Celebrating 175

February 24: Ellen Minott Sherman (1901)

The family of Ellen Minott Sherman obviously valued education. Her father’s ancestry included a long line of ministers and lawyers, including founding father Roger Sherman. Her father, Henry Sherman, was a Yale graduate and a noted lawyer, judge, and author. Her maternal grandfather was publisher of the New York Evening Post. The Post was founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton and was a respected broadside of the 19th Century prior to its present day tabloid format.

When Ellen was 11 years old, her father took a job with the Treasury Department and moved the family to Washington. In 1867, Ellen was enrolled at Vassar College in Poughkeepisie, NY. Vassar had been founded six years earlier and was the first degree-granting institution of higher education for women in the United States. With Ellen’s college graduation also came her confirmation at Epiphany. Ellen’s parents are both listed as Epiphany communicants at the time. It comes as no surprise that Ellen would want to spend her life enabling the education of others. As can be seen in the accompanying advertisement in the Atlantic Monthly, Ellen operated “Miss Ellen Minott Sherman’s Boarding and Day School for Girls.” Ellen Sherman passed away February 23, 1901, age 50 and was buried from Epiphany.

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February 23: The Costin Family

To celebrate Black History Month, this entry deviates from the regular format today and highlights a family instead of an individual. The Costins were an African-American family that had connections to the District, to the family of George Washington, and to the Church of the Epiphany. The patriarch, William “Billy” Costin (depicted here), was born around 1780, maybe at George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon. His mother was a slave and Martha Custis Washington’s half sister, having been the child of Martha’s father and an unnamed slave. Costin’s father was perhaps Martha’s son from her first marriage. Costin married Philadelphia “Delphy” Judge, a freed slave of the Custis family. Costin moved to Washington City about 1800 and built a house on A Street South, where the couple raised seven children.

Costin worked as a porter for many years at the Bank of Washington. Around 1818, Costin helped start a school for African-American children, which Louisa, one of his daughters, eventually led. Costin helped found an African-American Methodist Church, co-founded an African-American Masonic Temple and in 1825 helped found the Columbian-Harmony Society, which provided burial benefits and a cemetery for African-Americans. William Costin died in 1842, the year Epiphany was organized. Seven years later, one of his daughters, Harriet Parke Costin, married Richard Henry Fisk at the Church of the Epiphany. The couple is marked as “colored” in the parish register. For many years, Harriet Costin Fisk was in charge of the Senate Ladies Reception Room at the U.S. Capitol.

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February 22: George Washington’s Birthday Commemorative Services (1932)

For many years in the early 20th Century, a commemorative service honoring George Washington’s Birthday was held at Epiphany on the Sunday closest to February 22, the actual birth date. The sponsoring group was the Sons of the Revolution, a hereditary fraternal organization founded in 1876 to educate the public about the American Revolution. The order of service was prepared by Epiphany rector Randolph McKim, who was the chaplain of the DC Chapter. The service always included a reading of the exhortation from Washington’s Farewell Address. The 1932 service, held on Sunday, February 21, celebrated the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth.

In addition, there was a corporate communion service held at Epiphany on Monday, February 22 at 8am for men and boys from each parish and mission in the diocese. Bishop Freeman was the celebrant assisted by a number of the clergy of the diocese. The Parish Guide advertised the service like this, “It is earnestly hoped that every man and boy in Epiphany Church will avail himself of this wonderful privilege not only of commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, but of entering into the spirit of the bicentennial celebration itself. We feel sure that if the Father of our Country were living, he himself would be present at a service of this kind, and surely the patriotic spirit of all of us should be sufficiently evident to inspire us to attend this unique and inspiring service.”

