Chapter Six

Another Epoch in the History of the Church in Vermont; Vermont Becomes a Separate Diocese. The Episcopate of the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, D.D.l


One of the problems that arose at this time owing to the rapid growth of the Episcopal Church in Vermont during the Episcopate of Bishop Griswold was how to deal efficiently with the increasing demands that were laid upon the shoulders of the bishop whose labors were extended over the territory of a large part of New England.

Transportation facilities one hundred years ago were not adapted to long journeys by quick travel as today, and it is difficult to realize how much was accomplished in Episcopal visitations and matters of administration where a diocese extended over the states of Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The time had come to face this problem.

At the convention of 1831 held in Arlington on May twenty-fifth, a communication was read from the secretary of the Convention of Massachusetts in which the request was made for the consent of the other portions of the Eastern diocese to its separation from the Eastern diocese and the erection of Massachusetts into a separate diocese, but retaining the services of Bishop Griswold. This request was answered by our convention with concurrence in the conviction that it is expedient that arrangements be made as soon as possible for dividing the Eastern Diocese into smaller jurisdictions.

The year of 1832 was a memorable one in the annals of the church in Vermont.

As the result of the decision of the convention of 1831 to take steps towards the erection of a diocese and the election of a bishop, the convention of 1832 called out a large representation from all parts of the state. Thirteen clergymen and thirty lay delegates from the parishes assembled.

The written consent of the convention of the Eastern diocese, comprising Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire, for the separation of Vermont into a diocese, was read; the authorization and permission of the Bishop was recorded, and the Protestant Episcopal Church in Vermont was declared to be "an independent Episcopal jurisdiction, named the Diocese of Vermont, subject only to the law of our Lord and Savior and to the constitutions and canons of the Episcopal church in these United States."

The election of a bishop was made the order of the day for Thursday, May thirty-first, at 8 a.m. The clergy retired for the purpose of making a nomination as required by the constitution, and on their return informed the convention that they had nominated the Rev. John Henry Hopkins. This nomination was confirmed by the laity and Dr. Hopkins was declared to be the Bishop-elect.

Dr. Hopkins was consecrated to the office of bishop in St. Paulís Chapel, New York, October thirty-first, 1832, by the Right Rev. Bishops White of Pennsylvania, Griswold of the Eastern Diocese and Brown of South Carolina.

At the same time three other bishops-elect were consecrated, the Rev. B. B. Smith, D.D., of Kentucky; the Rev. Charles P. Mcllvain, D.D., of Ohio and the Rev. George W. Doane of New Jersey. This was an outstanding event in the history of the church of that day, the consecration of four bishops at the same services, and they were all men who proved to be of great usefulness to the church.

The Right Rev. John Henry Hopkins, D.D., the first Bishop of Vermont was born in Ireland, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Hopkins, January thirtieth, 1792; came to this country in 1800; was educated mostly under his motherís supervision; engaged in business, and in legal practice in 1817 and 1818; he was ordained deacon in 1824 and priest in 1825. He then took charge of Trinity Parish, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, supervised the building of the church there; removed to Boston to engage more fully in theological education in a proposed institution; was made assistant minister of Trinity Church, Boston. At this time he was elected bishop of the Diocese of Vermont in his fortieth year. He was consecrated on the last day of the General Convention of 1832.

There was inevitably a contrast in the personalities of the retiring Bishop Griswold, venerable, and familiar with the limitations that prevailed in New England for the carrying on of aggressive religious work; seasoned in the varied experience of twenty years; and that of Bishop Hopkins who came to the field of activity in the strength of his prime vigor, with great energy and force of character and with unquestionable consecration and zeal.

Added to these valued gifts he was learned and scholarly in his training and became one of the leaders in the church in the promotion of sound learning and sound Churchmanship. His addresses to the conventions in those days are suggestive of the scholarly discourses that were given by Bishop Hall during his episcopate, which began sixty years later. Bishop Hopkins received a hearty welcome in the diocese and people were proud to have a leader with such manifest ability and zeal.

During the first year of his consecration Bishop Hopkins visited all the churches of the diocese; consecrated three new churches, St. Paulís, Burlington, St. Johnís, Poultney, and St. Johnís, Highgate; confirmed two hundred and ten persons; enlarged his own house with a wing for what he called a domestic seminary for boys, and another wing for theological lectures for candidates for Holy Orders.

