Posts by epiphany

August 6: George Thomas Howard (1866)

George Thomas Howard was born in Washington, D.C., only days after the sacking and burning of the city by the British Army during the War of 1812. He immigrated to the Republic of Texas in 1836. After landing at Galveston, he joined the Texas army and advanced to a captaincy by 1837, when he became commanding officer at the Galveston post. Indian depredations at San Antonio led to his assignment in the spring of 1839 in the outskirts of that town. Howard procured provisions for the Texan Santa Fe expedition and, with the rank of major, accompanied the expedition as both merchant and aide-de-camp to Gen. Hugh McLeod. Howard was captured, marched to Mexico, and confined in prison. He soon escaped and returned to Texas in time to join the Somervell expedition. In this campaign he became lieutenant colonel by popular election among the troops. For two years, 1843–45, he served Bexar County as sheriff. His interest in the growth of the republic was reflected in his assistance to Henri Castro in colonizing Castroville.

In 1846 Howard joined the Texas Volunteer Cavalry in the Mexican War. Again his bravery in battle and exemplary leadership distinguished him even among non-Texan companies. With other leading merchants, he helped finance and joined the Chihuahua-El Paso Pioneer expedition to explore the possibilities for a road and mail stations to El Paso through the unmapped southwestern part of the state. In succeeding years he devoted a good portion of his time to a widespread freight business. In 1850 public alarm over Indian raids led to his appointment by the Department of the Interior as Indian agent, and within two months Howard was promoted to superintendency of the Texas agents. He died in Washington, D.C. on August 6, 1866. His funeral took place from the residence of his father-in-law and is included in Epiphany’s parish register.

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August 5: Josephine Mary Coombs deGanahl (1993)

With Josephine deGanahl’s memorial service at Epiphany in 1993, a precious link to the past was cemented. One hundred and twenty-five years earlier, Josephine’s mother was baptized at the church; her mother being Sarah Virginia Hall, the youngest daughter of Epiphany’s second rector, Charles Henry Hall. Josephine was a native of Brooklyn, New York, where her grandfather had been the rector of Holy Trinity Church, following his time at Epiphany. She grew up in Scarsdale, New York and attended Bryn Mawr and the Julliard School of Music before marrying Joe deGanahl in 1925. The couple lived in McLean, Virginia and Alaska during World War II, where Mr. de Ganahl was a U.S. Navy Reserve pilot.

Joe deGanahl taught Josephine how to fly, making her one of the first female pilots. In 1931, Joe received one of the gold medals awarded by Congress to the members of Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition. DeGanahl also accompanied Admiral Byrd on his expedition to the North Pole. Josephine deGanahl was a volunteer with the National Symphony Women’s Committee and was an avid traveler. The deGanahls are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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August 4: Elisha Ely Camp (1867)

A November 1864 blurb in The Evening Star updated Elisha Camp’s war-time status. “Capt. E.E. Camp, who has since the commencement of the war been serving here as a quartermaster, has been ordered to the front. Capt. Camp is a thoroughly loyal man and an efficient officer, and has made, during his stay here, many friends, who will be loath to part with him.” Almost three years earlier, Camp had married Louisa Keller at Epiphany. The couple’s only child was baptized at the church in 1865. Louisa’s family had been closely connected with the church. Her father was the chief clerk of the Ordnance Bureau.

Following his death, Camp’s funeral was reported in The Evening Star. “The obsequies of the late Brevet Lieut. Colonel E.E. Camp were held at the Church of the Epiphany, on G street, yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock. The funeral cortege having reached the church, the coffin was taken from the hearse by eight sergeants of the 12th United States Infantry, and at the door was met by Dr. Hall, the rector of the church, who read the solemn burial service of the Episcopal Church, beginning with, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ As the remains were being carried to the sanctuary, the organist performed a requiem hymn, after which the choir sang the psalms belonging to the funeral service. At the conclusion of the service, Dr. Hall delivered a eulogy upon the character and life of the deceased, speaking of the fidelity and assiduity with which he ever discharged his obligations to his country and to his fellowmen. He was in his last hours, as he had been through life, a faithful soldier of the cross; and when told that his hours upon earth were few, he said that he was ready to die. His character was without blemish. He had fought the good fight, and departed this life in the sincere hope of an eternal reward.”

