Project Canterbury

The Fortieth Anniversary of the Organization of
St. Alban's Parish, Sussex, Wis.

With a Sermon Preached on that Occasion
by the Rev. William Adams, D.D.,
Of Nahotah, Wisconsin.

Beaver Dam, WI: 1882.

Our Harvest Home service this year was appointed somewhat later than usual, that it might be held in connection with the anniversary service on the 2d of October.

The church never looked more lovely, with its beautiful decorations of grains, fruits and flowers. A large cross, trimmed with grapes, flowers and autumn leaves, adorned the altar, with a vase of lovely flowers on each side; over the credence table hung the emblematic grain and fruit; a temporary rood-screen, consisting of three arches, was erected; the centre one surmounted by a cross of flowers, each arch trimmed with grain, and each column with corn in the stalk; and the whole filled in with flowers and small fruits. The font was covered with a cone of grain and bitter-sweet berries, surmounted by a large bunch of grapes, and the base was encircled by a wreath of dark purple and white dahlias. A pyramid of vegetables and flowers stood at the foot of the chancel steps; the windows were filled with vegetables fruits and flowers, and the corners of the church with corn in the stalk.

Sunday, the 1st, dawned with heavy clouds and mists, but the church was well filled. The Bishop was present and preached an appropriate Harvest Home sermon. Two adults were confirmed, one of whom had been baptized on the evening of St. Michael and All Angels'. Over 60 received the Holy Communion. The offerings, $11.75, were for St. John's Home, as were also the other "first fruits." The Bishop preached again in the evening.

Monday, October 2, was the fortieth anniversary of the organization of the Parish. The Rev. Dr. Adams, of Nashotah, who was present at the organization, had been invited to preach the sermon, and kindly accepted. Comment here is unnecessary, as its publication is connected with this account. It was deeply interesting and affecting to all, and especially to the older members of the Parish, some of whom the Dr. had known from the time when he, with his, brethren, Rev. Messrs. Breck and Hobart. first came to this Western Territory. The Rev. Dr. Keene of Milwaukee, and the Rev. Dr. Cole were also present, and three of the Nashotah students, Rev. Messrs. Williams, Moran and Slidell.

Services began at 11. The choir, assisted by Messrs. Moran and Slidell, sang part of the 232d hymn as the clergy entered the chancel. Rev. Dr. Keene read the first part of the service, using the 5th Selection of Psalms. Rev. Mr. Williams read the lessons; Dr. Cole the creed and prayers. The hymns used were the 202d and the 188th, with the 210th in the Communion service. The Bishop administered the Holy Communion, assisted by Dr. Adams.

At the usual time of declaring notices the Rector read a paper containing a brief history of the Parish which is to be transcribed to the Parish Register, of which the following is a synopsis.

In 1837, Mr. Jas. Weaver and family settled in Town 8, Range 19, Milwaukee Co., now Township of Lisbon, Waukesha Co. A brother had preceded him in 1836 and his father and another brother with his family followed in 1839. They came originally

from Kent, England, and later from Sussex, and after a few years' residence in New York State removed to Wisconsin. Their love and desire for the services of the Church were soon made known, and the Rev. Lemuel Hull, who came to Milwaukee in 1839 first visited them and gave them services monthly. When no clergyman could be present, service was read by Mr. James Weaver, who in this and many other ways was greatly instrumental in keeping alive a devout and churchly spirit among his own family and kin and others who were making new homes around them. In 1841, Rev. Messrs. Breck, Adams and Hobart came as Missionaries to this western Territory and settled in Prairieville, now Waukesha. Mr. James Weaver sought them out and requested their services. Mr. Hobart was the first who came. In 1842 these missionaries moved to Nashotah Lakes and in their apportionment of work, the field at Lisbon was assigned to Rev. Dr. Adams. The first visit of Bishop Kemper was made Feb. 5,1842, when services were held in Mr. Weaver's house. The next visit of the Bishop was on Oct. 2, of that same year, services being held in Mr. Weaver's barn which had been fitted up for the occasion. At this time the organization of the Parish was made.

