Celebrating 175

February 14: Sallie Hews Phillips McClenahan (1994)

Sallie Hews Phillips McClenahan moved to Washington as a teenager and the older of two daughters when her father, The Rev. ZeBarney Phillips, became Epiphany’s ninth rector. After graduation from the National Cathedral School for Girls in 1924, she taught briefly at a small private girls’ school in Washington and for several years was national secretary for young people’s work of the Episcopal Church. In 1934, Sallie’s father both gave her away and performed the wedding ceremony when she married Robert Wallace “Wally” McClenahan at Epiphany. In addition to raising a family, Sallie McClenahan devoted a lifetime to volunteer work, largely with young people, the Junior League, and church-related activities.

A natural born storyteller, Sallie McClenahan was the author of several books. Written in 1950, So Live tells of the life of her father, Epiphany’s rector for 18 years, dean of National Cathedral, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies. Written later, Touchstones tells of four important chapters in her life. Sallie McClenahan led a varied and adventurous life, enriched by her work with young people, her family, and a wide circle of friends.

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February 13: Frederick Dawes (1852)

Dr. Frederick Dawes was a physician of ability, and enjoyed an extensive practice in the nation’s capital for many years. He was one of the founders of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia. Following his death in 1852, he was buried from the Church of the Epiphany, then in its tenth year of existence. The following description of Dr. Dawes is excerpted from Samuel Busey’s Personal Reminiscenses and Recollections.

Frederick Dawes was an Englishmen, and a graduate of some English institution. He was a man of erudition and scientific attainments, and especially noted for his astuteness in the diagnosis of disease. He was one of those who studied with great care the tongue in disease, and attached great importance to the observations. Dr. Dawes was a heavy-built man, with a broad, round face, and very ruddy complexion, looking like a man who knew the good things of the world and how to enjoy them. He was usually neatly, but very plainly dressed, and very simple and unassuming in manner. He was a slovenly snuff-fiend, and carried it loosely in the right-hand pocket of his vest, from which he would take it with his fingers, and, with great nonchalance, snuff it into his capacious nostrils. His horse and buggy were badly kept, and he jogged along the streets as unconcerned as if no care disturbed his equanimity. He seemed to be always happy, and content to accept everything as he found it.

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February 12: John Jay Knox, Jr. (1892)

John Jay Knox, Jr. was an American financier. President Grant appointed Knox to be Comptroller (or Controller) of the Currency. The office is an independent bureau within the Treasury Department that serves to charter, regulate, and supervise all national banks and thrift institutions. The following description of Knox’s funeral at Epiphany appeared in The New York Times on February 13, 1892.


The funeral of the late John Jay Knox took place at noon today from the Church of the Epiphany. It was largely attended by the friends of the family and many other prominent people and old residents of Washington. At 11 o’clock the body, encased in a black casket, was placed in the vestibule, and many of his friends availed themselves of the opportunity to take a last look at the familiar face. The honorary pallbearers were Attorney General Miller, Justice Harlan of the Supreme Court, Senators Sherman, McPherson, Allison, and Aldrich, Mr. Lewis Davis [Epiphany’s Senior Warden], Mr E.S. Lacey, Controller of the Currency; Prof. Gallaudet [Edward Miner Gallaudet, president of Gallaudet College at the time], and Mr. S.H. Kauffmann [President of The Evening Star newspaper]. The interment was at Oak Hill.

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February 11: Rowan Keith LeCompte (2014)

Rowan Keith LeCompte was born in Baltimore. From a young age, he was drawn to painting, architecture, and stained glass. His father was a baker and Rowan fired his early glass designs in the bakery oven. Following his service in World War II, there was no school at which to study a medieval art, so Rowan learned alone, with occasional tutorials from other masters. Stained glass may have been an ancient art, but he was not simply trying to recreate a lost art and saw his windows as an expression of his time. As early as 1955, he wanted to have stained glass “assert itself as a great modern art.”


