Outstanding Rectorships During the
Episcopate of Bishop Bissell
AFTER the bereavement
of the diocese by the death of Bishop Hopkins in January 1868, a
special convention was held on March eleventh, 1868 at St.
Paulís Church in Burlington for the election of his successor.
The convention met
with eighteen clergymen and fifty-seven laymen representing
twenty-five parishes. After an address by the President of the
Standing Committee the Rev. Josiah Swett, DD, of Fairfax, the
convention proceeded to consider the amount of salary of the
future bishop. It was voted to appropriate three thousand
dollars for the bishopís salary.
The clergy nominated
the Rev. William Henry Augustus Bissell, DD, rector of Trinity
Church, Geneva, New York, a native of Vermont. This nomination
was confirmed by more than two-thirds of the laity, and he was
therefore declared to be duly elected.
The Rev. Dr. Bissell
accepted his election and was consecrated at Christ Church,
Montpelier on June third, 1868, during the convention. At the
consecration service the following Bishops officiated; the Right
Revs. Samuel A. McKosky, DD, bishop of Michigan, chief
consecrator; John Williams, DD, bishop of Connecticut; Horatio
Potter, bishop of New York; Henry A. Neely, DD, bishop of Maine,
and Arthur Cleveland Coxe, DD, bishop of Western New York.
Bishop Bissell was
born in Randolph, Vermont, on November tenth, 1814. He graduated
from the University of Vermont in 1836, was ordained deacon in
1839 and priest in 1840. He was rector of Trinity Church,
Geneva, New York, for twenty years, and from there he was called
upon to preside over his native diocese.
In the first year of
his episcopate Bishop Bissell made a survey of the conditions of
the diocese by his visitations of all the parishes, some of
which he visited more than once during the year. The number of
persons confirmed was larger than ever before.
As a result of the
survey of the parishes of the diocese, the bishop in his first
address to the convention of 1869 spoke at length of the ills
attending the increase of clerical changes. This habit had, he
felt, grown in part out of the misconception on the part of the
laity that "the clergyman is held in his place by the year" and
therefore the parish considers that it is at liberty to dispense
with the services of the clergyman when the time is up. This
idea was opposed to the whole system of the church, which
regards the pastoral relations in its canons, under ordinary
circumstances, a permanent one, intended to continue
indefinitely until some sufficient cause shall arise for its
The Bishop also
recommended that the convention address the legislature of the
state a memorial and petition asking that the statutes of the
state respecting divorce may be so amended that they shall
comply with the Divine law.
St. James parish was
without a rector for several months following the departure of
the Rev. Charles S. Hale. The vestry however was not idle during
that time for the records show that calls were extended during
the year 1868 to four clergymen who in turn declined to serve.
Finally on November thirtieth, 1868, a call was given to the
Rev. Francis W. Smith of Brattleboro at a salary of twelve
hundred dollars, which was accepted, and Mr. Smith became rector
on the first Sunday after Easter, April fifth, 1869.
The vestry at this
time consisted of the following persons: Harmon Canfield, A. Dow
Canfield, Henry S. Hard, Fernando West, Samuel Benedict, and
Abner Davis. The number of communicants was one hundred and
The Rev. Francis W.
Smith was a native of Vermont, born in Eden; his early education
was in Enosburgh, Bakersfield and St. Albans. He graduated from
the University of New York in 1851, and from the General
Theological Seminary in 1855; was ordained deacon by Bishop
Horatio Potter in 1855 and priest in 1857; he served two years
as assistant in the church of the Holy Communion and the Church
of the Ascension and two and a half years in Trinity Church, New
He officiated at
Fairfield and Enosburgh, from March 1860 to 1863; Fairfield and
Fairfax 1865 to 1866; at Brattleboro 1867 to 1869; Arlington,
April first, 1869 to March, 1871; Georgia and Milton 1871 to
1875; Woodstock, November first, 1877 to 1890.
At the convention of
1871 Bishop Bissell reported that six parishes were vacant,
among them St. James, Arlington, and that three missions were
The Bishopís lament
over the frequent clerical changes referred to two years before
seems to have been amply justified. With the notable exceptions
in Arlington of the rectorships of the Rev. Abraham Bronson
(twenty-three years) and the Rev. Frederick A. Wadleigh (twenty
years), the average stay of the rectors at Arlington was three
years and a half. This frequent fluctuation in leadership though
not confined to Arlington, must have been a discouraging factor
in the efforts toward spiritual as well as material progress,
but there is evidence that the laymen were, many of them zealous
in their efforts to maintain the standards initiated by their
On March first, 1872,
after a vacancy in the rectorship of one year, the Rev. Gemont
Graves assumed the rectorship of St. James Church. He was
instituted into the rectorship by Bishop Bissell on May twelfth.
