Celebrating 175

November 1: Charles Kitchell Gardner (1869)

Charles Kitchell Gardner was born June 27, 1787, in Morristown, New Jersey, the son of Thomas and Sarah Kitchell Gardner.  At an early age, the family moved to Newburgh, New York, where they kept an inn.  Charles received his secondary education at a private academy in Morristown before enrolling at Columbia College in 1807, where he studied medicine under Dr. David Hosack.  In 1808 he was commissioned an ensign in the Sixth Regiment of Infantry, U.S. Army, and pursued a career in the military.  By 1812, when hostilities arose between the United States and Great Britain, he had attained the rank of brigade inspector and lieutenant.  During the war he rose in rank to that of colonel of the 25th Infantry which was stationed at various times at Sackett’s Harbor, Fort George and Fort Niagara. At the battle of Niagara, in which General Winfield Scott was severely wounded, Colonel Gardner carried him off the field. Gardner resigned from the army permanently in 1818 at the request of Ann Eliza McLean, whom he married in March 1819.

Gardner and his wife settled in New York City where he became engaged in various literary endeavors. Gardner’s political interest led to a series of appointments to positions in the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. During both terms of Andrew Jackson’s administration he was first assistant postmaster-general, and he was auditor of the treasury in the post-office department under President Van Buren. During the administration of President Polk he was postmaster of the City of Washington. In 1853 he was appointed surveyor-general of Oregon, and in 1856 he returned to Washington, D.C. to become a clerk in the Treasury Department.  He retired in 1867 and died two years later on November 1, 1869. Gardner’s wife was buried from Epiphany seven years later. Two daughters were buried from the church in 1871 and 1911. They were both married to Navy Admiral John J. Almy. Several grandchildren were baptized and confirmed at Epiphany.

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October 31: Percy Foster Hall+ (1950)

Percy Foster Hall was an Episcopal priest who served as an assistant minister at Epiphany during the time of World War I. Many new ministries began at the church during this era, including the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Junior and Senior Brotherhood of St. Andrew, the Night Branch of Woman’s Auxiliary, the McKim Bible Class for Men, the Young People’s Meeting, the Red Cross Auxiliary, the Mid-Week Bible Conference, the Prayer Circle, the Healing Services, and the Parish House Ladies’ Committee. When long-time rector Randolph McKim died in 1920, it fell upon Hall to lead the parish in an interim capacity until a new rector was called. During that time, Hall had oversight for the funerals of McKim and distinguished parishioner William C. Gorgas. Hall left Epiphany in 1921 after seven years of service, an unusually long term for the time, to become rector of St. Paul’s Church in Alexandria.

Hall was a graduate of Columbia University. He served as curate of Grace Church, New York City and was at the same time instructor in the New Testament in St. Faith’s Training School for Deaconesses. He was rector of St. Timothy’s Church, Catonsville, Maryland from 1893 to 1912. He had charge of churches in Oakland and Cumberland, Maryland and Wheeling, West Virginia. He was appointed to his position at Epiphany in 1914. During his time at Epiphany, two of Hall’s sons fought in World War I, thus their names appear on the plaque in the rear of the church. When one of those sons got married after the war, the ceremony took place at Epiphany with Percy Foster Hall performing the service. Also during this time, another of Hall’s sons began holy orders at Virginia Theological Seminary. Percy Foster Hall left Epiphany with heartfelt regret, gratitude, and affection.

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October 30: William Chauncy Langdon+ (1895)

William Chauncy Langdon was a patent law attorney, an Episcopal priest, and a leader in the YMCA movement. Langdon was born in Burlington, Vermont. His grandfather was a judge and a Congressman from Vermont. After graduation from Transylvania University, Langdon became a tutor in chemistry and astronomy at Shelby College in Kentucky. In 1851 he was appointed assistant examiner in the U.S. patent office in Washington, where he rose to be chief examiner. He resigned this office in 1856 and practiced as a counselor in patent law. He was one of the early organizers of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in America, and the leader in making it a national institution, being president of the first general convention. In 1858 he was ordained to the ministry in the Episcopal church, by Bishop Whittingham of Maryland.

