Project Canterbury






St. Luke’s Church,


JUNE 4, 1871


Printed By Request




Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012




FIFTY years ago this day there was an unusual stir upon the sacred premises we occupy to-night. The good, the lion-hearted, the uncompromising defender of truth—Bishop Hobart—stood here with a band of his clergy and laity about him for the solemn ceremony of laying the corner-stone of St. Luke's Church.

Of course the number of our clergy would have been small had all been present. This metropolis and our Church had not then shadowed forth their present proportions. New York City, at the opening of this century, had a population only of about 60,000. At that time the clergy of our Church numbered but some twenty-one or two in the whole State of New York, and there were in the year 1800 less than 30 parishes where now are the five large Dioceses of New York, Western New York, Central New York, Long Island and Albany; and under their five energetic Bishops are some seven hundred clergymen. Yet over the entire ground of these now five Dioceses, covering the whole State of New York, each earlier Bishop had his jurisdiction, and [5/6] consequent task of most indefatigable ministrations, traversing too, in those days, large sections of it by stage or wagon. At the beginning of this century Trinity Parish, with two or three other churches, stood the only representatives of the Episcopal Church in this city, where now, in the seventy Churches and Chapels, is the common worship of our branch of the Holy Catholic Church. Even on the 4th of June, 1821, there were but the ten Churches of Trinity, Christ Church, Grace, St. Esprit, St. George's, St. James, St. Mark's, St. Michael's, St. Stephen's and Zion, to welcome St. Luke's into their households of faith.

Among the then improbabilities at the commencement of this century was the want of any Church so far away amid these fields of Greenwich. True there were scattered along, at wide intervals, the country residences of General Morton, corner of Morton and Washington streets, and Samuel N. Thompson, corner of Le Roy and Washington, and at Greenwich and Bethune was William Bayard's mansion, where Madame Jumel, it is said, for some time resided. Still lower in Greenwich, near Le Roy, stood Cold Spring Garden, on an eminence, while a block or two at the east of us, in Charles street, long the residence of Lady Warren, was the mansion of Sir Peter Warren, known of late as the Van Ness Place, its noble grounds covering almost the entire Ninth Ward, and about the last to yield its noble domain to the exactions of this growing city. [The Amos House, then in the midst of a large farm is still standing at the corner of Christopher and Greenwich. And at the date we refer to, the late Judge Meigs was residing a little north of us on the shores of the Hudson River.] A little farther up, and toward the banks of the Hudson, still remains the old State prison, now nearly concealed by adjoining buildings, but then relatively farther from the city than Sing Sing now is.

[7] So little was the growth of this section anticipated, that all the church ground from Christopher street to Vandam was offered, we are told, to an ancestor of an individual before me for $1,500. And about the only dwelling on Hudson street, between us and Canal street, was the Brant, afterward better known as the Tyler Tavern, still standing on the corner of Spring and Hudson.

The population, therefore, in this quarter at the time we commemorate, was exceedingly sparse. Yet the Ritter family, drawn so near us as Jones street, together with Mr. P. A. Cushman and Floyd Smith, lately come into Barrow street, with the Harrisons, Richard and Richard N.,—these fresh Church elements uniting with such families as Clement C. Moore, Nicholas and John P. Roome, Edward N. Cox, Samuel M. Thompson, Andrew Backus, and with a very few others within the radius of a mile, soon found their thoughts turning in common to the privilege and duty of associate worship in the straggling village of Greenwich.

It is interesting to observe Church purposes crystallize and take their concrete form.

The Rev. George Upfold, M. D., had come to the city from Lansingburgh and Waterford, to attend a Diocesan convention. He was made acquainted, through his former friend Mr. D. A. Cushman, with the little knot of Churchmen way up on this part of the island, and perhaps the frank offer of $20 by Mr. Cushman to start a church, then a considerable contribution for a young man, won upon Mr. Upfold to visit the Churchmen in Greenwich. The conference was held at the residence of that large-hearted Church family—the Ritters—and the noble woman who presided over the household, and whose tablet on the walls of this edifice continually [7/8] testify to her character, lived to greatly bless the incipient enterprise.

