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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 IV. Days of Progress

The Annual Council of the Diocese, which met in Fond du Lac, on the fifth day of June following Bishop Brown's death, elected on the second day, on the second ballot, the Rev. Geo. McClellan Fiske of Providence, Rhode Island, as Bishop of Fond du Lac. On the first ballot Rev. Charles C. Grafton received twelve of the twenty-four votes cast by the clergy, and nine on the second.

Dr. Fiske declined the election, in a letter addressed to the Standing Committee, and a special Council was called for November 13th. There were eighteen clergy and forty-eight laymen present. The election of a bishop was the order of the day. On the first ballot the clergy elected Father Grafton, and the laity did not elect. On the second ballot Father Grafton was elected by both orders.

Fr. Grafton accepted his election, and was consecrated Bishop on St. Mark's Day, April 25, 1889.

The Presiding Bishop and chief Consecrator was Bishop McLaren of Chicago, who celebrated the Holy Eucharist. The co-consecrators were Bishop Knickerbacker of Indiana and Bishop Seymour of Springfield. Bishop Gilbert of Minnesota, and Bishop Knight of Milwaukee, were the presenters, and Bishop Burgess of Quincy preached the sermon. The service is described in the Journal of the Diocese as a very splendid one, and the music of the Mass was Cruickshank in E flat. All of the Bishops present have passed to their reward, not many of the clergy and laity are left. The writer was a theological student, and acted as a server, having a special relation to the Bishop through living in his house in Boston.

The new Bishop was fifty-nine years of age at the time of his election, and he lived to celebrate the twenty-third anniversary of that day.

Bishop Grafton took up his residence in St. Monica's House, and began at once to carry on the diocese on the lines laid down by his predecessor.

His first confirmation was on April 29, being that of a sick person at Marinette. His journal shows that he spent two or three days in many of the parishes. Later he tried to carry [24/25] out a week of conferences in every parish where it could be done.

The missionay character of the Diocese at once seems to have impressed him. One of his earliest acts for carrying out of this, was the securing of a general missionary.

He reports that St. Monica's School is in a prosperous condition.

Bishop Grafton found that many of the churches and missions of the diocese had been closed. This was the great sorrow of his predecessor. Through the aid of the general missionary, he reports at his second Council, eighteen of these were opened. Some of these he mentions as still feeble, but Manitowoc, Waupaca, Menasha and Waupun have become good and thriving congregations.

The first church built during his Episcopate was St. Agnes-by-the-Lake Ahnapee (later Algoma). This had been the first church erected after the organization of the diocese, and had been burned some six years before his coming. On his first visitation, when he confirmed some persons presented in a hall where the services were held, he found the people anxious to rebuild, and so secure regular services. At a meeting, $750 was pledged which he agreed to meet with a similar sum, and the present beautiful little church, a replica of the first one, designed by Upjohn was erected, and consecrated by him June 21, 1891. Those who have seen this church, and who think of the sum which it cost to build, $1500, can realize what changes have taken place which make a new church such a problem.

Bishop Grafton quotes in his second address a remark of Bishop Brown, that as he was the first Bishop of Fond du Lac, he feared he would be the last. But it had lived through its darkest days. Through his family and friends in the east material help began to flow in, and men and means were not so hard to gain. Bishop Grafton set himself to promote efforts on the part of the laity to build and ornament the churches. During his episcopate a number were erected, partly by aid he secured; and for the reverent performance of divine worship he was ever ready with gifts. He believed that a beautiful church and a splendid and reverent worship was what was needed for the true upbuilding of the Church in his diocese.

The payment of the debt on his Cathedral, and its endowment was an object of fruitful endeavor.

