History

An old ink drawing of St. Paul's Church BrooklineAn old ink drawing of St. Paul's Church BrooklineAs part of the celebration of St. Paul's first 100 years, the then parish historian Robert Payne Bigelow wrote a booklet entitled A Sketch of the History of St. Paul's Church in Brookline - 1849-1949. It divided the first 100 years of history into four periods:

  • Organization
  • The Aristocratic Period
  • The Clerical Period
  • The Democratic Period

A few random items from the Sketch:

  • 2012 will be the 100th anniversary of the St. Paul's yard sale
  • 1912 no one will have more than one vote at the annual meeting (previously the number of votes was determined by the number of pews you owned)
  • 1914 first appearance of ladies at the annual meeting
  • 1917 one woman was appointed to the search committee for a new rector

The Organization period of this history follows to give a flavor of the entire document. The booklet includes pictures of leading figures during St. Paul's first 100 years. Attached below is a scan of the original pamphlet. To maintain the quality, the size of the file is quite large (13 MB), so either download it and view it locally or be patient when opening the file directly.

 

A Sketch of the History of St. Paul's Church in Brookline - 1849-1949

l.ORGANIZATION

The history of St. Paul's Church in Brookline may be divided into four periods. The first one, the Period of Organization, began one hundred years ago. Then Brookline was changing from a rural to a suburban community. Access from Boston was no longer limited to one road from the Neck through Roxbury. The Mill Dam was becoming Beacon Street, with branches from Sewall's Point to Brighton and to Brookline Village. The branch railroad was opened through Brookline in 1848, and in 1851 the Sewall farm (Longwood) became accessible when Beacon Street, Brookline, was constructed and joined to the Mill Dam. Wealthy Boston merchants had for some time been moving into the country, and a number of them chose sites in Brookline whereon to build summer or permanent homes.

It was the year 1848 when the first steps were taken to create an Episcopal parish in this Town. There were three churches here-the First Parish Meeting House at the geographical center, the Baptist Church at the corner of Harvard and Washington Streets, the Harvard Church at Washingtonand School Streets-but no Episcopal church "this side of St. James in the Highlands of Roxbury," except a "weak parish" in Jamaica Plain. On March 8, 1848, at 9 State Street, Boston, in the law office of William Aspinwall were his uncle, Augustus Aspinwall, and Mr. Harrison Fay. Mr. Aspinwall would give land, Mr. Fay $2,000. William Aspinwall would raise subscriptions, and each one would "inquire what persons might be disposed to organize an Episcopal congregation and build a church."

Their efforts brought together a remarkable group of men-socially prominent, leaders in professional or business life, with high integrity, and a rare sense of stewardship in the use of wealth. Men of religion, they prayed and read their Bibles, led family prayers at home, went to church regularly, and took their families with them.

Rev. William Horton, St. Paul's First RectorRev. William Horton, St. Paul's First Rector

By June, 1849, so many had become interested that it was proposed to hold services in the Town Hall (built in 1845). A piano was hired and Rev. Thomas M. Clark (later Bishop of Rhode Island) officiated during July, Rev. George H. Clark through August and Rev. William Horton in September

On October third at a meeting in the Town Hall, with Benjamin Howard in the chair, "the name of St. Paul's Church in Brookline was adopted as the name of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Brookline." Augustus Aspinwall and Harrison Fay were elected Wardens; Benjamin Howard, Eliakim Littell, James Potter, John Clarke, and William Aspinwall, Vestrymen; and Rev. William Horton was chosen Rector

The Parish was legally incorporated, October 31, 1849, through the good offices of a Unitarian, Dr. Charles Wild, a homeopathic physician who also was "one of the Justices of the Peace in and for the County of Norfolk." William Aspinwall was elected Clerk, also Treasurer and Collector, the Corporation re-elected its other officers and the Rector, and adopted "St. Paul's Church in Brookline" as its corporate name.

During Mr. Horton's rectorship Morning and Evening Prayer were held in the Town Hall on Sundays. The Lord's Supper was administered only once a month and on each of the great festivals-Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday-probably preceded by a preparatory service the evening before.
The Treasurer's report for 1850-51 shows a small congregation contributing $1,021.70 to the support of the church, only five names not among the eleven signed on the petition for incorporation. The largest contributors were Mr. Fay and Mr. Aspinwall

The first Annual Meeting of the Corporation was held in the Town Hall Easter Monday, April 1, 1850. Officers were re-elected and Harrison Bird and Frederick P. Ladd were added to the Vestry

At an "Adjourned Annual Meeting" in Mr. Patten's house elaborate by-laws were adopted. Among other things, they provided that after a sale of pews, each pew shall entitle its owner to one vote, annual meetings to be held on the Monday in Easter week, the Wardens and Vestry to fill a vacancy in their membership until the next annual meeting, owners not to be taxed under certain conditions for unoccupied pews

The first step toward building the church was another "Adjourned Annual Meeting," May 13, to accept the offer by Mr. Aspinwall of a lot worth $1,500 on his "farm now under lease to David Perry" (hence the neighboring "Perry Street")

That being settled, Mr. Fay and Mr. Aspinwall obtained from Richard Upjohn, architect of Trinity Church, New York City, plans for a Gothie-chtJrch of the same style. The floor plan shows a nave and' aisles, a chancel with connecting robing room (vestry), and a tower at the other end. Roxbury pudding stone was chosen as material for the walls, and black walnut for internal woodwork. The corner stone was laid 29th July 1851, by the Rt. Rev. Manton Eastburn, D. D., Bishop of Massachusetts, accompanied by nine clergymen, who robed in the Peter Aspinwall house and crossed the lane (now Aspinwall Avenue) in procession. The box deposited in the corner stone contains, among many other things, two sermons by the Bishop and a few coins deposited by three or four children of the Sunday School. Messrs. Fay and Aspinwall took personal charge of the construction. To build the body of the church $12,000 had been subscribed, including $5,000 by Mr. Fay and $z,ooo by Mr. Aspinwall. The cost of the tower was $13,000 paid for equally by Mr. Aspinwall and Mr. Fay. By December 17, 1852, the building was completed and paid for. Timothy Corey Leeds had given the bell, cast in London at a cost of $1,000. The East window was provided by Augustus and Colonel Thomas Aspinwall in memory of their father, Doctor William Aspinwall. Gardiner Howland Shaw, Esq., and Mrs. Eliza Ingersol each supplied a chair for the chance.Rev. John Seeley Stone, 2nd Rector of St. Paul'sRev. John Seeley Stone, 2nd Rector of St. Paul's

Mr. Horton had resigned in May, 1852 to become Rector of St. Paul's Church in his native town of Newburyport. In his stead, Rev. John Seeley Stone, D.D., was elected Rector, September 24, 1852

St. Paul's Church in Brookline was consecrated by Bishop Eastburn, December 23, 1852.

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