Posts by epiphany

July 17: Alexander Yelverton Peyton Garnett (1888)

Dr. Alexander Y.P. Garnett’s distinguished medical career included being chair of Clinical Medicine at Columbian University [George Washington University], a member of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Hospital, president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, and president of the American Medical Association. A native of Essex County, Virginia, Garnett studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After passing his examination before the Naval Medical Board, he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Navy. On a cruise to South America, he met the woman who subsequently became his wife, Mary Wise, the daughter of the U.S. Minister to Brazil. Later while stationed at Washington, Garnett resigned his position in the Navy and began his career as a civil practitioner. About this time, he first became associated with Epiphany. His second child, Maria, was baptized at the church in 1851.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Dr. Garnett’s sympathies were with his native state of Virginia. He left Washington for Richmond, where he remained until the close of the war. He was appointed Surgeon General of the Confederate Army, and placed in charge of two hospitals. He was the physician of General Robert E. Lee and family, as well as to the families of Generals Joe Johnston, Hampton, Preston, Breckenridge, and of many members of the Confederate Cabinet and Congress. Following the war, Dr. Garnett returned to Washington where he returned to active practice and lecturing and apparently re-associated himself with Epiphany. Following his death, Dr. Garnett’s funeral was at the church before his interment at Rock Creek Cemetery. Later his wife and oldest son were buried from Epiphany as well.

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July 16: John Joseph Pershing (1948)

The New York Times reported the 1905 marriage of John J. Pershing at Epiphany. “The marriage of Miss Frances Helen Warren, only daughter of Senator Warren of Wyoming, to Capt. John J. Pershing, United States Army, at the Church of the Epiphany today at noon filled that edifice with a distinguished company, including the President [Theodore Roosevelt] and Mrs. Roosevelt, the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, Lieut. Gen. Chaffee; the Cabinet and all official Washington, and nearly the entire body of the United States Senate, which, in compliment to the bride’s father, did not convene until one o’clock.” Pershing’s military career took him from his West Point graduation in 1882 to his command of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Congress created a new rank for Pershing – “General of the Armies,” making him the highest-ranking military figure. His last request was that he be buried with the men he had fought beside, and that his grave be marked with the same white regulation tombstone marking their graves.

Pershing became an Episcopalian during his time as a military commander in the Philippines. He would frequently worship at Epiphany when in Washington. Following the end of World War I, General Pershing led a victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Epiphany’s Parish Guide newsletter described his attendance at church the preceding Sunday. “The congregation was much pleased to be able to welcome General Pershing and Mrs. Warren [mother-in-law] as our guests and fellow-worshippers. The national hymn and the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ were sung, and at the close of the service an impromptu and informal reception was given General Pershing, who was most gracious, cordial and unaffected in responding to every friendly and admiring greeting.”

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July 15: Randolph Harrison McKim+ (1920)

Randolph Harrison McKim served as Epiphany’s rector for 32 years, the longest tenure of any rector to date. The church’s tower and bells are memorials to him. The following resolution by Epiphany’s vestry, written upon Dr. McKim’s death, indicate the characteristics that endeared him to this parish.


“The Wardens and Vestrymen of the Church of the Epiphany desire to hereby record what can be at best but an inadequate expression of our esteem and affection for our lately deceased Rector, Reverend Randolph Harrison McKim, D.D. For more than thirty years his ministrations to Epiphany Parish have been rendered with unflagging zeal, fidelity and ability. To his enlightened vision, wise judgment and notable executive ability, do we owe the progressively vigorous estate of our church. His preaching of the Gospel has ever been timely, forceful and appealing, his appeals to his people for co-operation compelling; their response by way of parish activities and generosity of contributions to the good causes he has so movingly submitted to them through the long years of his ministry constitute a notable memorial to the power of his personality and Christian zeal. The profession of the Ministry was to him the greatest of human activities. To devote his time and talents to his Master’s work was for him a perennial satisfaction and joy. To his mind no other kind of work was comparable to his work. Joyfully and unsparingly he gave himself to it with whole-hearted devotion. His sermons, always able and scholarly, seemed to grow in clarity of vision, power of expression and convincing appeal in the closing years of his long life. His great qualities of heart and mind were increasingly evidenced. ‘Doctor McKim was a great Churchman, a true patriot, a genuine scholar and a sincere Christian.’ While the long years of his work among us have reared many monuments to his memory, his more permanent monument will appear in the influence of his devoted and fruitful life upon his people and upon the Church at large.”

