Celebrating 175

March 16: William Holland Wilmer (1936)

His grandfather was a prominent Episcopal priest and a founder of Virginia Theological Seminary. His father was the second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. William Holland Wilmer chose a different course for his life’s work and after graduation from the University of Virginia Medical School, devoted his career to treating diseases of the eye. He practiced ophthalmology in Washington until 1925 when he went to Baltimore to establish the Wilmer Institute of Ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University. He later returned to Washington as a professor at Georgetown University, where he served for the next 28 years. During this time he was also a surgeon at the Episcopal Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, an institution Epiphany played a part in founding and supporting.

Wilmer married Re Lewis Smith and the couple was married at her church in Philadelphia. After moving to Washington, they became associated with Epiphany. All of their children were baptized there by his father, Bishop Wilmer. During World War I, Dr. Wilmer served in the U.S. Air Service and was a pioneer in the establishment of visual requirements and ocular conditions for aviators. Wilmer’s name appears on the World War I plaque at the rear of the nave at Epiphany. Throughout his life, Dr. Wilmer served faithfully as a trustee of the National Cathedral Foundation. After his death, he was interred in the Cathedral Crypt. The plaque nearby reads: “A physician of surpassing skill, a great surgeon and investigator, who with humbleness of mind and unbounded sympathy, brought sight to the blind, and dedicated his life to the welfare of the suffering and to the glory of God.”

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March 15: Kangiduta (Scarlet Crow) (1867)

Scattered among the 55,000 graves at Congressional Cemetery in Southeast Washington are the final resting places of 36 Native American leaders, diplomats, and tribal members. Many of them ended up there after falling ill during visits to Washington, D.C. to fight for rights, negotiate treaties or settle debts owed to them. One of those cemetery residents died under mysterious circumstances. Kangiduta, or Scarlet Crow, a chief of the Wahpeton Sisseton Sioux Tribe of the Dakota Territory, had come to Washington in 1867 to renegotiate a treaty with the U.S. Government. There was much tension between native nations and the federal government in the 19th Century. Before his work here was done, tragedy struck. Scarlet Crow was reported missing on February 24.

Scarlet Crow’s fellow tribesmen were immediately concerned and requested an official search. An ad was placed in the lost and found section of a local newspaper offering a $100 reward for information. Two weeks after his disappearance, Scarlet Crow’s remains were found in the woods near the Aqueduct Bridge (today’s Key Bridge) in Arlington. His death was made to look like a suicide, but there were many facts to disprove that theory. The cause remains unsolved to this day. Scarlet Crow’s remains were buried in Congressional Cemetery and in 1916, 49 years after his death, the federal government finally placed a marker on his grave. Epiphany’s parish register records the burial of “Scarlet Crow, Counsellor of the Sisseton Sioux.”

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March 14: Ammi Burnham Young (1874)

In April 1857, Epiphany’s vestry asked local architect Ammi Burnham Young, to prepare plans for a renovation and enlargement of the church. At this point, the building was still as originally built – a plain rectangular structure with a low-gabled roof. In addition to a church renovation, the plan Young submitted envisioned developing the church’s property to include a school building and rectory. The only part of Young’s plan that the vestry approved was the renovation of the church, which included the addition of a new front tower, transepts and shallow chancel. This first expansion of the church took place during the summer and fall of 1857 and was completed at a total cost of $18,500.

Young, a New Hampshire native, learned his trade by studying pattern books and apprenticing with existing architectural firms. His early work with churches, Dartmouth College buildings led to him being chosen to design the Vermont state house, his first monumental work. In 1850, Young entered the competition to design enlargements to the U.S. Capitol. Although a leading contender, his loss was compensated with an appointment as the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury. In this role, Young produced designs and specifications for federal buildings across the nation. In addition to Young’s professional relationship with Epiphany, he also made it his church home. The funerals for two of his wives plus his own took place in the renovated church he designed.

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March 13: Mary Hewitt Doubleday (1907)

Mary Hewitt’s father was a Baltimore attorney. Her mother died when she was just eight months old. Mary was handed off to a succession of relatives and friends. While living in Washington, she met Lt. Abner Doubleday. He would later write that he was “fascinated by the bright eyes of a Washington belle.” On January 28, 1852 Abner Doubleday and Mary Hewitt were married at the Church of the Epiphany. As was the custom with some military wives in those days, she followed her husband from post to post, even on his most dangerous deployments. Though she had been called a belle, she quickly became a “lady of the Army.” She was at her husband’s side when Apaches attacked in Texas, when he fought against the Seminoles in the Everglades, and when their steamship nearly sank in shark-infested waters off the Florida coast.

Mary accompanied her husband to what seemed to be a safe assignment when he was sent to Ft. Moultrie in Charleston harbor in 1858. Things took a turn for the worse and the defense of the fort was inadequate. The War Department refused to send reinforcements. For a time, Mary Doubleday stood watch on the ramparts to relieve the weary soldiers. Capt. Abner Doubleday became second in command in the garrison at Fort Sumter. He aimed the cannon that fired the first return shot in answer to the Confederate bombardment that started the Civil War. Mary Doubleday was back in Epiphany in 1864 as the baptismal sponsor for George Norris Sykes, the son of one of her husband’s West Point classmates.

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March 11: William Dickson Baldwin (1915)

For 64 years, William D. Baldwin was an active and devoted member of Epiphany Parish. Upon his relocation to Washington at age 17, he immediately became associated with the church, where his cousin, the Rev. John W. French, was serving as rector. Within a decade, Baldwin was acting as secretary at annual meetings. In 1872, he was unanimously elected Junior Warden, serving for 34 years until he became Senior Warden, a position he held for the last nine years of his life. He was for many years the superintendent of the Sunday school, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Epiphany Church Home, and President of the Board of Trustees of the Lenthall Home. For nearly fifty consecutive years he represented the parish as one its lay delegates at diocesan conventions.

Professionally, William Baldwin was a patent attorney as evidenced by the accompanying advertisement for his law firm. Mr. Baldwin was one of the charter members of the Washington Patent Law Association, serving as its president for a time. Mr. Baldwin was connected with the litigation over the Bell telephone inventions and was after its termination, counsel for many other prominent inventors, such as Lord Kelvin, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Marconi, whose first patent in wireless telegraphy, he secured. Upon his death, Epiphany’s vestry resolved, “Mr. Baldwin’s whole life as citizen, lawyer, and churchman has exemplified in a remarkable degree the best type of the Christian gentleman, and has been an inspiration to his associates in and out of the church.”

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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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