The Period of the Episcopate of Bishop
Griswold in the Eastern Diocese
With the election and
consecration of the Rev. Alexander Viets Griswold as Bishop of
the Eastern Diocese, comprising Maine, Rhode Island, New
Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont, the Church in Vermont was
at last fortified with the guidance of a chief shepherd, and
from 1811 dates a new era in its history.
Bishop Griswold, who
for over twenty years labored in Vermont, sharing his time here
and in the other states of his jurisdiction, was born in
Simsbury, Connecticut, April 22, 1776. In June 1794 he became a
candidate for Holy Orders and began service as a lay reader. He
was ordained Deacon June third, 1795, in Stratford, Connecticut,
and Priest at Plymouth, Massachusetts October first the same
year. He served ten years in Plymouth, Harwinton and Litchfield
where he had before acted as lay reader.
He taught in the
district school in winter, and not infrequently engaged as day
laborer in summer.
In 1803 he visited
Bristol, Rhode Island, for relaxation, preached there two
Sundays, was called to become Rector, but declined until finally
after a third call he accepted and in May. 1804 began his duties
there. (Dr. Sprague’s Annals. P. 415 - 420.)
While Rector of this
parish (St. Michael’s) Mr. Griswold was chosen Bishop of the
This parish had been
one of the strong parishes in colonial times, but had declined
during the revolutionary period so that it had only twenty
Communicants when Griswold went there, but it revived rapidly
under his care.
His success as
parochial minister led to his election as Bishop.
He was known as a
shy, silent man, but also a man of great physical strength,
unwearied patience and sound judgment.
Brought up under High
Church influences he had become a moderate Evangelical early in
his ministry having decided that the fundamental teachings of
the Gospel, as he understood them, rather than the distinctive
doctrines of the Church, should receive the chief emphasis in
Under his leadership
the Churchmanship of New England outside of Connecticut,
acquired a predominantly Evangelical character, which contrasted
strongly with the High Churchmanship of his successor Bishop
Diocese," of which the Eastern Diocese was the only successful
example, was the creation of practical men trying to deal with a
practical problem. When the individual states of New England
found themselves unable to obtain bishops severally, it
naturally occurred to them to join together for this particular
purpose, while retaining their separate organization for all
(William W. Manross, Church Historical Magazine, March 1935,
"Alexander Viets Griswold and the Eastern Diocese.")
During the first few
years of the episcopate of Bishop Griswold there is little to
record. The convention met each year and the sessions were of a
But on September 30,
1818, Bishop Griswold made an address before the biennial
convention of the Eastern Diocese at Greenfield, Massachusetts,
which contained many interesting facts about the progress of the
Church in Vermont since his labors began. These are his words
describing his pastoral visitations: "Tuesday, September 8,
1818, in Lanesborough, I was met by the Rev. Mr. Bronson (Rev.
Abraham Bronson). Wednesday the ninth, though the rain was
violent, through the kindness of friends and the blessing of
God, we reached Arlington in Vermont. On the way it was my
intention, had the weather been favorable, to have preached in
"In Arlington we
found a people much alive to a sense of religion and much
engaged in its duties".
"The Lord has there
during the present season awakened many to righteousness, and
added to His Church such, we hope, as shall be saved. Thursday
the tenth, I preached and confirmed in each of the two churches
in that town and in one of them administered Holy Communion".
"Here we had the
pleasure of meeting Mr. Hawley, of Washington, the present
Chaplain of the Senate of the United States; he assisted in the
services and preached a third sermon".
"Friday the eleventh
I visited Manchester, another parish under the care of Mr.
Bronson; preached twice and administered Confirmation and the
Lord’s Supper. In that place the Lord’s work in converting the
hearts of His people and adding many to His Church is also
marvelous in our eyes. The pastor of these two churches is much
blessed in seeing such abundant fruit of his labors. (The
parishes in Arlington and Manchester had more than doubled the
number of their communicants, now 86 and 37)".
"The next day I
pursued my journey to Rutland and preached on the way at
Wallingford. The Episcopalians at Pawlet and Wells are under the
care of the Rev. Mr. Jewett; they attend public worship in the
state of New York and receive Confirmation in that diocese. It
was therefore not necessary that I should visit them".
thirteenth, I was in Rutland and preached twice and confirmed a
few. The congregation was large and attentive and appeared to be
edified by the services. Very few of them had before that day
seen a confirmation. It is hoped that the solemnity will excite
in others a desire to witness a like good confession".