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February 21: George Freeland Peter+ (1953)

The Rev. George Freeland Peter was an assistant rector at Epiphany in the early days of the 20th Century. Peter’s great-great-great grandmother was Martha Dandridge Custis  Washington. He was born at the Peter family home, Tudor Place, in Georgetown. Peter’s education was at Hampden-Sydney, Columbian (now GWU), Oxford, and General Theological Seminary. In addition to Epiphany, Peter served churches in Richmond, VA; Wheeling, WV, and in his later years Washington Cathedral. Peter was a passionate advocate for the city’s youth. From the pulpit he preached about girls under 16 “drinking intoxicating liquors” and “frequenting questionable resorts.” He fought against the District’s burlesque theaters, “one of the chief sources of immorality among the young boys of this city.”

Freeland Peter’s former estate in Bethesda, Maryland, which he inherited from his father, was sold to the National Institutes of Health. His home there, known as the “Stone House” still stands and is today the Lawton Chiles International House. It serves as a venue for an array of events, from international conferences to receptions for visiting dignitaries, and is a reminder of the gracious manor days of old Bethesda.

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February 20: Adolph August Hoehling, Jr. (1941)

A trivia question on this President’s Day – Which president took the oath of office the most number of times? Obviously Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately comes to mind as he was elected to an unprecedented four terms, thus taking the oath four times. Actually Barack Obama took the oath four times as well, due to Chief Justice Robert’s administering errors and also one of the terms starting on a Sunday. Four presidents have taken the oath three times – Wilson, Coolidge, Eisenhower, and Reagan. You might not suspect finding Coolidge in this group as he was only elected to the office one time.

Following the death of Warren G. Harding, Coolidge’s first oath was administered by his father, a notary public, in the middle of the night by kerosene lamp at the family homestead in Vermont. There were concerns about the authority of his father, not a federal official, administering the oath. Therefore, several weeks later, the oath was administered quietly at the Willard Hotel by Justice Adolph August Hoehling, Jr. of the District of Columbia Supreme Court. As you might suspect, Justice Hoehling had Epiphany connections. He was confirmed at the church by Bishop Pinkney in 1881. Coolidge’s third oath was in 1925 after he had won election in his own right.

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February 19: Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (1981)

On Thursday, February 19, 1981, Epiphany’s 70-year old parish hall took on new life. A recently formed theatre company in Washington, called Woolly Mammoth, began its inaugural season. For the next several years, the company presented nightly performances in the church’s parish hall. The stage had to be struck after the Saturday evening show to make the space available for coffee hour following the Sunday worship services. Prior to Epiphany’s most recent renovation, the bars that held the lighting apparatus were still visible in the parish hall ceiling.

In the later 1970’s, two young New York actors, Howard Schalwitz and Roger Brady, had an idea for a new type of theatre and decided on Washington, D.C. as the place to launch it. As the theater’s website explains, “The idea was simple: pull together a group of exceptionally talented actors, mold them into a company, seek innovative scripts with something challenging to say, and find fresh approaches to acting, directing, and design.” After Epiphany, the theatre moved to a 14th Street warehouse for many years and finally in 2005, Woolly Mammoth opened the doors of its first permanent home – a 265-seat, courtyard-style theatre in the heart of downtown Washington, just a few blocks from its beginnings in Epiphany’s parish hall.

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February 18: Ernest Pipkin Evans (1995)

On March 6, 1995, a memorial Eucharist was held at Epiphany for Ernest Pipkin Evans. He had died on February 18 of AIDS-related complications. It would have been Ernie’s 51st birthday. There was a bagpipe playing “St. Columba” while the ashes were borne into the church. Interspersed through the service, a chorus and orchestra rendered the Fauré Requiem. Long-time friend, Antonio Cintra, was a lay minister for the service. Cintra said of Evans, “He was a pioneer for his time and was a wonderful gay role model for young people today.”

A long-time resident of the District, Ernie Evans was a member of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly’s cabinet, and served as her liaison to the gay community. At first, Evans was special assistant to the mayor for policy planning and later served as rent administrator. Evans served on a Red Cross Drug Abuse board, volunteered with the Whitman Walker Clinic and was a charter member of the Shenandoah Valley AIDS network. Once he learned he was HIV infected, Ernie participated in numerous clinical trials at Johns Hopkins University and NIH.