During the rectorship
of the Rev. Gemont Graves, a period of three and one half years,
the parish made marked progress. Mr. Graves reports that during
his first year he made 3,606 pastoral calls; that he held
mission services in West Arlington, East Arlington and East
A parish school was
opened under the rectorís charge with Miss Wooster as principal.
The Journal reported
(1873) that the expenses of the school for two and a half year
terms was $486.35 and that it was self-supporting. In the same
year it was reported that all indebtedness had been removed by
special subscriptions amounting to $734.45.
In 1874 the Rector
reported that three services were held on Sundays, once on Holy
Days, semi-weekly in Lent, and daily in Holy Week. The Holy
Communion was administered monthly and on every festival having
a Proper Preface. The third service on Sunday was at Bethesda
Church, West Arlington (St. Jamesí Parish), and the old church
that was built in the time of the Rev. Abraham Bronson.
Bishop Bissell reported to the convention of 1874 that he had
spent some time visiting the parish school and examining the
pupils, and was much pleased with their proficiency. In 1875,
the report from the parish shows that the Rector had made over
six thousand parochial calls during the year; that there were
about one hundred and forty communicants; that the parish school
was prosperous with expenses amounting to $697.48, all paid.
The Rev. Gemont
Graves was born in Ira, Vermont, November eighth, 1827, oldest
son of George and Adeline (Collins) Graves. His father was for
many years Senior Warden of Trinity Church, Rutland.
Except for one term
at North Granville (New York) Academy, he was prepared for
college by the Rev. Dr. Hicks who was for many years Rector of
Trinity Church, Rutland; who baptized him, presented him for
confirmation by Bishop Hopkins, who also ordained him both
Deacon and Priest in the same church in July, 1853, and
September, 1854. In the same church he had been Sunday school
pupil, teacher and Lay Reader. After his ordination he
officiated for the first time in the same church, assisting the
Rector for several months. He spent two years of his college
life at Middlebury and then went to Trinity College, Hartford,
where he was graduated in 1849. He then went to the General
Theological Seminary where he received the degree of MA in 1853.
In 1858 Mr. Graves
married Miss Maria Moulton. Their children were: Marie Moulton
(deceased wife of the Rev. John Henry Hopkins, DD), Ernest
Collins (infant deceased), Lily Carol (Phelps-Carroll), George,
Harmon Sheldon, Charlotte Williams (Andrews), Audley Chase.
His ministry was
spent chiefly in Vermont in the following Cures: Guilford and
Brattleboro 1853, Randolph Center and West Randolph 1854-1858;
Hamilton, New York, 1858-1863; Northfield, Vermont, Acting
Rector, with Warren, Fayston and Waitsfield 1863-1864;
Manchester (both villages) 1869; Cambridge, New York, 1869-72;
Arlington, Vermont and West Arlington 1872-75; Essex Junction
1875-76. From 1876 to 1901 he was a Missionary successively in
Winooski, Shelburne and East Shelburne, Jericho and Underhill,
Georgia and Milton, Fairfax and Cambridge. He also did a good
deal of missionary work in other towns and villages, visiting
individuals and families and distributing church literature. In
the summer and fall of 1854 during his Diaconate at Randolph
Center, he inaugurated the "daily service which lie says in his
diary he believes was the first instance of the kind in the
history of Vermont parishes and missions.
From 1864-1869 he was
secretary of the Vermont Clerical Convocation, and member of the
Diocesan Board of Missions.
Mr. Gravesí oldest
daughter, the late Mrs. John Henry Hopkins was a woman of
unusual talents, who was a leader in the diocesan branch of the
Womanís Auxiliary of Chicago, where for twenty years her husband
was Rector of the Church of the Redeemer.
semi-centennial anniversary of the Vermont branch of the Womanís
Auxiliary held in Arlington in 1928, Mrs. Hopkins was present
and spoke of her childhood days in Sr. Jamesí Church, and of her
experiences in the parish private school of which her father was
Rector. Among her schoolmates were: Frank N. Canfield, Edward C.