Rowan LeCompte is best known for his works at Washington Cathedral, including the west rose window depicting creation, which the Washington Post hailed in 1976 as “one of the masterpieces of Christendom.” LeCompte has three of his early works at Epiphany. Two of them are interior etched-glass windows in the rear of the church. The third is a stained glass window in the east transept which LeCompte completed in 1958 with his first wife Irene, who was considered a gifted glass colorist. When the morning sun hits this window on a clear winter day, it’s easy to recognize the genius of Rowan and Irene LeCompte.

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February 10: Epiphany Sewing School (1877)

Under the rectorship of William Paret, Epiphany took another step in reaching out to the downtown poor by the opening of a sewing school. The February 1877 issue of the Parish Guide stated, “The Sewing School, recently begun, has been placed, by the Rector, under the care of Miss Joseph. It meets every Saturday at 2 P.M., in the room over the Sunday School room. The number of scholars is each week increasing.” Starting with five teachers and only five students, it ended its first session in May with thirteen teachers and seventy-five students. Most of the 153 garments made in 1877 were distributed among the attendees, scholars being rewarded for neatness and punctuality by the distribution among them of the garments that were made.


From all accounts, Miss Lizzie Joseph was a devoted Epiphany parishioner and very committed to its outreach initiatives. Her father, Dr. Richard Joseph, was confirmed at Epiphany as an adult. He served as superintendent of the Sunday School and was also a sponsor at numerous non-family member baptisms, including that of African-American sexton, James Saunders. In addition to serving as superintendent of the Sewing School, Lizzie Joseph was on the Board of Lady Managers of the Epiphany Church Home. After her funeral at Epiphany, Lizzie was laid to rest next to her father in Oak Hill Cemetery. Their tombstone reads, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

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February 9: James Melville Gilliss (1865)

Something just seems right about a church that is named for an event featuring wise men following a star to have an astronomer as a founding member. From the earliest days of his naval career, James Melville Gilliss was involved with astronomical research. He was made officer-in-charge of the Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments. Gilliss’s most lasting achievement, however, was in almost single-handedly building the institution that became the U.S. Naval Observatory, the first national observatory in the United States. In part because of internal navy politics, Matthew F. Maury was named the first superintendent. At the outset of the Civil War, Maury joined the southern cause, and in April 1861 Gilliss was appointed the new superintendent of the Naval Observatory. Today the library at the observatory bears his name.


James M. Gillis and his wife, Rebecca, were a part of Epiphany from the beginning. They were present at the laying of the cornerstone. Their youngest daughter, Fannie, was the first child baptized in the new church. Their youngest son, George, was buried from Epiphany at age 5. The marriage of their oldest son, James, to Rebecca Stellwagen brought together two early Epiphany families. Gilliss served on Epiphany’s vestry and was chairman of the building committee for the 1857 renovation, the first major update to the church. When Gilliss passed away on February 9, 1865, Epiphany’s vestry began their tribute of respect, “The vestry of the Church of the Epiphany have heard with deep sorrow the announcement of the death of Capt. J.M. Gilliss, one of its most acceptable and useful members…”

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February 8: Richard Eppes Shands (1981)

Although his father was a doctor, Richard Eppes Shands decided on a career in law. He received his undergraduate and law degree from the University of Virginia and later earned a master of law degree from George Washington University. Shands served as a Navy officer in World War I. His name, as well as his two brothers, appears on the plaque at the rear of Epiphany’s nave commemorating parishioners who fought in the Great War. Shands went on to become a successful Washington lawyer for nearly 60 years. During his career, he served as Chairman of the Fairfax County School Board, President of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and the National Capital Area Chapter of Boy Scouts of America.


