Celebrating 175

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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July 27: John Thomas Newton (1857)

On the side of his tombstone are written these words, “John Thomas Newton entered the navy in 1809, was an officer in active service during the war of 1812, and died while in the performance of his duty, having devoted forty-eight years of his life to the service of his country.” A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Newton commanded USS Beagle on her maiden voyage to the Caribbean. Newton was in command of USS Missouri during her historic crossing of the Atlantic, the first by a steam-powered vessel. At the time of his death, he was the president of one of the Naval Courts of Inquiry that was sitting in Washington. Commodore Newton was known as a scrupulous gentleman in all his relations and a skillful and gallant officer.

Newton’s burial appears in Epiphany’s records. The service possibly took place from a private residence due to the fact the church was undergoing a major renovation at the time. The funeral is described in this article from The Evening Star. “The Funeral of Commodore Newton took place this morning from the Meade House, where the corpse has remained since his death. The funeral service was there performed by the Rev. Mr. Hall, of the Church of the Epiphany. The procession consisted of a military escort–the United States Marines stationed here, under command of Brevet Major Zeilin, with the entire band of the corps, a very long line of coaches, containing the relatives and friends of the deceased officer; members of the Naval Courts of Inquiry; officers of the United States Navy and Army in uniform, and others connected with the government and citizens of the District, Virginia and other States.”

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July 26: Joseph Griffin Parkinson (1916)

Joseph Griffin Parkinson was in the first graduating class of Gallaudet College. He was one of three members of the class of 1869 (middle figure in the accompanying photo). Parkinson had attended the Hartford School for the Deaf, the nation’s oldest permanent school for the deaf. Parkinson was born into a family with a legacy of higher education and professional achievement. His childhood had a rocky start due to an epidemic of scarlet fever that took the lives of his two youngest brothers and also took his hearing. Joseph and his twin brother, Robert, and two other surviving brothers all received degrees from Dartmouth College and pursued a career in law.

A job in the Patent Office brought Parkinson to Washington, where he worked for several years. His work was so good that he was eventually promoted to the position of chief examiner of patents. There were two other deaf lawyers in the United States, but Parkinson was the only patent lawyer. Parkinson seems to have become connected with Epiphany through his wife’s family. His mother-in-law is listed as a communicant and her death was at the church. Parkinson’s second daughter, Louise, was baptized at the church in 1877. Parkinson’s father, the Rev. Royal Parkinson, served as sponsor. Parkinson spent much of his time in Utah, where his appreciation of nature and the environment inspired him to support efforts to conserve the land and protect the wildlife dwelling there.

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July 25: John Potts (1872)

John Potts served for 36 years in the War Department, America’s 19th Century Defense Department. Potts was chief clerk for the last 13 years of his career, which included disbursing millions of dollars during the Civil War. Following Potts’ death, Secretary of War Belknap issued the following General Order: “It is with regret, made stronger by personal friendship, that the Secretary of War announces the death, at an early hour this morning, of John Potts, Esq., chief clerk of the War department. His official life, conducted with faithfulness and honor, gave evidence of pure integrity, while in constant devotion to duty he was a model for our imitation. A long career of labor in the public service is closed without a blemish on the record.”

The Potts family appears to have been connected with the church from its early years. Several of John Potts’ sisters were married at Epiphany. Shortly after his own confirmation, Potts stood as a sponsor at the baptism of his brother-in-law, Lt. Thomas Scott Fillebrown, USN. His parents were both buried from the church. His first child, Louisa, was baptized there in 1848, followed by several other children over the next decade. At the time of his death, Potts was serving on Epiphany’s vestry. Following his death, the funeral of John Potts took place at Epiphany. Secretary of War Belknap served as one of the pall bearers.

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July 24: William James (1845)

When the new Epiphany congregation was founded, eleven male attendees subscribed an amount of money for the support of a clergy person. William James pledged $20. His annual salary as a clerk in the office of Register of the Treasury was $1400. He had served as superintendent of St. John’s Sunday School and subsequently as a vestry member at Trinity. When Epiphany was formally organized in August 1842, William James was elected as one of the new congregation’s first wardens.

Following his death on July 24, 1845, warden William James was buried from Epiphany Church. His fellow vestry members remembered him with the following resolutions:

“Resolved, That the members of this body learn with sincere sorrow of the death of Mr. William James, Senior Warden of this church.

Resolved, That while we submit in resignation to this afflicting dispensation of Providence, we yet rejoice that he departed in the full hope of eternal blessedness through the merits of that Redeemer whom he had served through life and by whom he was signally controlled in death.

Resolved, That we render thanks for the blessings of Divine Grace bestowed on our departed friend and associate, exhibited as they were in a blameless Christian character, in the virtues of a holy life, and in the faithful discharge of his relative duties as a Son, Husband, a Father, a Friend, and a Citizen.

Resolved, That we tender to his afflicted family and friends, the assurance of our deep sympathy with them, in a bereavement, which reaching also this body calls on us together with them, to look for consolation from above.

