Celebrating 175

December 21: Robert Stead (1943)

Robert Stead was an architect, primarily in Washington, D.C. He was born in New York City in 1856, the son of Edward and Matilda Stead. His father was a captain in the 2nd New York regiment during the Civil War. Robert received his education in the public schools of New York City and the College of the City of New York, where he graduated in 1871. After leaving college, he entered the office of William Appleton Potter, to study architecture, remaining there until he accepted a position as draughtsman in the supervising architect’s office of the Treasury Department in Washington. Stead began his own practice in 1884, and was architect for the Metzerott Building, Lovejoy School, Bowen School, and Mt. Vernon Seminary. Most significantly for Epiphany, Stead was architect for the Epiphany Chapel and Mission House in southwest Washington. Stead was instrumental in securing the historic and architecturally significant Octagon House in Washington for the American Institute of Architects, which is used as that organization’s headquarters today.

Robert Stead and Mary Force were married at Epiphany on April 10, 1882. In the previous month, Robert had been baptized (March 7) and confirmed (April 2). The sponsor at his baptism was his future wife. Mary’s family had been Epiphany parishioners since at least the 1850s. She and her two sisters were baptized at the church on May 24, 1858. Robert and Mary had five children, all of which were baptized at Epiphany. Mary died in 1895 and was buried from the church. The couple’s oldest child, William, was married at Epiphany in 1911. Two of Stead’s sons fought in World War I and are listed on the memorial plaque in the vestibule of the church. About a decade after Mary’s death, Robert Stead married Cynthia Force, Mary’s sister. Cynthia Force Stead was very involved in several of Epiphany’s outreach organizations, serving on the boards of the Epiphany Church Home and the Episcopal Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital.

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December 20: Roberdeau Buchanan (1916)

Roberdeau Buchanan was a mathematical astronomer. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania November 22, 1839, the son of U.S. Navy Pay Director McKean and Selina (Roberdeau) Buchanan. He was educated in the public schools of Charlestown in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor of science in the class of 1861. Buchanan engaged in practice as a civil engineer. Buchanan became connected with the Nautical Almanac in 1879 and became mathematical astronomer in the Nautical Almanac Office, at the U.S. Naval Observatory. The nautical almanac is a publication describing the positions of a selection of celestial bodies for the purpose of enabling navigators to use celestial navigation to determine the position of their ship while at sea. In the United States, a nautical almanac has been published annually by the U.S. Naval Observatory since 1852.

Buchanan was the author of various technical and biographical works, including, The Mathematical Theory of Eclipses, a book very helpful to astronomers even today; Treatise on the Projection of the Sphere; and An Introduction to the Differential Calculus by Means of Finite Differences. Buchanan also wrote genealogies of the Roberdeau, Shippen and McKean families as well as a book of poetry entitled, Occasional Verses Written During Leisure Hours. The funerals of his mother, Frances Selina Buchanan (1893), Roberdeau Buchanan (1916) and his wife, Eliza Buchanan (1919), all took place at the Church of the Epiphany prior to their interment in the family plot at Oak Hill Cemetery.

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December 19: Paul Alfred Shinkman (1975) and Elizabeth Benn Shinkman (1999)

Paul and Elizabeth (Betty) Shinkman’s move to Washington, D.C. in 1942 and their decision to affiliate with the Church of the Epiphany shortly thereafter is a legacy that lives on today, 75 years later. Paul was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After graduation from the University of Michigan, he began his career as a reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau. Between 1924 and 1929, he worked in Paris and London for the Chicago Tribune. Returning to New York in 1929, he became an editor for King Features Syndicate and made regular visits to Europe as a roving correspondent for International News Service. In the summer of 1935, he married Elizabeth, elder daughter of Sir Ernest and Lady Benn, in England. War work called Paul to Washington in 1942, when he became chief of the German section of the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service of the Federal Communications Commission. Later, he completed two missions to Berlin for the State Department and served as press officer at the American Embassy in Vienna, Austria. Upon his return to the States, he broadcast regular radio news commentaries, interspersed with national lecture tours.

