Posts by epiphany

August 16: Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton (1865)

Anna Thornton was a prominent Washington, D.C. socialite in the early days of the capital city. She mingled with many significant political figures. Her diaries, kept from 1798 until her death in 1865, and maintained in the Library of Congress today, provide an interesting glimpse into life in the nation’s capital in the 19th Century. Anna was born in England and immigrated to the United States at a young age with her mother. Settling first in Philadelphia, Mrs. Brodeau set up and ran a successful school for girls. In 1790, 16-year old Anna married William Thornton, who was also an immigrant, born in the West Indies. Thornton was twice Anna’s age and had a medical education from Scotland and England. He did not care for doctoring and found his calling in architecture. He won the design contest for the U.S. Capitol in 1793 and the couple soon moved to Washington, D.C.

Anna’s diaries record her husband’s architectural career, designing homes for Washington’s elite. Among his commissions were John Tayloe’s Octagon House and Thomas and Martha Custis Peter’s Tudor Place. Anna’s writings also tell of her unofficial work as her husband’s assistant. She was his draftsman translating ideas into drawings and maps. The Thorntons maintained a lively social life with the wealthy and influential and entertained with flair in their home at 1331 F Street, NW. Anna outlived her husband by almost 40 years. Following her death on August 16, 1865, Anna Maria Thornton’s funeral was at Epiphany before her burial at Congressional Cemetery beside her husband.

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August 15: John Henry Hopkins, Jr.+ (1891)

“Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.” Without doubt, there is no Christmas carol that evokes the story of the Epiphany more than “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” The words and music of this beloved song were written in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. as part of a Christmas pageant for his nieces and nephews. How appropriate it is that there is a connection between Hopkins and the Church of the Epiphany in Washington. Hopkins was the third of eleven children and oldest son of John Henry Hopkins, Sr. and Melusian Muller Hopkins. In his life, the elder Hopkins was an artist, lawyer, ironmonger, musician, theologian and architect. He is the one who introduced Gothic architecture to the United States. Hopkins, Sr. became the first Bishop of Vermont and the eighth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

After graduation from the University of Vermont, the younger Hopkins worked as a reporter in New York City while studying law. During this time, he received a call to ordained ministry. After study at General Theological Seminary (GTS), Hopkins was ordained a deacon in 1850. In the late summer of that year, Deacon Hopkins filled in at Epiphany for rector John French for about six weeks during an illness. Five baptisms and five burials in the parish register during this period are labeled “By Rev. J.H. Hopkins, Jr. Deacon.” It would be seven more years before Hopkins would write his famous song, but there is no doubt that it was inspired by his time at Epiphany Church, Washington. Hopkins would later become GTS’s first instructor in church music. Hopkins was ordained a priest in 1872 and served parishes in Pennsylvania and New York. Hopkins delivered the eulogy at the funeral of President Ulysses S. Grant.

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August 14: Laying of Cornerstone (1843)

“New Episcopal Church – The ceremony of laying the corner-stone of the Epiphany Episcopal Church, on G Street, between 13th and 14th Streets, took place last Monday evening in the presence of a large and attentive congregation. A procession, consisting of the reverend clergy, the several vestries, and Sunday school children, walked from the Apollo Hall to the site of the new building, where the ceremonies were opened by the Rev. Messrs. Harris and Bean. The Rev. Mr. Butler, of Georgetown, delivered an appropriate and excellent address. The Rev. Mr. French closed the ceremonies with a very eloquent prayer. The addresses and ceremonies were altogether impressive and becoming this solemn occasion.”

With this article in The National Intelligencer, news of the laying of Epiphany’s cornerstone was announced to the world. Although to put this in context, it must be noted that this article fell underneath and in smaller font than one entitled, “Fine Peaches,” which extolled the bumper crop of this tasty fruit available at the Center Market in Washington. The cornerstone laying didn’t go off without a hitch. Epiphany’s rector had wanted the bishop to be present, but could not at the last minute, so the rector’s clergy colleague and former school chum, Clement Moore Butler, rector of St. John’s, Georgetown, (see photo) gave the address. Heavy summer rains had forced the postponement of the ceremony three times. Even on August 14, the large gathering had to brave a shower before the ceremony was over, or some might just call it a renewal of baptismal vows. Within a year, the Epiphany congregation would inhabit their first permanent worship space.