In 1859 Langdon went to Italy, as chaplain of the U.S. legation, near the Holy See, in Rome, where he founded and became first rector of the American Episcopal church in that city, today called St. Paul’s Within the Walls. Returning to the United States at the outbreak of civil war, he served in Maryland, and at the close of the war he was sent back to Italy, as secretary of a joint committee of the general convention of the Episcopal church, charged to inquire into the religious consequences of the Italian national revolution then in progress. In 1873 he was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, where he founded Emmanuel Church and co-operated with the German, French, and Swiss Old Catholics. During the latter year he returned to the United States, and served at parishes in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania when he withdrew from parish duty and went to reside in Providence, Rhode Island. From the beginning of his interest in the project of forming a Young Men’s Christian Association in Washington, he worked all his life for the cause of church unity. Langdon died in 1895 and was buried from the Church of the Epiphany prior to his interment in Glenwood Cemetery. His tombstone reads, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

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October 29: Joseph Pulitzer (1911)

Joseph Pulitzer was a journalist and publisher. He is probably best known as the founder of the prestigious awards in American journalism that bear his name. Pulitzer was born in Hungary, the eldest son of a prosperous Jewish grain merchant. After unsuccessful attempts to join the military, he immigrated to the United States, practically penniless. He served in the Union Army from 1864 until the end of the Civil War. He then settled in St. Louis, where he worked as a mule tender, waiter and hack driver before studying English and law. In 1868 he was recruited by Carl Schurz for his German-language daily, the Westliche Post where he excelled as a reporter. He participated in politics and was admitted to the bar. Pulitzer joined the Republican Party and was elected to the Missouri State Assembly. In 1872 Pulitzer was able to purchase the St. Louis Post for $3,000. This venture was a success and six years later was able to buy the St. Louis Dispatch for $2,700. He combined the two newspapers and launched crusades against government corruption, lotteries, gambling, and tax fraud. In 1874, he was admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C., where he also worked as a correspondent for the New York Sun.

While in Washington, Pulitzer met and fell in love with Kate Davis. The couple was married at the Church of the Epiphany in 1878. A year and a half later, their first child, Ralph, was baptized at the church. By 1883 Pulitzer was a wealthy man and was able to purchase the New York World for $346,000. The newspaper, which had been losing $40,000 a year, was transformed into the first tabloid-style journal that concentrated on human-interest stories, scandal and sensational material. Pulitzer also promised to use the paper to “expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses, and to battle for the people with earnest sincerity.” In 1885 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York. Two years later he founded the Evening World in New York. Pulitzer died of heart failure aboard his yacht, the Liberty, on October 29, 1911. Through his will, he left money to establish the Columbia University School of Journalism and a foundation to award annual Pulitzer Prizes for literature, drama, music, and journalism.

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October 28: Thomas Jefferson Fisher (1888)

Thomas Jefferson Fisher was the founder of Thomas J. Fisher & Company, a prominent real estate firm in Washington in the late 19th Century. Fisher was born in Woodstock, Virginia, the son of German immigrant Friedrich Karl Fischer. The elder Fischer came to America in 1816 at age 26 and became known as Charles Fisher in his adopted country. He worked as a clerk in the Treasury Department for 20 years. Charles was extremely patriotic and named his first child and the subject of this article after third president Thomas Jefferson. A later child was named George Washington Fisher. Thomas Fisher started life with very little. He moved to Washington at age fifteen to find work. After several jobs he went to work in 1851 for Dyer & McGuire real estate auctioneers. Here, he found his niche. The firm made Fisher a partner. Fisher served on the city council and became president of Franklin Fire Co. In 1878, at the age of 55, Thomas J. Fisher founded, with Edward Stellwagen as the notary, the successful and profitable real estate firm which bore his name.

Thomas Fisher served as a director of the Children’s Hospital, the Foundling Asylum, the Night Lodging House, and Columbia Hospital. In 1845, Fisher married Charlotte Margaret Sioussa. Thomas and Charlotte had twelve children, of whom seven died young. The first mention in Epiphany’s records of the Fisher family is the baptism of fifth child Alice Fisher. Her burial is recorded four days later. The baptisms of four more children follow, with burials for two of them shortly thereafter. Happier times are recorded with the confirmation of wife Charlotte and the marriage of three daughters. The marriage of daughter Charlotte and Edward J. Stellwagen brought together two early Epiphany families. Wife Charlotte’s burial took place at Epiphany following her death at age 43. Thomas Jefferson Fisher died in 1888 at age 65. His funeral took place at Epiphany. Shortly after their father’s death, the Fisher children placed a stained glass window in memory of their parents. The window is on the west side of the nave near the transept and depicts Jesus as the good shepherd and the true light.

