Project Canterbury

History of the Diocese of Fond du Lac and Its Several Congregations

By A. Parker Curtiss

Fond du Lac: P.B. Haber Printing Co., 1925.

Chapter II. The New Diocese

The First Annual Council of Fond du Lac, assembled at Fond du Lac, Tuesday, June 8, 1875. Bishop Welles who presided opened his address with this statement:

"Seven months have elapsed since in your Primary Council, (with wonderful harmony of feeling and action) you made choice of one to be your Bishop, whose acceptance was most earnestly desired by all. As the result of matured and prayerful deliberation he declined your election, and now again in Council assembled, there is imposed upon you the very grave responsibility of selecting for the Church in this diocese a chief pastor."

At the second session of the Council, the order of business was the election of the Bishop. By resolution, the first ballot was an informal one. The clergy gave the Rev. Jacob S. Ship-man three votes and divided the other thirteen among ten clergy. The laity gave Rev. F. R. Haff fifteen votes and scattered thirty among nine other candidates. On the second and third ballots, the Rev. J. S. Shipman led in number in both orders, and was elected by both clergy and laity on the third ballot.

The number of the clergy at this Council was the same as at the Primary Council, but some changes had taken place. Rev. E. A. Goodenough, Missionary to the Oneidas, a name renowned and venerable in the annals of the Diocese now appears for the first time, and signed the testimonial of the Bishop elect. The number of lay delegates had risen from fourteen at the Primary Council, to forty-five.

St. John's, Wausau; St. Mark's, Waupaca; Trinity, Neenah; and St. Paul's, Oshkosh, applied for admission to union with the Council.

On July 15 following the Council, the Rev. Jacob S. Ship-man wrote from Lexington, Ky., where he was Rector of Christ Church, and declined the election "because the way to accepting it seems providentially closed," and a Special Council was called, which convened in Christ Church, Green Bay, September 15, 1875. The secretary, Rev. Martin V. Averill [11/12] called the council to order, and called the roll of 22 clergy canonically resident in the diocese. Fourteen answered to their names. The Rev. F. R. Haff, President of the Standing Committee, and the "oldest Presbyter in orders present", took the chair. Of 20 parishes and missions entitled to representation, sixteen presented credentials, and 38 lay delegates answered to their names. Two more were later given seats. The Rev. Wm. Dafter was unanimously elected President of the Council and, at the afternoon session, the election was the order of business. An informal ballot was taken, in which the Rev. J. H. Hobart Brown, S. T. D., received three clerical votes and eight votes were scattered between six other candidates. The laity gave Rev. F. R. Haff ten votes, and votes were scattered among twelve other candidates. On the first and second ballots no election was made by either order, but on the third ballot Dr. Brown was elected by seven votes of the clergy, and twenty of the laity.

Dr. Brown accepted the election, and was consecrated in his parish church of St. John, Cohoes, N. Y., on Wednesday, December 15, 1875, by Horatio Potter, Bishop of New York, assisted by William Croswell Doane, Bishop of Albany, Benjamin H. Paddock, Bishop of Massachusetts, Edward R. Welles, Bishop of Wisconsin, Wm. H. A. Bissell, Bishop of Vermont, Wm. W. Niles, Bishop of New Hampshire, and John Scarborough, Bishop of New Jersey. Besides the four clergy from the diocese of Fond du Lac, the names of eighty-six others are given as being present. The Choir of All Saints Cathedral, Albany sang the service. The only reference to the musical character of the service is, that the Nicene Creed was chanted, and the hymns that were sung. These were, "Onward Christian Soldiers," "Wisdom Spreading Mightily" "Lord pour thy Spirit from on high," "Sing Alleluia Forth," "Shepherd of Souls," "Jerusalem, high town," and "Angel bands."

The sermon was preached by Bishop Welles, and the pastoral staff delivered by the Bishop of Albany. This Bishop in his Council address following, alluded most feelingly to the service, and spoke of its beauty and dignity. Bishop Brown in his first address to the diocese says, "The wonderful beauty and grandeur of that service I am sure will never be effaced from the memory of those who witnessed it."

It was indeed a memorable service. A new diocese, carved from what but a few years before, was a wilderness, was to receive its first bishop. The West was to be won for God. The large number of the clergy representing thirteen or more dioceses attested to the importance of the occasion. But many must have come because of the fact that one of the best of men, one of beautiful character and winning personality, was to be advanced to the greatest honor the church can confer. He was a great man, and a good one. The story of his [12/13] episcopate is the history of a self sacrifice, a devotion to duty, a fatherly interest in every communicant in his diocese, and a steady aim that never faltered to make the Diocese of Fond du Lac an expression of the highest conception of the Church of the ages. There have been abler bishops, but few were so well loved. And that is a comment that tells the great story of a father in God.

The Council addresses of Bishop Brown, read in the light of later years, are wonderful examples of the conceptions he had of his high office. He did not shirk to speak the truth. He seemed to have grasped the needs of his clergy, and the difficulties of his diocese which they had to face.

