Posts by epiphany

March 3: Dedication of Current Pipe Organ (1968)

Frequently in Epiphany’s history a renovation of the church brought a new pipe organ. Such was the case in 1968, when a new chancel area was created in the front of the rood screen and a new organ, with a movable console, was installed. This organ, the fifth in the church’s history, was Opus 1485 of the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston. With the death of long-time organist-choirmaster Adolph Torovsky in 1967, the organ became a memorial to him. Before Mr. Torovsky’s passing, a brilliant young organist had been brought on staff as an assistant. His name was Garnell Stuart Copeland and he performed the dedicatory recital of the instrument on March 3, 1968.

Despite it being a cold, windy day, a capacity crowd filled the church on March 3rd to hear the new organ. One of those in the audience was composer and church musician Leo Sowerby, often called the “Dean of American church music” in the 20th Century. Garnell Copeland had studied under Sowerby at the now defunct College of Church Musicians at Washington Cathedral. Copeland played Sowerby’s “Passacaglia in F,” which had been dedicated to Epiphany rector Edgar Romig and Copeland’s “Prelude in C Minor,” his tribute to Dr. Sowerby. In a Washington Star review of the recital, critic Lawrence Sears wrote:  “Musical pilgrims to Washington will now want to include a visit to Epiphany Church on downtown G Street to see and hear its stunning new Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.”

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March 2: Frederick West Lander (1862)

Tall and handsome, vigorous and hot-tempered, fearless to a fault, Frederick West Lander became one of the most name-recognized Americans in the years prior to the Civil War. Lander made five transcontinental surveys on behalf of the U.S. government to select a railroad route to the Pacific. He was a popular speaker, a published fiction writer and poet, an adept negotiator with Native Americans, and a Union general during the Civil War. After his untimely death in 1862, General Lander’s funeral was held at Epiphany, attended by President Lincoln, the cabinet, members of Congress and a vast array of military leaders. In writing about the newly dedicated statue of Lincoln in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda several years later, journalist Mary Clemmer Ames recalled when she witnessed General Lander’s Epiphany funeral.

I recall a moment in his life when his look and attitude were precisely what they are here. It was just after the funeral of General Lander, at the Church of the Epiphany. The sun shone dimly that afternoon against the saddest of rainy skies, and looked down upon one of the most sorrowful of scenes. Almost every day brought a funeral like that – aye, many funerals. Our streets were full of dirges, our houses full of tears. Lander had the faults of an erratic and brilliant genius, but he was a generous man and a heroic soldier – one of the ten thousands dead in their prime. They bore his body through the gray air. The soldier’s horse with empty stirrups and saddle, rider less, moved slowly after it. The great procession took up its line; the band struck up the solemn march.

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March 1: Joseph Borrows Tate (1858)

Long-time Washingtonians will remember when the city had a daily afternoon newspaper, The Washington Star. When founded by Joseph Borrows Tate in 1852, the paper was known as the Daily Evening Star. It was one of dozens of newspapers that sprang up in the mid-19th century in Washington. Like many of its kind, it began modestly as a four-page broadsheet printed by a hand press. Only 250 copies were made for its initial run. Tate and his editorial staff had a vision, which they proudly declared in the paper’s manifest: “The Star is to be free from party trammels and sectarian influences.” Unlike other newspapers that were highly political in nature, the Star was to be neutral.

Joseph B. Tate married Mary Anna Mills at Epiphany on Valentine’s Day 1850. Within the next ten years, Epiphany’s register records the baptisms and burials of three daughters and the burials of Tate and his wife. Tate’s obituary in the Evening Star records that, “No man was better known to the present generation of the citizens of Washington. In all of his dealings with every one, he was strictly an upright man, and took no thought of aught but the conscientious discharge of his duties to his family, his friends, and the community. As a husband, father, son, and friend, his death will leave a void in many hearts that no changes of life throughout time can fill.”