In the spring of 1844, a neat frame church was completed without any debt and opened for service by Rev. Dr. Breck on Whitsunday, May 26th, 1844. In 1847, the Rev. Wm. C. Armstrong, who for some time had been serving the Parish as lay reader, completed his studies at Nashotah and became Rector of the Parish. He continued in charge until 1854, and was succeeded by Rev. Henry C. Shaw, who remained until 1858. The Rev. Mr. Hodges, resident at Delafield, then officiated for a time. The parsonage was erected in 1860-61, and Rev. Wm. Reilly took charge of the Parish in 1861 and remained until 1863, when the Rev. Geo. N. James succeeded him. The corner stone of a new church of stone was laid Aug. 23, 1864, by Bishop Kemper. Mr. James resigned in Feb., 1865, but the work on the new church continued, and the building was completed and consecrated on the 18th of May, 1866.

Rev. John Bennett was the next Rector, who took charge in June, 1866, and continued Hector until Nov. 1st, 1874:. During his rectorship the grounds around the parsonage were very much improved. Mr. Bennett was succeeded by Rev. Edward P. Wright, D. D., who took temporary charge of the Parish in Nov., 1874, and afterwards was elected Rector. The tower was added to the church and the bell purchased during Dr. Wright's rectorship. The chancel window, the windows on the south side and two on the north, all memorial, were also added and the chancel, through the kindness of Mrs. Wright, was furnished anew. The Dr. owing to feeble health resigned his charge, much to the regret of the congregation, in Jan., 1880, and was succeeded by Rev. Geo. A. Whitney, who entered upon his duties Feb. 15th, J880, being the first Sunday in Lent.

At the close of the service, the Rector, Wardens and Vestry, the choir, the clergy and Bishop, followed by the congregation, proceeded, in the order mentioned, singing the 176th hymn, to the centre of the church-yard, south of the church; where, with an appropriate service, the Bishop consecrated the grounds, and the Rev. Dr. Keene, who was familiar with the early history of the parish, gave an excellent address. The services closed by returning in procession to the Church, singing the 509th hymn, "O Paradise."

Clergy and people then gathered on the lawn, between the church and parsonage, to a bountiful repast prepared by the ladies, to which all did ample justice. After an interval of social enjoyment, the day closed with the usual shortened Evening Prayer. It will be long remembered by all present as one of those bright days in the history of this rural parish, which they rejoice to keep, and wherein they recall "the noble works the Lord hath done in their day and in the old time before them."


Zechariah, viii chapter, 3rd and 4th verses.


My Christian Brethren, the Members of this Church:--

It is now forty-one years ago since three young deacons landed in Milwaukee, to perform missionary work for the Church in the Territory of Wisconsin. The Sank war had ended, and the Territory was now fully open for settlement. Wandering Indians were still to be met with over the land, and but few settlers had come in. Ten to thirty thousand white men might have been the amount of the whole population. There was no house of brick or stone in Milwaukee, and the stumps of the forest trees were standing in the streets. Waukesha, then called Prairieville, was an extreme western village. An Indian corn-field, with its strange conical hillocks in which corn had been planted for generations, we saw there; and an Indian burial-mound, ten feet high and fifty feet long, was being cut through for one of the streets. Fenced farms were only here and there, and the prairie-fires ran over the whole country in the fall or spring, according to the lateness or earliness of the winter.

Under the direction of the Missionary Bishop of the Northwest, Bishop Kemper, we were to perform missionary work in the Territory. On foot most of the time, (in fact, we had only one horse among the three), we sought out most thoroughly the Church people. Through a new territory embracing four or five of the present counties of the State, we passed in all directions from Prairieville, and so careful was-our search that I think no Church family escaped our notice. In fact, so efficient was the mission work then done, that when the Diocese of Wisconsin was organized in 1847, it began its existence with one thousand communicants, and a good feeling towards the Church every where--a feeling that the Church teaches the gospel in its simplicity, that its discipline is neither loose nor tyrannical, and that its clergy are educated men, who not for themselves or their own selfish interests, but for the love of God and of the souls of men, take upon themselves their Apostolical Commission, and go forth to preach the Gospel of Christ.