Betty Shinkman was born in London and graduated from Roedean College. When she arrived in Washington during the war years, gasoline rationing was in effect. Many suburban families could not drive to public libraries, so Betty organized a large neighborhood collection of books to be shared. She was an avid horticulturist and author. She edited a collection of her husband’s article under the title, So Little Disillusion and published her own memoirs, The Most Estimable Place and Time. As a testament to their love of music, Epiphany’s Steinway concert grand piano and bench were given as memorials to Paul and Betty Shinkman, respectively. In addition, one of the six dormer windows in the nave of the church was given in memory of Paul Shinkman by his wife in 1979. After their deaths (Paul – December 19, 1975; Betty – September 20, 1999), their funerals were at Epiphany prior to their interment in the diplomatic section of Rock Creek Cemetery.

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December 18: Kinsey Macleod Simonton (1994)

Dr. Kinsey M. Simonton was a longtime member of the staff of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Simonton was the head of the section of otolaryngology and rhinology (study of diseases and disorders affecting the nasal cavity and sinuses) and a professor of otolaryngology in Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. Born Feb. 21, 1908, in Wamego, Kansas, he went to public schools in Wendell, Idaho, attended the University of Oregon for two years, and then transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he received his bachelor of science and doctor of medicine degrees. He interned at Gallinger Municipal Hospital (now D.C. General) and received his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota. On March 30, 1937, during his time in Washington, Simonton and Anita Brunet Dunlap were married at the Church of the Epiphany by rector ZeBarney Phillips.

In July 1934, Simonton came to Rochester as a fellow in otolaryngology and rhinology, was appointed to the staff in October 1937, and became an instructor in otolaryngology in the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in 1939. He was advanced to assistant professor in 1943, to associate professor in 1947 and to professor in 1961. During World War II he was an officer in the Army Medical Corps and served in a number of places, including the 237th Station Hospital at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, Stark General Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, Rhoads General Hospital in Utica, New York, and in New Guinea and the Philippines. He achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel and was discharged in June 1946. Dr. Simonton became head of the section of otolaryngology and rhinology at Mayo Clinic in October 1958, a post he held until January 1965 when he became a senior consultant. After his retirement from the clinic, Simonton went into practice in Atlanta and was chief of staff of the Atlanta Hospital.

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December 17: Louisa Harrison Coffin (1871)

In the parish register entry that records the 1871 death and burial of Louisa Harrison Coffin are these words – “Mrs. Coffin gave this church its lots of ground on G Street on which the sacred edifice stands.” Almost thirty years after the gift was given, its significance was still being realized. Few other things contributed as much to the founding of Epiphany Parish as this act of generosity. With money in short supply following the financial panic of 1837, Epiphany’s founders were scrambling to find land they could afford. Out of the blue it seems, Miss Louisa Harrison stepped in and offered two city lots she owned with the provision that an Episcopal church be built upon them. The vestry wasted no time in accepting the gift and thanked Miss Harrison for “her truly Christian and munificent donation.” In 1842, Louisa Harrison was single and 27 years old. She was born in Prince George’s County, Maryland to William Dent and Mary Hutcheson Harrison. Little else is known of her early life and specifically how she came to own the G Street lots.

From the time of her gift onward, Louisa appears to have had a close connection with Epiphany. On April 10, 1845, her marriage to John Huntington Crane Coffin was the first wedding in the new church. In 1858, Louisa Coffin donated the baptismal font, which is still in use today. Most of the couple’s six children were baptized and confirmed at Epiphany. Louisa’s oldest daughter and namesake married Richard S. Chew in the church in 1870. Three months before her death, Louisa saw her granddaughter, Louisa Harrison Chew, baptized in the church. Following her death on December 17, 1871, the funeral of Louisa Harrison Coffin was held at Epiphany prior to her interment at Oak Hill Cemetery. Louisa’s youngest daughter, Helen, was the last known member of the family to be associated with Epiphany. Helen’s burial in 1937 was just five years shy of the 100th anniversary of the gift her mother made to the fledgling congregation in 1842.