Resolved, That as a body we will attend the funeral, and wear crape on the left arm for thirty days.”

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July 23: Rosalie Mackenzie Poe (1874)

In the center of an oak-shaded section of Rock Creek Cemetery stands a large granite marker. On one side is carved “Epiphany Parish” and on the other, “Epiphany Church Home.” In the mid-1870’s, Epiphany purchased cemetery lots for its poorer members and lots for Church Home residents, who were typically poor, and had no place to be buried. On the Church Home side of the granite marker, there are rows of identical grave markers as might be seen at a religious order cemetery. One of the markers is labeled, “Rosalie Mackenzie Poe, 1812-1874.” This is the grave of the younger sister of renowned author, Edgar Allan Poe.

Rosalie Poe was the youngest of three children of itinerant actors David and Eliza Poe. Shortly after Rosalie’s birth, the father abandoned the family and soon died. About the same time, the mother died as well, leaving three young orphan siblings. The oldest child was taken in by grandparents. The younger two were cared for by other families – middle child Edgar by the Allan family and youngest child Rosalie by the Mackenzie family. Edgar and Rosalie had an estranged relationship. Rosalie never had the physical beauty and talent of her famous older brother. Rosalie led a comfortable existence with the Mackenzies until the Civil War left the family destitute. For many years, she survived on the streets of Richmond and Baltimore by selling reproduction pictures and artifacts of her famous brother. Rosalie was eventually placed in the Epiphany Church Home, where she died. Her burial is recorded in Epiphany’s records.

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July 22: William Nicholson Jeffers (1883)

William Nicholson Jeffers was a 19th Century U.S. Naval officer. He took part in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. During the 1870’s and the early 1880’s, Jeffers served as Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance. Jeffers biggest contribution to the U.S. Navy was his work in naval ordnance throughout his career. He wrote numerous books on the subject. A native of New Jersey, Jeffers’ eagerness for sea service was inspired by his maternal uncles, who were naval officers. After serving as a midshipman for five years, Jeffers studied at the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating fourth in a class of forty-seven. His special studies in ordnance were perhaps responsible for his transfer to the command of the Monitor, just after her engagement with the Merrimac during the Civil War.

In 1878, Jeffers’ wife, Lucy LeGrand Jeffers, was confirmed at Epiphany. Jeffers was popular and uniformly courteous. He had a firm spirit, illustrated by his refusal to admit the suffering of his last illness. Following his death, Jeffers’ funeral was at Epiphany before his interment at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. A World War II-era destroyer, the USS Jeffers, was named in his honor.

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July 21: Gustavus William Pope (1902)

Gustavus William Pope was a noted Washington physician as well as a science fiction author. In 1894, Pope wrote what he called a “scientific novel” entitled, Journey to Mars the Wonderful World: Its Beauty and Splendor; Its Mighty Races and Kingdoms; Its Final Doom. A sequel, Journey to Venus the Primeval World; Its Wondrous Creations and Gigantic Monsters, followed in 1895. Pope wrote books on a range of other subjects, including one regarding Shakespeare’s supposed Roman Catholicism.

Pope followed in his father’s footsteps as a physician. He studied medicine at the University of New York. He became assistant physician to the New York State Lunatic Asylum. For two years, he was physician to the Oneida Almshouse, and while there turned his attention to the claims of homeopathy, a system of alternative medicine based on the doctrine that like cures like – a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. Pope became convinced of its superiority over the allopathic system of practice. Pope became the senior homeopathic physician in Washington and secured an extensive practice. In 1856, Dr. Pope treated the first case of diphtheria that ever appeared in Washington and in the following year treated about one hundred cases, losing only three. Pope’s son, Joshua, was baptized at Epiphany in 1859. A year later, Pope and his wife were baptized and then confirmed at the church.

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July 20: Eva Dixon Barrett (1954)

In the vestibule at the rear of Epiphany Church today, there are four pairs of interior glass windows. The two pairs on the west side are Old Testament stories and the two on the east are New Testament stories. The pair of windows on the east side beside the center doorway is a memorial to Eva Dixon Barrett. The windows were designed and fabricated by Rowan and Irene LeCompte. The memorial represents a modern application of a type of stained glass developed in the 12th Century known as grisaille. This method employs entirely white and tints of white, without color, to conform to interior lighting conditions.

The Barrett Memorial Windows depict two scenes in the life of Christ – the miracle of the loaves and fishes and Christ blessing the little children, two themes appropriate to the life of Mrs. Barrett. In 1906, an Episcopal mission school of St. Paul’s Church, Morganton, North Carolina, was founded in the Linville area of western North Carolina by the Rev. Walter Hughson and Miss Eva Frances Dixon. Miss Dixon lived in a mission house on the premises, taught school, gave religious instruction and began an orphanage for the community. She was remembered for her vigor and dedication. Prior to her time in North Carolina, Eva Dixon Barrett had been a parishioner at Epiphany. The windows in her memory were the gift of her two sisters and brother.

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