Celebrating 175

March 10: Mordecai Thomas Endicott (1926)

Shortly before the Spanish-American War, President McKinley broke precedent and appointed Mordecai Endicott as Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, a post which had previously been held by an officer of the Line. Known as the “Father of the Civil Engineering Corps,” Rear Admiral Endicott presided over the transformation of the U.S. Navy’s shore establishment from one designed to support a small wooden-hulled navy into that capable of supporting the modern steel navy of the 20th century. In 1895, President Cleveland named Endicott to the Nicaragua Canal Commission, whose report led Congress to abandon the Nicaragua Canal project in favor of the Panama Canal. Endicott retired in 1909, but then returned to work at age 71 to serve during World War I as president of the Naval Examining Boards and Special Boards of Investigation.

Endicott’s naval service brought him to Washington in 1890. Shortly thereafter, he became associated with the Church of the Epiphany. He was elected to the vestry in 1910, and later served as junior warden from 1921 to 1924, relinquishing the position to Marine Commandant John Lejeune. Endicott served on the building committee of Epiphany’s parish house. His name appears on the plaque at the rear of the church commemorating those who served in the Great War. Admiral Endicott’s funeral took place from Epiphany, after which he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

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March 12: Titian Ramsay Peale (1885)

Anyone who has visited a museum featuring paintings of leading American Revolution figures will recognize the name of artist Charles Willson Peale. Peale is also responsible for starting one of the first museums in the United States. Peale made art a family business and named many of his children after famous European masters, i.e. Raphaelle, Rembrandt. His 16th child, Titian, was named for the 16th Century Venetian painter. Titian Peale inherited his father’s artistic, as well as scientific inclinations. He became quite adept at preserving and illustrating natural historical specimens. One of the crowning achievements of his early career as a naturalist was participating in the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-42, which explored and surveyed the Pacific Ocean and surrounding lands.

Like many “starving artists,” Peale had difficulty supporting his family with his work. In 1849, he took a job with the U.S. Patent Office in Washington as an assistant examiner. He remained in this post until his retirement in 1873, while continuing painting and a new-found interest in photography on the side. The first time that Peale shows up in Epiphany’s records is when his wife, Lucy, served as a sponsor at the baptism of one of rector Charles Hall’s children in 1858. Titian Peale was confirmed at Epiphany in 1864 and on several occasions he served as a baptismal sponsor, including that of Arthur Peale Miller, obviously a namesake.

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March 9: Ellen Salome Hutton Ingle (1912)

In July 1846, two years after Epiphany Church was opened for worship, the first organ was installed in the rear choir gallery. It was purchased from Henry Erben of New York City for $800. Within a year, Ellen S. Hutton offered her services as organist at no charge. For the next decade the church’s only musical expense was $30 per year for boys to pump the organ bellows. Ellen’s family appears to have already been connected with Epiphany. She and two of her siblings were confirmed there in the church’s initial years. Ellen married Christopher Ingle at Epiphany in 1862 and all three of their children were baptized there. Also recorded is the funeral of their youngest child, six-month old Alfred.

With the 1857 renovation of the church and the installation of a new organ, Ellen Ingle retired from the organist position. On October 20, 1857, Epiphany’s vestry recognized their affectionate esteem for her with the gift of a prayer book and Bible and the accompanying certificate, which reads in part, “… a testimonial of grateful remembrance of her kind, efficient and continued services for many years as organist …”

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March 8: Aaron Venable Brown (1859)

Aaron V. Brown was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, one of eleven children of the Rev. Aaron Brown, a Methodist minister and his second wife, Elizabeth Melton. Brown attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated in 1814, the valedictorian of his class. After moving to Tennessee with his family, he studied law with a distinguished jurist in Nashville. He was admitted to the bar in 1816 and became a law partner with future president James K. Polk. Over the next two decades Brown would serve in both houses of the Tennessee legislature. In 1839, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served three terms. He supported the annexation of Texas in 1843.

Although Brown initially planned to return to private life after his third term in Congress, he begrudgingly accepted the Democratic nomination for Governor of Tennessee. He won by a razor thin margin. During his time as governor, Brown’s call for 2800 volunteer soldiers for the Mexican-American War yielded 30,000 responses, solidifying Tennessee’s reputation as the “Volunteer State.” Brown attended the 1856 Democratic National Convention where he was considered a possible vice presidential nominee. The following year, newly elected president James Buchanan appointed Brown to be Postmaster General. Three of the seven members of Buchanan’s cabinet were connected to Epiphany. Brown died while in office on March 8, 1859. His funeral was at Epiphany with his interment several days later in Nashville.