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December 16: John Grubb Parke (1900)

John Grubb Parke was a U.S. Army engineer and a Union general in the Civil War. He was born in Pennsylvania on September 22, 1827. At the age of eight, he moved to Philadelphia with his family. Parke graduated second in his class at West Point in 1849 following which, he received a commission in the Topographical Engineers. Parke became the chief surveyor on many projects west of the Mississippi, including a survey of the boundary between the United States and Canada. With the start of the Civil War, Parke returned east to take the position of brigadier general of volunteers. Parke was assigned to the command of General Ambrose Burnside. In the spring of 1862, Parke was promoted to major general of volunteers and appointed as Burnside’s chief of staff. During this time he served at the battles of South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.

When Burnside was appointed commander of the Department of Ohio in March of 1863, Parke was transferred with him, and assumed the command of the IX Corps in the department. Parke continued to command the IX Corps until the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. In 1866, Parke returned to the Corps of Engineers, eventually achieving the rank of colonel. In 1887 Parke became the superintendent at West Point, retiring from that position, and the U.S. Army, in 1889. Parke was connected with Epiphany off and on for the last 30 years of his life. He was married at the church shortly after the Civil War. His only daughter was married at the church in 1897. Following his military retirement, Parke took part in the events of the larger church. He was present at the meeting in 1891 that decided to build Washington Cathedral. In 1895, he was one of three representatives of the Diocese of Washington to travel to New York City and notify Henry Yates Satterlee of his election to the episcopacy. Parke’s funeral in 1900 and that of his of his wife three years later were held at Epiphany.

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December 15: David Higgins (1873)

David Higgins was a politician, lawyer and judge. He was Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives. Higgins was the eldest son of the Rev. David and Eunice (Gelbert) Higgins. He was born in Lynn, Connecticut, August 2, 1789. His father moved the family to Aranelius (now Auburn), New York in 1801. During their residence there, the younger David, studied for two years at Yale College. In 1812 his father was called to the Presbyterian Church at Bath, New York. Before this, David went to Cambridge, Maryland, as tutor in a private family. While there he made the acquaintance of and married Miss Cecilia Davis, of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now WV). They soon removed to Angelica, New York, where he practiced law for a few years. Their eldest son, Robert, was born there. Before 1816 they moved to Hamilton, Ohio, performing the journey on horseback with Mrs. Higgins carrying the infant son most of the time.

While living in southern Ohio, Higgins represented Butler County in the state legislature and was elected Speaker of the House. In 1828 the family moved to Norwalk, Ohio, where Higgins practiced law for many years, until his election by the state legislature as president judge of the Third Judicial Circuit of Ohio. During his residence in Norwalk, an accident shattered one of his feet to the degree that amputation was necessary between the knee and ankle. Afterwards he used an artificial limb. With the presidency of James K. Polk, Higgins went to Washington, D.C., having received an appointment to a clerkship in the Treasury Department. Higgins and his family soon became associated with Epiphany. Higgins served on the vestry and was senior warden during the time of the Civil War. Higgins first wife died in 1846 and was buried from Epiphany. Within a year, Higgins married Letitia King. There are 18 entries in the parish register listing baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials of Higgins family members over a 30-year period. After his death on December 15, 1873, Higgins’ funeral took place at the church. The vestry memorialized his “long, zealous, and faithful attention” to his duties as senior warden.

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December 14: Charles Washington Goldsborough (1843)

At the time of his death, Charles W. Goldsborough was Chief of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing of the Navy Department. He had served as a government employee for nearly half a century. He was employed as a clerk in the Navy Department at its initial organization in 1798, when the seat of government was at Philadelphia. Goldsborough removed to Washington, D.C. with the government in 1800. For the first ten years there, Goldsborough served as chief clerk of the department under Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith. When the Board of Navy Commissioners was instituted in 1815, Goldsborough was appointed clerk in that office, a position he retained until 1834 when he was appointed Secretary of the Board. In 1842, when the Navy Department was reorganized into five separate bureaus, Goldsborough was placed at the head of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing.