His love of the beautiful also inspired him to promote the beautifying of the church itself. Those who now see this, the most beautiful Cathedral in the Church in this country in many respects, can hardly realize what he found. Aside from the bare building, and the seats, there was nothing of artistic Worth save the low parapet dividing the choir from the Nave, and the marble altar, both secured by Bishop Brown. These [25/26] and the windows, especially the glorious window over the High Altar constituted all of beauty aside from the building itself. And in this there were defects. The barrel roof of the chancel made its acoustic properties difficult. The pointed roof was put in by Bishop Grafton, and there followed, the pulpit, lectern, font, reredos, rood beam, many statues, the various altars, wall paintings and many other smaller objects of beauty. The paintings are by Miss Anna Upjohn, and represent her earliest work. The line of pictures running along the nave at the junction of wall and roof, were to hide windows that gave, as some one said, the appearance of a Pullman car. To his initiative is due the guild hall, and the encasement of the old school house with stone.

Grafton Hall is practically a gift from him and his friends.

Like his predecessor, he was interested in the Religious life, and education. On the reorganization of St. Monica's and its separation from the Order of St. Monica, the school was placed under the care of the Rev. and Mrs. B. T. Rogers. Under their administration the new school was built, and they continued in charge for twenty-two years--until Dr. Rogers went to Racine College as Warden. This, now ancient school, is still active, flourishing and promises better things for the future.

Bishop Grafton, when rector of the Church of Advent, Boston, had founded the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity. He founded a house of these Sisters at once in Fond du Lac, whose part was to help the clergy in their spiritual work. Later the Mother House, then located at Providence was moved to Fond du Lac, and the beautiful Convent adds to the Churchly attractions of the See city.

Bishop Grafton was spared many of the cruel disappointments of his predecessor, and his episcopate moved on smoothly, and the diocese saw a gradual and healthy growth. The bishop was able to devote much time to literary work, and books, pamphlets and articles for periodicals poured out with surprising frequency from a bishop who kept up his work in his diocese and answered his letters the next day.

But age was creeping on, and he felt himself unable at last to carry on as vigorously as at first, and in 1900 he asked for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor. At a special Council in August, The Rev. R. H. Weller, rector of Stevens Point, was elected on the first ballot. He was consecrated November 8, 1900. This service was the first of those, with which we have now become familiar, as recently in the consecration of Bishop Gray of Northern Indiana, and Bishop Ivins of Milwaukee, where the whole ceremonial of the ancient Church of God, was carried out. It was a milestone in the history of the Church in this country, and demonstrated the strength of that movement that seeks to assert the Catholic character of the [26/27] Church as being a living fact and not a mere statement of Creeds. The controversy regarding this service was acrimonious and bitter, but it did good in that it gave courage to the timid and demonstrated that these things were of the Church's right. It marked an advance that has not been lost.

Bishop Grafton was consecrator, with Bishop Nicholson of Milwaukee, and Bishop Anderson of Chicago, as co-conse-crators. Bishops Williams of Marquette, and Francis of Indiana, were the presenters, and Bishop McLaren of Chicago, the preacher. Bishop Kozlowsky of the Old Catholic Church in Chicago, was present in his vestments, and so was Bishop Tikon, that revered and saintly man, with whom Bishop Graf-ton was on terms of closest friendship. They were kindred spirits, and after his stormy life in Russia, the great Patriarch has joined his friend in the life beyond.

All the Bishops were vested in copes and mitres, not then as common as now. The new Bishop was vested in these insignia of his office, and being anointed with chrism, the pectoral cross, the ring and staff were delivered to him.

It was a wonderful exhibition of the beauty of holiness, and those who were present, saw the beginning of a new epoch in the life of the Church.

Bishop Weller at once took up the missionary work, and as time went on gradually took on the most of the work of the diocese that could not be done in the Bishop's office. Bishop Grafton devoted himself more and more to literary work.

In 1911 the Bishop's health began to give us concern. He had difficulty in walking. As he expressed it "his pins were giving out." In the fall of 1911, he made his last visitation outside of Fond du Lac. He went to Sheboygan for the opening of the new parish house. He celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the early morning. Attempting to go over to the church alone from the rectory, he fell on the pavement, but was assisted into the ·hurch by a passerby.