Woodworth, Charles H. Crofut, Alice Canfield Hoyt, and Hermione
On July thirty-first, 1875, the Rev. Gemont Graves tendered his
resignation to the Vestry in the following letter:
"To the Wardens and
Vestrymen of St. Jamesí Parish, Arlington:
Having received an
invitation to a mission field in the northern part of the
diocese, it seems my duty in the financial embarrassment of the
parish to accept the same.
"I, therefore, with
the Bishopís consent, resign the rectorship of St. Jamesí
Church, the resignation to take effect on September first, as it
is important that the mission field be occupied at once.
"I ask the privilege
of the use of the Rectory and premises during such part of the
month of September as the convenient removal of my family may
"After a ministry
among you of three and a half years, I sincerely regret the need
of our separation.
"Praying God to bless
the parish and to direct you in the choice of a successor who
can be of more benefit to you than has been my lot, I remain
your friend in the ministry,
On April fifth, 1877,
the Vestry extended a call to the Rev. John Randall, of West
Randolph, offering him the rectorship of the parish with a
salary of $800 and the use of the parsonage and the land
appertaining to it. This call was accepted and the Rev. John
Randall entered upon his duties as Rector, June third, 1877.
During the rectorship
of Mr. Randall a steam heating plant was installed in the
church, and this heating system remains here at the present
time. This period would seem to mark the transition from the old
way to the new so far as heating is concerned.
Canfield who has a remarkable store of parish folk lore, tells
us that she can remember that her grandmother Pauline Canfield
about this time still continued to carry with her to church her
individual foot stove. These foot stoves were quite commonly
used at that time, and a few of them are to be found in the
Historical Museum at Bennington.
The Rev. John
Randall, whose body lies in the Churchyard next to the church,
was born in Bayfield, Nova Scotia, September twenty-seventh,
1823. He was of loyalist stock and his forefathers emigrated
from Massachusetts in 1776 at the time of Gen. Howeís evacuation
from Boston. He graduated from Kingsí College, Windsor, Nova
Scotia, with highest honors in 1855.
He was ordained
Deacon by Bishop Binney, of Nova Scotia, September twenty-third,
1855, and on September twenty-first 1856, he was ordained to the
Priesthood by the same bishop.
After holding one or
more Cures in Nova Scotia, he removed to this country and became
Rector of St. Peterís Church, Brushton, New York. He was also
Rector at Randolph, Vermont, from 1875 to 1877, after which he
became Rector of St. Jamesí Church, Arlington, also officiating
at Manchester, where he remained until his death April
twenty-eighth, 1883. Bishop Bissell, in his address to the
diocesan convention in 1883, gave the following tribute to him:
"One of the most
respected of our clergy, the Rev. John Randall, has been removed
from the strife and toil of the Church Militant. He came to us
from the diocese of Albany in 1875. He had charge first of Grace
Church and St. Johnís, Randolph. After a successful pastorate of
some two years, he left, greatly to the regret of his people, to
take the rectorship of St. Jamesí Church, Arlington. Here he
labored most diligently for something over four years, to the
great benefit of that ancient parish, winning the respect and
confidence of all.
"Beside his work in
Arlington he gave many acceptable services in Zion Church,
Manchester, where he was much beloved.
"He was one of the
learned clergy of the Church; a class growing small, it is to be
feared, amidst the hurry and urgent demands of our modern life.
But he was laboriously applying himself to those studies, which
help to the right knowledge and the exposition of Godís Holy
Word, and the happy fruit, which he had gathered in those fields
of sacred study, was shown in the fullness and richness of his
sermons and instructions. For the last year and a half his life
was one of great suffering. His long illness was borne with most
complete submission to Godís will, and considerateness for those
"On Tuesday, the
Festival of St. Philip and St. James, with six of our clergy and
full attendance of his mourning parishioners, we paid the last
tribute to our brother, and laid his remains in the shadow of
that venerable church where he had ministered.
"He was a man of
simple manners, of affections rather deep than demonstrative,
very modest about his rather rare attainments.
preaching and good life made what we trust will be an abiding
impression upon his people, and he has left to his family and to
his brethren, clerical and lay, a bright example of what the
clergyman in the Church, the minister of Christ, should be."
seventeenth, 1884, the Vestry extended a call to the Rev.
Francis Gilliat, of Lowell, Massachusetts, to become Rector of
the parish. The call was accepted and Mr. Gilliat is remembered
by many in the parish as a faithful priest. He and his wife
endeared themselves to the parishioners by planning frequently
for social activities at the Rectory.