"It is about two
years since a number of respectable people in Rutland formed
themselves into an Episcopal Society; they have been very
desirous to obtain the permanent services of a settled minister,
and have manifested a very laudable liberality in offering to
subscribe for his maintenance. They have been disappointed and
disheartened; but not, I was happy to find, in such degree as
report had given reason to apprehend. In the course of Monday
the fourteenth I reached Middlebury, having officiated on the
way at Salisbury where I met with the Rev. Mr. Leonard (the Rev.
George Leonard) in a low state of health.
He has since returned
to Windsor; but much to his disappointment he was unable to meet
with us on this occasion.
"The Church in
Middlebury is also destitute of a minister and will not probably
increase until it is again with the wholesome ministrations of
the Word and Sacraments. I preached there once only on the
fifteenth, attending also to some other necessary things, and
engaging, should the Lord permit, to visit there on my return".
sixteenth, I preached in Vergennes, where the Church is in a
declining state, suffering as do many other parts of the
Vineyard the want of laborers. Could a clergyman have been
continued in that place the parish no doubt at the present time
would have been large and flourishing".
"At Vergennes I was
happy in meeting the Rev. Mr. Beach who has since kindly
accompanied me and given me much assistance. On Thursday it
rained much; but through the generous assistance of kind friends
we reached Burlington in the evening".
"At Shelburne, on our
way, we had no small pleasure in assembling with the remnant of
a church, formerly the flock of the Rev. Mr. Chittenden.
Unfavorable as the weather was a respectable congregation
convened. Mr. Beach performed divine service and I baptized an
adult. I preached and administered Confirmation and the Lord’s
"On Friday we reached
St. Albans in season to unite with a pious people in the office
of divine worship. The Rev. Mr. Townsend of Canada performed the
evening service. I preached and administered Confirmation and
the Eucharist. Our brethren, among whom I officiated in that
place and the town adjoining appeared highly to prize the
privilege of these ordinances and by them to be edified".
"On Sunday we pursued
our journey to Sheldon, where though the rains continued, we
found a large and very religious congregation assembled. There
we had the pleasure of meeting with the Hon. and Rev. Dr.
Stewart who assisted in divine service. The people appeared to
be uncommonly devout and attentive and to ‘receive with meekness
the engrafted Word.’ I preached and confirmed 49, whose hearts
we have no reason to doubt the Lord has renewed. There, too, I
received some communications from Berkshire, about 15 miles east
of Sheldon, and the pleasing information that a new Episcopal
Society has recently been organized with very favorable
prospects of success".
"At Fairfield on
Sunday the twentieth we had an interesting day. Though the rain
continued to fall incessantly and most of the people had several
miles to travel, their new church was filled at an early hour
with a large and crowded assembly. The services were commenced
by the solemn dedication of the House to the honor and worship
of Almighty God".
"The Rev. Mr.
Townsend performed Morning Prayer, the Rev. Mr. Beach
administered Baptism. I preached and after the sermon confirmed
intermission of thirty minutes the evening service commenced.
Mr. Beach was then instituted. Dr. Stewart delivered an
excellent discourse, and after the sermon I administered the
Sacred Memorials of Christ’s Body and Blood to 140 devout
"Monday the rain
continued. By hard traveling we reached Burlington in season for
divine service and Mr. Beach baptized eight children. Wednesday
I preached, confirmed and administered the Holy Communion in
Middlebury; the two following days we passed over the mountains
to the eastern part of the state, arriving in Windsor in season
for prayers and a sermon on Friday evening. In that place, since
the biennial convention, has been formed an Episcopal parish
highly respected for the number, character and liberal zeal of
its members. The Rev. Mr. Leonard is their minister".
"In the afternoon of
Monday we proceeded to Bellows Falls. There in Rockingham on the
Vermont side is a parish recently formed which is already in a
flourishing state under the pastoral care of the Rev. Mr.