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October 27: Napoleon Bonaparte Harrison (1870)

Napoleon Bonaparte Harrison was a U.S. naval officer during the Mexican-American and Civil War. A native of Martinsburg, Virginia (now WV), Harrison was the youngest son of Dr. John S. Harrison and his wife Holland. Presumably named after famed French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte whose death was just two years before Harrison was born, it would seem it was preordained that Harrison would have a military career. Entering the naval service of the United States as Midshipman in 1838, he acquired experience in his profession under various commanders. In 1844 he was promoted to the rank of Passed Midshipman, and under Commodore Stockton, during the Mexican-American War, he was distinguished among the younger officers for courage and ability. He took part in the land expedition which rescued General Kearney’s command from a desperate position and on another occasion, having volunteered to carry an important message to a distant command in an open boat, he was carried out to sea and unable to make land for a week. The violence and persistence of the storm was matched by the firmness and skill of the young sailor, who finally brought back his boat and crew unharmed.

In 1850 Harrison was assigned to the Naval Observatory in Washington. During this time, he became associated with Epiphany. On February 21, 1850, he married Maria Wellford in the church. The couple’s first child, Lillian, was baptized at Epiphany. Nineteen years later, Lillian was confirmed there by Bishop Whittingham. During his Civil War service, Harrison exhibited “chivalric courage and intelligent coolness and impressed all who were near him, and won for him the respect and admiration of the whole service.” In 1868, he was commissioned Captain, and soon after ordered to duty at the Naval Academy as Commandant of Midshipmen. From there he was ordered to the command of the Congress, flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron, While at Key West, the Congress encountered violent weather, and in caring for the safety of the vessel, Captain Harrison so exposed himself to the storm that he died two days after.  His funeral was at Epiphany. He left behind him the reputation of a gallant, able and faithful officer and an honorable, amiable and agreeable gentleman.

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October 26: +John Dominique LaMothe (1928)

John Dominique LaMothe was a missionary bishop of Honolulu (Hawaii). The Episcopal Church in Hawaii had its origins in 1862 when King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, devout members of the Church of England, established the Church of Hawaii. The King and Queen supported the Church’s establishment throughout the islands with gifts of land, and by the founding of churches, schools, and hospitals. With the overthrow in 1893 of Queen Liliuokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, jurisdiction of the Church of Hawaii was given to American Episcopalians. Because it was a missionary district and not yet a diocese, bishops were chosen by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. John D. LaMothe became the second American missionary bishop of Honolulu in 1921 and served until his death in 1928.

Bishop LaMothe was born on the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. At age 17, his father sent him to the United States to work on a farm in Virginia for the purpose of making him “more robust.” After a year, LaMothe went to Wyoming to work on a ranch. He later returned to Virginia and under the direction of Bishop John Poyntz Tyler, entered Virginia Seminary in 1869. After his ordination, LaMothe served in several parishes until 1901 when he came to Epiphany as an assistant minister under rector Randolph McKim. Leaving after an initial three years, he was so well regarded, he was recalled for a second round of service, and at an annual salary of $1800 became Epiphany’s first associate rector. Positions at St. Paul’s, New Orleans and Ascension, Baltimore followed until his election to the episcopate. While attending the 1928 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., Bishop LaMothe fell ill and died. He was buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia.

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October 25: General Convention (1898)

The General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of the Episcopal Church. General Convention comprises two houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It meets every three years. The first General Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1785. The thirty-ninth General Convention was held in Washington, D.C, October 5-25, 1898. It was the first time the governing body had met in the nation’s capital. The new Diocese of Washington had just been created at the previous General Convention. The presiding bishop at the 1898 convention was the Rt. Rev. John Williams of Connecticut. At the time the presiding bishop was the senior bishop of the church having jurisdiction. The president of the House of Deputies was the Rev. Morgan Dix, rector of Trinity Church, New York City. Of the eight delegates from the Diocese of Washington, Epiphany’s rector, Randolph McKim, was one of four clerical delegates and junior warden, William D. Baldwin, was one of four lay delegates. In total, about 70 of the 75 American bishops and 500 delegates attended the gathering.