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August 3: Elizabeth Jane Lenthall Stone (1892)

Almost two decades after she became a widow, Epiphany parishioner Elizabeth J. Stone gave the church $25,000 and a lot at 19th and G Streets, NW for the creation of a home for widows. Elizabeth was born in 1804 in the early days of the nation’s capital. She was the middle child of John and Jane Lenthall. Her father was an architect and worked on the original section of the U.S. Capitol. A construction accident caused his death when Elizabeth was just four years old. Almost eighty years later, she would memorialize her father by naming her philanthropic initiative, the Lenthall Home for Widows. Elizabeth’s husband was engraver William J. Stone. His 1823 engraving of the Declaration of Independence is the one familiar to most Americans. One of the couples’ children was Dr. Robert King Stone, President Lincoln’s family physician.

Elizabeth Stone lived to be 88 years old, in a time when life expectancy was almost half of that. She was the last surviving of the three Lenthall children, all of which had been connected with Epiphany. Her older sister, Mary, was the church’s first organist and Sunday school teacher. Elizabeth outlived her husband by 27 years and also outlived all four of her children. In her long life, Elizabeth saw at Epiphany the marriage of two of her grandchildren and the baptism of six of her great grandchildren. Following her death on August 3, 1892, Elizabeth’s earthly remains were placed in the family plot at Rock Creek Cemetery. She was remembered for her “unobtrusive piety, her boundless sympathy for the unfortunate and the sorrowful and her countless works of charity and mercy.”

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August 2: Alexander Graham Bell (1922)

When Alexander Graham Bell died on August 2, 1922, the entire telephone system on the North American continent was silenced for one minute in tribute to his life. Although a scientist, engineer and innovator and the holder of 18 patents, Bell is best known as the primary inventor of the telephone. Bell’s father, grandfather and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing his life’s work. Bell’s research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in his being awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone in 1876.

The Bell family home was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until 1880 when Bell’s father-in-law and business manager, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, bought a house in Washington. In 1882 he bought a home in the same city for Bell’s family, so that they could be with him while he attended to the numerous court cases involving patent disputes. In the early 1880’s, two of Bell’s unmarried sisters-in-law were confirmed at Epiphany. Later after one sister-in-law was married, the baptism of the couples first child was at Epiphany and the funeral of the other sister-in-law took place. The only evidence of Bell’s direct connection to Epiphany is a 1889 pew rental receipt from Epiphany found in his papers. Pew rentals were the method at the time by which people kept a pew and financially supported the church.

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August 1: Caleb Clapp Willard (1905)

Just a block away from Epiphany today is the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. Although it has gone through numerous changes in management and its physical building over the years, this old Washington institution traces its roots to 1847 when Vermont native Henry A. Willard came to town to take over the old, run-down City Hotel. Several members of Henry’s family joined him in the venture including his youngest brother, 15-year old Caleb Clapp Willard. Henry took Caleb under his wing and taught him the business. The education didn’t fall on deaf ears. Caleb Willard later became the proprietor of the Ebbitt House Hotel and one of the largest real estate holders in the city.

The first record of Caleb Clapp Willard’s connection to Epiphany is the baptism of his two children, Kate and Walter, in 1869. Four years later came Caleb’s baptism, with his confirmation a few weeks after that. In 1874, Caleb’s first wife, Allie, dies and was buried from Epiphany. Caleb’s daughter, Kate, married John C. Boyd at Epiphany in 1887 and the funeral of his son, Walter, took place from the church in 1893. Caleb’s own funeral took place there in 1905. When Epiphany’s parish house was being built in 1910, the rector made an appeal for endowments to furnish and maintain the meeting rooms. Kate Willard Boyd endowed two adjoining rooms on the first floor in memory of her parents. The memorial plaque honoring her father reads, “This room is endowed in memory of Caleb Clapp Willard, for thirty years a devout communicant of the Church of the Epiphany.”

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July 31: Robert Smith Chew (1873)

In the painting, Signing of the Alaska Treaty, by Emmanuel Leutze, Russian minister Eduard Stoeckl stands beside the globe pointing to “Russian America” while Secretary of State William Seward (seated) with pen in hand prepares to sign the treaty held by his chief clerk, Robert Smith Chew. For most of the 19th Century, the Chief Clerk of the State Department was the second-ranking official of the department. Chew joined the State Department in 1834. In 1866, he became chief clerk. His continuous service under seven successive administrations made him an authority on affairs of state.