In April, 1912, he had a more serious fall in his library, and the injury seemed to be the occasion for a gangrenous affection of his foot. His mind and general health seemed as usual. The writer visited him on the 20th of August. He was full of interest in his diocese, and was planning something that would be of advantage to the Old Catholic missions, which he loved. His visitor knelt by his side as he sat in his chair, for the blessing from his dear friend and bishop, little thinking it was the last time. Just before noon on the morning of August 30, he passed away. Bishop Weller and Dr. Rogers, together with the Sisters with whom he had made his home, were about his dying bed, and he received the Sacraments he loved so well.

It was the passing of a great soul. He was a scion of the real "old American stock." He had been brought up in all the [27/28] luxury and culture of the old Boston, which has almost passed away. He had everything at his feet as a young man born to such privileges, and endowed with unusual graces of mind and body. But the cause of Christ, and the advancement of His Church, as a means of the salvation of souls, was the great passion of his life. He spent three fortunes on the Church. His own tastes were as simple as a monk's.

He had his enemies, but they were those who could not understand such a lofty spirit, or enter into the depths, of his religious convictions. Those of us who were at his burial service, remember how Fr. Huntington, O. H. C, cried out, "Bishop Grafton would have died for the Catholic faith." And we knew it. For the sake of it he was willing to give all that most men count as precious.

It may take another fifty years before men come to realize all that he has meant to the Church, but no one can fail to recognize what he had been able to accomplish for his diocese in the way of material benefit. He found but nine self supporting parishes. But he left more than that. There is hardly a parish or mission that cannot point to some gift that helped them over a rough place. They were not unlike in many ways, Bishop Brown and Bishop Grafton. They belonged to an elder order of things. Modern materialism had not spoiled them. They lived for Christ and His Church. The diocese of Fond du Lac may well boast of their lives, and glory that they died in her service.

Bishop Weller succeeded as a matter of course to the Diocese. As Bishop Grafton had entered into the labours of Bishop Brown, so has he entered into those of Bishop Grafton. And he has carried on the diocese according to its traditions.

This diocese presents many problems. Its population has been a very changing one. Many of the old parishes were founded by Church people from the east, possessed by the spirit of pioneering adventure, when Wisconsin was the far west. As the country opened up more, this old American stock moved on, and their places were taken by people of foreign birth, and religions which had little in common with the Church. It has been difficult to adapt the parishes in many cases to this change.

In very few places is there any Church population to draw from. The parishes are built up mostly by individual and not too frequent conversions from various demonimations. Most of those of European origin have been drawn by the Catholic presentation of the Church. But only in the larger towns are there strong parishes. In a city of over thirty thousand one finds one parish of the Church. In the state of New York there would be five or six. This will give some indication of the difficulty of maintaining the Church in small villages, and [28/29] towns of two, or four or six thousand. That this is done in our diocese is a miracle.

This matter of maintaining the Church in small towns is one of the problems Bishop Weller has had to face. The east with her more settled conditions, larger salaries and more congenial social conditions, attract away our young men. Many an eastern parish is well administered by Wisconsin priests, born and bred in the difficult conditions of the Midwest. A priest who can make a Wisconsin parish "go" would find Trinity Parish, New York, a mere pastime. There are clergy who are a huge success in the east, who were esteemed failures in Wisconsin. The Middle west is critical and captious. There is much parish popery. It is not much to be wondered at. Many a time the whole future of a parish has depended on one or two. Left for long periods without priests a parish loses much of the spirit of obedience and patience.