Mrs. Gilliat is now
living in Detroit at the age of seventy-six, and in a letter
recently received she says: "It was indeed a great surprise and
a real pleasure to receive your letter recently containing
inquiries about my husband, Francis Gilliat. I have collected
what records I have on hand and am enclosing them with this
letter. It is nearly forty years since Dr. Gilliat died and for
twenty-five years, I have lived with my daughter Mrs. Paul
Wheeler Thompson here in Detroit. My elder son John Henry
Gilliat was born in Arlington and is now a dentist living at
2164 Bailey Avenue, Buffalo, New York. My second son Robert
Fulton Gilliat was born in Fulton, Florida, and died in Buffalo
twenty-six years ago."
The records enclosed
by Mrs. Gilliat are as follows: Francis Gilliat was born in
Newport, Rhode Island, on July twelfth, 1839. He was graduated
from Berkeley Divinity School, Middletown, Connecticut, with the
degree of Bachelor of Divinity. The Right Rev. John Williams,
DD, Assistant Bishop of Connecticut ordained Mr. Gilliat to the
Diaconate on May twenty-fifth, 1864, in the Church of the Holy
Trinity, at Middletown, Connecticut; and on October ninth, 1867,
he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Williams in St.
Lukeís Chapel, Middletown. His first call was as Assistant to
the Rev. D. F. Banks, Rector of Christ Church, Norwich,
Connecticut, where he remained for one year. He then accepted a
call to South Adams, Massachusetts, October eleventh, 1868. In
1872 Mr. Gilliat resigned the rectorship of this parish and
became Rector of Zion Church, Avon, New York, November
twenty-second, 1872. In January, 1881, he accepted a call to the
rectorship of Grace Church, Washington, D. C., and from there he
went to Lowell, Massachusetts, on October twenty-fourth, 1882,
to be Assistant to the Rev. Dr. Edson. From Lowell,
Massachusetts, he was called on January seventeenth, 1884 to St.
Jamesí Church, Arlington, Vermont, with charge of Zion Church,
Factory Point. In the spring of 1886 he resigned the rectorship
at Arlington and on July first, 1886, took charge of Grace
Mission, Everett, Massachusetts.
In January 1888 he
became Rector of the Church of the Redeemer, Addison, New York,
and in 1891, he was called to be Rector of Trinity Church,
Canaseraga, New York.
His last parish was
St. Johnís Church, Ellicottville, New York, where he went in
1898. On December seventh, 1900, he died in St. Johnís Rectory.
On August eighteenth, 1880, Mr. Gilliat married Rachel Estella
Hall, of Brooklyn, New York.
The Rev. Eli Hawley
Canfield, DD, was born in Arlington, June eighth, 1817. (Note
óDuring the illness of the Reverend John Randall, and at other
times, the services were very acceptably conducted by the Rev.
Eli H. Canfield, DD The following resolutions of thanks for Dr.
Canfieldís services were adopted by the Vestry at its meeting,
April twenty-third, 1883. - "Resolved, that the Vestry of St.
Jamesí Church hereby extend to the Rev. Eli H. Canfield, DD in
behalf of the parish a vote of thanks for the services he has
rendered, voluntarily officiating at St. Jamesí Church the past
year during the continued illness of the Rector, the Rev. John
Randall". And further resolved, that a copy thereof be printed
in the county papers and also engrossed in the records of the
Church). Ė E. C. Woodworth, Clerk.
His father was a
tanner by trade, although he combined with this the work of
shoemaker, and also cultivated a small farm. His mother, whose
maiden name he bore, was one of the Hawley family so well and
favorably known in Connecticut.
He was educated in
the district school of the village, and to this schooling was
added special instruction by the minister of the parish
(probably the Rev. William S. Perkins), who maintained a private
school at his house in the village. He also attended for a short
time the Burr and Burton Seminary at Manchester and the Union
Academy at East Bennington. In 1835 he taught the village school
in Arlington, and his work in this school is described as being
"marked with industry, enthusiasm and unusual power."
In 1841 he entered
the Alexandria (Virginia) Theological Seminary from which he
graduated in 1844, and was ordained by Bishop Mead. His life was
a very active one. He was first called to St. Peterís Church,
Delaware, Ohio, in October 1844.
In the fall of 1849
he took charge of the Church of the Epiphany, Philadelphia,
during the absence of the Rector. He was then called to St.
