Celebrating 175

September 23: William Farand Prosser (1911)

In his 77-year life, William F. Prosser lived in many places and did many things. When twenty years old, after teaching school and surveying in Pennsylvania, he set out across the plains in the trail of the gold rush, hoping to strengthen a frail physique. When he reached California, in 1854, he was as rugged and hardy as the other prairie schooner voyagers, and he served as an officer in the volunteer company that was raised to fight the hostile Indians of that district. With the outbreak of the Civil War he returned East, and was offered a commission in the regular army by President Lincoln. Passing through the battles of Shiloh, Stone River, Chicamaugua and the siege of Knoxville, the close of the war saw him in command of the cavalry of the District of North Alabama. Once he was taken prisoner and had a narrow escape from death.

Colonel Prosser figured in the stormy scenes of reconstruction in Tennessee, serving in the legislature, and in 1868 he was elected to Congress. While in Washington, he became associated with Epiphany. He is listed as a communicant in the parish records and he was confirmed at the church in 1871. He was later appointed postmaster at Nashville, and was named as commissioner for the state of Tennessee to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. For ten years, partly before and partly after this first big exposition held in America, he acted as an official, and made trips to Europe to study other exhibitions. Prosser was perhaps the first conservator of government timber in the Northwest, having been sent to the Pacific coast in 1879 as special agent of the general land office, with Washington, Oregon and Idaho timber in his charge. He founded the town of Prosser, Washington, which was named for him. Elected auditor of Yakima County, he moved to North Yakima and from there was sent as a delegate to the Washington state constitutional convention in 1889.

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September 22: Beatrice Aitchison (1997)

Beatrice Aitchison was a pioneer government career woman and also Epiphany’s first female vestry member. Aitchison was born in Oregon and raised in Washington, D.C. She was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Goucher College, and she received a master’s degree in economics from the University of Oregon and master’s and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In 1942, Aitchison began her long and distinguished career as a transportation economist with the U.S. government. In 1961, she was one of six women, chosen from a field of more than 25,000, who were awarded the government’s first Federal Woman’s Award for their careers in government. At the time of the award, Aitchison was transportation branch chief in the Post Office Department, the highest-ranking woman to ever serve in that department.

When Beatrice Aitchison began her government career in Washington, she joined her father and stepmother as an Epiphany parishioner. Having sung in church choirs since she was a teenager, Aitchison joined Epiphany’s choir. When her stepmother died in 1944, the funeral was held at Epiphany. Similarly when her father died in 1962, the funeral was at the church. An etched stained glass window, featuring King David, was placed in the rear of the church in his memory. At Epiphany’s annual meeting held on April 15, 1963, the church broke a 121-year trend and elected Beatrice Aitchison as its first female vestry member.

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September 21: James Lewis Edwards (1867)

James L. Edwards was the first Commissioner of Pensions and a founding member of Epiphany Church. Edwards was born in Petersburg, Virginia to Lewis and Mary (Danforth) Edwards on May 25, 1786. He served with the U. S. Marines during the War of 1812 and was awarded a medal for bravery. Although many sources refer to Edwards as a colonel, records show that he resigned from the army with the rank of first lieutenant. In 1816, he began working as a clerk in the War Department. He eventually became the principal pensions clerk, where he was responsible for many of the pensions granted to veterans of the Revolutionary War. When the Pension Office was created in 1833, Edwards became the first Commissioner of Pensions. He held this post until retiring on November 27, 1850. Edwards died on September 21, 1867 in Washington, D.C.