And here I must pause. It was necessary for me to say these things, for they are absolutely true both in regard to the clergy of the Church generally; and with regard to ourselves, the three young missionaries, that went forth in 1841 into the Territory of Wisconsin--the present great State of Wisconsin, resting upon the greatest lakes of the world, and the great river of the West, the Mississippi.

But this was along time ago, one and forty years, and we were young then, all of us. Bishop Kemper, also, was a vigorous man, in the very prime of life, only fifty-two years of age. And your missionaries were very young men, I myself being the oldest of the three. We had gone through College, and the General Theological Seminary in New York. And we came out here into the wilderness to do as well as we could; inexperienced, yet full of zeal. We came into a new unsettled land, willing to do our best for God, and for the Church, and for the interests-of religion and truth, and of goodness of heart and life.

We were, as I have said, all of us young in years.

I look over this congregation, here present, and see that but a few remain of those whom at that time I came to know, here in Sussex, in the vigor of their energetic manhood. The most of those that I knew then are now lying in their quiet graves in the churchyard that is around us, waiting for the Resurrection Day. And of those that remain, many whom I remember as young boys and girls, are aged men and women, with grandchildren.

The first generation has almost passed away. The second generation is stretching into middle age, and the third generation is advancing rapidly upon us, rising up into manhood and womanhood.

The Bishop, also, under whose jurisdiction we came out to the West and labored in the Missionary field in Wisconsin, is dead--twelve years ago, in extreme and most blessed old age. And our leader in our missionary work, the Rev. James Lloyd Breck, the youngest of us all, he is dead also. He sleeps in his grave, under the chancel of the church that he built, upon the shores of the Pacific ocean.

And here I must pause and utter a few words in regard to these two good and heavenly-minded men. The one was the Missionary Bishop of the Northwest, the other preeminently the Missionary Presbyter of the Church in Wisconsin and Minnesota. There are many Bishops in the Church, able and eloquent, earnest and good and true--chosen men from among our clergy, "princes in Israel," gifted with many gifts of nature and of grace. But Bishop Kemper was peculiarly and preeminently a Missionary Bishop--the first-born Missionary Bishop of the American Church! Her Missionary Apostle he was to the Northwest; a huge territory now divided into eight or ten great States, but then a wilderness of fertile land--prairie and forest land, lakes, and streams, just beginning to be settled.

The population that was pouring in, was of the most incongruous kind, a flood made up of many streams from all the States of the Union, and from all the countries of Europe. And among the American population the old hereditary prejudices against the Church were very rife: those unreasonable traditional feelings, that were hostile and full of hatred towards everything belonging to the Church--Church festivals, Church music, Church architecture, Church government, Church worship--because these had been the feelings of their forefathers in Puritanic times, in England long ago. The Church had then to meet an abundance of these ancestral feelings in the West. And now, after forty years, I am happy to say that ancient prejudices are largely dead. Men out here, in the West, are willing to listen to reason, to measure-their acceptance of religious faith and worship by reason, by sense, by their effects upon humanity in teaching, softening, sanctifying society, instead of "stopping their ears" and refusing to listen. These notions now are largely passed away, and, oftentimes, the very men that uttered them the most bitterly and violently, as I have known by my own experience, are now perfectly unconscious that they ever held them: have felt wronged and injured and falsely accused when their own words were cited. The New England Puritan is largely benefited by being transplanted out here, into this new rich land of the West. You see distinctly all these difficulties that forty years ago were in the way of the church in Wisconsin. In fact, as you know, and as I know, you felt them here in this place severely, their hardness and their unfairness. Their pressure came upon you as Church people; weightier still it was on the Missionaries of the Church. But most oppressive and most full of sorrow it was, and in this day it is still in a measure upon the Bishops of the Church.