Peterís, New York. There he remained until his call to Christ
Church, Brooklyn, January 1853. In January 1870 on account of
failing health he withdrew from the settled pastorate of any
His desire was to do
what he could as long as he could, and wherever his strength
permitted and opportunity offered he accepted work, more often
than otherwise without remuneration.
During this period of
retirement he preached at North Adams, Massachusetts, at
Hoosick, New York, at Arlington, Bennington and Manchester.
In the fall of 1890
he was stricken with paralysis and during the years of suffering
that followed he exercised a wonderful patience. His death came
on June third, 1898.
He was a man of much
usefulness in the ministry and he was always interested and
ready to minister in the venerable parish in which he was born
After the resignation
of the Rev. Francis Gilliat as Rector of the parish in 1886,
there was a vacancy of nearly two years during which time the
Rev. Dr. Canfield again gave his acceptable and faithful
The Rev. George S.
Pratt was ordained Deacon on December fourth, 1887, and then
became Minister in Charge of St. Jamesí Church. After a stay of
less than a year Mr. Pratt tendered his resignation and it may
be of interest to record it here in full:
"To the Wardens and
Vestrymen of St. Jamesí Church:
It is with great
reluctance that I am moved to ask your consent that I may resign
my office as Minister in Charge of this parish in order that I
may accept the position as Assistant Minister of St. Michaelís
Church, New York,
"And in doing so, I
wish to record my grateful appreciation of the loyal support and
cooperation in the office which I have received, not only from
you but from the entire parish.
"The circumstance of
this being my first ministry in the Church and marked by some
consequent crudeness and uncertainty makes me the more deeply
sensible of that generous consideration and sympathy which has
saved me from embarrassment and made my pastorate here so happy
that I shall ever look back upon it with unqualified pleasure.
"In the broadest
sense I am convinced it is best that I should enter this door
that has providentially opened before me, and while I regret as
I am sure you must, the sundering of relations so pleasant, I am
yet convinced that no permanent injury can come of this either
to you or to me. Praying that you may have the divine guidance
and blessing in the discharge of your responsible office.
I am Most Truly Your
Servant in the Church,
GEORGE S. PRATT."
On November eleventh,
1888 the Rev. Richard C. Searing became Rector of St. Jamesí
It was during his
rectorship that this parish had the honor of being the host of
the Diocesan Convention, which met here to commemorate
the Centennial of the
first convention of the Church in Vermont in 1790. This was a
The Rev. Joseph
Carey, DD, Rector of Bethesda Church, Saratoga Springs, New
York, was present and conveyed the fraternal greetings of the
Diocese of Albany.
The Rev. William S.
Langford, DD, Secretary of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary
Society, came from New York City, to share in the centennial
exercises. He spoke of the fact that one hundred years had
witnessed a remarkable expansion of the Church, and that Vermont
had had its share in this growth.
"Besides your own
Bishops Griswold and Hopkins," he said, "both of whom became
Presiding Bishops, Philander Chase who reached that distinction
was a candidate for orders in the diocese, and Benjamin Bosworth
Smith, who held the same exalted office, spent the first years
of his ministry as Rector of St. Stephenís Parish in Middlebury.
"The first Bishop of
New Hampshire, Carlton Chase, went out from the green hills of
Vermont to the white hills of the Granite State. The pioneer
Bishops of Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky were trained in Vermont,
and some of your hardy sons went out to nurture the Church in
the wilderness of Ohio more than a half century ago.
"The spirit of
self-reliance which has characterized this Diocese is worthy to
be held up as an example, for never has the Diocese of Vermont
applied for or received help from the General Board of Missions.
There is nothing more romantic in our later missionary history
than the example of your John W. Chapman going to the extreme
outpost at Anvik, Alaska.
"Shut up there alone
through the long, rigorous winters with the natives, learning
their language, and imparting to them his own, he has been
teaching them Godís love and mercy.
"A year ago we sent
to Mr. Chapman a saw-mill to serve him in cutting lumber to
construct buildings. Some travelers noticed it on the deck of
the vessel and remarked: "What are they going to do with that up
there? Have they any mechanics?" "No," said another, "I guess
not; but, donít you see, that missionary is a Vermont boy."
(The Rev. Dr. Chapman
died in 1939 in New York City where he spent his last few years
in active and faithful service in the City Mission.)