The first known association of Robert Smith Chew with Epiphany is the 1860 confirmation of his first two children. Over the next thirteen years, his remaining six children were confirmed at the church. His eldest child (Richard Smith Chew) married the eldest child of John and Louisa Coffin (Louisa H. Coffin) at Epiphany in 1870. Chew lived to see two of his granddaughters baptized at Epiphany. Chew was confirmed in 1870 and buried from the church three years later. The Rev. Charles Hall, who had been Epiphany’s rector during the initial decade of Chew’s association with the church, returned to Washington to officiate at the funeral.

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July 30: Mary Randolph Dickins (1849)

In the midst of a neighborhood in suburban Fairfax County today stands Oak Hill, a Georgian style home built in 1790. The house is one of three mansions built during the 18th Century on the enormous Ravensworth estate. Francis Asbury Dickins, a Washington attorney, owned one of the other mansions and used it as a summer home until the outbreak of the Civil War, when it became his year-round residence. The Dickins family were closely connected with Epiphany in its early years. A story in The National Intelligencer records the death of Dickins’ oldest daughter, Mary near Oak Hill. The funeral of Mary Randolph Dickins is recorded in Epiphany’s register. Seven months later, Mary’s parents were both confirmed at the church.

“A most lamentable accident occurred on Monday evening last, in Fairfax County, near the residence of David Fitzhugh, Esq., about ten miles from Alexandria. The horses attached to a spring wagon, in which Mrs. M.A. Fitzhugh, Miss Dickins, and two other ladies were riding, took fright and ran off with great fury. The wagon was dashed against a tree, and broken to pieces. Miss Dickins, about twelve years of age, a most interesting girl, daughter of Francis A. Dickins, Esq. of this city, was so severely injured that she died in an hour or two after the accident. Mrs. Fitzhugh was very much injured, but it is hoped, from the report of the physicians, that her wounds are not dangerous. Another of the ladies had her arms shattered, and in other respects was much bruised; and the other young lady was slightly injured. Such was the violence of the concussion of the wagon against the tree, that it is a wonder the whole party were not killed. This melancholy accident is deeply regretted in the whole neighborhood.”

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July 29: Rosalie Vaden Oakes (2008)

Following her death, Rosalie Oakes’ hometown newspaper, The Winchester Star, hailed her as a “Quiet champion for civil rights.” Born in the spring of 1917 and raised to be a “proper young lady” in an Irish family of five daughters, Rosalie Vaden Oakes was remembered by friends and family in Winchester, Virginia where she grew up, as quiet, modest and somewhat shy. It would seem she would be an unlikely candidate to change the world. After graduation from the University of Richmond, Oakes pursued a remarkable career with the Young Women’s Christian Association. She spent 15 years in South Africa teaching leadership skills to black women living under apartheid. She faced off with the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina after the group tried to shut down a YWCA camp where blacks and whites lived and swam together.

At colleges in the South in the late 1950’s and 60’s, Rosalie served as the behind-the-scenes driving force as sit-ins and protests began to unravel the Jim Crow laws that for nearly a century had kept blacks and whites separated in schools, movie theaters, restaurants, and other aspects of public life. Oakes’ family members described her as “an absolutely amazing woman, but she never brought attention to herself.” Rosalie Oakes and her sister Ann found a spiritual home at Epiphany in the twilight years of their lives. Rosalie served on Epiphany’s vestry and was involved with several outreach programs of the church. Following her death in 2008 at age 91, a memorial service was held at Epiphany. There is no doubt that her religious convictions were the motivating force throughout her life and career.

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July 28: William Belden Noble (1896)

The William Belden Noble Lectures at Harvard University were established in 1898 by Nannie Yulee Noble in memory of her husband. According to the terms of the bequest: “The object of the Founder of the Lectures is to continue the mission of her husband, whose supreme desire was to extend the influence of Jesus as ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life,’ and to illustrate and enforce the words of Jesus — ‘I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.’ Lecturers in the annual presentations have included Theodore Roosevelt (1910) and John Shelby Spong (2000). William Belden Noble was born in Essex, New York. In his youth, precarious health took him to the south and west. During this period, Noble and his mother were confirmed at Epiphany on April 6, 1884.

After studying at several schools, Noble finally graduated magna cum laude in the Harvard College Class of 1885. In 1887, he married Nannie Yulee, daughter of Senator David Levy Yulee of Florida. In 1888, he entered the Episcopal Theological School at Cambridge, Massachusetts intending to enter the ministry. He remained there for two years, but his health again gave way and he abandoned his studies. He lived in Washington for some years and then traveled abroad and around the country for his health. At 35 years old, he died in Colorado in 1896. Two years later, his wife established the William Belden Noble Lectures in his memory.

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