Chapman. They have erected a neat and commodious church, which
about a year ago was consecrated. They have also an excellent
choir of singers and in proportion to their abilities no people
of the diocese have gone before them in liberal efforts for the
regular and decent ministrations of the Blessed Gospel. There
also I preached and administered Confirmation." (Convention
It seems important to
give this address of Bishop Griswold in fullness since it puts
before us a good picture of the Church in Vermont during these
years, and it is impossible to consider the growth of one parish
alone apart from some knowledge of the general conditions of the
Church in the diocese.
It was a day of small
things. In 1814 the Rev. Messrs. Adams, Jewett and Henshaw who
had been for several years connected with the diocese had left
and the Rev. Abraham Bronson was again left alone in Vermont.
The Journal of 1818
records that there were four clergymen in the diocese, the Revs.
Messrs. Bronson, Beach, Chapman and Leonard.
Soon after this the diocese was strengthened by several young
The Rev. Joel Clap
was ordained Deacon by Bishop Griswold in October 1818 and
Priest in September, 1819. Mr. Clap was very active in the
diocese for many years, having cures in Berkshire and Montgomery
(1818-1822), Shelburne and Bethel (l823-1827), Woodstock
(1840-1846), Bellows Falls (1846-1858). He was secretary of the
diocese from 1820 to 1832.
The Rev. Carlton
Chase was also one of the clergy who gave valuable service
during this period. He was ordained Deacon by Bishop Griswold,
December 1818 and Priest, September 1820. In 1819 he was chosen
Rector of Immanuel Church, Bellows Falls, where he remained
He was a member of
the Standing Committee during most of this period and was
generally chosen as a deputy to the General Convention.
He was elected Bishop of New Hampshire and also Rector of
Trinity Church, Claremont, performing this double duty of Rector
and Bishop for nineteen years. (Churchman, January 24, 1870.)
The Rev. Stephen
Beach was settled in Fairfield, Shelburne and St. Albans from
1815 to 1822. He came from Wallingford and had been a successful
Methodist minister before coming into the Episcopal Church. Mr.
Beach was ordained Deacon by Bishop Griswold in 1815 and Priest
in 1817. In 1821 his moral character was questioned and it was
deemed expedient for him to discontinue his services. He was
tried and censured for indiscretion, but not convicted of crime.
The Rev. Jordan Gray
was born in Arlington, May 26, 1793. He was educated at home
under the Rev. Abraham Bronson. He was married in 1814. In 1817
he decided to devote himself to the ministry, though having a
family and little property. In 1819 he became a lay reader at
Sandgate where he revived and reorganized the church and pursued
his studies. In October 1821 he was ordained Deacon by Bishop
Griswold in Bethel Church, Arlington. After a few months he was
settled in Berkshire and Montgomery and began a parish in
Enosburg; he reported after four months work communicants in
Berkshire 28, in Montgomery 27, in Enosburg 11. In the midst of
his work disaster overtook him. On April 7, 1 823, he was called
to a funeral across the Trout River, then much swollen by a
freshet which had carried off the bridge.
The crossing was
attempted in a skiff, he being accompanied by two men and a boy.
As they struck the center current they were overturned. His two
companions escaped with difficulty. The boy clasped Mr. Gray and
clung to him and both were drowned.
After the departure
of the Rev. Abraham Bronson from Arlington in 1824, the Rev. J.
Howland Coit who was ordained by Bishop Griswold, October 1827,
officiated at Arlington, where he remained for two years. In the
diocesan Journal of 1827, Mr. Coit made the following report:
"The state of the
Church in this place is such as to excite in our hearts the most
lively emotions of gratitude, although we still have much reason
to lament barrenness and lack of zeal in the service of our
Master. There has been for two years past, more or less of an
attention to religious things, the result of which has been an
addition of 23 to the list of our communicants; our Sunday
Schools, of which there are three attached to our church, are in
a flourishing condition. A bible class has been established
which is attended with considerable interest by a few of the
young people, and we regret to say by a few. A female prayer
meeting, which is held weekly, has been instituted, from which,
with the blessing of God, we anticipate the most pleasing
results. The whole number of communicants, after deducting
deaths, is 93; funerals 2, baptisms 4 adults; marriages 3.
Sunday scholars 130."