He also insisted on a more rigid conformity to the rubrics and canons, and throughout all his episcopate, though there were constant losses by removals and deaths, there was a persistent effort on the part of the bishop and his clergy to promote the growth of the Church.

Bishop Hopkins in the course of his address to the convention in 1833, relates as follows his first visitation at Arlington: (This scene was one scene of an historical pageant produced in St. Jamesí Church in 1932, Bishop Hopkins being impersonated by the Reverend S. Halsted Watkins, D.D., rector of the parish from 1900 to 1904, and the Reverend George R. Brush, rector from 1926 to 1939, representing the Reverend William S. Perkins, rector in 1832.)

"Thursday, January tenth, I set Out at I a.m. in the stage with Mr. Pierson for Bennington. But after thirteen miles over a very rough road, the axle of the stage broke which overturned it with seven pas-sengers. None were hurt except Mr. Pierson whom I strongly urged to return by the first stage, because being somewhat bruised by the fall, and his health not firm at the best, he needed rest and care.

"Proceeding, therefore, alone I arrived at Bennington and was most hospitably received by our friends there who have not as yet organized themselves into a church, but are anxious to do so as soon as they can procure the services of a minister.

"Here I was met by the Rev. Mr. Perkins of Arlington, and some of his Parish, and after preaching the next day, Friday in the Congregational meeting house, which was very kindly granted for the occasion, I proceeded to Arlington in time to lecture to the congregation in the commodious lecture room of the parish and preached in their beautiful church the following afternoon and again at night.

"Sunday, January thirteenth, I preached in the morning at Arlington and confirmed eight persons.

In this address the bishop also recommended the formation of a general fund for domestic and diocesan purposes, providing for theological education, the supporting of a certain number of missionaries to preach in vacant places, the publishing of such useful tracts and books for parish libraries or for the use of Sunday schools, the assistance of feeble parishes to build churches or support their ministers and the granting such support to superannuated clergymen.

The report from (Arlington) St. Jamesí at that convention states that the number of communicants was one hundred; that the missionary association had contributed thirty dollars to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and that the church had been furnished with an excellent organ, the liberal donation of one man.

The parish was, about this time, much disturbed by charges that had been preferred against their rector, the Rev. William S. Perkins, by the Standing Committee for the violation of the canons and rubrics of the Church. At the convention of 1837 Bishop Hopkins related some of the circumstances of this trial. He reported visiting St. James Church, Arlington, then without a rector where he was occupied together with clergymen appointed for that purpose in the trial of the Rev. William S. Perkins, on charges preferred to the Standing Committee some time before.

These charges had been held in abeyance for several years owing to the fact that there had been up to this time only an imperfect state of regulations relating to discipline in such cases. The disposition of these charges was deferred until definite legislation by the diocese could be effected. (This may have something to do with the fact that for several years after the departure of the Rev. William S. Perkins as rector it was difficult to maintain a rector, possibly owing to the division that occurred as to the merits of the case against Mr. Perkins.)
At length, the bishop said, the proceedings were brought to a close with the gravity, the fairness and the kindliness, which became this tribunal. The result was that the accused was unanimously acquitted by the assessor on some of the charges, and found guilty on others. He was sentenced to be suspended from the exercise of his ministerial office until he should in writing profess his regret for having given occasion to the presentment and promise conformity to the rules of the church for the time to come. Having complied with this condition, within an hour after the bishop restored his ministerial standing. (Note. óOne of the specific charges against Mr. Perkins was that he made changes in the phrasing of the Absolution, which altered the priestly character of the prayer).

In the same year Bishop Hopkins refers to Manchester and Arlington in his address to the convention as follows:

"Manchester and Arlington, both important parishes, but the latter, namely Arlington, being certainly one of the best located for the zealous and devoted laborer; having a beautiful and costly church, with all the appointments in the best style, and a people not to be surpassed in the substantial qualities which should make their pastor happy in their service".

