St. James Episcopal Church of Keene NH

St. James Episcopal church.-The history of St. James church, of Keene, dates from the year 1858. Previous to this time, however, services had been held as opportunity offered by various clergymen. About the year 1816 the Rev. Mr. Leonard, rector of St. Pauls church, Windsor, Vt., visited Keene, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Dunham and other parishioners, and held several services in the village. Soon after their visit the regular services of the church were conducted for several weeks, probably by the Rev. James Morse, of Newburyport, Mass., in the old court-house, then standing on the site of what is now called Geroulds block. Among the citizens favoring this undertaking were Elijah Dunbar and Dr. Thomas Edward. These services, however, soon ceased. An occasion of marked interest was the funeral of the Hon. Ithamar Chase. The funeral service was held in the Congregational house of worship and was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Strong, of Green. field, Mass., who also preached a sermon on the occasion. This funeral sex. vice supposed to have been the first in Keene conducted according to the rites of the Protestant Episcopal church, was very largely- attended, and is said to have created a very marked impression in favor of the church. Bishop Griswold, of the Eastern diocese, once visited Keene, confirming Dr. and Mrs. Edwards. The Rev. Mr. Barber, rector of Union church, West Clare. monT, occasionally officiated in Keene and administered the sacrament of holy baptism. From time to time services were also held in town by the Rev. Nathaniel Sprague, D. D. Dr. Sprague was a native of Keene, and improved every opportunity of extending the knowledge and influence of the church in these parts. Happily a memorial window was placed in St. James church when it was finished in 1864, which serves to keep alive the memory of his many good words and works for the church. The Rev. Henry N. Hudson, of the diocese of Massachusetts, also held a series of services in the summer and early fall of 1850. These services were at first held in the town hall, afterwards in an unoccupied building belonging to the Hon. James Wilson. Early in October, however, the Rev. Mr. Hudson was called away by the bishop of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Carlton Chase, D. D., to supply his place as rector of Trinity church, Claremont, while he himself was absent doing Episcopal duty in the diocese of New York; and on the Bishops return it seemed to Mr. Hudson to be impracticable to resume his work in Keene. Although occasional services had been held from time to time in private houses by different clergymen visiting the place, nothing further was done looking to the establishment of the Episcopal church till the summer of 1858. On June 24th of that year Bishop Chase visited Keene, held evening services and preached. He was encouraged by the expressed washes of those he met to attempt to establish the services of the church permanently. Accordingly he invited the Rev. Edward A. Renouf, then assistant minister at St. Stephens church, Boston, Mass., to visit Keene and act as his missionary for a few weeks. Mr. Renouf at once accepted the invitation, and with the assistance of the Rev. Dr. Fuller, also of the diocese of Massachusetts, services were soon begun, and being well attended were continued regularly through September and October. At length Mr. Renouf resigned his position at St. Stephens, and directly after Easter, 1859, undertook the entire charge of the work. Meanwhile he purchased the estate where he now resides (1885). and in July of that year removed thither with his family. On May 13, 1859, the parish of St. James church, Keene, was organized, and the usual officers were elected. May 15, certain friends of the church bought of the Cheshire R. R. Co. the lot now occupied by the church edifice for the sum of $1,300, and deeded it to the parish. May 18th, the Rev. E. A. Renouf was called to be rector of St. James church, and at once accepted the invitation. May 25th this parish was admitted into union with the convention of the diocese of New Hampshire, and was represented in that convention by Mr. H. Brownson, as lay delegate. On Sunday, August 7th, the holy communion was celebrated in their parish for the first time. On the Sunday following, August 14th, the Sunday-school was organized with four teachers and sixteen pupils. In October, 1860, plans for a stone church, with a seating capacity of about 500, were submitted by C. E. Parker, architect, of Boston, Mass., at an estimated cost of $12,000, which, after some delays and modifications, were agreed upon, and ground was broken Ascension day, May 14, 1863. The corner-stone was laid by the bishop of the diocese, assisted by the rector and several clergymen of this and the dioceses of Vermont, June 30, 1863, at which time an able address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. I. G. Hubbard, rector of Grace church, Manchester. The building was completed and ready for use during the following summer. The first service was held in it August 21, 1864; but the chancel furniture and other appointments were still incomplete, and there remained an unliquidated debt of $7,000, which delayed for several years the services of consecration. April 17, 1863, the Rev. Mr. Renouf tendered his resignation of the rectorship to take place May 31st, 1868. The Rev, George W. Brown was called be rector October 19, 1868. During his rectorship the church was decorated within, and after prolonged effort the money needed to liquidate the debt was raised. William P. Wheeler having pledged $1,000 toward the amount needed, provided the parish would raise the rest. Accordingly the church was consecrated by Bishop Niles, November 22, 1877. Mr. Brown resigned the rectorship April 13th 1879. The Rev. A. B. Crawford was called to be rector May 9, 1879, and resigned April 9, 1882. The Rev. Floyd W. Tomkins, Jr., rector of St. Pauls church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was called to the rectorship of St. James church, June 19, 1882. He accepted and entered up his duties as rector, September 1, 1882. Mr. Tomkins resigned March 1, 1884, and accepted a call to Calvary chapel, New York city. September 15, 1884, the Rev. W. B. T. Smith, rector of Union church, West Claremont, was called. He accepted and entered upon his duties as rector, Sunday, November 23, 1834.


Hurd, Duane Hamilton. History of Cheshire and Sullivan counties, New Hampshire. Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis. 1886.

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