Mr. Coit also reports
the following of St. Matthew’s Church, Sandgate: ‘The church was
visited regularly once a fortnight, on a week day, for about the
space of three months, besides some occasional visits before and
"During the time of
my visiting them the services of the church were attended with
much interest, and some seriousness manifested. They have also
had occasionally lay reading. I would affectionately recommend
this parish to the particular attention of the convention. The
people are poor, but pious, and ardently attached to the church
we all love, and are hungering and thirsting for the word of
life. Number of communicants, 33, baptisms, 5 infants, 2
Joseph Howland Coit
was born November 3, 1802, the son of Levi Coit and Lydia
Howland, of New York. (Lydia Howland, daughter of Joseph Howland
of New York, was descended from John Howland, the last survivor
of the "Pilgrims" of the "Mayflower.")
Mr. Coit was brought
up as a Presbyterian in New York. He graduated with honors from
Columbia College. He entered Princeton Theological School to
study for the Presbyterian ministry. He was converted through
his studies to Episcopacy.
He applied for Holy
Orders in the Episcopal Church and was ordained Deacon by Bishop
Griswold of the Eastern Diocese, in Bristol, Rhode Island,
November 8, 1825.
He was ordained
priest by Bishop Griswold in Arlington, October 18, 1827, and
was Rector of the parish two years.
elsewhere was as follows: Rector of St. Andrew’s, Wilmington,
Delaware, 1828-1832; the first church building in the parish was
built during his rectorship. Rector of Trinity Church,
Plattsburgh, New York, 1832-1844; Rector of St. Stephen’s,
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1844-1852; Rector of Trinity Church,
Plattsburgh (second time), 1852-1866. He died October 1, 1866,
and was buried in Plattsburgh cemetery.
He was given the
degree of Doctor of Divinity by Columbia College. He was a
scholarly man, an orthodox High Churchman. His chief
characteristic as a priest was his faithful pastoral work.
He was much beloved
by his friends and parishioners. He was of a sensitive and
Joseph Howland Coit
and Harriet Jane Hard, his wife, were the parents of nine
children, seven of whom lived to grow up.
The Rev. J. M. Tappan
succeeded the Rev. Mr. Coit, entering upon the rectorship of the
parish November 16, 1828.
The diocesan Journal
contains his annual report from which are taken the following
interesting facts: "For several months before my engagement the
constant services of the Church had not been performed among
them. In all probability for the present year there will be a
heavy tax upon this parish, which will give some check to their
ability for the support of a clergyman. Their attentions and
exertions are now turned towards the praiseworthy design of
erecting a new house of worship. A new building for the
accommodation of this congregation is considered necessary and
without doubt will be speedily erected. The people of this
parish generally are much attached to the principles, doctrines
and services of our Church, and seem disposed to contribute
cheerfully for the advantages which come to mankind through the
Gospel of Christ".
"Within a few weeks a
Bible class has been formed and a Sunday school of about forty
scholars is in a flourishing state. The number of communicants
in this parish is 100."
In the following year
the cornerstone of the new church was laid, the account of which
is given in the November (1829) number of the Middlebury
Episcopal Register as follows:
"The cornerstone of
St. James Church Arlington, was laid October 26, 1829 by the Rt.
Rev. Bishop Griswold".
"A large congregation
assembled to witness the ceremony and the Bishop, after laying
the cornerstone on the north wall delivered a very appropriate
and interesting address. The Rev. A. Bronson and the Rev. James
M. Tappan were present and assisted in the services".
"The church is to be built strictly in the Gothic style of a
beautiful dark blue limestone to be found in great abundance in
the immediate vicinity. It is to be 67 feet in length and 48
feet in breadth with a cellar under the whole church in which is
to be the robing room, a Sabbath School room and a furnace to
warm the house".
"The foundation is
already laid and the wall raised five feet, the door frames and
doors, the window frames and sash are completed, and a
considerable quantity of stone and other materials are on the
"It is contemplated
to finish the church early next fall, and the estimated expense
is not far from $6,000, which is to be borne wholly by members
of the Society.
"Sylvester Deming has
engaged to pay one third of the cost of the building, and to
furnish the church when finished with an organ and bell. In a
cavity of the cornerstone was deposited a leaden box containing
a Prayer Book and a parchment with an inscription as follows:
This Cornerstone of St. James’ Church Was Laid By The Rt. Rev.
