Celebrating 175

April 10: Thomas Hart Benton (1858)

When Missouri entered the Union in 1820, Thomas Hart Benton became one of the state’s first two senators. He was the first U.S. Senator to serve for five terms (30 years). He is one of Missouri’s two statues in the National Statuary Collection in the U.S. Capitol. He is one of eight senators featured in John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage. He became a leading proponent of westward expansion in the new nation, dubbed by a journalist as “Manifest Destiny.” Seven states have a Benton County named for THB. The county seat of Arkansas’ Benton County is Bentonville, also named for Benton and the headquarters of Walmart. Over the years, Benton had favored slavery, but had gradually come to favor abolition. His opposition to the Compromise of 1850 cost him his Senate seat.

It’s anyone’s guess how Benton came to be associated with Epiphany and even how closely he was affiliated. Many biographical sources indicate he was Presbyterian. Benton had been in the Senate for 20 years by the time Epiphany was founded. His introduction to the parish may have come through a Georgetown school his daughter attended. Epiphany’s first rector and his wife both had connections there. Perhaps it was through a fellow Senator as there were several in Epiphany’s early history. The first evidence of the Benton family in Epiphany’s records is the marriage of the senator’s eldest daughter in 1847. Altogether, parish records include the marriages of two daughters, the baptisms of eight grandchildren, and finally the Washington funeral of Benton and his grandson, who died a day apart.

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April 9: Stephen Johnson Field (1899)

Stephen Johnson Field was the 38th justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and one of five appointed by President Abraham Lincoln. Field filled a newly created tenth Supreme Court seat, to achieve both regional balance (he was a Westerner) and political balance (he was a Democrat). The appointment would also give the Court someone familiar with real estate and mining issues. Field insisted on serving long enough to break John Marshall’s record of thirty-four years on the court. His colleagues asked him to resign due to his intermittent senility, but he refused, staying on until 1897. Field’s length of service was surpassed in the 1970’s by Justice William O. Douglas, who remains the longest serving justice to date.

Stephen J. Field was the sixth of nine children. Stephen’s younger brother was Cyrus Field, who became a millionaire investor and creator of the trans-Atlantic cable. After graduating from Williams College and studying law in Albany, Stephen headed west to California in the Gold Rush. A successful legal practice eventually gained him a seat on the California Supreme Court. It was from his position as Chief Justice that he was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. After serving 34 years, 266 days, Field retired and then died two years later. His funeral is recorded in Epiphany’s register. In announcing the death, A Chicago Daily front-page story states, “The services will be held at the house at 10 o’clock, and will be conducted by the Rev. Randolph McKim, D.D., rector of the Church of the Epiphany, where Judge Field held a pew.”

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April 8: Episcopal Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital (1897)

“On April 8, 1897, the doors of the Episcopal Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital were thrown open for the reception of patients of all creeds and color who might be suffering with diseases of the eye, ear, nose or throat. Since its opening no sufferer unable to pay has been turned away, but thousands have entered and have been treated and relieved or cured, and have gone away with grateful hearts to speak of this merciful charity, which has been established and is maintained by the Christian men and women of Washington.”

With these words, Epiphany’s Parish Guide announced the beginning of a new outreach for the congregation. The hospital was to be administered under Episcopal Church auspices with the Bishop of Washington as president of its Board of Directors. The Church of the Epiphany established a hospital committee, which was very successful in raising money. Epiphany parishioners gave more than one-third of the funds that kept the hospital going during its first five years. The hospital continued to operate until 1958 when it merged with Garfield and Emergency Hospitals to from the Washington Hospital Center. The chapel at that new institution came from the former Episcopal Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital.

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April 7: Mary Cogswell Kinney (1877)

Mary C. Kinney’s image on her tombstone at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Mary Cogswell Kinney was the eldest daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Cogswell, D.D. and his first wife, Elizabeth Abbot. On both sides, Mary was descended from old New England families. Her father’s ancestors settled at Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1635 and her mother’s family, the Abbots, in 1643 at Andover, where her great grandfather richly endowed the seminary, the oldest graduate school of theology in the United States. Mary was educated in New York. In 1833, Mary Cogswell married Franklin Sherwood Kinney, a prominent New York lawyer. When he died in 1871, his estate was said to be valued at $12 million.