On Friday evening of the same week, in October, 1820, they arranged for a service. Mr. Amos, well known in this village, had built a school-house in Amos street, the only one in the Ninth Ward, and still standing between Hudson and Bleecker, and Mr. Obadiah Parker, its schoolmaster, politely tendered the use of the room for this first service. It was natural that Mr. Upfold's acceptable ministrations should have drawn from the congregation a request that he officiate on the following Sunday—which he did to an increased congregation—and at the same time gave legal notice for the forming of a congregation, and to take the proper steps for the organization of a parish.

We have this record of the first legal meeting of the parish.

"At a meeting of those persons in the village of Greenwich who are desirous of establishing a Protestant Episcopal Church, and for the purpose of electing two Church Wardens and eight Vestrymen for the same, at O. Parker's school-room, on Monday evening, 6th November, JOHN P. ROOME was chosen Chairman; RICHARD N. HARRISON, Secretary.

Resolved, That we proceed to an election, and that Mr. Walker and Mr. Henry Ritter be the inspectors.

The following persons were duly chosen Church Wardens: CLEMENT C. MOORE and EDWARD N. COX.

Vestrymen.—Richd. Harrison, Nicholas Roome, Floyd Smith, John P. Roome, Richard N. Harrison, Henry Ritter, Samuel M. Thompson, Andrew Backus.

Resolved, That this Church shall hereafter be known in law by the name, style and title of the Rector, Church Wardens and Vestry of St. Lukes Church, New York.

[9] Resolved, That the first Monday in Easter week of each year, between the hours of twelve and one o'clock P. M., be and is hereby fixed as the time for the future elections of two Wardens and eight Vestrymen for this Church.
New York, November 6, 1820."

Thus reads the first minutes on the parish records. Of those ten men, most of them then in early manhood, Mr. Floyd Smith alone survives, a gentleman well known in the councils of the Church for half a century as a staunch advocate of evangelical truth and apostolical order. He only, however, fairly represents the devotion and zeal of his colleagues, who for many years were identified in the great Church work under the leadership of Hobart and Onderdonk. It is a lasting honor to this parish that its first and highest officer was Clement C. Moore, that accomplished scholar and Christian gentleman, and noble benefactor to literature and theology—first giving himself and his time and talents unto the Lord—and then an ample endowment of land to our general seminary, and consecrating to theology and sound learning his valuable services as Professor in Hebrew and Oriental languages. The Harrisons, the Roomes, the Ritters, are beacon lights of the past. The thoughts of the vestry and parish centred naturally on the Rev. Mr. Upfold as their desired Rector, and he was elected as such for one year.

Now commenced the stirring life of St. Luke's. The subscription list bore the names of generous benefactors. Trinity Church, whose munificence was felt in all early Church enterprises, promptly gave the ground for the Church, and soon after added two more lots for the churchyard, and has to the present hour felt and met an obligation to uphold a Church in this large section [9/10] of her possessions. The work of gaining friends and encouragement and aid, went on through the activities of the small but earnest band of men and women. Through the kindness of the Common Council, the room over the old watch-house, corner of Hudson and Christopher streets, was granted for the use of the nascent Church; the proffered articles and appropriations soon gave to the room its appointments of decency and order. The Rector-elect entered on the duties of his office December 6, 1820, some twenty families coming under his charge, and the usual attendance at service being from forty to sixty persons. On Christmas Day, December 25, 1820, the Holy Communion was administered for the first time to about sixteen communicants.

The village of Greenwich now began to make progress from two causes. The old State prison, whose walls enclosed about four acres and “extended from corner of Christopher, and run up Washington street to about half way between Charles and Perry streets, and then ran westerly with a break in the north line down West to Christopher and up that street to the corner of the starting point,” [ Market Book, by Thos. F. De Voe.] and containing some two hundred and fifty convicts, became a prominent point in this open country, and naturally drew around it the enterprising shopmen and market dealers. But the growth of Greenwich was still more accelerated by the more adventurous, who, in times of yellow fever, fled beyond the hills of Broadway, and Reade and Duane streets, and Richmond hill, and came as far as lower and upper Greenwich sections, about Spring and Hammond streets. The vestry were now encouraged to project a building of the dimensions of 45 feet by 55, but one and another showing interest in Church matters, the plan was enlarged, [10/11] though not without some misgiving, to 48 by 65 feet.

