Celebrating 175

June 1: Edward James Stellwagen (1932)

The marriage of Edward J. Stellwagen and Charlotte M. “Lottie” Fisher at Epiphany in September 1880 brought together two early families of the parish. The families are remembered today in the fabric of the church. The iron fence in the front of the building is a memorial to Edward’s sister, Annie. The Fisher Memorial Window on the west side of the nave is a memorial to Charlotte’s parents, Thomas and Charlotte Fisher. Edward and Charlotte’s parents were in the same confirmation class at Epiphany in 1858 and were all buried from the church upon their deaths. Several baptisms, marriages and burials of siblings from both sides are included the parish register.

Edward J. Stellwagen had practiced law in Washington, but joined his father-in-law’s real estate firm shortly after his marriage. When Chevy Chase was being developed, it was Stellwagen who suggested the name. In 1899, Stellwagen and his brother-in-law founded a bank, Union Trust, with the former being made president. The pair also went into the hotel business and leased the new Willard Hotel for twenty years. They acquired several other hotels and then established the Yale Laundry to service them. Stellwagen was a strong Republican supporter. He was made chairman of the 1909 inaugural committee of President-Elect William Howard Taft, with whom he is depicted in the accompanying photograph.

< Previous     Next >

May 31: James MacBride Sterrett+ (1923)

The Rev. Dr. J. MacBride Sterrett was the founder and first rector of All Souls Church in the Woodley Park section of Northwest Washington. Dr. Sterrett had a home in this neighborhood and desired to see a more extensive pastoral work done in the region. With the cooperation of the rector of St. Alban’s, of whose parish this area was a part, Dr. Sterrett began holding services in a private home in March 1911. After acquiring a plot of land for a new church and being granted parish status by the diocese, All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church was erected as a gift of Dr. Sterrett in memory of his eldest son. This original structure forms the core of today’s church building.

Dr. Sterrett was a Pennsylvania native and a graduate of Harvard and the Episcopal Divinity School at Cambridge, Massachusetts. After parish work in New York and Pennsylvania and a time as a seminary professor in Minnesota, Dr. Sterrett moved to Washington, DC in 1891 where he joined the faculty of George Washington University and also became assistant rector at the Church of the Epiphany. He would remain in these two roles pretty much until the time he founded All Souls. Epiphany’s parish register records the death of Dr. Sterrett’s son in 1894 and his mother in 1909. His son, James MacBride Sterrett, Jr., died of meningitis at age 17 and is the one for whom All Souls Church was a memorial.

< Previous     Next >

May 30: Election of +Jane Holmes Dixon (1992)

On May 30, 1992 at a special convention of the Diocese of Washington held at the Church of the Epiphany, Jane Holmes Dixon was elected suffragan bishop. Dixon became the second female bishop in the Episcopal Church and the third in the Anglican Communion (following Barbara Harris of Massachusetts in 1989 and Penelope Jamieson of New Zealand in 1990). The accompanying photograph shows Dixon and Bishop of Washington Ronald Haines in front of the rood screen at Epiphany. Bishop Haines had called for the election of a suffragan at a diocesan convention in January. At the time, Dixon was the rector of St. Philip’s in Laurel and president of the diocesan standing committee. Dixon was elected on the first ballot from a list of seven candidates, including three other women.

At the special convention, Dixon’s election was hailed by a five-minute standing ovation. Afterwards, Dixon stated, “For women, this election is much more than Jane Dixon. It is a confirmation that we are created in the image of God, male and female, and a major statement of a basic Christian principle to empower men and women.” Pamela Chinnis, Epiphany’s senior warden said, “As the first woman president of the House of Deputies, I welcome the addition of more women to the House of Bishops,” adding that the election was greatly enriched by the caliber of all the candidates. Bishops Harris, Jamieson, and Dixon each made visits to Epiphany during their active ministry.

< Previous     Next >

May 29: Parish Status for Epiphany (1844)

The Fifty-Sixth Annual Convention of the Diocese of Maryland met at St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore from May 29 to June 1, 1844. At the time, the diocese included the entire state of Maryland as well as the District of Columbia. The bishop was the Rt. Rev. William Rollinson Whittingham. In his address to the convention, Bishop Whittingham stated, “The new congregation of the Church of the Epiphany has been steadily increasing in numbers and strength, and has almost completed its church edifice – an exertion that few would have thought within the bounds of possibility when the undertaking was commenced.”

