Project Canterbury

The Life of Marie Moulton Graves Hopkins
Beloved Wife of John Henry Hopkins
And The Story of Their Life and Work Together

By the Reverend John Henry Hopkins, S.T.D., D.D.

Written at Grand Isle, Vermont, A.D. 1932 and 1933.

Privately printed, 1934.

Chapter III. New York City: Calvary Chapel

New York City was their final destination, for John Henry had accepted the invitation of the Rev. Dr. Henry Y. Satterlee to become the Assistant at Calvary Chapel on East Twenty-third street, and to begin his work there at the conclusion of this wedding trip. Calvary parish was the scene of his extra-seminary work during the last two years of his seminary course, for he was the superintendent of the Chapel Sunday school during those years (700 scholars and teachers), and he had also played Calvary Church's organ from Advent to Trinity Sunday, during his senior year. He looked forward with great eagerness to introducing his Bride to his Calvary parish friends, and to her probable pleasure in enjoying the opportunities of the big city, socially and culturally, through these acquaintances.

The wedding trip brought them leisurely from Canada to New York, via the water route through Lakes Champlain and George, and the day boat down the Hudson. They reached Calvary Church's parish house, where they were to reside during the summer, late one evening, about the first of July, and their first experience of the way in which a great city eats up people's time, and causes them serious inconvenience, came promptly to their attention. They arrived on Saturday night, and their trunks were not delivered until very late on Sunday! So the Bride was separated from her wardrobe, and could not make her appearance at Calvary Chapel arrayed as she had planned, for their first Sunday in their new home.

One rather remarkable item in this arrival, however, was of a different character. John Henry, during his California life, had become acquainted with Mrs. Mark Hopkins, the widow of the Pacific Railroad millionaire, and she had moved to New York during his seminary course, having married Edwin F. Searles, her architect. They were very good to the young student, and he was often their guest in their Opera box, and at other times. Mrs. Searles wanted to send Marie a wedding gift. She drew a check for $500 and mailed it to Marie at Calvary parish house. It was sticking out from under the door-way, where the carrier had left it that afternoon, when the bridal couple drove up from the Hudson boat, and John Henry rescued it at once. A special guardianship must have watched over that important letter, thus left on a doorstep, and as a result, their New York apartment, tiny though it was, Was furnished amply with the prettiest and most attractive purchases that New York could supply to a most careful and discriminating buyer. They thanked Mrs. Searles most warmly for this generous and unexpected kindness.

The hot summer in New York passed quickly and pleasantly. They found good board near-by for about $5 a week apiece, and they camped out in the parish house until the Rector returned from his vacation trip to Europe. The full schedule of parish activities began about the end of September.

New York in summer, as everyone knows, supplies its millions who cannot flee to summer resorts, with varied weather. Fairly cool days and nights give place to such torrid temperatures that Nebuchadnezzar's "burning fiery furnace" is almost sighted in the offing. Calvary Chapel people had to stay at home, for the most part, though there were two weeks of "fresh air" outings for many of the tenement house mothers and their children. The parish owned a summer home at Carmel, on a small lake, about fifty miles north from the city, and the chapel choir of boys, young women, and young men had the first of these summer outings. It fell to the lot of the new Assistant to take charge of this choir outing, and accordingly Marie and John Henry arrived at Carmel in due time, to find that they had indeed a live "job" on their hands.

One of the traditions of the chapel was that the new Assistant, whoever he was, should be "initiated" by the young choir men as soon as possible after his arrival. So John Henry was surprised at his writing, early one evening, by four of his young friends, who grabbed his arms and legs in order to "bump" him against the nearest tree. He saw his opportunity in the sunburn which adorned the wrists of his captors, and he at once grabbed said wrists and twisted them so effectively that he was promptly dropped to the ground and escaped his "bumping." Marie, however, was not subjected to any "initiation," but received from the young people and the older ones as well the utmost courtesy and deference that they were capable of offering.