James Edwards would have been 56 years old when Epiphany was founded in 1842. In March of that year, Edwards assisted in writing the articles of association for the new congregation and was chosen as one of two temporary wardens. Edwards was one of eleven men who made a pledge for the rector’s salary. In August, Edwards was elected as one of eight vestrymen of the new congregation and was then chosen to head a three-person committee to find a building lot that the church could afford. In March 1843, Edwards served as a sponsor at the baptism of Mrs. Elizabeth Magruder, wife of Dr. William B. Magruder. In August 1844, Edwards was the sponsor at the baptism of Fannie Gilliss, the first person baptized in the new church building. One of Edwards’ sons was married in the church and one was buried from it. Following his death on September 21, 1867 at age 82, James Edwards was buried from Epiphany, a church he had helped found 25 years earlier.

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September 20: Alanson Bigelow Houghton (1941

Alanson B. Houghton was an American businessman, politician, and diplomat. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the grandson of the founder of Corning Glass Works. Houghton graduated from Harvard and pursued postgraduate courses in Europe. He took charge of his family’s business and tripled the company’s size, making it the largest producer of glass products in the country. Houghton served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, before his appointment by President Harding as Ambassador to Germany. He would later serve as Ambassador to Great Britain. During his time in Congress, Houghton became associated with Epiphany. The following is from the February 1922 issue of the Parish Guide newsletter, bidding farewell to Houghton as he leaves for Germany.

“With mixed feelings of pain and satisfaction we note the appointment of one of our honored parishioners, Mr. Alanson B. Houghton, to be Ambassador to Germany. Mr. Houghton for sometime Congressman from Corning, N.Y., has held a position in the House that was widely recognized as one of force and commanding influence. While a man of quiet and unobtrusive bearing, his clearness of vision and wide knowledge of men and things had won for him a place of high esteem among his colleagues. Mr. Houghton is a fine type of public servant, conscientious, painstaking, consistent; indeed he is the very best type because his life is governed by the Christian ideal. He had hoped to take his part here in the growing work of the Parish and was deeply interested in its enterprise. We are bound to believe that his selection is a wise one, and that he will bring to his high office fine intelligence, splendid zeal and thorough consecration. He knows Germany, having lived there. He knows America and can in a large way interpret our ideals and purposes. We are proud of our new Ambassador, and we are sorry indeed to lose him and his family from our midst, but we bid him God speed in his responsible office.”

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September 19: Henry Clough-Leighter (1956)

Henry Clough-Leighter was an American composer, organist, and musical editor. He was born in Washington, D.C.; the son of James Henry Leighter and Sarah Katherine (Humphries) Leighter. The name Clough was given as an agnomen (additional name) at his baptism to perpetuate a family name. Clough-Leighter took charge of Epiphany’s music at the age of 18; first at Epiphany’s chapel in SW Washington and then for seven years at the parish church. During this time, Henry married Mary Mason Mitchell at the chapel. Henry Clough-Leighter’s first person account of his career is as follows.

“I was educated privately and at Columbian University, Washington [now GWU] 1887-9. At thirteen obtained scholarship at the latter university, but relinquished it to give my whole time to the study of music. Pupil of Trinity University, Toronto, Canada, in preparation for musical degree. Studied harmony, counterpoint and composition under Dr. Edward Kimball, Dr. George Walter, Henry Xander (of Stuttgart Conservatory, Germany), and Dr. J. Humphrey Anger, of Oxford, England. Piano study began at age of five, under my mother’s instruction – an English gentlewoman of exceptional refinement of mind, high intellectual attainments, and an excellent musicianship. From the age of nine to twelve solo chorister in St. John’s Church, Washington. At thirteen began organ study under Dr. George Walter, formerly organist of Trinity Church, New York. At fourteen, organist of St. Michael’s and All Angels, Washington. At fifteen organist of the Church of the Incarnation. At eighteen organist and choirmaster of Epiphany Chapel. From 1892 to 1899 organist and choirmaster of Epiphany Parish, and also the Jewish Synagogue; from 1899 to 1900, organist and choirmaster of Grace Church, Providence, R.I.; 1900 to 1901 organist and choirmaster of Christ Church and supervisor of the music courses in the schools of Westerly, R.I. During the same year Instructor of Musical Theory in the Howe School of Music, Boston; 1901 to 1908 Associate Editor on the editorial staff of the Oliver Ditson Co., Boston. Since 1908 to the present time music editor of the Boston Music Co., Boston, Mass. Since 1901 to the present time organist of the First Congregational Church, Milton, Mass.”