On the second day of the convention, the Committee on new Parishes and Churches recommended the adoption of An Act to erect a new parish in the city of Washington, D.C. out of parts of the two parishes of St. John’s and Trinity. The act was referred to the Rev. Mr. Hawley and the Rev. Mr. French [rectors of St. John’s and Epiphany, respectively], as a committee for the further and final adjustment of the metes and bounds. That afternoon, the committee made their report, which was accepted, and the act agreed upon by them adopted. “The parish so established shall be known as the ‘Epiphany Parish in the city of Washington,’ and shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges secured to separate parishes by the vestry law of the State of Maryland, and by the constitution and canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in this diocese.

< Previous

May 28: William Beans Magruder (1869)

He was named for his uncle, Dr. William Beans, who as a political prisoner was detained aboard a British ship in Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key was sent to obtain his release. Though born in Montgomery County, Maryland, William Beans Magruder moved with his family to Georgetown at an early age. Here he obtained a preliminary education, before he studied medicine with a local Georgetown physician. In 1831, Magruder graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School. Shortly after setting up his practice, a cholera epidemic broke out in Washington. Dr. Magruder’s heroic conduct during the panic made his reputation as an important physician in the city.

By 1835, Dr. Magruder’s standing in the community had risen to a level that he decided to enter public office. He was first a member of the Washington Board of Health, then elected to the city’s Common Council, and then to the Board of Alderman where he served for 13 years. In 1856, the city’s Democrats, Republicans, and Whigs banded together as the “Anti-Know-Nothing Party” and nominated Magruder for mayor. After a fierce campaign, Magruder won by 13 votes. His term was marked by improvements to the city’s infrastructure. The baptism, confirmation and burial of Magruder’s first wife, Elizabeth, took place at Epiphany. Dr. Magruder was confirmed and married his second wife, Sarah, at Epiphany in 1854. A memorial tribute after his death stated, “his life as a physician was one long act of service and devotion to Almighty God.”

< Previous     Next >

May 27: Diocese of Washington (1895)

The 112th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Maryland met at the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC from May 29 to May 30, 1895. At the time, the diocese included the state of Maryland other than the Eastern Shore as well as the District of Columbia. The bishop was the Rt. Rev. William Paret (former rector of Epiphany). The work of the two previous conventions had focused on a division of the diocese and the creation of the Diocese of Washington. Final approval depended on raising enough money to endow the new diocese. In his address to the convention, Bishop Paret stated, “What we all seek is the real strength and welfare of the Church, its greater power and effectiveness as Christ’s instrument and servant, in perpetuating and spreading His blessings for mankind.”

The people of Epiphany subscribed nearly one fourth of the amount pledged to support the new diocese. The approved bounds of the new organization were the District of Columbia and four Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince Georges, Charles and St. Marys. The Diocese of Maryland transferred about 12,500 communicants, 49 parishes with 81 places of worship and 79 priests to the new institution. Epiphany Parish was by far the largest in the new diocese in terms of numbers. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved the creation of the new diocese in October 1895 and the primary convention of the new Diocese of Washington was held in early December.

< Previous

May 26: Samuel Powhatan Carter (1891)

Samuel Perry (later changed to Powhatan) Carter was a general in the Union Army and later became an admiral in the postbellum U.S. Navy. He was the first and to date only American officer to attain the rank of Major General and Rear Admiral. A native of Carter County, Tennessee, Samuel P. Carter was a direct descendant of the early settlers for whom the county was named. After studying at several schools, including the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), Carter enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served as a midshipman for five years before transferring to the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1846, the academy’s first class. Five years later, Carter married Caroline C. Potts at Epiphany. Caroline was later confirmed and buried from Epiphany.

During the Civil War, Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson used his influence to have Carter detached from the Navy to allow him to enlist and organize forces in northeastern Tennessee among the mostly Union sympathetic population. Carter was placed in command of a cavalry division and was eventually promoted to Brevet Major General of Volunteers. Returning to the Navy after the Civil War, Carter served in the Pacific Squadron, was commandant of midshipmen in the Naval Academy for a while and shortly before retirement was promoted to Rear Admiral. Fellow officers remembered him as “tall, handsome and dignified, graceful in carriage and very affable…..a ‘soldierly Christian’ of sincere piety and undoubted courage.”