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August 13: Thornton Alexander Jenkins (1893)

Thornton A. Jenkins was an officer in the United States Navy, who served during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. He later served as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation and as President of the United States Naval Institute. A Virginia native, Jenkins entered the Navy as a midshipman and served first in the West Indies in an expedition against pirates and slavers. Examined for a commission as a lieutenant, he placed first among 82 candidates. During the Mexican-American War, Jenkins led landing parties from his ship at Tuxpan and Tabasco. Jenkins’ Civil War service was distinguished. He served as chief of staff to Admiral Farragut. He was present at the Battle of Mobile Bay and heard Farragut utter the famous line, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Jenkins became a Rear Admiral in 1870 and commanded the Asiatic Squadron until his retirement in 1873.

Jenkins’ Epiphany connections begin in 1853 with the confirmation of his second wife, Elizabeth, five years after their marriage.  One of his daughters from this marriage was baptized and three were confirmed at Epiphany. Later two of his daughters were married at the church. A recent connection to the family was in the 2016 true-story movie, Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep. New York heiress and opera singer wannabe Florence Foster married Frank Jenkins, one of Admiral Jenkins’ sons. Even though the marriage was short lived, Florence retained the Jenkins surname. When Admiral Jenkins died in 1893, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

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August 12: Henry Lee Heiskell (1855)

After receiving his degree in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1828, Henry Lee Heiskell was appointed assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army and later rose to the rank of surgeon. After serving in various stations, he was called to the City of Washington in 1840 and assigned to duty in the Medical Department, as assistant to the Surgeon-General. In this position he remained until his death, a period of fifteen years, having in that time repeatedly received the appointment of Acting Surgeon-General, and discharged all the duties of that office. To the performance of the highly responsible, and often delicate, duties devolving upon him, Surgeon Heiskell brought a clear, comprehensive, and sound judgment, and an elevated sense of honor and justice.

Through his first marriage, Heiskell became a stepfather – apparently both a loving and well loved one – to Mary Julia Baldwin. During the Civil War, Mary would become headmistress of her Staunton, Virginia alma mater, Augusta Female Seminary, then built it over many decades into the institution that bears her name today, Mary Baldwin University. Heiskell’s second wife was Elizabeth Kortright Gouverneur, granddaughter of President James Monroe. The marriage of Elizabeth’s parents was the first to be held in the White House. The youngest of Henry and Elizabeth’s children, Sydney Otho Heiskell, was baptized at Epiphany in 1853. Henry was confirmed at the church a year later, and then his burial is recorded in the parish register following his death on August 12, 1855. His obituary stated, “with a firm reliance upon the promises of the Saviour, he awaited his final orders and became a true soldier of the cross.”

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August 11: Henry Clay Fillebrown (1871)

The six children of Thomas and Mary Fillebrown were all born at the family home on G Street NW between 21st and 22nd Streets. Mr. Fillebrown was a clerk in the Navy Department for over 40 years; in the end serving as Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing. Two of the Fillebrown sons were married at Epiphany, five months apart in 1856. Their brides were both members of early parish families. One of those couples was Henry Clay Fillebrown and Margaret Hay Paine. Margaret’s mother was a member of Epiphany’s second confirmation class in 1843. The first five of Henry and Margaret Fillebrown’s seven children were baptized at Epiphany. Henry’s brother and wife were confirmed with the class of 1860. Henry was baptized at Epiphany in 1866. His wife served as his sponsor.

During the Civil War, Henry Fillebrown was appointed Captain and Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers. His duty stations included Missouri, Arkansas and Michigan. He was honorably mustered out of service September 19, 1865. Following the war, Fillebrown did engineering work for the government. One year after Fillebrown’s last child was born, his life came to a tragic end. Fillebrown lost his life by being drowned in the Coosa River in Alabama. His body was never found. Since he was doing government work, Congress authorized that his widow be paid his salary for the rest of the year. Fillebrown’s four daughters never married and lived together in a house on Park Road, NW. Amelia was a government clerk and was the only one who worked outside the home. Kate was the lady of the house, Mattie was the chief cook and Fanny did the buying.