There were several events during that summer which stand out in the memory. One was the day's trip to Coney Island, when they were the guests of the Hon. Everett P. Wheeler, who showed them all the outstanding features of this celebrated amusement resort, including some really magnificent fireworks. The sequel, however, was not so amusing. John Henry was due to take the Tuesday evening "Temperance meeting" at the parish Galilee Rescue Mission on East Twenty-third street, and, owing to this excursion to Coney Island, he had had no time for special preparation for his address to the broken hoboes who comprised the congregation, and whom the mission was endeavoring to induce to take "the pledge" for at least a week at a time. In his opening sentences the young Deacon made the rash statement that there were occasions when a person might legitimately "take a drink," and then he spent the rest of his time floundering about in the attempt to show that these occasions could not possibly apply to any of his auditors. Candor obliges one to state that the sermon was not very effective as a "pledge" inducement. On the way back to their apartment the young Bridegroom asked his Bride what she thought of the sermon. Very promptly and honestly she replied that it was "the poorest sermon she had ever heard," which was of course true. The credit was partly due to Coney Island that time.

Another experiment in sermons rather amused this keen but friendly critic. Sunday evenings in a New York summer are not usually noted for great spiritual enthusiasm or zest. So, with a rashness born of inexperience, the young Deacon announced that he would place a "question box" at the door of the chapel, and that he would answer all questions and preach from all texts placed therein, said plan to feature the evening hours of worship. Amazement followed the opening of some of the questions, but the climax was reached when a little wizened-up woman, who lived way up in the Eightieth street district, asked that the following text might be preached from on the following Sunday evening: "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?" The theological fledgling did not know where to find said text, but his concordance helped him out, and he brazenly stood up on the following Sunday evening and "made a stab" at the situation. His Bride took back her comment on the Coney Island Temperance address, and declared that it was a gem compared with this Sunday evening message. The "question box" was soon removed, and never was replaced so far as John Henry knows. But whenever, in after years, this verse from Isaiah happened to issue from the lectern, even in the middle of a Lenten service, unseemly mirth would always spread over the lady's face, much to the discomfiture of her spouse who would be solemnly reading, and the only self-defense that could be employed was the rather desperate method of erasing that verse from the lectern Bibles in all of his subsequent parishes.

Calvary Chapel not only had a large Sunday school of tenement house girls and boys, but also a Chinese Sunday school held on Sunday afternoons. This was a widely popular piece of Church work in New York in those days, but the first set of teachers was largely composed of young girls, so many of whom fell in love with their pupils and married them that the edict had gone forth, shortly before the arrival of Marie and John Henry at the chapel, that none but older women and married women should be allowed to teach these Orientals. Each Chinese man had one teacher, and each session lasted one hour.

Marie's pupil was named Ah Wing, and she labored industriously to teach him to read a little English and to become slightly familiar with the Gospels. He was not altogether a tractable pupil, and when he felt like it he would object by saying "tsoo hart," and accordingly by quitting. Yet she persevered, and when Christmas time came she was richly rewarded by presents from this celestial, who turned out to be quite affluent as well as generous.

A year or more after they had moved to Chicago, they returned to New York for a short visit, and somehow Ah Wing found out that they were in the city, and when they went to Calvary Chapel for service he was there, darting through the crowd surrounding Marie after service, and grasping her hand while he enunciated "How do," "Good-bye" in the same breath, and then fled. They never saw him again.

One of Marie's neighbors in the Chinese Sunday school was a lady who dressed in black, came in a carriage, and evidently was a woman of wealth. She took a great fancy to Marie, and one Sunday quietly asked her to come to her home for luncheon during the following week. On reaching a large residence on the north side of Madison Square, Marie was admitted by a gorgeous butler in full uniform, and found that Mrs. Parsons had her ancestral rose garden in the rear yard, and was the hostess to Senators and Governors, and men like the Honorable Roscoe Conkling (then Senator from New York at Washington). On this occasion she had invited a number of young brides to meet Marie, who was one of the principal guests of the luncheon. It was a kind attention, which proved doubly notable in their brief year in New York, in that it was the only one of its kind which Marie received.