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September 18: Henry Walter Kingsbury (1862)

The Army was Henry Walter Kingsbury’s life from the time he was born in Chicago on Christmas Day 1836. His father was a professional soldier and a graduate in the West Point Class of 1823. Henry idolized his army officer father and dreamed of a military career. At the age of 19, he entered the U.S. Military Academy, the same month his father died. Close friend General Ambrose Burnside (yes, the “sideburns’ man) became Henry’s legal guardian. Kingsbury excelled at the Academy and in his final year he was named adjutant of the Corps of Cadets. He was graduated fourth in his class. Tall and handsome, he was a natural leader and was considered by many classmates to be the “best soldier, greatest gentleman, and most promising officer graduated in May 1861.” The Civil War had begun less than a month before the Class of 1861 was graduated. Kingsbury was assigned to the 5th Artillery and promoted to 1st Lieutenant. He was an aide-de-camp to General McDowell at First Manassas and then assigned to train volunteer batteries before being given command of Company D, 5th U.S. Artillery.

In December 1861, Henry Kingsbury married Eveline “Eva” McLean Taylor at the Church of the Epiphany. Eva’s maternal grandfather was Supreme Court Justice John McLean and a paternal uncle was President Zachary Taylor. Shortly thereafter, Kingsbury was commissioned as colonel and commander of the 11th Connecticut Infantry. In September 1862, the 11th marched to Sharpsburg, Maryland where the Confederates drew up battle lines. At the Battle of Antietam, Colonel Kingsbury was mortally wounded. He lingered through the night.  Burnside, his old friend and former guardian, came to see him, sitting for some time beside his bed and comforting the dying colonel. At age 26, Kingsbury died on September 18. His body was taken to Washington with a funeral at Epiphany before being laid to rest at Oak Hill Cemetery. In December, Eva Kingsbury gave birth to a son and he was named for his father. On Palm Sunday 1863, Henry Walter Kingsbury, Jr. was baptized at the Church of the Epiphany.

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September 17: William Edward Horton (1935)

William E. Horton was a brigadier general in the U.S. Army with service during the Spanish American War and World War I. In the latter, he was Assistant to the Quartermaster General. Through his mother’s line, Horton was a descendant of an old New England family. His first ancestor in America secured the royal charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations from King James of England. Proud of his heritage, Horton was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. In 1934, he installed a classical marble memorial to his mother at Epiphany. It is located on the wall of the vestibule at the rear of the church. General Horton’s name is listed on the adjoining World War I Memorial Plaque. Horton served on Epiphany’s vestry in his later years. Both he and his mother were confirmed and buried from the church. General Horton was interred at Arlington with full military honors. A listing of his commendations is engraved on his tombstone.

Distinguished Service Medal United States

Silver Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster United States

Honorary Companion Order of St. Michael & St. George of Great Britain

Knight Grand Cross of the French Order of Nichan El Anouar

Officer of the Legion of Honor of France

Commander of the Order of Leopold II of Belgium

Commander of the Order of the Crown of Roumania

Commander of the Order of Polonia Restituta

Class III Officer of the Order of the White Eagle of Serbia

Grand Officer of the Order of Danilo I of Montenegro

Grand Officer of the Order of Scanderbeg of Albania

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September 16: James Allen Harrell (2003)

Jim Harrell devoted his professional life to health and children’s welfare. He was born in Dade City, Florida and graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in history and English. He graduated from Yale University’s Divinity School and received a master’s degree in American studies from the University of Maryland. In 1975, Jim began working for the Department of Health and Human Services, becoming a director of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. He later worked as director of planning, research and evaluation in the department’s Administration on Children, Youth and Families. The next year, he was promoted to deputy director in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. He then worked at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, focusing on child welfare and the state laws and policies that try to improve education and health services for disadvantaged families.