Richard Shands and his family had strong connections to Epiphany. His father, Dr. Aurelius Shands, served as a vestry member and warden for over 20 years. Richard and his siblings memorialized their parents with the contribution of a stained glass window that graces the east transept of the church today. Richard married Katherine “Kate” Snyder at Epiphany in 1936. He served as a vestry member and parish treasurer. He provided legal assistance to the parish and the diocese over the years. Richard and Kate’s farm in Great Falls, Virginia (see photo) was the setting of many Epiphany parish picnics. That property was later sold to a new faith community that was just getting started in the 1960s, today’s St. Francis Episcopal Church.

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February 7: Joseph Hammond Bryan (1935)

Dr. Joseph Hammond Bryan was born in Washington, D.C. on July 4, 1856. His baptism, a little over a year later, is recorded in Epiphany’s register, although the location is noted as St. John’s Church. In the summer and fall of 1857, Epiphany was undergoing its first major renovation. Bryan’s early education was acquired in local private schools. A year before entering the University of Virginia, he was confirmed at Epiphany by Bishop Pinkney. All five of Bryan’s siblings were baptized and confirmed at Epiphany as well.


After receiving medical degrees from UVA and the University of New York, Bryan entered the U.S. Navy as Assistant Surgeon and served for five years. With ambition to attain success in his chosen profession, Dr. Bryan went abroad, spending two years in Europe studying with eminent physicians in Heidelberg, Berlin, Vienna, and Paris. He gave particular attention to the methods of treating diseases of the throat and ear and upon his return to Washington in 1887, he began his practice as a specialist along these lines and gained an eminent position by reason of his marked ability. A decade later, Epiphany joined several other churches in creating the Episcopal Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital, of which Dr. Bryan was a regular consultant.

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February 6: Alice Hutchins Drake (1975)

In reverence, we, too, will breathe a prayer

Of gratitude for this prayer-poet friend,

So thoughtful, kind to everyone she met.

Her “fuller life” begins! God could not spare

Her any longer; her brave soul has sped!

This gracious friend we never shall forget.


Thus concludes a tribute to Alice Hutchins Drake by fellow poet Florence M. Stellwagen. Miss Drake was born in Chicago and came to Washington as a child. She graduated from Central High School and attended George Washington University. She had been an editorial researcher for the Haskins Information Service and as such had a study desk at the Library of Congress. Considered an authority on words, she was a well-known club and radio commentator for stations WRC and WMAL. She did weekly talks on painting and sculpture on display in Washington.


Miss Drake was often called upon to describe the realms of art and literature especially to the blind. She taught short story and verse writing at the YWCA. As an author, her best-known book was “Little Prayers for Stressful Times.” For many years, Alice Drake was an active member of the Church of the Epiphany. Another line from the aforementioned poem says much about Drake’s life, “How can we mourn for one who lived so well?”


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February 5: George Thomas Dunlop (1908)

George Thomas Dunlop was born in Frederick County, Maryland. Ambitious to earn his way in the world, George asked his father to allow him to try his fortune. Leaving home at age 15 with five dollars in his pocket, George immediately paid $3.65 for railroad fare to Washington, leaving him with $1.35. He found employment as a clerk in an agricultural warehouse. Within a decade, Dunlop had taken over the company. As a director of the Washington & Georgetown Railroad Company, Dunlop took an active interest in local transportation matters. The resulting Capital Traction Company, under Dunlop’s presidency, was a highly successful street railway system in the District for many years.

The first record of George Dunlop in Epiphany’s records is the marriage of his daughter, Grace, at the church in 1906. Dunlop’s funeral two years later was at Epiphany. In 1910, when Epiphany’s current parish house was being built, the rector solicited contributions to endow various rooms of the new structure. Dunlop’s widow, Emily, gave money for a room in memory of her husband. Today a second floor meeting room bears his name. The family stayed connected with the church for most of the 20th Century. George Dunlop’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, married John Stenhouse, who served as Epiphany’s Senior Warden in the 1960’s and also the architect of the 1968 renovation.

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