Alexander Viets Griswold, D.D., Bishop Of The Protestant
Episcopal Church In the Eastern Diocese October 26 A.D. 1829
Being The 53rd Year of The Independence of The United States of
The Rev. James M. Tappan - The Minister of the Parish Being
Present and Assisting - Noble Hard and Simeon Cole - Being
Wardens; Enos Canfield, Samuel S. Baker, Anson Canfield, Zadok
Hard and Martin C. Deming – Vestrymen; Lewis Dyer – Clerk;
Martin C. Deming, Samuel S. Canfield. Cyrus B. Hills, Simeon
Cole, and Phineas Smith - Building Committee and William Passwan
of Aulston, Yorkshire, England - Architect."
In "Old Vermont
Houses," by Herbert Wheaton Congdon, page 179, the author says:
"The oldest church
building in Vermont that may be charitably considered pure
Gothic is St. James’ Church, Arlington".
"Its interior was
originally a mixture of classic and Gothic architecture, Roman
egg-and-dart moldings decorating unexpected Gothic features.
"The old pulpit was
excellent classic, but the communion table was good Gothic.
"The tower is
certainly Gothic in effect, as are the pointed windows". (By
permission of Mr. Congdon).
The late Mr. James
Ross Roberts, to whom the writer is indebted for this and other
bits of history incorporated here and there among these
writings, said he had heard his father, John C. Roberts, tell
the story of the laying of this cornerstone.
He says: "At that
time he was just approaching manhood, and as he described it to
me, a boy, it seemed as though he was telling about something
that had happened in some far-off age.
"Now after more than
half a century I still hear the tones of his voice and am
wondering if he was not thinking of that scene of the unfinished
temple walls, the divinely commissioned man of God with his
pioneer flock about Him while He taught me the words of the hymn
so applicable to the present occasion, the words which find such
response in the hearts of all of us from Jehiel Hawley even to
the child in our Sunday School:
‘I love Thy Church, 0
Her walls before me stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye
And graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears
For her my prayers ascend,
For her my toils and cares be given,
Till toils and cares shall end.’
The convention of the
Church in Vermont was held in Arlington on August 31, 1831 in
the Vestry room of St. James’ Church.
During the sessions
of this convention - St. James Church was consecrated by the Rt.
Rev. Bishop Griswold.
The following clergy
were present: The Rev. Abraham Bronson, Rector of Zion Church,
Manchester; the Rev. Carlton Chase, Rector of Immanuel Church,
Bellows Falls; the Rev. Joel Clap, Rector of St. James’ Church,
Woodstock; the Rev. Silas A. Crane, Rector of St. James’ Church,
Middlebury; the Rev. William Horton, Minister of St. Paul’s
Church, Windsor; the Rev. Louis McDonald, Rector of Trinity
Church, Shelburne; the Rev. James Sabine, Rector of Christ
Church, Bethel, and the Rev. William S. Perkins, Deacon,
Minister of St. James’ Church, Arlington.
The laymen of St.
James’ Church in attendance were: Sylvester Deming, Samuel S.
Baker, Simeon Cole, and Enos Canfield.
During the episcopate
of Bishop Griswold the diocese forged ahead rapidly in the
increase of its clergy and in the establishment of Churches
throughout the state.
The number of clergy
present at the diocesan convention in 1811 was two, the Rev
Abraham Bronson and the Rev. Parker Adams, with seven laymen.
The number present at the diocesan convention of 1832 was:
thirteen clergymen and forty laymen.
twenty-one years Bishop Griswold ordained 17 candidates for the
priesthood as follows: The Rev. J. P. Henshaw (brought up a
Congregationalist) June 13, 1813; the Rev. Stephen Beach
(formerly a Methodist Minister) 1817; the Rev. George T. Chapman
(educated in law) 1816; the Rev. George Leonard 1818; the Rev.
Joel Clap 1819; the Rev. Carlton Chase (Bishop of New Hampshire
1844) 1820; Alfred R. Baury, 1822; the Rev. Jordan Gray, 1821 at
Bethel Church, Arlington; the Rev. Benjamin B. Smith, 1818; the
Rev. Samuel Brenton Shaw, 1824; the Rev. Joseph Covell, 1824;
the Rev. Moore Bingham, 1828; the Rev. John Brested, 1827; the
Rev. Louis McDonald, 1827; the Rev. Anion B. Hard, 1831; the
Rev. William S. Perkins, 1831 (settled in Arlington, 1829; the
Rev. J. M. Tappan, 1829).
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