Mr. John Heath offered the successful bid for the erection of the Church, contracting to build it for $7,500. From this point the little Church colony had committed to them a great undertaking, and arrangements were made for laying the corner-stone. Mr. Labagh, a zealous layman, had the stone prepared at his own expense, and it was brought to the spot, bearing this inscription:

Erected A. D. 1821.
Rev. GEORGE UPFOLD, M. D., Rector.

Church notices were given in the city and around, of the laying of this stone on June 4th.

The auspicious day arrived. Except for those who commanded private or public carriages, there was slight accommodation for reaching the grounds. Up to that time scarcely more than two stages a day ran from this country quarter into the city, and the passengers inside had not then learned to grumble as the stage stopped here and there along the way to the Battery, while one and another got out to shop. Most of the population were below Chambers street. The plain red stone on [11/12] the north side of the City Hall shows, that at that time it was thought improbable that many would have occasion to pass beyond its marble front facing the south.

But curiosity and propriety drew many this day out of the precincts of the city, to attend the laying of this corner-stone. Some took the lanes winding among and over the hills of Broadway, till they reached the stone bridge which spanned the canal. Other parties passed on, till they crossed the wooden bridge over the canal at Greenwich street. Both companies on crossing the canal found their paths in the vicinity of the celebrated mansion of Richmond hill, which stood on the high eminence in sight of the city. This mansion of the English Major Mortier, naturally became for a time, as a place of observation and ample dimensions, the head-quarters of Gen. Washington. The splendor of Richmond hill was perhaps at its height when occupied by Aaron Burr, where his home life was spent when freed from his duties as Vice-President of the United States. But our friends, as they pushed towards these grounds, could have scarcely passed through the forest trees and exquisite scenery about Charlton and Spring and Varick streets, even up to Clarkson street, without a shudder at the awful murder which had been lately revealed by Juliana Elmore Sands [ Mercantile Advertiser, quoted in De Voe’s Market Book.] being found dead in Manhattan well near Spring street. The evident marks of violence on the body of this beautiful young quakeress, on a cold winter's night, was too unusual an incident in those more primitive days of the metropolis, and the trial of the supposed murderer left upon those meadows and groves too deep shadings of horror not to arrest the thoughts of our friends on that day, while proceeding to the religious ceremony of laying this corner-stone.

[13] The fact of this imposing ceremony seems to have reached the city papers in two days. I am indebted to one [ Let me here express my indebtedness to Mr. De Voe, for sources of information on the condition of New York, in the first part of this century, and my admiration that one, amid the pressure of great business transactions, should have contributed so much important information and so many valuable works and papers for the present and coming generations.] to whom the city is so greatly indebted, for a reference to The Columbian, a daily of that year, which has on the 6th of June, 1821, the following paragraph:

"The corner-stone of a new Episcopal Church, to be called St. Luke's Church, Greenwich, was laid on Monday at ten o'clock. The ceremony was performed by the Right Rev. Bishop Hobart, assisted by the Rev. G. Upfold and many of the clergy. The building will be plain and neat, and contains upwards of one hundred pews on the ground floor. The erection of this Church, we learn, is owing to the exertions of a few gentlemen, who have given their individual responsibilities for the cost of the edifice. The ground is a present from Trinity Church."

Greenwich village soon began to exhibit signs of growth, especially in summer. To escape the yellow fever, especially of 1822, not only families and individuals, but even business and the banks resorted to the country of Greenwich. The temporary banking-houses in Bank street above us gave it its name.

Some enterprising Churchmen zealous to secure for St. Luke's a winter congregation, induced capitalists to make the experiment of erecting houses, which is noticed as a success, and was again attempted. The Rector's taste for shrubbery soon surrounded the Church premises with enlivening trees, many of which still form a feature of beauty and comfort. The example was contagious, and all the streets around were soon clad in [13/14] living green. Happily the ruthless axe of improvement has thus far spared these trees.