Mary Kinney divided her time between New York City and Washington, D.C. A younger sister, Elizabeth, was married to Senator James Dixon of Connecticut. Elizabeth Dixon was a close personal friend of Mary Todd Lincoln. On the night of Lincoln’s assassination, Robert Todd Lincoln sent for Elizabeth Dixon to help care for his grief stricken mother. Elizabeth came with her sister Mary Kinney and Mary’s daughter, Constance. Elizabeth, Mary, and Constance sat with Mrs. Lincoln all through the night in the front parlor of Petersen House. After her death on April 7, 1877, Mary Kinney’s funeral was at the Church of the Epiphany. Mary’s obituary in the New York Herald stated, “She was a Christian lady, alike beautiful in mind and person and was characterized by great benevolence.”

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April 6: Jerome Henry Kidder (1889)

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Jerome Henry Kidder graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree before pursuing a medical degree from the University of Maryland. In the midst of his studies, the Civil War came up and Kidder enlisted in the 10th Maryland Volunteer Infantry. After completing his medical education, Dr. Kidder was commissioned an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Navy. Over the next eighteen years, he would work his way up to surgeon before resigning his commission. His naval service took him around the world. While stationed in the Asiatic squadron, he rendered medical aid to a distressed vessel of the Portuguese Navy, for which the King of Portugal awarded him the Military Order of Christ.

Dr. Kidder was ordered to join a scientific party sent out by the U.S. Government to observe the transit of Venus from the Kerguelen Islands, located in the southern Indian Ocean and considered to be one of the most isolated places on earth. In 1881 Dr. Kidder examined the proposed site for the new naval observatory at Washington, and his favorable opinion influenced the acceptance of the property. While on this duty, Dr. Kidder also suggested several changes in the American naval rations, based upon a study of their physiological value. Subsequent to his resignation from the navy, he was called upon to investigate the purity of the air in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Capitol, and in the lecture hall of the National Museum, in both instances securing practical results of great benefit. It was during this time in Washington that Dr. Kidder became associated with the Church of the Epiphany. His wife was confirmed and all three of his children were baptized there. After his death at age 46, Dr. Kidder’s funeral took place at Epiphany before his interment at Oak Hill Cemetery.

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April 5: Joseph K. Barnes (1883)

At a turbulent time in the nation’s history, Joseph K. Barnes served honorably as the 12th Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. His father, Judge Joseph Barnes had served for many years in the Philadelphia district court. The name Joseph had been used in his family for several generations. The middle initial “K” didn’t stand for anything, but was just something he inserted to distinguish himself from his father. His son and grandson bore the name Joseph, although both had middle names. Both of them followed in his army footsteps. In May 1862 after Barnes was ordered to report to Washington, he formed the acquaintance of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. This might have been the connection that brought Barnes to Epiphany, although the first official record of his presence doesn’t come until his son’s confirmation in 1868. Three years later, Barnes was baptized and later confirmed before joining Epiphany’s vestry.

After his death, Epiphany’s vestry memorialized Dr. Barnes with this: “For the past eleven years he has been a vestryman of this Parish, zealous at all times in promoting the welfare and the religious and charitable work of the church which he loved, and efficiently aiding by judicious counsel and cooperation all its undertakings. He was eminent, skillful, and successful in his profession as surgeon and physician, and distinguished for great administrative ability as the head of the medical department. He inaugurated the Medical History of the War; he founded the medical museum; and he brought the medical department to the highest state of efficiency. During the troublesome times of the late war, he earned the unbounded confidence of the secretary of war, Mr. Stanton, and held it unshaken to the last. His career was one of honor to himself and of great service to this country.”

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April 4: Eleazer Hutchinson Miller (1921)

A Group of Willows Etching, Eleazer Hutchison Miller National Gallery of Art

A native of Shepherdstown, VA (now WV), Eleazer H. Miller was the sixth of ten children. At the age of five, he manifested a talent for drawing, which his family encouraged. By the age of fifteen, he was painting portraits. At the age of seventeen, he left Shepherdstown for Washington, D.C. to study for an artistic career. Miller became a pupil of the Academy of Drawing and Painting kept by a Mr. Gibson, the only school of drawing in Washington at the time. Early on, Miller adopted portrait painting as a specialty. In the nation’s capital, he found many notable patrons among the public men of the nation. Miller became a skillful illustrator of books and also took up the difficult art of etching during a time of its revival.