On May 11, he met the vestry of Fond du Lac, to confer with them about their offer, made some time previously of St. Paul's Church with the property, for a Cathedral. This arrangement was subsequently carried out, no doubt because of its central position as the railroads of that time indicated.

In his first address to the Council, Bishop Brown lays down many of the principles, ideals and plans by which he was ;o be guided. He sees the difficulties of his field.

Here are a few sentences gathered from this address "The bishop's office binds him quite as closely to the most distant missionary in the humblest station of his diocese as to the rector and people of the largest and most central parish. He must not surround himself with those daily cares and duties of a pastor that would come between him and the larger requirements of the diocese." "One great evil of our modern Church system is the Congregationalism of the parishes." "The parishes ought not to be like marbles in a bag, simply near each other, but without cohesion." The Cathedral "should be the centre of missionary effort and zeal." Its worship should be "fervent, constant, beautiful and glorious." "The Clergy need to preach and teach with great diligence. One good sermon each Sunday is probably as much as is profitable for the ordinary congregation. There is no harm if the sermon be very short."

Not only was the Bishop in favor of short sermons, but short services as well. He exhorts the clergy to study the temper of the times. He notes that congregations are often restless under prolonged services. In regard to the Holy Eucharist he notes with satisfaction that at Fond du Lac, Easter Day, Morning Prayer and Litany were said earlier, and the Eucharist was the chief service of the day. "Why can it not be always so? The Communion service has quite enough of instruction and prayer and praise for the most devout worshipper."

Glancing through his journal, one notes that he had visited the parishes at Sheboygan and Appleton three times, preaching twice on these occasions. He visited others too, more [13/14] than once. The humblest mission saw him preaching and celebrating Holy Communion, even if no candidates for Confirmation were presented. He preached in remote school houses, to handfuls. He notes that one was in a swamp, but many were there. In another, twelve men had gathered. The school house was in the woods, with no beaten path leading to it. He seemed to have visited every place where the Church had any foot hold, and had delivered one hundred and fifty-two sermons and addresses. In 1877 he made two hundred and thirteen sermons and addresses, in '78, two hundred and forty-four; in '79, two hundred and eighteen, and made fifty-two visitations. In 1880, he delivered two hundred and twenty-one sermons and addresses and made sixty-six visitations. These figures give some indication of the active and busy life of the Bishop. With his ideals of the work a bishop is called to do, the size of the Diocese impresses him as being a drawback to a complete union of the parishes with each other and the Bishop. In his second annual address to the Council, he broaches the question of a further division of the Diocese.

Now it is fitting that from his addresses and other pronouncements, we should gather some idea of the plan and ideals of the first Bishop in founding our Diocese. Not in any logical or chronological order, some are gathered and here presented as they occur in his public utterances.

"Today wherever the Church will go about her Master's duty, avoiding strife about mysteries, and refusing to wrangle and argue with unbelievers, her honest love for man will make the world curious and anxious to understand and obtain that faith in God and knowledge of His will which bear such gracious and amiable fruit.

"The bishop was glad to find here (Waupun) the establishment of the weekly Eucharist. If Churchmen would discuss the doctrine of the Holy Communion less and receive the Holy Communion more frequently, they would be happier and holier than they are now with their much talking and scant piety." Council 1876.

"The scarcity of Church schools in the diocese impresses me painfully. Ripon is the one parish with a living strong school, and that has not one-half of the children that ought to be in it, nor is it more than half sustained . . . There are many Sunday Schools in the diocese . . . But the best of them is a poor substitute for daily training in Christian knowledge and manners."

"A formal sermon each Sunday is not sufficient for the enlightenment of the congregation. Catechetical lectures, informal instruction in the Sacred Scriptures, Church history and liturgies, would build up the people in our holy religion. . ." Council 1877.

"I feel as keenly as any bishop, the need of Missionary, [14/15] charitable and educational workers, and I would gladly welcome, further, and sustain brotherhoods or sisterhoods devoted to any holy purpose, but the weakest argument for such associations that can be employed, is their cheapness." Council 1878.

"The missionary work of the diocese is pre-eminently the bishop's work, and he is the chief missionary."

"What thoughtful person can fail to perceive that many communities need the unpopular pastor, the man devoid of mean politic arts and selfish ambitions, the man willing to be misunderstood and coldly and unkindly treated rather than to hide the counsel of God from his people, or to risk the safety of a single soul committed to his charge."

"The theoretical polity of the Church is that the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and are the divinely appointed fathers, pastors, guardians and governors of God's people. . . . Bishops mindful of the Master and His children would not be tyrants if they could. . . . But the Congregationalism of which I am speaking, comes between the bishop and the clergy, and between the bishop and the people. . . He is compelled to stand still and behold the people seeking to be bishops and priests to themselves, hurt and wounded by their wilfulness and ignorance." 1880.

"I am well aware that there may be a conservatism so stiff and rigorous in resisting change and growth as to lead to the grave." 1885.

"A vigorous effort ought to be made to bring this Ascension Feast into its ancient prominence. Ascension Day itself ranks with Easter and Christmas." 1886.