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July 14: James Saunders (1914)

For forty-one years, James Saunders was the sexton of Epiphany Church. He was a Civil War veteran. During the rectorship of William Paret, Saunders was baptized and confirmed at Epiphany. Following Saunders’ death, a funeral service was held in the church with nearly a thousand people in attendance. The September 1914 issue of the Parish Guide provided the following description of the funeral.


James Saunders, Sexton Emeritus

On Thursday, July 16th, the funeral of this highly esteemed and beloved old sexton took place at 2pm in the Church. The Rector [the Rev. Randolph McKim] was present and delivered a short memorial address. With him in the Chancel were the Rev. G. Freeland Peter, the Rev. Charles F. Edwards, the Rev. Gilbert F. Williams, the Rev. James Macbride Sterrett, D.D., the Rev. Thomas Alexander Johnstone, and the Rev. E.M. Mott. In the congregation was the Rev. David Barr. All but one of these had been assistant ministers in the Parish. The Vestry acted as honorary pallbearers. The music was feelingly rendered by a large vested choir, Mr. McChord officiating at the organ. James’ favorite hymns were sung. The middle aisle of the Church was filled by the colored people and the family and friends of the deceased. The side aisles were also well filled with the members of Epiphany congregation, who came to pay their last tribute of respect and affection to dear old James. After forty-one years of faithful service he entered into his rest at the age of 74. One of the clergy remarked that it was the most impressive funeral service he had ever attended. The casket was covered with an American flag. Lincoln Camp G.A.R., attended in a body, and the Chapter of the Masonic Lodge, of which he was a member, paid personal tribute.

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July 13: John Charles Frémont (1890)

John Charles Frémont was an American explorer, politician, and soldier. During the 1840’s Frémont led four expeditions into the American West. His growing taste for wilderness exploration was encouraged by the expansionist enthusiasm of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, who became his adviser, sponsor, and, in 1841, father-in-law. Benton’s influence in government enabled Frémont to accomplish within the next few years the mapping of much of the territory between the Mississippi valley and the Pacific Ocean. The press accorded Frémont the nickname, “The Pathfinder.” He was the first presidential candidate of the newly formed anti-slavery Republican Party, but lost the election to James Buchanan. Abraham Lincoln would become the first successful candidate of the party.

In 1840 while in Washington preparing a report on one of his explorations, Lieutenant John C. Frémont met Senator Thomas Hart Benton’s 15-year old daughter, Jessie, while she was studying and living at Georgetown Seminary. The couple became engaged, but her parents objected to a marriage because of her age. Several years later, following his return from another exploring expedition, the couple eloped. In time, Jessie’s parents accepted the marriage and the Frémonts were soon living in the Benton’s Washington home. Jessie’s family was closely associated with Epiphany. Two of her sisters were married at the church and several nieces and nephews were baptized. Despite frequent moves in their early marriage, four of the five Frémont children were baptized at Epiphany, including namesake John Charles Frémont, Jr.

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July 12: Joseph Bell Alexander (1871)

Dr. Joseph Alexander moved from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. and became co-owner with Dr. Charles Brown of the Brown & Alexander undertaking firm, located at 323 D Street. This was the firm chosen to do the embalming of President Abraham Lincoln following his assassination (see accompanying picture). Brown & Alexander had embalmed the president’s son, Willie, when he died three years earlier. For their services for the president, the firm charged $260 – $100 for the actual embalming and $160 for sending embalmers along on the Lincoln funeral train to tend to the body during its long journey home to Springfield, Illinois.

Joseph Bell Alexander must have been a very inventive person. In the early 1860’s, he devised a calculating machine and took out U.S. Patent No. 41898 for it. The machine never went into production, but its technology was used in other calculating devices. Dr. Alexander’s original model is in the Smithsonian today. Alexander took out six patents for improvements of oil-burning lamps, several patents for siphon bottles and bottle-stoppers (actually it was the first American siphon bottle found in patent records), and a patent for an automatic railroad switch. Joseph Bell Alexander and Finnella Maury Little were married at Epiphany in 1864.

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July 11: Katherine “Kate” Willard Boyd (1940)

When Epiphany’s parish house was built in 1911, several families endowed the new meeting rooms. Kate Willard Boyd endowed a room on the first floor in memory of her parents who had both died in recent years. The Willard Room, although vastly reconfigured since 1911, still bears the family name today. Kate Willard was born in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. Her father, Caleb Clapp Willard, had moved to town from Vermont several decades earlier as he and his brothers tried their hand at running a hotel. As the older brothers ran the hotel that still exists today, Caleb went on to own and operate the Ebbitt Hotel as well as acquiring a good amount of downtown property.