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March 7: Grace Gillette Okie Lowry (1950)

Grace Gillette Okie was the youngest child of William and Susan Okie. Grace’s father was an Army surgeon during the Civil War and her mother was a respected New York City newspaper columnist who wrote about horticulture and gardening. Grace was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, outside of New York City. A childhood illness caused her to lose her hearing. The family relocated to Washington where two-year old Grace was baptized at the Church of the Epiphany. Grace became a student of Alexander Graham Bell, who had been involved in research into hearing and speech as both his mother and wife were deaf. Grace also studied at the Columbia Institution of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, today’s Gallaudet University.

In 1913, Grace married Englishman Henry Newton Lowry, a talented photographer, world traveler and writer, who was also deaf from a childhood bout with scarlet fever.  Lowry became a naturalized U.S. citizen and the couple shared a sense of adventure and a love of both of their countries. They had one child, Robert Newton Lowry. In 1921, the family went on a 5000-mile cross-country trip on America’s new trans-continental highway system. After her husband’s death, Grace and her son drove from Washington, D.C. to Chicago for the 1933 World’s Fair. Son Robert became a successful lawyer and was involved in many outreach ministries of his Episcopal parish and diocese, carrying on the compassionate, intellectually curious and generous values of his family.

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March 6: First Episcopal Visit to the New Congregation (1842)

The Rt. Rev. William Rollinson Whittingham was just 36 years old when he visited the new Epiphany congregation in March of 1842. Whittingham had been consecrated a year and a half earlier and was the youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church. As Bishop of Maryland, Whittingham’s diocese included the entire state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Headquartered in Baltimore, it only made sense that when he traveled to Washington, he visit as many of his parishes as possible. On March 6, 1842, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, the bishop preached at Christ Church, Washington Parish in the morning, Epiphany in the afternoon, and Trinity in the evening. The service at Trinity included the confirmation of 54 individuals – 47 from Trinity, two from St. John’s, and five from Epiphany.

In the May 1842 Journal of the Annual Convention of the Diocese of Maryland, Bishop Whittingham records his first visit to Epiphany like this: “In the afternoon of the same day, I preached to a very large congregation, in an upper room, known as the Apollo Hall, in Washington. The Rev. Mr. French, as a city missionary, is gathering a congregation, which is likely soon to grow into a fourth church, in that city. He is laboring in that good work zealously, painfully, and thus far most successfully.”

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March 5: Henry Bliss Noble (1902)

Robert Tanner Freeman First Professionally Trained African- American Dentist in the United States

Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is headquartered in the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, named for HUD’s first secretary and also the first African-American named to a cabinet position. Weaver was the grandson of Robert Tanner Freeman (depicted here), the first professionally trained African-American dentist in the U.S. Freeman was born in Washington, D.C. in 1846, a child of slaves. Early in his life, Freeman became friends with Henry Bliss Noble, a local dentist, and worked as an apprentice under him. Dr. Noble encouraged Freeman to pursue a dental career. After Freeman was rejected at two dental schools because of his race, Dr. Noble used his influence to get him admitted to the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Freeman graduated in 1869, becoming the first African-American to earn a dental degree.

Henry Bliss Noble married Henrietta Clitch at Epiphany in September 1864. Two months later, the Nobles were both confirmed there in a class of 85 confirmands, including four African-Americans. Over the next several decades, the Nobles saw their children baptized, confirmed, and married at Epiphany. Finally, after Dr. Noble’s death on March 5, 1902, his funeral took place in the church where he had been married 38 years earlier. A dental journal of the day memorialized him with these words: “He was very loyal to his friends, faithful in his devotion to his church, and benevolent and kindly, his attitude was one of malice toward none and charity for all.”

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March 4: Adelaide Elizabeth Thompson Spurgeon (1907)

Just before the Civil War commenced, New York native Adelaide E. Thompson (later Spurgeon) heeded the call of New York Times co-founder Henry Raymond, who was organizing a band of ladies to travel to Washington in the capacity of nurses. As Adelaide took up her duties at a smallpox hospital in Washington on May 16, 1861, she became the first nurse in the District of Columbia. Over the next several months, Adelaide worked in deplorable conditions, serving as a nurse and a cook. When she couldn’t obtain sufficient supplies, she traveled back to New York City and with donations from friends, returned with trunks filled with food and clothes. Adelaide contracted blood poisoning from which she never fully recovered and had to resign. Her wartime service would later earn her a U.S. government pension of $12 a month.

During the war, Adelaide married Thaddeus Spurgeon, a member of a New York Cavalry unit. A daughter, Ella, was born in 1863. Fourteen years later, Ella was baptized at Epiphany by rector William Paret, who had come to the church a year earlier with the promise of increased ministry with the poor. Evidently this missionary outreach appealed to Adelaide Spurgeon. In 1878, she and her daughter were confirmed at Epiphany. From 1881-85, Adelaide served as the sponsor at close to 150 baptisms, mostly African-American infants at Freedman’s Hospital. After her death on March 4, 1907, Adelaide Spurgeon’s funeral took place at Epiphany, followed by her burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

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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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