In every Council address, Bishop Brown pleads for parish schools, support of schools and colleges, especially stressing Racine College under Dr. DeKoven, for whom he had the greatest veneration, and to whom in a Council address he paid a beautiful tribute after his death. He made also frequent mention of Kemper Hall, at Kenosha, and rejoices that it is making such progress under the Sisters of St. Mary, not long before his death. He arraigns the laity again and again for their want of liberal support to the church's educational efforts, contrasting them with Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists, paying taxes to the public schools as well as Churchmen, and yet maintaining schools where the Christian religion was taught along with secular learning. It was a deep seated grief to him that there were so few Church schools, and those so badly supported.

In his convention address of 1879, it is with great joy and thankfulness that he records the establishment, and successful conduct of the Cathedral School. This outlived his time, though now no longer carried on.

This project of Church schools was ever in his mind, and [15/16] in 1886, he was able to report to the Council that his long prayed for diocesan school for girls was soon to be an accomplished fact.

Before this was put into effect however, he founded the Order of St. Monica under whose care the school was to be placed. The Bishop felt that there was a place in the Church for widows, women who had been deprived of their husbands, and were free from family cares who might find mutual help, comfort and sanctification in banding together under a simple rule to devote themselves to prayer and good works. Mrs. Caroline Delano of Niagara Falls, N. Y., was chosen by him to become the Mother Foundress of the new Order.

Mother Caroline was a lady of the "old school". Few women of our day have the presence and stately grace of this devoted Churchwoman. She gave an atmosphere to the school over which she presided, that meant much to the girls under her, and through them to the diocese. To the grace and charm of a woman of the highest cultivation she added a deep spirituality that impressed itself on those who came into contact with her.

Other widows joined the little community, and it made a deep impression on the life of the Church. After the death of Bishop Brown, his widow joined the community, and though after some years for want of accessions, and a fostering spirit like Bishop Brown, the Order came to an end, Sister Anna Hobart, as Mrs. Brown came to be known, spent the rest of her life caring for the Altars of the Church her Bishop husband had refounded after its destruction by fire, in the greatest loyalty to his successor. Mother Caroline Delano, and Sister Anna Hobart are memories that many of us, or at least those who still live and remember them, love and cherish.

St. Monica's School and Convent was housed in an old building of wood, that in time came to need many repairs. The work of the school and its support was too much for the failing strength of Mother Caroline, and on her laying down the burden, Bishop Grafton found the means to build the present beautiful stone school that stands behind the Cathedral, and now bears his name.

One of the subjects on which Bishop Brown frequently touched in his public utterances, was that of free churches. The selling and renting of pews was a thing most distasteful to him. When St. Paul's Church, Fond du Lac was built, pews to the value of $9,000 were sold to pay the debt incurred in its building. When he accepted the Church as his Cathedral, it was on the condition that the seats be made free. The pews were all deeded to him, thus extinguishing individual claims.

Church music was one of the many subjects in which the bishop manifested his interest in a practical way. He liked [16/17] good music, but was opposed to the use of secular or operatic kinds of church music. He deprecates sickly and sentimental hymn tunes. He personally saw that the Benedictus was used in the place of the Jubilate at Morning Prayer. He was ready with valuable suggestions to small choirs and clergy unskilled in music. He did much to raise the quality of music in the diocese.

In every Council address, he urged the Diocese to support Cadle Home at Green Bay "our only diocesan charity". He frequently visited it, and delighted to see it in operation. The care of the poor was ever in his mind, and he frequently urged it upon the Diocese in his addresses and sermons.

In the establishment of the Order of St. Monica, Bishop Brown gave a practical proof of his interest in and belief in the Religious Life. He was a frequent visitor of Rev. Charles C. Grafton in Boston, and when the American Fathers withdrew from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Father O. S. Prescott and Father W. R. Gardner were invited to come to Fond du Lac. Had Fr. Grafton been willing to leave Boston, a new Order would have been set up in the Diocese of Fond du Lac.

Fr. Prescott became rector of Ripon, and Fr. Gardner after doing missionary work, especially as the Bishop states, "reviving" Grace and St. Paul's at Oshkosh, went to Jackson-port where he built the church with money sent him by Fr. Grafton. Both of these clergy later returned to Boston, but declining to go on there with the Religious life, and Fr. Grafton being unwilling to come to Wisconsin, they returned to this Diocese. Fr. Gardner became rector of Plymouth, and Fr. Prescott assisted at the Cathedral. Fr. Grafton continued to make gifts to the Diocese. He gave the large Eucharistic lights for the Cathedral, and in other ways assisted the Bishop by gifts. He sent money to Fr. Gardner to build a chapel at Adell, where he had begun some mission work. This not giving promise of success, the money was used to improve the Church at Jacksonport. Fr. Grafton was also a generous supporter of the work among the Belgians, commonly called the "Old Catholic" work, of which it is now time to speak.

In that part of the diocese, known as the Door County peninsula, there was a considerable settlement of Belgians, who for various reasons had become dissatisfied with the Roman Catholic Church. Some of them had taken up with a movement called "Spiritualism," but differing largely from what is usually known as such. It was more like a sort of Quakerism.

Statue of St. Margaret in the Cathedral.

Project Canterbury