The Rev. Anson B. Hard who became Rector of St. Jamesí Church in 1839, was a native of Arlington, the son of Noble Hard. He was a graduate of Middlebury College in 1833 and of the Alexandria Theological Seminary, and was a Vermont candidate for Holy Orders, and ordained by the Right Rev. Dr. Onderdonk in Trinity Church, Plattsburgh, New York, July twenty-eighth, 1831, of which parish he was the Rector. He began his ministry in Sheldon and Fairfield, Vermont, in July 1829. From August, 1834 until September 1839 he was Rector at Mt. Vernon, Ohio. On July twenty-fourth, 1839, he became Rector of St. Jamesí Church, Arlington.

It seems most unfortunate that so soon after the ecclesiastical trial of the Rev. William S. Perkins, which must inevitably have caused a certain amount of disquietude in the parish, another episode of similar character should have occurred shortly after the coming of the Rev. Mr. Hard as Rector. This episode reflected in no way against the character of Mr. Hard but had to do with certain infringements of the canons of the Church.

The facts in regard to the case of Mr. Hard do not appear in the official records of the diocese and there was no trial. It would be unjust to draw hard and fast conclusions since the only data available are letters written by Bishop Hopkins and Mr. Harmon Canfield during the year 1840 in which the bishop charges that without the knowledge or consent of the bishop the Rev. Mr. Hard had given notice of a "protracted meeting or association" to be held in the church at Arlington. Bishop Hopkins then made the following ruling in regard to the matter:

"I consider that the Days and Modes of all our public services are fixed by the Church in the Book of Common Prayer, from which no bishop can lawfully deviate himself, nor suffer his clergy to deviate. The extra zeal of our ministry must therefore be content to exhibit itself in the Private way, preaching the Gospel from house to house, in private social prayer and familiar instruction, and in honest and affectionate warnings addressed to individuals on all occasions, when they sit down and when they rise up, and when they walk in the way, in season and out of season.

"All they can do to stir up the zeal of the people in these private methods, the Church has left to each manís individual discretion, but she has not left to any manís discretion the rules of public order, and therefore I shall consider it my duty to have any willful deviation from these rules inquired into forthwith according to the provisions of the Canons and made the subject of ecclesiastical presentment without respect of persons".

"It is not impossible that Rev. Mr. Hard may choose to take his own course, on the ground that other bishops permit these things, and that some may even approve them. Be this as it may, it is no part either of his duty or mine to make the allegation".

"If it be true that other bishops tolerate public and open departures from the order of the Church, which they as well as myself have solemnly vowed to maintain, let them answer that to the great Head of the Church, who is God of unity and order".

"At present Rev. Mr. Hard is under my jurisdiction and if he understands the alphabet of Episcopal government, he must be aware that while that continues the arguments derived from any other quarter can have no legal or regular application".

"I thank God that at present there is no irregularity, unless it be in Arlington".

"But Arlington is an influential spot, and may easily be made the headquarters of radicalism in the Church if this matter be not clearly understood by your Vestry and the heads of the Congregation in season".

"They have the power, indeed, if they choose to exert it, of putting themselves out of communion with the Episcopal Church in the diocese, and of becoming a dissenting, independent set of Congregationalists, in Church government, without a bishop, without Confirmation, and without a clergyman in regular standing".

"The order of the Episcopal Church is her glory, and if we are to be Churchmen, we must consent to be Churchmen together".

Ever your, faithful friend and servant,

John H. Hopkins."

This letter in the bishopís own handwriting is to be found among the historical letters and papers collected by Dr. George A. Russell and in his possession.

There are no records in the minutes of the Vestry at this time, which make any mention of this letter, and there is no evidence of any letter or expression on the part of the Rev. Mr. Hard of his attitude on the subject of the Bishopís letter.

It may be assumed therefore that the Rector and the people of the parish acted in compliance with the letter.

Whatever may have been planned in the way of "protracted meetings" this protest was undoubtedly effective.

The letter shows that Bishop Hopkins was masterly in his grasp of the Churchís canons and discipline, and though his words seem drastic they gave not only to the parish but also to the diocese a clear-cut ruling on the subject of irregularities in worship.

It may be, however, that some of us clergy who have used the Church for pageantry in recent years might have come under the censure of the beloved bishop had we lived in the year 1840.

Notwithstanding this episode the rector-ship of Rev. Mr. Hard seems to have been a useful one. The "lean years" in the history of the parish seem to have been from 1833, to 1840, and the closing years of Mr. Hardís ministry indicate a return to prosperity.