Goldsborough was a native of Maryland, highly educated and according to his obituary in The National Intelligencer, “possessed in an eminent degree the finer qualities of the heart.” In his later years, Goldsborough served as president of the Provident Association of Clerks in the Executive Departments of the General Government within the District of Columbia. Upon Goldsborough’s death, that body formally resolved “an expression of their deep and heartfelt regret at the loss of one with whom they had long been associated, and for whom, whilst living, it was their pride to give repeated evidences of their highest respect and esteem.” Following his death on December 14, 1843, the funeral of Charles W. Goldsborough was recorded in Epiphany’s register. The service was held at his home as the church had not yet been built. Goldsborough’s youngest son, Hugh, was married in Epiphany Church twenty years later. Hugh and his wife are listed in parish records as communicants.

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December 13: Margaret Ritchie Stone (1903)

The accompanying picture shows a pass written by President Lincoln on the morning of his assassination for Margaret Ritchie Stone (“Mrs. Dr. Stone”), wife of Lincoln family physician Dr. Robert King Stone, for a visit she and her sister were making to Richmond to visit a friend.

Following Margaret Stone’s death on December 13, 1903, the following tribute to this longtime Epiphany parishioner appeared in the Parish Guide newsletter.

This greatly esteemed and much beloved lady has been taken from us – called up higher to a happier life and a holier service. She was with us on Sunday, December 11th, a devout worshipper in the services of the Church; she was with her household on Monday, busy about her domestic duties all day; and then on Tuesday morning “she was not” for “God took her.” Without a day of illness, without a pang, in a moment she passed through the gate of death into the Paradise of God. It was not death; it was a translation. “Jesus Christ hath abolished death.”

     We need not speak here of her bright and beautiful life – how she rejoiced in its happiness, how she patiently bore its sorrows and its losses, how she bravely did her duty and fulfilled her trust – always gentle and charitable, full of cheer and sympathy, vivacious and witty, yet deeply devout in spirit. She was an example of charitable forbearance under great provocation in some of the experiences of life. She never spoke ill of any, nor could she think evil even of those who did her wrong.

     What she was and how she lived in this community is too well known to need telling, nor could we tell it as well as it is known. She has carried sunshine with her in all companies since she came a young woman to Washington with her distinguished father, Mr. Thomas Ritchie, President Polk’s close personal friend, in 1846. Her unfailing bon hommie has made her an eagerly welcomed guest all these years in the halls of fashion and in the home of plain and poor folk. It never failed her, even in her 83rd year.

     The Church of the Epiphany has sustained a great loss in her translation to a higher sphere. For about eight and forty years (with a brief intermission) she has been a member of this parish, warmly and actively interested in its welfare and its work. We shall miss her sorely, but her memory will always be with us, bright as warm sunshine, fragrant as flowers of spring.

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December 12: Mary Ellen L’Hommedieu Tank (2006)

Mary Ellen “Marelyn” Tank was active in the Democratic Party for over 30 years. She served as president of Woman’s National Democratic Club from 1985 to 1987. Mrs. Tank was born in Madison, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. She married Martin Tank, who during World War II was an Army cryptographer based in Washington. Mrs. Tank worked in the prisoner of war division of the National Red Cross and taught foreign languages in local middle and senior high schools. When her husband became a Foreign Service officer after World War II, Mrs. Tank joined him overseas. Based in Paris from 1948 to 1956, she and other embassy wives took lessons at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, launching one of them (Julia Child) on a new career. Mrs. Tank taught grass-roots democracy at the American Quaker Center in Germany, chaired the embassy speaker’s bureau in London, encouraged education for girls in Libya, edited a magazine for the U.S. community and worked with a school for the blind in Bangkok, and co-chaired the embassy refugee program in Saigon.

Mrs. Tank held a number of leadership roles in the Democratic Club. She was program co-ordinator for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, and frequently acted as a mentor for younger women. In the 1960s, she worked for the Democratic National Committee and on the staff of Rep. James Roosevelt (D-CA). She also served as a board member, annual concert chairwoman and vice president of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area. Along with close friend and fellow Epiphany parishioner Marcelle Clark, Marelyn Tank was a strong voice for women at the church. Mrs. Tank served on Epiphany’s vestry. Following her passing on December 12, 2006, a memorial eucharist for Marelyn Tank was held at the church. Memorial contributions were designated for the Womans’ National Democratic Club Educational Foundation.

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