Now in connection with these facts, look I pray you at the character and career of our first Missionary Bishop, the man whose life was to be spent in making way for the Bishops and the clergy that have followed him into this newer and freer West. He has alway seemed to me to have been chosen and formed by the decree and power of God, for just such work as he had to do. He was kind-hearted and social in all his feelings; beneficent in the highest degree; sympathizing evermore with the sick and sorrowing. He was sweet in temper and pleasant in speech, and at the same time he was full of the weightiest business ability and of far-reaching wide-thoughted missionary plans. If there was ever a man framed and adapted for the work he had to do in this world, for the people among whom he had to labor, and also for the peculiar state of the country which was to be the sphere of his enterprise, it was Bishop Kemper, the Missionary Bishop of the Church in this region of the Northwest.

You that remain, remember him with exceeding love. He was in your homes, at your tables, in your church, and at its services, as your guest, your Bishop, your loving friend and father.

And, every where, and at all times, you remember him as the simple-minded preacher of the Gospel; the man who loved all in en because for them all his master Christ had died, and in whose life no one could discern a speck of evil-intention or of wrong-doing towards God or man. A spotless, stainless, loving-hearted Bishop of the Church! In this community especially, and in this Church of St. Alban's, Sussex, Bishop Kemper was well-known and much loved by you.

And Mr. Breck, also, was well known to you. His missionary zeal, his true piety and holiness of life, his graciousness of manner, his kindliness of heart, all these were felt in your homes, at your sick beds, at the graves of your dead. And though he was not so long in Wisconsin, having left after nine years, still he was a man that did good work for the Church always and everywhere; among the Indians, with the frontier population, in founding institutions of learning. And all men knew him to be no ordinary man, but full of zeal for Christ and for the Kingdom of God upon earth, which is the Church of Christ. Him too, this neighborhood and the people of this church knew well and loved exceedingly.

My brethren, we were sent out from the East to search out and find the Church-people scattered through the Territory of Wisconsin. But the English Church-people of this place did not wait to be sought after and found out by us. They had been visited occasionally by the Rev. Lemuel B. Hull, the missionary of the Church in Milwaukee, a good man and full of zeal. He apprised them of our arrival, and so they came after us to Prairieville.

I remember well that in the month of October, 1841, Mr. James Weaver (who is here present among you in a ripe and vigorous old age), came to us in Mr. Thomas Olin's log-house, where we then lived, enquiring for the Episcopal missionaries. In consequence of this visit, Mr. Hobart came up here and made appointment for regular services. After him, Mr. Breck came; and the first time that I preached and catechized among you was on the ninth of November, 1841.

From that time I may say that I personally had a great deal to do with the people of this place. In fact, they were put under my care especially. I was more often with you on the Christmas and Easter festivals and the other great seasons of the Christian year than any of the three.

And, moreover, of all the rectors that you have had down to this time, through so many years, all but one have been graduates of Nashotah.

But to resume. Our ministrations were so successful in rallying the English Church-people of Sussex (Lisbon it was then called), to the Church in this land which is descended from the ancient Mother Church of England, that it was distinctly seen by those born in England, and baptized and confirmed there, that the Prayer Book is the same, the Ministry, and the Sacraments the same; in fact, that, in the words of our Book of Common Prayer: "This Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship, or further than local circumstances require." All this was so distinctly seen that the determination was with one mind arrived at to organize a parish of the American Church in Sussex. And this was done on the second day of October, 1842, and the parish was called St. Alban's, after the first recorded martyr of the English Church, born at Verulam, in Hertfordshire, and slain by the Romans for his faith in Christ about the middle of the third century.

This church, as I have said, was organized by this name just forty years ago this day. The clergy present were the Right Reverend Jackson Kemper, D. D., Missionary Bishop, James Lloyd Breck, John Henry Hobart, and William Adams, Deacons. And of the Wardens and Vestry then elected, only two, I think, survive. They are here present in this church to-day.