Jim Harrell’s professional life was simply an extension of his spiritual life, in which he proclaimed by word and example that the Kingdom of God is at hand and it is our calling to act on it. Jim had been a United Methodist Chaplain at the University of Maryland. At Epiphany, he served as junior and senior warden and volunteered with the Welcome Table ministry. Following Jim’s death, a memorial service was held at Epiphany, with contributions designated for the Welcome Table. In a sermon he preached at Epiphany a year before his passing, Jim stated, “And what this church gives to us individually – through the healing we receive, and our own sense of belonging, and a clarity about God’s Kingdom Message – is the equipment we need to be Christ…in our small and large worlds of work and relationship, to meet the needs of a world that is calling for relief and seeking the sure and certain knowledge that it has been saved.”

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September 15: Memorial Service for President McKinley (1901)

On September 6, 1901, William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, was shot on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. He was shaking hands with the public when Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, shot him twice in the abdomen. McKinley died eight days later on September 14 of gangrene caused by the gunshot wounds. Private services took place before the body was moved to Buffalo City Hall for the start of five days of national mourning. McKinley’s body was ceremoniously taken from Buffalo to Washington, and then to Canton, Ohio. On the day of the funeral, September 19, as McKinley was taken from his home on North Market Street for the last time, all activity ceased in the nation for five minutes. Trains came to a halt, telephone and telegraph service was stopped. The people bowed in homage to the President who was gone.

Services at Epiphany on Sunday, September 15, 1901 became a memorial to President McKinley. Rector Randolph McKim’s sermon was entitled, “The Meaning of Our National Bereavement.” In describing what the purposes of God might be in this affliction, McKim stated, “He means to rebuke us for our materialism, for our absorption in the pursuit of wealth, for our excessive love of the pleasures of sense, and to remind us that in all the pride of our greatness we are dependent on His bounty and His protection.” McKim spoke of McKinley’s legacy. “Today the American people stand with tearful eyes and sorrowing hearts by the bier of their chief. They are girding themselves to the solemn duties of their national calling this day, with hearts more chastened, more earnest, more sincere, more unselfish, than before. The character of their murdered chief will inspire them. His uprightness and honesty and devotion to the interests of the whole country will long be a beacon to shed light on their path.”

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September 14: Mary Wortham Carlisle Howe (1964)

Mary Howe was an American composer, pianist, and patron of music in Washington, D.C., where she grew up and lived all her life. Born Mary Carlisle, she was the middle child of Calderon and Kate Carlisle. Mr. Carlisle was a prominent Washington lawyer, who served as counsel to the Spanish Embassy. In the latter 19th Century, Calderon Carlisle and several family members were associated with Epiphany, where he served as a vestry member. Here Mary and her siblings were baptized. Mary received training in piano from Richard Burmeister in Germany. By the time she was 18, she was performing publicly and was accepted into Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. Her studies with Gustav Strube and others led to a diploma in composition. She toured in a two-piano team with Anne Hull and in 1933 went to Paris to study with the famous French pianist Nadia Boulanger.

A prolific composer as well as pianist, Howe worked in many genres: songs for voice and piano, solo piano, piano duo, organ, carillon, violin, cello, flute, chamber music, chorus, ballet, chamber orchestra, and full orchestra. Later in life, she developed a passion for singing and wrote many songs. In support of her country during World War II, she composed vigorous pieces in support of the troops.  Howe and her husband, Walter Bruce Howe, a lawyer, were prominent Washington socialites and were among the co-founders in 1931 of the National Symphony Orchestra. Howe also helped found the Chamber Music Society of Washington (later the Friends of Music of the Library of Congress) and the Society of American Women Composers. Toward the end of her life, she was on the board of the National Cultural Center (later renamed the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts).

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