People from the east who criticise our small numbers little know what difficulties we face. But the Diocese of Fond du Lac accomplishes what some eastern dioceses cannot, and there are parishes which in their churches, faithfulness, generosity and devotion put many to shame in the east. The writer taking the services in a parish in the east with six hundred communicants, used to see fifty in the summer at the Morning Prayer which is supposed to be the service to fill a church with. A parish in this diocese with 100 communicants will do as well as that on a summer Sunday. There is a spirit of devotion hard to equal anywhere, in this diocese, and we can trace it to our founder, and his successors, who in spite of noisy and bitter protests, have adhered to the good old ways of the Old Church.

It is not easy to write the history of any living man. Bishop Weller's work can only fairly be judged from a longer perspective than is afforded by the thirteen years of his undivided rule of his diocese. But he has not shirked a difficult task. There are great difficulties. He has suffered as his predecessors have done. But he carries on. There has been a distinct growth in many directions. Better churches are being built. Better salaries are being paid. More is being done in a missionary direction. This is perhaps one of the best signs of the diocese in his day. New and good parishes have been set up, and the future is not dark. The state of society is being more and more settled, and work is laid on surer foundations.

The history of these days must be written by those who come after us. The writer ends as be began. The true history of the diocese will be written by some one later. There are many interesting episodes entirely passed over.

What became of Cadle Home? What was the story of the Northwestern Orphanage? The history of the Oneida, and its [29/30] various churches there. The patience and hope of the Indians whose money painfully saved, was stolen by a dishonest bank cashier. Their fires and losses. The whole story of the Old Catholic missions and the Villatte episode. The ordination of the Abbot of Caldey. The part we took in the DeKoven controversy. Dr. Durlin and the first altar lights. Fr. Blow and wafer bread, his surpliced choir and his unique place in his community. Marquette and the Court House. The Menominees and the Church at Gardner. Who ever knew old Niquetch? Who knows who L'Anglais was? Why should the memory of Mr. Pelletier perish from the earth? Among our faithful laymen, who knows of Henri Gigot? Who knows that we had a real living saint at Algoma in the person of Grandma Goodwin and her Anthony; their memory should be kept green. How many there are who bless the memory of Mrs. Stebbins. Is there a complete file of the Diocese of Fond du Lac? It was full of history. Much of this history has been culled from clippings from it, and much of interest might have been added, were there time and room for it.

Who would be custodian of pamphlets, cuttings and periodicals? Alas, we have no historical perspective as a people, and like grandfather clocks we threw into the fire fifty years ago, to be bemoaned in these days of antique collectors, our history perishes in memories and dust bins and the ragman's bag. But some day some one will write a real history.

The Right Rev. Charles Chapman Grafton, D.D.
Second Bishop of Fond du Lac

The Right Rev. Reginald Heber Weller, D.D.
Bishop of Fond du Lac

A Council Procession.

Bishops at the Consecration of the Rt. Rev. R. H. Weller, D.D., to be Bishop Coadjutor of Fond du Lac, November 8, 1900.

1. The Rt. Rev. Charles Chapman Grafton, S.T.D., Bishop of Fond du Lac.

2. The Rt. Rev. Isaac Lea Nicholson, D.D., Bishop of Milwaukee.

3. The Rt. Rev. Charles P. Anderson, D.D., Bishop Coadjutor of Chicago.

4. The Rt. Rev. Anthony Kozlowski, D.D., Polish Catholic Bishop.

5. The Rt. Rev. G. Mott Williams, D.D., Bishop of Marquette.

6. The Rt. Rev. R. H. Weller, D.D., Bishop Coadjutor of Fond du Lac.

7. The Rt. Rev. Joseph Marshall Francis, D.D., Bishop of Indianapolis.

8. The Rt. Rev. William E. McLaren, D.D., D.C.L., Bishop of Chicago.

9. The Rt. Rev. Arthur L. Williams, D.D., Bishop Coadjutor of Nebraska.

10. Rev. Father John Kochuroff, Chaplain to the Russian Bishop.

11. Rev. Father Sebastian, Chaplain to the Russian bishop.

12. The Rt. Rev. Tikhon, Russian Bishop of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands.

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