chinnis’s reflections published in 2000. “Pamela Pauly Chinnis was born in Springfield, Missouri, to a political family which included her uncle Dewey Short, who represented Missouri in the United States Congress for a quarter century. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the College of William and Mary, Chinnis followed her mother to Capitol Hill where both worked in congressional offices. When family responsibilities interrupted her work in Congress, Chinnis channeled her professional energies into a variety of civic and educational activities, including service as the first woman President of the Society of Alumni of the College of William and Mary, and two terms as member of the Board of Governors. With her former husband and children, she became increasingly active in her parish, the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D.C., serving as its first woman senior warden. Serving in the parish women’s group led to election as diocesan president of the Episcopal Church Women and Presiding Officer at the 1976 Triennial Meeting. Chinnis’s commitment to the inclusion of all baptized people in the full life of the church is long-standing. She was an early supporter of the movement for the ordination of women and chair of the Presiding Bishop’s Committee for the Full Participation of Women in the Church.”

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August 23: Dorothy Josephine Eunice Wimbush (1992)

The following tribute to longtime parish secretary Dorothy J. Wimbush, written by parishioner Elizabeth Shinkman, appeared in the Parish Guide newsletter shortly after Miss Jo’s passing in 1992. “Dorothy Wimbush (known to her friends as ‘Jo’ or ‘Miss Jo’) was born in England, and came to this country as a child before World War I. She lived virtually all of her life in Washington, D.C. She attended Western High School which, in her day, was the most outstanding high school in the District, and one of the highest ranking in the country. Presidents and cabinet members sent their children there, and Jo made friends there that had an important bearing on her career. The most important without doubt was Sallie Hews Phillips, daughter of the Rev. ZeBarney Thorne Phillips, rector of the Church of the Epiphany on G Street. It was Sallie who suggested to her father, when he was looking for a secretary, that her Western classmate, Dorothy Wimbush, would be perfect for the job. Another classmate, whose friendship was of considerable help in later years was one of the Gawler sons, whose father owned the leading funeral parlor in the District. In her capacity as the Parish Secretary, Jo rapidly became the backbone of the Epiphany operation, the person to whom everyone turned for information, who had her finger on the pulse of every activity.”

Miss Jo’s service at Epiphany spanned five rectors. In celebrating her 25th anniversary, Bishop Angus Dun commented, “Rectors may come and rectors may go, but parish secretaries go on forever.” Following her retirement, Miss Jo was named Parish Secretary Emeritus. After her death, funeral arrangements were handled by Joseph Gawler’s Sons and a Service of Thanksgiving (see photo) was held at Epiphany before her interment at Rock Creek Cemetery.

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August 22: Albert James Myer (1880)

The U.S. Army post adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, originally named Fort Whipple and today part of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, was for many years known as Fort Myer, named in honor of Brigadier General Albert J. Myer. A native of Newburgh, New York, Myer received a B.A. degree from Geneva (now Hobart) College in 1847, followed by a M.A. from the same institution four years later. A college classmate was William Paret, future Episcopal priest and Epiphany rector. When Myer was stationed in Washington, he brought his three youngest children to Epiphany for baptism by the Rev. Mr. Paret. During the Civil War, Myer served in the Union Army as a commissioned officer. Myer’s attention was called to the subject of signals for military and naval use. He eventually devised a system of signals which became the basis of the codes used throughout the war. Myer became the army’s first signal officer.

A permanent Signal Corps enlisted personnel corps was provided for by an 1875 Act of Congress, authorizing 150 sergeants, 30 corporals, and 270 privates. The training of officers and men for meteorological work was made a function of the Signal Corps School at Fort Whipple, VA. Courses were established for observer-sergeants and for assistants in one of the grades of private. All recruits were required to pass a preliminary educational examination and were promoted and assigned only after instruction and examination at Fort Whipple. When Brigadier General Albert James Myer died, Fort Whipple was renamed Fort Myer. A monument stands today on Whipple Field at Fort Myer in his memory.

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August 21: John Carnaan Harkness (1886)

In an 1884 pamphlet describing Washington D.C.’s prominent citizens, the following is said of John C. Harkness. “Mr. Harkness has always been in the front rank, and the many positions of trust held by him make him conspicuous in our history, and he is well known as one of Washington’s ablest architects and builders for the last half century.” It was to Harkness that Epiphany’s vestry turned when it came time to build their new church. That decision was mostly prompted by the fact that at $7220, he was the lowest out of five bids. The cornerstone for the new building was laid on August 14, 1843 and the first service was held on July 7, 1844. Although augmented and modified several times over the years, that original building forms the nucleus of Epiphany’s worship space today.

A native Washingtonian, Harkness began his career as a carpenter and builder, but developed into an architect. In addition to Epiphany, Harkness was the builder and/or architect for Luther Place Memorial Church on Thomas Circle, the Washington City Orphan Asylum and the original Children’s Hospital at 13th and V Streets, N.W.. When the extensions of the U.S. Capitol were built, Harkness served as the “sworn government measurer of marble work.” A civic minded man, Harkness served on the D.C. city council and waged an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1846. Harkness was known as a devoted Christian. He was a Methodist and initially a member of Foundry Church, which at the time was located at the end of the block from Epiphany. In 1844-45, McKendree Methodist Church was founded, mostly as an outgrowth of a Sunday School Harkness started in his carpentry shop.