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Sam Wells & the St. Martin’s Voices

Monday, March 13
As part of the Stations of the Cross exhibition, we are delighted to be welcoming the Revd. Dr. Sam Wells and the choir of St. Martin in the Fields, London.
Sam Wells is the author of a number of books about Christian ethics, and his most recent work, A Nazareth Manifesto reflects on the Christian vocation to serve the poor.
Wells and the St. Martin’s Voices will explore in word and song what the shape of Jesus’ life means for theology and ethics, ministry and mission.
St. Martin in the Fields is a large church in central London, whose ministry is in many ways similar to that of Church of the Epiphany. They too are a downtown congregation in a powerful capital city who seek to serve the poor and marginalized. And like us, they enjoy a rich musical tradition with regular public concerts. This promises to be a fascinating evening where we as a congregation will be able to hear how a church similar to ours understands its ministry and mission. Please make every effort to come along – see it as part of your Lenten commitment.

February 28: John Whitney Barlow (1914)

Brigadier General John Whitney Barlow is remembered not for a battle but for a park. In 1871, General Philip Sheridan sent Barlow, his chief engineer, to map the Yellowstone Basin. Barlow’s report helped to promote Yellowstone. Congress soon passed legislation, which President Grant signed in 1872, making Yellowstone America’s first national park. John Barlow was a graduate of West Point, Class of 1861. On the day after Christmas of that same year, Barlow married Hessie McNaughten Birnie at the Church of the Epiphany. Fellow West Point classmate Henry Kingsbury had been married at Epiphany three weeks earlier. Kingsbury would be killed in the war the following September.

Barlow fought with the regular Army at Bull Run through the Peninsula Campaign before transferring to the Corps of Engineers. He served as the chief engineer of Sherman’s Army Corps in Georgia. After the war, Barlow stayed in the engineers and supervised construction of forts in Florida, New York, and Connecticut. He worked on harbors in the Great Lakes and along the Hudson River. He commanded a joint commission of engineers that surveyed and marked the U.S.-Mexican border from El Paso to the Pacific Ocean. Barlow’s West Point classmates remembered him “as a devout Christian and loyal Churchman. Modesty, courtesy, bravery, and wisdom were his attributes.”

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February 27: George Franklin Edmunds (1919)

A native of Vermont, George Franklin Edmunds practiced law for a time in Burlington before becoming active in local politics. This led to his election to the Vermont legislature and eventually to the U.S. Senate. For the next 25 years, Senator Edmunds was involved in many of the major events of the country. He was the chairman of the committee that determined the impeachment procedures against President Andrew Johnson, wrote the bill that provided for a commission that decided the disputed Hayes-Tilden presidential election, wrote the act that outlawed polygamy, and wrote most of the landmark Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Edmunds was baptized at Epiphany as an adult, four years after his arrival in Washington. One month later, Edmunds, his wife, and oldest daughter were confirmed at Epiphany by Bishop Whittingham. His second daughter, Julia Maynard Edmunds, was confirmed in 1879. Within three years, Julia died at age 21. As part of the 1890 renovation of the church, Senator Edmunds memorialized Julia with the gift of a brass cross, which still graces the altar reredos today. Shortly after Edmunds’ retirement from the Senate, the Church Congress was meeting at Epiphany. Bishop Paret asked Edmunds to act in his place as presiding officer. Edmunds and Bishop Phillips Brooks gave the opening addresses to an overflow crowd.

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February 26: John Louis Clubb (1875)

Epiphany is known today for its outstanding music. That tradition had its humble beginnings with John Louis Clubb. A native of Maine, Clubb came to Washington as a boy and for many years in the early 19th Century was a member of the U.S. Marine Band. He rose to the rank of fife major and served as such for six years. After leaving the band, Clubb became a messenger for the Secretary of the U.S. Senate. Over time with the additional responsibility to receive, inventory, and distribute stationery supplies, Clubb became the first person to attain the title of Keeper of the Stationery, a position that exists today.