A close friend said of Ernie, “He dedicated his life to fighting for what he believed in and our community has a lot to thank Ernie for.”

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February 17: +Henry Yates Satterlee (1908)

With the significant role Epiphany played in creating the new Diocese of Washington, it will come as no surprise that the parish had equal interest in the selection of its first bishop. In fact, Epiphany’s rector, Randolph McKim and Morgan Dix of Trinity Wall Street were the two main contenders for the position. After a stalemate, Henry Yates Satterlee was brought in as a compromise candidate and won on the eleventh ballot. Satterlee had been rector of Calvary Church in New York for the previous fourteen years. Satterlee’s consecration took place at Calvary on the Feast of the Annunciation. Randolph McKim was one of the attending presbyters.

Bishop Satterlee’s first day in his new diocese was Palm Sunday 1896. His first act was the confirmation of 50 candidates at Epiphany. Ten days later, he confirmed 61 more at Epiphany Chapel. During his twelve years as bishop, Sattleree devoted much time and effort to the planning of a new cathedral for the diocese. Satterlee participated in the laying of the cathedral’s cornerstone on September 29, 1907. Sadly he died five months later, never having seen any of his dream come to fruition. Today his marble sarcophagus lies behind the altar of the cathedral’s Bethlehem Chapel, bathed in the light of a window commemorating the Annunciation, the day on which the good bishop ascended to the historic episcopate.

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February 16: Sevellon Alden Brown (1895)

The following excerpt from a front-page article in The Evening Star describes the February 5, 1880 marriage of Sevellon Alden Brown and Sallie Maynadier Phelps at Epiphany Church.

“The church was literally crowded by seven o’clock. The entire diplomatic corps, the Secretary of State and family, and many other officials were all present. The chancel was handsomely decorated with flowers. Suspended from an arch of choice white blossoms, relieved with a background of green leaves, was a marriage bell, with long white ribbons extending to the chancel rail. Two large S’s, in flowers, were in front of the altar. These are the initials of the first name of both bride and groom. The bridal party entered while the organist played the bridal chorus from Lohengrin.”

New York native Sevellon Brown had come to Washington during the Civil War under Secretary of State William Seward. Brown worked his way up and seven years later became Chief Clerk of the State Department. The chief clerk’s office included custody of archives, distribution of correspondence, and supervision of department personnel and property. Holding office for nearly twenty years, Brown provided the State Department with administrative continuity. Three of Brown’s children were baptized at Epiphany and after his death on February 16, 1895, Brown’s funeral took place at the same church where he had been married 15 years earlier.

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February 15: United Women of Epiphany (1944)

From Epiphany’s beginnings, the women of the church have played an active role. In the founding year when the vestry was struggling to gather enough money to pay the rector a salary, the Ladies Association stepped in to pay his house rent. In the early 20th Century, the Women’s Auxiliary was the largest and most active of the women’s organizations. In the early 1940’s, the names of the organizations changed. The Night Branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary was designated Chapter I and the Morning Branch Chapter II. A new Chapter III, especially for younger married women with children, and Chapter V, primarily for those not previously affiliated with the Auxiliary, were also formed. Later, a new Chapter IV for business and professional women came into being.

By 1944, the United Women of Epiphany, as the women’s collective organizations came to be known, raised about $1000 from “United Thank Offerings” in fall and spring, and from $2500 to $4000 more that was spent for worthy purposes outside the church’s general program. The money came from dues, from Lenten luncheon and accompanying sales’ table profits, from the annual bazaar and accompanying dinner, from rummage sales, and from bequests. It went to missions and hospitals in Washington itself, in Appalachia, in Puerto Rico, and elsewhere; to the Epiphany Church Home; and to a variety of other useful works.

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