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August 20: Joseph Janvier Woodward (1884)

During the Civil War, Lt. Col. J.J. Woodward produced several publications on war-related diseases. Dr. Woodward assisted and wrote reports on the autopsies of both Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. He also attended President James A. Garfield following his assassination. Woodward was a native of Philadelphia and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. With the outbreak of the war, he entered the army as assistant surgeon and spent most of his military career in the Surgeon General’s Office in Washington. At the end of the war he was placed in charge of the pension division of the office, of the medical collection of the Army Medical Museum, and of the preparation of the medical portion of the Medical and Surgical History of the War. Just before the end of the war, Dr. Woodward’s first child with his second wife was baptized at Epiphany.

In announcing Dr. Woodward’s death, the Surgeon General stated, “With such a record it is needless to speak of his zeal, his ambition, or his devotion to his profession, and especially to the reputation of the corps of which he was so bright an ornament.” At the time of his death, Dr. Woodward was a member and ex-President of the American Medical Association, a member and ex-President of the Washington Philosophical Society, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, of the Association for the Advancement of Science, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Philadelphia.

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August 19: Spencer Fullerton Baird (1887)

In 1878, the Smithsonian Board of Regents unanimously elected Spencer F. Baird as the second Secretary of the Institution following the death of Secretary Joseph Henry. Baird had joined the institution in 1850 as its first curator. As Secretary, Baird carefully oversaw construction of the U.S. National Museum, which opened in 1881. A culmination of Baird’s lifelong dream, the new museum provided large exhibit spaces with both natural and electric light. Also during his tenure, Smithsonian taxidermists began to keep live animals behind the Castle as models for their exhibit specimens. These soon became a popular attraction for young visitors, and led to the creation of the National Zoological Park. The Bureau of American Ethnology was also created under Baird to document Native American cultures.

After Secretary Baird died on August 19, 1887, the U.S. National Museum Building was draped in mourning the following day. During his thirty-seven years at the Institution, he had transformed the U.S. National Museum into the premier museum in the United States, and he trained a cadre of young naturalists who continued his research and collecting. Baird was an exuberant enthusiast who wanted the Institution to play an important role in the lives of all U.S. citizens. His passion for collections and public education altered the previous path of the Institution and brought new meaning to its motto of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Baird’s funeral took place at Epiphany in 1887, followed by his wife’s in 1891 and his daughter’s in 1913.

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August 18: William McDowell Birney (1907)

William Birney was a Union Army general during the Civil War who was noted for encouraging thousands of free black men to join the Union Army. Birney’s father was a prominent Southern abolitionist leader and was a two-time presidential candidate for the anti-slavery Liberty Party. The younger Birney attended Centre College in Kentucky and Yale before beginning a law practice in Cincinnati. He then lived for five years in Europe. He was a professor of English literature and took an active part in the revolutionary movement in France in 1848. Returning to the United States, he established a newspaper in Philadelphia. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Birney became captain of a company which he had raised in New Jersey. He served until the close of the war, rising regularly through all the grades to Brevet Major General of Volunteers. He was appointed as one of three superintendents in charge of enlisting colored troops and in that capacity organized seven regiments.

Birney resided in Florida for several years after the war before moving north in 1874 to establish a law practice in Washington, D.C. He served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and was also a school board trustee. Shortly after removing to the nation’s capital, Birney and his family became associated with Epiphany. Birney’s mother-in-law was buried from the church in 1873. Two teenage daughters were baptized and then confirmed there two weeks later. One of those daughters, Florence Hallowell, married Randolph Getchell at the church in 1876.

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August 17: Henry Metcalfe (1927)

Epiphany’s parish register records the marriage of Henry Metcalfe and Harriet P. Nichols at the church on April 21, 1870. Listed as witnesses are Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and George Meade. Sherman would have been Commanding General of the Army at the time. Meade’s distinguished career included commanding the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War, famously defeating Lee at Gettysburg in 1863. Metcalfe graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1868 with a commission in ordnance. He was the Executive Ordnance Assistant at Springfield Armory where, in 1873, he invented the first detachable magazine for small arms.

In 1876, as a first lieutenant, Captain Metcalfe prepared the ordnance display for the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia. He then prepared an extensive and detailed report of the War Department participation in the exhibition. The report included details of United States and foreign ordnance displays and thus constituted a valuable reference on ordnance material. As an instructor at West Point in ordnance and gunnery in 1886, he wrote a book on the subject that brought the whole course up to date. This task, with the wide research and mathematical calculations it necessitated, had a recognized effect in reforming the Military Academy’s curriculum. Metcalfe died on August 17, 1927 and was buried at the Post Cemetery at West Point.

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