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August 10: Formal Organization (1842)

“At a meeting of the members of the Protestant Episcopal Mission Church of the Epiphany convened at the house of Mrs. E. James on the 10th of August for the purpose of electing Vestryman and Wardens, T.N. Gillis was appointed chairman and Gilbert Rodman, Secretary.

The meeting proceeded to ballot for eight Vestrymen, and on counting the votes the following mentioned persons were declared to be duly elected Vestrymen of the Church, viz. Thomas N. Gillis, James L. Edwards, Gilbert Rodman, William B. Berryman, Richard Burgess, James Moss, Charles H. James and Arthur L. McIntire. The persons elected Vestrymen then present signed the declaration and took the official oath prescribed by law (see photo). The Vestrymen then held a meeting and went into an election for two Wardens, a Registrar and Treasurer. The Wardens elected on counting the ballots were William M. Morrison and William James. Gilbert Rodman was elected Treasurer and James I. Dickens, Registrar.”

With these words, the seven-month old Epiphany congregation took the necessary steps for formal organization. It ratified all of the actions of the previous informal administration, including the rector’s contract. It appointed a three-man committee to find a building lot. It also asked the rector to notify the bishop about the organization of the new church. Diocesan recognition of Epiphany dates from this August 1842 meeting.

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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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August 8: Marcelle Clark (2000)

A century after the dormer windows above Epiphany’s nave were first installed, it was decided to replace the clear glass with stained glass. The six windows were designed as a group to interpret the story of creation as told in the Book of Genesis. The middle window on the east side shows the creation of the sky and was a gift of Marcelle Clark in memory of her parents. Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1907, the only child of Thomas and Maud Clark, Marcelle Clark lived a life of giving back to the community. She first came to the area as a social worker with the Maryland Department of Public Welfare. The other part of her career was spent in the Family Services Bureau of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (today, Health and Human Services) where she worked for 28 years.

In addition to her professional career, Marcelle gave back to the community through her volunteer work. Recipients of her time included Washington National Cathedral, the Smithsonian Institution, the White House and the Women’s National Democratic Club. Marcelle also gave of herself to Epiphany, her beloved parish church. She served on the vestry for three terms, the second woman to serve in that role in the parish’s history. Following her death, a burial eucharist was held at the church. In a final measure of devotion to Epiphany, Marcelle left money for a columbarium. That became a reality with the 2012 renovation. Upon seeing Marcelle Clark’s niche there today, we are reminded of one who brought Christ’s love to the people and organizations she cared about so deeply.

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August 7: Leonard Wood (1927)

In south central Missouri today stands the U.S. Army installation, Fort Leonard Wood. It is named in honor of Major General Leonard Wood, Chief of Staff of the United States Army. After earning his medical degree from Harvard, Wood began his military career as an army doctor on the frontier, where he received the Medal of Honor. Wood was personal physician to Presidents Cleveland and McKinley. It was during this period he developed a friendship with Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Wood and Roosevelt organized the First Volunteer Cavalry regiment, popularly known as the Rough Riders. Wood became a prominent Republican Party leader and a candidate for the 1920 presidential nomination. He served as civilian Governor General in the Philippines in the 1920’s.

Wood married Louise Adriana Condit-Smith on November 18, 1890. Alice and Louise Condit-Smith were the daughters of Colonel John Condit-Smith and his first wife, Mary Louisa Day. With the early deaths of both parents, the girls were put in the care of family friend Stephen J. Field (Supreme Court Justice & Epiphany parishioner). In 1888, the sisters were in the first confirmation class at Epiphany Chapel in SW Washington. Two years later, Leonard Wood and Louise Condit-Smith were married in the drawing room of Justice Field’s Washington, D.C. residence with the entire Supreme Court as witnesses. The event is recorded in Epiphany’s parish register.

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