In June 1844, Mr. Hard took charge of parishes at Chester and Marcus Hook, where he stayed until his voice broke down so completely as to necessitate his retirement from the active ministry in 1848.

In 1844 the Rev. Frederick Augustus Wadleigh became Rector of the parish, having been previously Rector of Christ Church, Guilford. Mr. Wadleigh was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, May twenty-first, 1814.

He was ordained Priest by Bishop Griswold in 1840 and received from the diocese of Massachusetts in 1842.

The ministry of the Rev. Mr. Wadleigh in Arlington covered a period of twenty years, and therefore with the exception of the Rev. Abraham Bronson, his rector-ship was the longest in the history of the parish.

It will be interesting to make note of some of the outstanding events and activities that marked the progress of the parish during this time.
In the Journal of 1848 it is recorded that a shed had been built by the parish back of the church at an expense of $150. This shed (or sheds) remained there for over seventy-five years, and if it could only have kept a diary of the happenings of those years in and about the church it would have been most interesting reading, and the historianís task would have been greatly simplified. The sheds were taken down in 1929.

In the Journal of 1849 it is recorded that twelve persons were confirmed and that everything indicated the best state of feeling and mutual satisfaction between pastor and people.

In the Journal of 1851 Mr. Wadleigh lamented the death of Hon. Martin C. Deming and Cyrus B. Hills, two tried and firm friends of the Church. He also reported services in Sunderland on alternate Sunday evenings, which were invariably well attended.

A missionary, he says, would now find ample employment in West Arlington, Landgrove e and Sunderland. The services of the Church were once enjoyed at these stations.

The people, he adds, are too scattered to allow of their being gathered into a single congregation and too poor to encourage the hope of being able to support a minister.

Sunday Schools were sustained a part of the year at three stations and more than eighty children were under the indirect influence of the Church.

Mr. Wadleigh reports in 1852 having held services in East Arlington once in two weeks, in West Arlington once in two weeks and in Sunderland once in four weeks.

He says, however, that the Home Missionary Society of the Congregational Church will probably send a missionary to East Arlington, which will seriously interfere with the prospects of the Church there.

In the Journal of 1858 Mr. Wadleigh reported that on alternate Sundays services are held at Sunderland with one hundred in regular attendance.

A Sunday School and Bible Class have been organized with forty members. These were the only religious services held in Sunderland except once a month when the Baptist minister of Factory Point held a service.

The Journal of 1845, the year following the beginning of Mr. Wadleighís rector-ship, records 82 communicants.

The following is a statement of the financial and temporal conditions of the parish at this time:

"The parish owns, in addition to the church edifice a parsonage valued at $800; one Glebe lot leased at $40 a year; one Glebe lot leased at $30 a year, and one Glebe lot leased at $10 a year".

Mr. Wadleigh was not only a successful parish priest, but also a man of scholarly and literary talents.

A valuable history of Arlington and of the Episcopal Church in Arlington was his permanent contribution to the community. This history is to be found in Hemenwayís Historical Gazetteer, Volume One.

The present historian is largely indebted to Mr. Wadleigh for the records in this book dealing with the early history of the parish.

The Rev. Mr. Wadleigh was followed by the Rev. Charles Stuart Hale as Rector of the parish.

He was the only child of Dr. Josiah and Marcia (Tracy) Hale and was born in Brandon, Vermont, April thirtieth, 1835; educated at Brandon Academy and Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut; studied for the ministry with the Right Rev. John Henry Hopkins, DD, by whom he was ordained Deacon and Priest.

He was Chaplain of Fifth Vermont Volunteers 1862-1864; Rector of St. Jamesí Church, Arlington 1865-68; Rector of Emmanuel Church, Bellows Falls; St. Maryís-on-the-Hill, Buffalo; Assistant Rector of St. Paulís, Buffalo; Rector of Christ Church, New Bern, North Carolina, and Rector of Trinity, Claremont, New Hampshire, 1881-1885, his last parish.

In Claremont he financed the purchase of an organ and established the Boy Choir.

Some of the oldest of the members of St. Jamesís, Mr. Charles H. Crofut and Mr. Edward C. Woodworth, remember well Mr. Hale and speak highly of him. He is said to have been gifted as a preacher, a good businessman and successful as a pastor, a rare combination one might say in the light of many yearsí experience in the ministry.