In a time prior to large convention centers, General Conventions were typically held in large churches. The 1898 General Convention was held at the Church of the Epiphany. The church had completed a renovation in 1890 that included the enlargement of the chancel area.  Today’s parish house had not yet been built, but there was a Sunday school room behind the church. This is where the bishops held their business sessions. The House of Deputies held its sessions in the church, with the public being admitted to the galleries. At the conclusion of the convention, the House of Deputies through resolution gave thanks “to the Rector, Wardens, and Vestrymen of the Church of the Epiphany for the provision they have made for the comfort of the members of the Convention.” Thirty years later in 1928, the forty-ninth General Convention met in Washington, D.C. The main meetings were held on the Cathedral close and the Willard Hotel, but some meetings were held in Epiphany’s parish hall.

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October 24: Acceptance of Building Lots (1842)

From the Epiphany Vestry Minutes, October 24, 1842: At a special meeting of the Vestry of the Church of the Epiphany, held on Monday the 24th of October, the following proceedings took place. The meeting was opened with prayer by the Rector, the Rev’d. Mr. French, who then stated the object of the meeting to be for the purpose of taking into consideration the offer made by Miss Louisa Harrison to make a donation to the Church of two lots of ground owned by her, situated on G Street between 13th & 14th Streets on Square 252, numbered 3 & 4. Whereupon it was Resolved that the Vestry do unanimously agree to accept of said donation, & pledge themselves to apply said lots of ground to the object designed by the Donor, to wit, to the erection thereon of a Protestant Episcopal Church Building. It was further Resolved that the Rev’d. John W. French & Messrs. Edwards and Wm. James be constituted a Committee to wait upon Miss Harrison & inform her of the proceedings of this meeting, & express to her in behalf of the Vestry the deep sense of gratitude entertained by them for her truly Christian and munificent donation. The said Committee are also authorized to employ at the expense of the Church a competent Lawyer to prepare a Deed of Conveyance & submit the same for the consideration of the Vestry at a subsequent meeting of the body.

From a letter of the Rev. J.W. French to Bishop Whittingham, October 31, 1842: God is still gracious to us. We have received a donation of two large lots in a good place for building, near our present position; large enough for church, parsonage, garden, and (they say if we wished it) school house. The value must be over three thousand dollars.

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October 23: Adolph Charles Torovsky, Jr. (1967)

Adolph Torovsky, affectionately known as “Mr. T,” was Epiphany’s organist and choirmaster for almost 50 years, serving under seven rectors. Torovsky was born into a musical family in Annapolis, Maryland, where his father led the Naval Academy Band for many years. At the age of 14, Torovsky played the organ at St. Ann’s Church in Annapolis, but with embarrassment due to the fact his legs were too short to reach the pedals. In 1914, Torovsky graduated with honors from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, receiving its highest award, the Teachers’ Certificate. He then became organist and choir director at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Baltimore. He was called to Epiphany in 1919 after serving in World War I in the Naval Academy Band under his father’s direction. On November 11, 1921, he directed the choir at the ceremony in Arlington Cemetery, when the Unknown Soldier of World War I was buried there.

When Epiphany first decided that its bells would ring daily, Torovsky climbed the ladder daily and played them manually from a console in the tower. Later, he played the chimes from an auxiliary keyboard of the organ. In addition to teaching piano and organ to private students for many years, Torovsky also taught at Mount Vernon Seminary and Junior College and at American University. He served as dean of the Washington Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Among the works he composed was the Christmas song, “Softly the Stars Were Shining.” A new organ for Epiphany was in the works when Torovsky died in 1967. An Aeolian-Skinner organ, Opus 1485, dedicated in 1968 and still in use today, became a memorial to Torovsky. Following his death on October 23, 1967, Adolph Torovsky’s funeral was at Epiphany. The choir, which he directed for so many years, provided the music.

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