Among the very first dwellings erected on the street were the parsonage, the next building on the south, and the adjoining house. The Rector, however, paid for the rent of the parsonage out of his salary of $800. In those days, $50 paid the sexton for his duties. The best pews were let for $20 a year. The Church of St. Esprit loaned us a bell then in use at St. Stephen's Church. A Mrs. Sullivan presented the first folio Bible, and from the old firm of Messrs. T. & J. Swords came prayer books, and from Mr. T. S. Stanford came a Bible, as gifts to St. Luke's.

There was neither paid choir nor any organ for some time in this Church. Yet it was noted for its excellent music, under the leadership of Mr. D. A. Cushman, to whom this Church, as well as many others, had occasion to return votes of thanks for the valued musical services of himself and family.

A plated communion service, consisting of several vessels, was received through Mr. F. Smith, and bearing these words, "Presented by a friend of St. Luke's Church, June, 1823."

In the third year of its existence, the parish was getting bold enough to think of securing an organ with 3 stops for $250, conditioned, however, on securing voluntary music and organist.

But I have noted enough to show the early Church simplicity of the parish. For several years Dr. Upfold performed stated services at Trinity Church, alternately with Rev. Mr. Doane, afterwards the Bishop of New Jersey, but then an assistant at Trinity. The parish steadily gained in strength, and in 1828 had about one hundred families.

[15] The first record of official acts by Mr. Upfold is, Dec. 13th 1820, the baptism of Catharine Augusta Roome, daughter of Nicholas and Jemima Roome. This entry stands at the head of the baptisms in the parish, the number of which to the present date amounts to 4,048.

The first recorded marriage, July 7, 1821, is that of "James Gardener to Elizabeth Belcher." The register of marriages from that date shows that the bonds of matrimony have been solemnized on 1,154 occasions.

The first recorded interment is that of Mrs. Aymar, at the advanced age of 87. The burials since, as appears from the parish register, are 1,410 in number.

The Rev. Mr. (now Bishop) Upfold, of Indiana, after a Rectorship of eight years, of great success and usefulness, accepted a call to the Rectorship of St. Thomas Church, Broadway, vacant by the death of the Rev. Cornelius R. Duffie.

On the 15th of the same February, the Rev. Levi S. Ives, then assistant minister of Christ Church in Anthony street, accepted the call to the Rectorship of this parish.

The winning address and parochial fidelity of Mr. Ives soon showed its results in a resolution of the vestry of the same year to enlarge the Church, at the estimated cost of $5,035.09.

At this time, Miss Louisa Gillingham entered on her brilliant career as vocalist in this city, and her services were secured in this Church at a salary of $250 per annum. That was the period of galleries, and even this Church was now for the first time crowded with singers. The population in this section was rapidly increasing, and a large portion were prominent Episcopalians. Mr. Ives remained here but about three years, when he resigned to be consecrated for his duties as Bishop of North Carolina. [15/16] As a parish priest he was eminently successful. The earlier part of his Episcopate was marked by able measures. That its latter part, till his resignation of his Bishoprick, and his course for a while after, gave good reason to his Diocese and friends to fear his mind at times had lost its balance, is perfectly reasonable. To this supposition I refer, not in order to explain or excuse his joining the Church of Rome, but to excuse conduct and declarations otherwise utterly inconsistent with his reputed uprightness and candor. And I feel bound to say in this connection, that just before sailing for Europe, while yet a Bishop of our Church, he officiated here with me in this parish, and expressed his grief that one whom he much loved had left us for the Roman Communion, and stated how he had endeavored to dissuade him from such a step. Yet it afterward appeared that he had at this very time fairly committed himself to the same step, and soon announced his submission to the Roman See. Surely, in charity we must refer such conduct, and many circumstances attending him while in England, to some aberration of mind.

June 29, 1831, signalizes the call of the Rev. W. R. Whittingham to the Rectorship of this Church. It is not surprising that the efforts of this devoted minister and able scholar should have shown themselves at once in the important element of parochial education. His vigorous mind seized firmly hold of the necessity of Church schools, if true religion and sound Christian principles, and Apostolical doctrines and discipline, are ever firmly to be rooted and make substantial progress. He saw that the early Church always had by its side the parish school; that the work of education was the bounden obligation of the Church, an office which she is not allowed to delegate to other hands. Soon the walls [16/17] of the large building now standing opposite us began to rise, under the charge and cost of this parish. Two schools of male and female departments opened their doors to the numerous pupils.