The younger generation may inquire, "Where did this take place? in what church?" I answer, we had then no house of worship, no church. It was in the barn of Mr. James Weaver, your present Warden, that the services of that day were celebrated. It was adapted as well as we could for the occasion by Mr. Hobart, who walked up here from Prairieville the day before. The choir was placed in the mows of the barn. A chancel was extemporized at one end, and seats of rough boards were placed on the floor. The Bishop in his robes, and we in our surplices walked in through the doors of the barn. I was appointed to read the Prayers. Mr. Hobart read the Lessons, and Bishop Kemper preached and confirmed five persons, among whom was old Mr. Fielder, one of the most good and pious men I ever knew. That day more than forty persons communed.

In the afternoon, the Bishop preached again, and baptized five children; and after this the parish was organized and the Wardens and Vestry were elected. And from that time until this present day, in this parish, the services of the Church have been continuously kept up and maintained.

My brethren of this church, here assembled, I ask you to look around you this day. The church in which we are, is a stone church, of Gothic architecture, a conspicuous object in the landscape as we come up towards the village--with its graceful bell-tower and its sweet-sounding bell which can be heard miles away. In fact, there is many a parish in that ancient land from which our ancestors came, that has been in existence for hundreds of years, and has not a church so beautiful and so well equipped as this is--built by yourselves, out here in Wisconsin, in the centre of the North American continent--a wild uncultivated, unsettled land, fifty years ago!

And around your church, your dead, the dead of three generations, lie at rest, in the peace of God, around this holy house in which you worship. The children see the graves of their ancestors, of those who were born in England, faraway, and have been buried during the course of forty years, in this churchyard. They see their graves, and remember their good deeds, their good lives; how they worshipped with the same worship, used the same Prayer Book that we use; as their fathers' fathers had done in Kent or in Sussex, hundreds of years ago. It is no small blessing to worship as your fathers worshipped; to behold their graves; to think of them each Lord's Day; and, finally, to rest by them in the peace of God in consecrated ground.

Another thought I would bring before your minds. You know that the United States is peculiarly the land of sects and denominations, and we all know how short-lived they are. They rise and glitter in the public eye; and they perish, like bubbles blown by a child. The religious enterprise that to-day fills all the newspapers and is talked of everywhere, in the short space of ten years may be gone and vanished, utterly forgotten.

But for the Church of God, she has a strength of life, a persistence of vitality, which men are beginning even here to understand belongs only to the Church of God. In England, you can go all over the land, and say, "This church was built five hundred years ago; this, seven hundred, or even a thousand years back when the Anglo-Saxons were beginning to be the English nation. And for these long periods the worship of the Church of England has gone on within these consecrated walls." And this is not only the case with grand cathedrals and stately city churches, but with country churches in small villages and hamlets all over England, from one end of the land to the other. A church of ours lasts for centuries.

Now look at this your parish church! How has it lasted till the present time! I myself remember how despondent I have been, at times, in regard to its continuance. And yet, here it is still. The fourth generation are worshipping in it this day! Nay, children of the fifth generation have been baptized here!

Look onward then with a pure faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, in whose name you are baptized, and in the Church of God which is the pillar and ground of the truth. This church in which we now are worshipping, the same church building and the same worship, the same liturgy and the same sacraments may be in continued existence here through the next five hundred years! "Thus saith the Lord11 in regard to these latter days, "I am returned unto Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the city of truth and the mountain of the Lord, the Holy mountain." For your creed is no form of doctrine that was devised yesterday, by some smart man with the gift of ready speech. It is the old creed believed and taught in the church of England for a thousand years. Your Bishops come by high descent from the Apostles, your prayers which you have used this day here in Sussex have gone up to-day and yesterday from England, from the wide lands of Asia, from Africa and Europe, and from the islands of all the seas, and of the farthest and greatest oceans. And they have been in use in one language or another, in your mother Church of England, from the earliest time of its existence.

Look forward then with a living faith to the existence of this your church and parish for time unlimited; when you are gone to your rest and yourselves with your children's children are sleeping in this consecrated ground. For the founders of this Church did their best for God and for His truth under circumstances of great difficulty; and we know, and they knew, that "His mercy and truth is upon them that love Him, from generation to generation, even upon children's children, for evermore."