< Previous     Next >

May 25: Hugh McCulloch (1895)

Hugh McCulloch served two non-consecutive terms as U.S. Treasury Secretary under three presidents. McCulloch was born in Maine and educated at Bowdoin College. After studying law in Boston, he relocated to Indiana where he began a practice. He became cashier, manager and eventually president of a Fort Wayne bank. It was from this position that Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase appointed him to be the first Comptroller of the Currency in 1863. During McCulloch’s 22 months in office, 868 national banks were chartered and no failures occurred. McCulloch recommended major changes in the banking law. The resulting legislation remains the foundation of the national banking system today.

A month before his assassination, President Lincoln appointed McCulloch as the 27th Secretary of the Treasury. He was Lincoln’s third and final Treasury secretary and was the last surviving member of Lincoln’s cabinet. McCulloch continued to serve in the Johnson administration where he maintained a policy of reducing the federal war debt and the careful reintroduction of federal taxation in the South. Following a time with a London banking firm, McCulloch returned to Washington to serve as Treasury secretary under President Chester A. Arthur. In 1867, McCulloch’s infant daughter, Mary, was baptized at Epiphany, followed by her confirmation there 14 years later.

< Previous     Next >

May 24: Lucius Fairchild (1896)

The accompanying photograph depicts Lucius Fairchild and his wife, Frances Bull Fairchild. The couple was married at the Church of the Epiphany on April 27, 1864. Frances’ older sister, Kate, had been married there five years earlier. The mother and stepfather of the sisters had been buried from Epiphany in the mid 1850’s. During the Civil War, Frances often visited the hospitals in the city to bring cheer to the wounded soldiers. She got to know many of the officers and was often invited to dine at the officers’ mess. Through this, she made the acquaintance of Lucius Fairchild and married him in 1864. Fairchild by that time had a highly distinguished military career.

In 1858, Fairchild enlisted as a private in a Wisconsin volunteer militia, later known as the Second Wisconsin Infantry. At the beginning of the Civil War, Fairchild served with distinction at the First and Second Battles of Bull Run and later at Antietam. During the first day of fighting at Gettysburg, Fairchild’s regiment was the first infantry unit to make close contact with the Confederate Army. Fairchild was shot in the upper arm, captured, tended to, and released. Fairchild’s left arm had to be amputated. While recovering, President Lincoln commissioned Fairchild a brigadier general. Shortly thereafter Fairchild resigned from the military and was appointed Secretary of State of Wisconsin, before being elected three term Governor of Wisconsin. Later Fairchild was appointed U.S. consul at Liverpool, then consul general at Paris and finally ambassador to Spain.

< Previous     Next >

May 23: Christopher Houston Carson (1868)

Christopher Houston Carson (or more commonly “Kit Carson”) was an American frontiersman, fur trapper, wilderness guide and Indian agent. His name may be familiar to many through exaggerated versions of his exploits recounted in comic books of their youth. What connection could a person like this possibly have with an Episcopal church in downtown Washington? It turns out that Kit Carson was at Epiphany standing as a sponsor at the baptism of three-week old Benton Frémont on August 15, 1848.  Benton Frémont was the second child of John Charles Frémont and Jessie Benton Frémont, the latter being the daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton.

Senator Benton was the great expounder of “manifest destiny,” the belief that the United States was destined (by God, some said) to expand across North America to the Pacific Ocean. Benton pushed appropriations through Congress for national surveys of the region and then put his son-in-law, John C. Frémont, in charge of them. In the 1840’s, Fremont hired Kit Carson as a guide for expeditions through California and Oregon. Under Fremont’s command, Carson participated in the uprising against Mexican rule in California. Carson made a coast-to-coast journey from California to Washington, DC to deliver news of the conflict in California to the U.S. government. This put Carson in town for the aforementioned baptism. In Epiphany’s register, Carson’s name is recorded as “Kit (Christopher) Carson,” his residence, “Rocky Mountains.”

< Previous     Next >