This fact was a severe and biting disappointment to John Henry, for while he was busy making his 1,500 calls among the wretched tenements where his people had to live, he had hoped that his Bride might be taken up by the ladies of Calvary Church, and shown some of the social attentions which are so lavish in New York. He made a great mistake as to this, for had he accepted his Rector's invitation to be the Assistant at Calvary Church, instead of at the chapel, the sequel would most probably have been totally different. He asked the Rector, however, to send him where he pleased, since six of his classmates in the seminary had done just this to their Bishop when offering themselves for missionary work in Idaho and Wyoming. He had joined this "Wyoming club," but the death of his father in 1889 made him feel that he ought not to go so far west. The Rector, of course, sent him to the hardest place, and least conspicuous, and should not be blamed for this decision. Perhaps the conditions were beyond anyone's control in busy New York parish life, but the disappointment to John Henry about Marie and her treatment in Calvary parish was keen, especially as he himself, while organist of Calvary Church during his senior year, had been a frequent guest at the Rectory, and had received many attentions of kindness from the Church people. So he cancelled his original plan of devoting five years to this tenement Assistant work in New York, and accepted the call to Chicago at once, when it came at the close of the year.

Meantime, Marie endeared herself to the chapel people in a most remarkable manner. She taught in the Sunday school, as well as in the Chinese Sunday school. She went to all the entertainments that she could attend, and made herself indispensable to many of the organizations of women.

One of these was a touchingly beautiful and devoted work, carried on for years by these over-worked, poor, and obscure tenement-house mothers and home-makers. It was the "Blackwell's Island" committee, and the work was to go every fortnight, for the bulk of an entire afternoon, to Blackwell's Island, to the island's poor house for women, with tea, milk, sugar, and breadstuffs, and to serve tea to these poor women, who never tasted sugar in their tea except when this committee arrived in their ward. It usually took one whole year to get around this immense establishment once, so anyone can imagine the hearty greeting which awaited the Calvary Chapel women when they made their cheering appearance in the bleak and gloomy wards of the almshouse. One of the chapel clergy usually went with the party. They were often met at the wharf by "John the Horse," a poor fellow belonging, it was said, to one of New York's excellent families, but who was mildly and harmlessly insane, believing himself to be a horse. He carried a bunch of hair with him, which was his "tail," and he whisked it daringly at times, as he trundled a little cart to carry the supplies for the chapel committee to the various wards of the almshouse.

On New Year's Day, in that distant time, people still made "New Year's calls," and late in the afternoon Marie and her Deacon were invaded in their tiny apartment by all the men and women of the chapel choir. It was a most friendly invasion, and the guests not only filled all the chairs, but sat in rows on the floor. This apartment on Lexington Avenue, near 34th street, consisted of four rooms, a hall-way, and a bathroom, and the whole affair was just twenty-two feet square. The rent was $22 a month, and they went out about three or four blocks for their meals, to a well-kept boarding place near Fourth Avenue. They had what they had calculated would be a sufficient supply of cocoa for their anticipated number of New Year's callers, but when the entire adult portion of the large choir swooped down upon them, John Henry at once slipped out, with the largest pitcher in the apartment, to canvass the neighborhood for more cocoa. Had it been beer, there would have been no difficulty in finding an abundant supply close at hand. But being cocoa, he foraged for some time before he discovered a restaurant which had any at all. He bought out the entire supply on hand in this accommodating eating-house, and returned, somewhat out of breath it must be confessed, to their choir-filled home, where Marie was already making everyone enjoy all the unusual features of their very real but very limited basis of hospitality.