But the work began to tell upon the constitution of Mr. Whittingham. He still continued editor of the standard works published by the N. Y. P. E. Press; also of the works published by the P. E. Sunday School Union. And when to these were added other editorial duties, no wonder he was compelled to ask for twelve months' greater retirement, obtaining assistance in parochial duties from Rev. J. M. Forbes.

But God was preparing Dr. Whittingham for the highest office in the Church, first leading him to a professorship in the General Theological Seminary, whence in the ripeness of his powers he was called to the Bishoprick of Maryland, where he still holds his high office to the glory of God.

August fifth of the same year (1834) the vestry was called to fill the Rectorship, vacant by the resignation of Dr. Whittingham. The previous valued and acceptable temporary services of Rev. J. Murray Forbes were too fresh in the minds of the parish to allow the vestry to decide upon any other as Rector of St. Luke's. And he was instituted as such on Friday morning, Sept. 26, 1834.

It is not surprising, after the experience and financial embarrassment incurred by such men as Bishop Doane in Burlington College, Bishop Hopkins in Vermont, Dr. Hawks on Long Island, and scores of others who have never commanded the resources which education involves and deserves; it is not surprising that the school enterprises of St. Luke's should have caused financial distress and final abandonment. But this did not take place till [17/18] the schools had given good proof of their mighty efficiency in the work of Christ and his Church. [ Of the trustees of those schools, Mr. A. B. McDonald is the only one still remaining in the parish. He has also since 1841, a period of thirty years, been a warden of St. Luke's.] The deserved acceptableness of the new Rector was soon evinced in the progress of the parish.

But I shall not dwell on the many incidents of Dr. Forbes' sixteen years Rectorship. He was the first to repair the altar of the Lord that was broken down, restoring the daily services and weekly communion in the city. The day of parochial trials began to overtake the congregation. The tide of populace which gathered and was held here for a while, began to break over the boundaries of Greenwich, and flowed toward the north and east, till for several years this parish seemed like a gate in the highway, through which the Church population passed out from below for new points and to form new parishes beyond. It is interesting to note now in other parishes the multitudes of prominent names at one time associated with St. Luke's. But shall I shrink from adverting to the close of Dr. Forbes' many and noble and trying labors here. [ We can hardly realize the loose and slovenly ways in which services were then too generally performed; and how many catholic ways and days and usages were neglected.] I am not surprised that the opposition he experienced to doctrines and usages and practices which we all now recognize as right, should have in a measure stunned him. He was simply then in advance of his times. The services in St. Luke's then regarded as novelties are now common everywhere. Nor am I surprised that claimed authorities and supposed facts in favor of Rome, especially as presented by Mr. Newman, should have weighed upon him under the circumstances. At that time the false decretals of Rome had not been [18/19] so fully exposed by scholars. At that time Mr. Newman stood so high, that few questioned, and none took the pains to verify, the references in his book on Development. At that time, the Church was as it were awakened out of sleep, and many were scarcely self-collected. At that time it was never believed that the Roman Church would still add to its novelties, till it proclaimed the immaculate conception of the Virgin and the infallibility of the Pope. Some of our highest minds, under a morbid fear that the Anglican Church would not prove true to the tests of Catholicity, early left her, and many of the holiest and most conscientious, under fuller experience and fuller light, have had the moral courage to confess their error, and return to the Church they left. [ No books that could be written would be of equal testimony against Rome, and in favor of our Church, as the return to us of men of such acknowledged abilities and blameless lives.] Doubtless the history of that time will yet be developed by the pen of some competent to give it.

Twenty-one years ago this month the earnest letters of Bishop Onderdonk and Dr. Berrian, and the entreaty of many in the ministry, added to the earnest call of the vestry, induced your preacher to accept the task of continuing the usefulness of this parish. But I pass over in silence the events of my Rectorship. The adjoining buildings which have been erected for Church purposes, the improvements of the Church exterior, and the various works of active charities, have each their history. If my ministry should be deemed in any way successful, let it in the first place be attributed under God to the steadfastness and fidelity of the laymen, who, amid all the trials of desertion, stood firm, as the laymen have generally done, to the principles of the Church—to the [19/20] many noble women who have labored here much in the Lord. But neither their labors, with my own, would have saved this now down-town parish from the terrible experience of so many others, similarly located, but for that ancient Church and corporation whose property lies in this quarter, and which has recognized it as her privilege and her duty to sustain here the ministrations of Christ's kingdom.