Kate Willard and her younger brother, Walter, were baptized at Epiphany in 1869, followed four years later by their father’s baptism and confirmation. Their mother died and was buried from Epiphany in 1874. Caleb Willard would later marry Lucy Stratton Parker. These are two for whom Epiphany’s Willard Room is a memorial. Kate Willard married John C. Boyd at Epiphany in 1887. Boyd was a surgeon and medical director in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. He was one of the incorporators of the American Red Cross and one of the founders of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. The Boyd’s two children, Alice and Walter, were both baptized at Epiphany. In addition to her philanthropy, Kate Willard Boyd was also on the Boards of the Washington Home for Incurables and the Epiphany Church Home.

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July 10: St. John Bull Lawrence Skinner (1872)

In 1853, St. John B.L. Skinner was appointed to a position with the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. where he remained until his death in 1872. He served under five Presidents (Pierce through Grant) as Chief Clerk and Assistant Postmaster General including time as Acting Postmaster General under Lincoln in 1862 and as First Assistant Postmaster General under Grant 1869 – 1872. Skinner was born in upstate New York, near Plattsburgh. He attended Plattsburgh Academy and was one of 20 teenage boys from the school who in September 1814 formed Aiken’s Volunteers and successfully helped defend the city against the 10,000-strong British army. Skinner was one of the founders and served on the first vestry of Trinity Church, Plattsburgh.

Upon moving to Washington, Skinner quickly became associated with Epiphany. He is listed as a sponsor at the baptisms of five different young children. He served as Junior Warden all during the time of the Civil War and then Senior Warden the last four years of his life. Following his death, his funeral was at Epiphany and the church’s vestry passed the following resolution. “Be it resolved that in the removal by death of our Senior Warden, General St. John B.L. Skinner the Church of the Epiphany has lost an earnest, sound, and faithful churchman, the community a good man and exemplary citizen, and his country one who has long been honored as one of its defenders and supporters.”

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July 9: Frances Bull Fairchild (1925)

Seven-year-old Frances Bull moved to Washington from Detroit in 1853 with her parents. Her mother had remarried after her biological father had died when Frances was young. Her stepfather had been a respected judge and was coming to the nation’s capital as he took a job in the War Department. The family appears to have quickly become associated with Epiphany. Frances’ half brother, Charles, was baptized at the church in 1857. Within the next year, her stepfather and mother were both buried from the church. In 1859, Frances’ older sister, Kate, was married at the church followed by Frances’ marriage to Lucius Fairchild five years later.

Lucius Fairchild was in the military when he married Frances Bull. He would go on to become Governor of Wisconsin for three terms. Frances Fairchild proved to be a popular first lady for the Badger State. Her charm, tact, and beauty gathered for her and her husband many friends. Mrs. Fairchild also proved to be able to act in her husband’s absence. In 1871 following the Great Chicago Fire, her husband and many state officials had gone to that city to render aid. Meanwhile a telegram to Governor Fairchild arrived in Madison telling of a fire in upstate Wisconsin. With her husband away, Mrs. Fairchild sprang into action. She commandeered a boxcar loaded with supplies destined for Chicago and rerouted it to the Wisconsin site. Mrs. Fairchild then issued a public appeal for contributions of money, clothing, bedding, and supplies with the result that a second boxcar was dispatched.

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July 8: John William French+ (1871)

In the wall behind Epiphany’s south (back) balcony, there is a stained glass window depicting the Epiphany, the event for which the parish is named. Installed as part of the 1874 renovation of the church, the window was originally placed at the north end in a newly expanded chancel. When that same chancel was again expanded in 1890, the window was moved to its current location. Across the bottom of the window are the words, “In Memory of Rev. J.W. French D.D., First Rector of this Parish.” The fact that the window was a gift of the parish almost 15 years after the Rev. Mr. French had left says a great deal about the admiration and affection the parish had for its founding rector.

After serving parishes in Maine and Pennsylvania, John French came to Washington in the summer of 1841 to serve as chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives. Shortly thereafter, a diocesan Domestic Committee on Church Missions hired French as a city missionary. It was in this role that he started the prayer meetings that led to the founding of the Epiphany congregation on January 6, 1842. French guided the congregation through the next 14 years. During that time, five of his children were baptized and one was buried. In 1856, parishioner and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis appointed French as Chaplain and Professor of Geography, History and Ethics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was here that French would spend the rest of his life. He and his wife are buried in the Post Cemetery.

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