In 1859, Eleazer Miller married Mary Farnham, whose family had been associated with Epiphany since its early days. Mary was baptized there as a child. Following their marriage, all six of the Miller children were baptized at Epiphany. The sponsor at the 1866 baptism of their fourth child, Arthur Peale Miller, was Titian Peale, a fellow artist and friend of Miller’s. Today, Miller’s works are housed in many fine museums, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Eleazer Hutchinson Miller’s obituary at the age of 90 hailed him as “the first artist of national reputation to establish his home and studio in Washington.”

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April 3: Anna Lizzie Giesy (1889)

When the Rev. Samuel Giesy became Epiphany’s sixth rector in 1885, he moved into the rectory with Sarah, his wife, and Anna, his single adult daughter. Anna quickly threw herself into many areas of church work. She became a teacher in the Morning Sunday School. She took a great interest in the Men’s Meeting of the Epiphany Mission in southwest Washington, at one point helping them to procure a piano. Outside organizations with which she became involved were the Guild of the Guiding Star and the Children’s Country Home, the latter being located in NE Washington and serving terminally ill children. In the midst of all this goodly work, Anna’s father died unexpectedly of pneumonia.

Tragically, only about a year later, Anna died of pneumonia. A memorial stained glass window which had been in the works to remember her father would now become a memorial to her as well. Her former Sunday school students contributed. The Giesy Memorial Window is on the east side of the church near the transept and depicts the Sermon on the Mount. The window was dedicated on Easter Sunday 1890. Anna’s funeral at Epiphany was the first to be done by her father’s successor, Randolph McKim. In the Parish Guide, Anna Geisy was remembered as “a faithful and devoted member, one who never ceased to labor for the good of others, and who ever maintained the cheerfulness and courage of a true Christian, even in the midst of sorrow and ill health.”

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April 2: William Barberie Howell (1927)

Today, a modern glass office building in lower Manhattan houses the U.S. Court of International Trade. This court has its origins in 1890 legislation passed by Congress establishing the Board of General Appraisers. The board had nine members appointed by the president and was empowered to review decisions of U.S. Customs officials regarding the amount of duties to be paid on importations. William Barberie Howell was appointed to this board in 1899 by President William McKinley. Howell continued to serve on the board and its successor, the U.S. Customs Court, until he became the Chief Judge in 1926.

Judge Howell was a native of Freehold, New Jersey. His grandfather had been mayor of Trenton and his father was the cashier of a bank. As a young man, Howell went to Washington, D.C. to take business courses. During his employment at the Treasury Department, he attended the Columbian Law School (now George Washington University Law School) and graduated before being admitted to the bar. During his time at Treasury, Howell worked with matters relating to customs. This thoroughly equipped him to become Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of customs. Howell became associated with Epiphany soon after his arrival in Washington. His confirmation, marriage and the baptisms of his two sons appear in Epiphany’s parish register.

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April 1: “America Summoned to a Holy War” (1917)

At the evening service on April 1, 1917 (Palm Sunday), Epiphany’s rector, Randolph McKim, preached a sermon entitled, “America Summoned to a Holy War.” The timing was no accident. The following day, President Wilson was to address a joint session of Congress asking for a declaration of war against Germany, as America’s entrance into World War I. The war had been going on in Europe for several years. Dr. McKim’s “God and Country” outlook had been firmly engrained since his time as a military chaplain during the Civil War. He had been calling awareness to the growing world crisis and America’s need to respond with a series of sermons since 1915. An address in 1916 on the anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania was delivered at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

On April 6, Congress responded to Wilson’s message with a declaration of war. One only need view Epiphany’s World War I plaque (pictured here) at the rear of the church to see the parish’s commitment to the war effort. The list of 150 parishioners includes Marine Commandant John A. Lejeune and General John J. Pershing, Commander in Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces. During the war, Dr. McKim delivered a sermon appealing for support of the Third Liberty Loan. The war finally ended on November 11, 1918. A service of thanksgiving was held at Epiphany four days later.

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