One of the salaried workers connected with this large parish was a Mrs. Foster, whom the newspapers in New York used to style "the Angel of the Tombs"--the "Tombs" being the horrible city prison. She Was a devoted Churchwoman, of wide and ready sympathies. She took at once a great fancy to Marie, and one of the very few dinner parties of their New York life was arranged by her suggestion and influence. Marie found herself seated at this dinner by a young Stock Exchange broker, and it was, probably, the first time she had ever had an evening's conversation with this particular brand of guest. They of course began to talk about the Exchange, and, as there had been a recent flurry, which, however, could scarcely have been called a panic, Marie said that she wished she knew when there would be a panic, for she would like to go down to the visitors' gallery and see the excitement. The gentleman at once replied that if she would only let him know when there would be a panic, he would gladly give her $50,000. Needless to say she never received his check.

The young people's little apartment was rented "with steam heat from October till May," but the lease did not specify that there would probably be little or no heat, on that floor, until about 10 a.m., in really cold weather. So then they bought a kind of a small stove, a contraption planned to help them out in the morning. The thing devoured all the oxygen in the apartment with great and eager speed, and left them in no very welcome plight for the advent of the snapping and gurgling steam at 10 a.m. each cold morning. John Henry's work carried him to the parish house and chapel right after breakfast, daily, as a rule, though he did some of it at home; but neither of them was apt to forget their struggles with the heating problem on cold mornings. Their landlady was a French "cors'etiere," who became so fond of Marie that she made for her a very ornate and expensive corset, which only in part, however, atoned for the lack of honest-to-goodness steam before 10 a.m. on cold mornings.

While they were in a good neighborhood, they of course could not choose their own immediate neighbors. One of them was Delmonico's head chef. One evening he had a jollification, to which he invited sundry and various members of his craft from different parts of New York and vicinity, and the neighbors had but little rest that night, for the chefs kept it up in emphatic and vocalized style way into the "wee sma' hours."

The landlady apologized for this, but said nothing about the 10 a.m. arrivals of steam on cold mornings. Her tenants accepted this feature of their residence, and made the best of it.

John Henry had told Marie often of the delights of German Opera, during the last year or two of his seminary course, and she had looked forward with great anticipation to hearing some of this great music. One night they went to "Tannhauser," and it was one of the poorest performances of the whole season, or of any season. He was deeply disappointed, and so was she. In fact she said frankly that she did not find many features of New York that surprised her. She thought she would see great crowds on the streets. This, of course, was true only in spots. As a matter of fact the only sight which they beheld during their first year together which really enthralled Marie was the American Falls at Niagara, which they saw on their trip to Chicago in June, 1891.

For John Henry had already made up his mind that he would not feel bound to stay five years in Calvary Chapel. He was fond enough of his colleague, the Rev. Benjamin Brewster, and devoted to his Rector, Dr. Satterlee. Strange to say, in after years, when there was an election of the Bishop of Maine, the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Brewster, then Missionary Bishop of Western Colorado, received just one vote more from the laity of Maine than John Henry did. John Henry had been elected by the clergy. The fellow workers in Calvary parish life were the friendly rivals in this election, and Bishop Brewster finally won.

John Henry had always wanted to work somewhere in the west. His four years on the Pacific Coast, in his little business life, had taught him much. And if he could not go to Wyoming with his classmates, he felt that he could accept the call from the Rev. Floyd W. Tomkins, formerly Minister-in-charge of Calvary Chapel, and then Rector of Christ Church, Hartford, Connecticut, to go with him to St. James's Church, Chicago, as his first Assistant, at $1,800 a year and rooms. The salary in New York was $1,000 a year without rooms, though the salary question did not figure to any extent in the decision. So, in June, 1891, after almost exactly one year as Deacon in Calvary Chapel, and after being advanced to the Priesthood by Bishop Potter, in the chapel of the General Theological Seminary, in the Trinity Ordination season, Marie and he packed up their belongings, and bade good-bye to New York. With the exception of brief visits, which were rare, they saw nothing of New York City for thirty-five years after their departure. John Henry's last call in New York was in a tenement house, on a poor sick woman of Calvary Chapel's congregation.

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