Mr. Hale, while Rector at Arlington, was often called on to minister in other towns. Mr. E. C. Woodworth says that his father, Mr. Joseph G. Woodworth, was at one time proprietor of the Arlington Hotel, now called the Arlington Inn.

He afterwards removed with his wife to Cambridge, New York, where there was no Episcopal Church. He and his wife who knew Mr. Hale invited him to come to Cambridge and preach. He was the first clergyman to hold Episcopal services in Cambridge, and he may be credited with having been instrumental in establishing the parish there.

Mr. and Mrs. Woodworth later returned to Arlington, and their son Edward Canfield Woodworth was baptized and confirmed in St. James Church. He was, from early manhood, a worker in the church and a vestryman for fifty years.

Mr. Hale married Louise Weed Stevens, July sixth, 1875. She died an 1880. In 1884 he married Clara Farwell Blodgett. They had four children, one of whom is the Rev. Charles Stuart Hale, who is Rector at Ashland, Kentucky.

We now come to the close of the Episcopate of Bishop Hopkins. The Rev. Dr. George Lynde Richardson, in his life of Bishop Hall, the third Bishop of Vermont, has made a very excellent summary of the outstanding labors of Bishop Hopkins. He writes:

"When in 1832 John Henry Hopkins, then an assistant Minister at Trinity Church, Boston, was consecrated as its first Bishop, the Diocese was too poor to support him, and he was obliged to serve as Rector of St. Paulís Church, Burlington, and give only such fragments of his time as could be spared from those duties to the care of the diocese. The Church grew slowly, and if it had not been for the tireless energy of Bishop Hopkins and the devotion of his clergy, who were true missionaries, in every sense of the word, there would have been no growth at all".

"It is sometimes said by people, who are more enthusiastic than well-informed, that the Episcopal Church has given no attention to rural work until our own day, but anyone who knows the story of Vermont can find in it some of the most signal examples of successful and self-sacrificing labor in the rural field that are to be found anywhere in the Churchís history".

"Bishop Hopkins had an intense conviction of the importance of education and with incredible courage and perseverance he triumphed over obstacles that would have seemed insurmountable to most men, and established on Rock Point, north of Burlington, two schools, one for boys and one for girls".

"There also he made his home, and there it was he dreamed that there might be eventually a Theological Seminary for which he even secured one endowed professorship before his death in 1868."

The attitude of Bishop Hopkins toward the Civil War made him unpopular at the time, for though he discussed no such subjects in the pulpit, yet as a citizen he exercised his right of freedom of speech.

He firmly advocated the duty of loyalty to our government, but anticipating the emergency of national strife over the question of slavery he had prepared and published a plan by which war could be avoided.

By reason of the bitter feeling engendered during this period between the North and South, it was not possible to bring about the plan of arbitration, which was evidently the fundamental purpose of the Bishopís proposal.

In the light of today it is a matter for regret that such a course could not have been pursued, for it would have saved millions of lives and wholesale destruction of property as well as have avoided heartbreaks and bitter animosities.

The attitude of Bishop Hopkins of loyalty to the government but tolerance for the states that seceded contributed to his general usefulness when in 1865 he became in order of seniority the Presiding Bishop of the Church.

His unique position as friendly to both sections of the country enabled him to be instrumental in bringing together the several dioceses of the Church with the least possible reawakening of bitterness.

In 1867 occurred the first Pan Anglican Council at Lambeth, England.

All the bishops of the American Episcopal Church were invited, especially the Presiding Bishop.

The diocese recognized the signal honor that had come to their bishop by resolution of congratulations and loyalty and also by providing for the expenses of the Bishopís journey to England.

His homecoming from England was welcomed by a gathering of most of the clergy of Vermont and a service of thanksgiving at St. Paulís Church, Burlington.

Bishop Hopkins, notwithstanding the infirmities of age, then began a strenuous schedule of visitations throughout the diocese; sickness overcame him owing to exposures in his long drives through stormy weather.

In the severity of his sickness he calmly expressed the conviction that his life's work was done. In resignation to his suffering and in thanksgiving for all the mercies past and in hope of the future he awaited the end. He died on January ninth, 1868.



Next | Back | History