Fifty years of Church life here have passed, and soon our own shall end. May other hands, with better hearts and minds, carry on the glorious work of Christ and his Church. To many of you what memories must be awakened to-day, clustering around this spot. The strength and spiritual life of your early manhood and womanhood was here developed and exerted. How many of you may have here entered the kingdom of God to your everlasting joy? How many of your holiest associations linger about this plain old Church? How many of your dear friends once here with you are now within the blessed paradise? Soon for us will come the night, when no man can work. But, dearly beloved, may it be said of you: They will go from strength to strength, and unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Sion."



New York, June 2d, A.D. 1871.
Rector of St. Luke's Church, New York.


[21] I have received, with sincere gratification, your kind and pressing invitation to be present on Sunday evening next, at the semi-centennial celebration of the laying of the corner stone of St. Luke's Church.

I greatly regret that a temporary indisposition will prevent me from taking part in the services of this most interesting occasion.

I have known St. Luke's Parish from its earlier days, when it was characterized alike by the admirable men who, in succession filled its Pastoral office, and by the distinguished character, prominence in the Church, zeal and usefulness of many who worshipped within its walls. My own ministry there, extending, first and last, over a period of nearly twenty years, is that portion of my life on which I look back with least regret.

Be assured then that nothing that concerns the prosperity of old St. Luke's can ever be wanting in interest to me. You must allow me to add, that with this extended knowledge of the Parish, is combined the conviction, that at no period of its history has the administration of its affairs been conducted with more wisdom, prudence, zeal and effectiveness, than during your own ministry.

That God's best blessings may still attend both pastor and people, is most sincerely and devoutly the prayer of your friend and brother,


Baltimore, June 2d, 1871.

Although in the midst of the cares and worries of an unusually full Diocesan Convention, I must take time to say how much I thank you for the kind remembrance of me shown by your note of invitation to the semi-centennial commemoration of the laying of the corner stone of St. Luke's Church, to take place on Sunday evening next.

Apart from the cherished recollection of my short and checkered but in all very happy Rectorship of St. Luke's, I have an interest in your anniversary of which you can hardly be aware. I was in official attendance at the solemnity commemorated, and walked in the procession that went from the Christopher street watch-house to the spot in an open field on which the corner stone of St. Luke's Church in Greenwich village was to be laid, as one of the Superintendents of Zion Church Sunday School, in company with my father, who had been invited as a Vestryman of Zion Church. On that day first I saw the thenceforward much loved face of George W. Doane, my dear and daily more and more lamented friend, the late glorious Bishop of New Jersey. The I  believe, for the first time, I had the honor of introduction to my still owned and much honored friends the venerable Floyd Smith and Don Alonzo Cushman. Oh, how thick the memories of C. C. Moore, and C. N. S. Rowland, and Thos. Browning, and J. N. S. Wells, and Chas. Keeler, and A. B. Macdonald, and George Coggill, my dear vestrymen of a dozen years later in the history of the Church, gush up into a heart still as full as ever of love and gratitude for every one of their cherished names, when once the trio, Smith, Cushman, and Dr. James N. Stewart are before me! But I cannot open up those days, with their joys, and hopes, and cares and trials, or I should become childishly garrulous.

May our Gracious Master ever more and more own and bless the congregation, ministry, and work of St. Luke's Church, as of yore it has been owned and blessed of Him! And may His peace and joy fill you, her Rector, and your true yoke-fellows in the work.

Your loving friend and brother,
Rev. I. H. TUTTLE D.D.

Indianapolis, June 19th, 1871.

Your favor of May 30th was received, but too late to answer before the anniversary service. My father desires me to thank you for your kind remembrance of him; he is entirely unable to use his hands for writing, but had there been time would have gladly sent you a few lines of congratulation.

I must apologize for my delay in answering. I have been suffering from inflamed eyes, and am only now able to write as usual.

I am very respectfully yours, &c.,
Rev. ISAAC H. TUTTLE, D.D., New York

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