Through his life, Clubb led various church choirs in the District, including Epiphany during its first three years of existence. At the first worship service in January 1842, records indicate, “a choir of mixed voices was directed by ‘Professor’ John L. Clubb, although with the aid of a tuning fork rather than a musical instrument.” For the laying of Epiphany’s cornerstone in August 1843, there was a procession from Apollo Hall, the original meeting location, to the G Street site. Included were a band hired for the occasion and the “ladies and gentlemen composing the Musical Association under the direction of Mr. Clubb.”

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February 25: Charles Carroll Glover (1936)

Though not a Washington native, Charles Carroll Glover quickly adopted the nation’s capital as his own and devoted much of his life to the city’s improvement. He was educated at a local academy and afterwards began working for Riggs Bank as a clerk, rising to become the chief administrative officer at the age of 27. It was from his unique vantage point as president of Riggs several years later that he began to lobby for civic improvement. Glover was instrumental in the establishment of Rock Creek and Potomac Parks, the zoo, Embassy Row, and the completion of the Washington Monument. The Massachusetts Avenue bridge crossing Rock Creek Park as well as a park in NW Washington bear Glover’s name.

The earliest record of Glover’s connection with Epiphany is his baptism as an adult in December 1869, followed in short time by his confirmation. Eight years later came his marriage to Annie C. Poor, whose family was also associated with Epiphany. All of the Glover children were baptized at Epiphany. One daughter, age 4, was buried from Epiphany and another was married. A granddaughter was baptized shortly thereafter. Glover served on Epiphany’s vestry for many years. In 1891, a group of prominent Washington citizens (including several from Epiphany) met in the home of Charles Carroll Glover on Lafayette Square and decided to build Washington National Cathedral.

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February 24: Ellen Minott Sherman (1901)

The family of Ellen Minott Sherman obviously valued education. Her father’s ancestry included a long line of ministers and lawyers, including founding father Roger Sherman. Her father, Henry Sherman, was a Yale graduate and a noted lawyer, judge, and author. Her maternal grandfather was publisher of the New York Evening Post. The Post was founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton and was a respected broadside of the 19th Century prior to its present day tabloid format.

When Ellen was 11 years old, her father took a job with the Treasury Department and moved the family to Washington. In 1867, Ellen was enrolled at Vassar College in Poughkeepisie, NY. Vassar had been founded six years earlier and was the first degree-granting institution of higher education for women in the United States. With Ellen’s college graduation also came her confirmation at Epiphany. Ellen’s parents are both listed as Epiphany communicants at the time. It comes as no surprise that Ellen would want to spend her life enabling the education of others. As can be seen in the accompanying advertisement in the Atlantic Monthly, Ellen operated “Miss Ellen Minott Sherman’s Boarding and Day School for Girls.” Ellen Sherman passed away February 23, 1901, age 50 and was buried from Epiphany.

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February 23: The Costin Family

To celebrate Black History Month, this entry deviates from the regular format today and highlights a family instead of an individual. The Costins were an African-American family that had connections to the District, to the family of George Washington, and to the Church of the Epiphany. The patriarch, William “Billy” Costin (depicted here), was born around 1780, maybe at George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon. His mother was a slave and Martha Custis Washington’s half sister, having been the child of Martha’s father and an unnamed slave. Costin’s father was perhaps Martha’s son from her first marriage. Costin married Philadelphia “Delphy” Judge, a freed slave of the Custis family. Costin moved to Washington City about 1800 and built a house on A Street South, where the couple raised seven children.

Costin worked as a porter for many years at the Bank of Washington. Around 1818, Costin helped start a school for African-American children, which Louisa, one of his daughters, eventually led. Costin helped found an African-American Methodist Church, co-founded an African-American Masonic Temple and in 1825 helped found the Columbian-Harmony Society, which provided burial benefits and a cemetery for African-Americans. William Costin died in 1842, the year Epiphany was organized. Seven years later, one of his daughters, Harriet Parke Costin, married Richard Henry Fisk at the Church of the Epiphany. The couple is marked as “colored” in the parish register. For many years, Harriet Costin Fisk was in charge of the Senate Ladies Reception Room at the U.S. Capitol.

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