My brethren, I am now an old man, nearly approaching the limit of human life. I may be called at any time to my account; and I may never after this day speak to you any more. I would therefore say one thing more to you of the deepest importance. The Church of England and our own Church in this land especially, believes in the death of our blessed Redeemer, for all men, for the whole human race, men and women, adults and infants. We believe that these all have immortal souls. For these all Christ died. We believe furthermore that the Holy Spirit sent by our Lord upon His Church, still remains in it. He is with us to-day. This day, in His Holy Church, He works His miracles of grace upon the souls of men as at the first. And therefore the infant soul can be born again of the Holy Spirit, at the font, by the Waters of Baptism. And thus in this land and in England the Church especially, baptizes infants. She believes that infants can be Christians, in a most true and real sense. In fact as much Christians as adults; and better Christians, because they have not upon their souls the guilt and pollution of actual sin.

And therefore the Church instructs her children as Christians, from their childhood onward in our simple creed of faith and duty. They are taught and catechized here in the church, and in their homes by their parents; as Christians they are taught to pray. And because of these facts and truths the whole Prayer-book, the entire system of our services throughout the Christian year, is one continued course of liturgical teaching, a perpetual instruction in Christian faith and duty to men, to women, and to children.

One thing more, in this relation I would say to this church preeminently. The fathers of this church were baptized in England, in their infancy. In their infancy and childhood in England they were taught and catechized, by their own parents, by their parish clergy, and by good and holy lay men and women, and especially by a lady, Mrs. Maskell, of Peasmarsh, in Sussex, the last parish in which their parents were settled. And it was the remembrance of these teachings that led to their strong feeling in behalf of the Church. In fact it was the Christianity of Infants, and the Catechism, that founded and built this Church.

And therefore I say to you all, fathers and mothers of the Church of St. Alban's. bring your children to Holy Baptism in their infancy as your fathers have done for countless generations, in the parish churches of that ancient land from which you came. Teach them then the Creed and the Lord's Prayer as they have been taught for a thousand years in England, in their own tongue, (Anglo-Saxon first and then English) from the time they left their ancient heathen worship of Odin and Thor, and believed in Christ, our risen and ascended Lord.

Teach them also to believe in the presence of our King and Priest and Prophet with us His people, both here in His Holy Temple where we are to-day assembled, and also in all the walks of our daily life, guiding and governing us by His providence, and instructing us and aiding us by the Grace of His Holy Spirit.

And you that are young, and have been baptized and taught in the name of Christ, show forth to those that are without, in your life and conduct, the value of your faith, and of the system of the Holy Church in which you are. For in the Church, a true Christian, a man or a woman, a girl or a boy, is a seed of God's harvest, over the whole world, wheresoever his lot may be cast, in whatsoever state, or far-distant foreign land he may chance to dwell.

And all of you, young and old, children and parents love exceedingly your Book of Common Prayer, the book which along with the English Bible is the book of our Church and of the Church of England. Keep it perpetually in use here in your church and privately in your homes. And in connection with this last thought I will close by telling a fact that happened here among yourselves. Old Mr. William Weaver, the father of the founder of the church, in the year 1845 (I think) was upon his death-bed. He was attended by my colleague, the Rev. Mr. Breck. Mr. Breck asked him what prayers he should use with him, and the old man's reply was, "Oh! Mr. Breck, use the old prayers of our Prayer-book. There is nothing like them for any man, living or dying."

My brethren, you have asked me to preach before you this day--the fortieth anniversary of the organization of your church. I have come before you in simplicity of thought and feeling, remembering days and years that are long passed and gone, "stirring up your pure minds by way of remembrance. I say therefore finally to you all, "young men and maidens, old men and children,"--persist in the course that this church has run for now forty years. Love and praise and worship in this temple of God, and in your own home, your almighty Father whose protecting power has thus far been over you and your fathers--Jesus Christ His blessed son your Redeemer--and the Sanctifying Spirit of the Father and the Son. And so shall the blessings He has given you, be upon your children's children, from generation to generation, for evermore.

And "now unto Him that is able to do excelling, abundantly, above all that we ask or think, adcording to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory, in the Church, by Jesus Christ, throughout all ages, world without end, Amen."

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