The Rev. A. H. Bailey, DD, one of the clergy of the Diocese made
one of the principal addresses at this centennial gathering. He
gave an historical review of the first century of the Church in
Vermont after its partial organization as a diocese in
Arlington, September twenty-fifth, 1790. This historical review
has been preserved in the archives of the diocese and the
present writer has made large use of it in ac-cumulating his
addresses were made by Mr. Thomas H. Canfield, to whom the
writer is also indebted, who spoke particularly of the con-tributions
of the laymen to the growth of the Diocese; and by Mr. Kittridge
Haskins who gave a summary of the history of the Glebe lands.
Bishop Bissell in his address said: "We are at the close of a
century. As we look back, there is little to meet our eyes
except a line of faithful servants of our Lord. And of them we
see but little of that which was once of deep interest to them.
Their successes and their failures, the lights and shadows of
their earthly life have passed away from menís sight.
"Only what they did
for Christ and for His Kingdom remains, the living stones which
they helped to fashion for His spiritual temple.
"But when we look to the future, the most that we can see with
any certainty is the same Church, with the same faith, the same
sacraments, the same historic ministry, still preaching the
everlasting Gospel, having learned perhaps better than we knew,
how to meet the wants of the American people of the future."
On account of the
importance of this centennial in the history of the parish and
of the diocese, it will be of interest to record in full the
resolutions of the Convention that were adopted on this
Whereas, for more
than a century Christís Church in this Diocese has been blessed
by the favor of God and the labors of many faithful men and
Convention is at this time enabled to celebrate the one
hundredth anniversary of its first meeting; we deem it becoming
that we should express our appreciation of what has been wrought
that we as a convention, representing the different orders of
the clergy and laity of the Church in Vermont, do reverently
acknowledge Almighty God to be the Author and Source of all the
blessings this Diocese has received; and that we offer Him our
devout thanksgiving and praise for that goodness and mercy that
has followed it all the days of its life.
Resolved, that we
gratefully recall the memories of those early laborers,
clergymen and laymen, who in this part of Christís vineyard bore
the burden and heat of the day, and by whose wisdom and
self-denying efforts this branch of the Lordís planting at
length became immovably rooted in an unpropitious soil.
Resolved, that we
thankfully recognize the great debt due from the Church in this
Diocese to the provident care and generous aid of the venerable
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts,
through which for many years it has been greatly relieved in the
support of its bishop and in the maintenance of its missionary
Resolved, That by
Godís help, we will ourselves endeavor to be faithful stewards
of the sacred treasures transmitted to us, and to pass them on
to the generations that come after us.
J. ISHAM BLISS, HOMER
EDWARD H. RANDALL, ALBERT CHAPMAN,
THOMAS H. CANFIELD, KITTRIDGE HASKINS,
In 1892 the Rev. Mr.
Searing commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the laying of
the cornerstone of the church in 1829, by preaching a sermon
from Ephesians: "Being built upon the foundation of the apostles
and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone."
In this sermon the
following facts are given concerning the erection of the
building in which we now worship: "The beginnings of the work of
erecting a church building were in the spring or early summer of
that year (1829) for the cellar walls were fully built at this
"The parish had been
in existence for many years before that date as is attested by
the assembling of the first convention of representatives of the
parishes of the state in this village in September, 1790. The
Rev. James Nichols preached the sermon at this convention. Mr.
Nichols was the last man of the early Connecticut clergy to be
This sermon of Mr.
Searingís has been preserved in the archives of the parish.
Many of the active
workers of the parish, both men and women, in fact those who
have "borne the burden and heat of the day" for the past forty
years and are now obliged to turn to others, were under the
training of Mr. Searing, and some have spoken of the fact that
he gave them the foundations of their instruction in the ways of
Searing was born on April thirteenth, 1851 in Saratoga Springs,
New York, son of Colonel William Marsh Searing and
He entered St.
Stephenís College, Annandale, New York, in 1869 and graduated
with the degree of B.A. June tenth, 1873.
In September of the
same year he studied at the Albany Normal School and in the same
year was a teacher in the Grammar School at Saratoga. In October
1874, he entered the General Theological Seminary and graduated
in the class of 1877.
In June of that year
he was ordained Deacon by the Right Rev. William Croswell Doane,
DD, at Bethesda Church, Saratoga Springs. On August
twenty-seventh, 1877, he was called to be Rector of Christ
Church, Walton, New York. Mr. Searing was ordained Priest on
December twenty-first, 1877, at All Saintsí Cathedral, in
Albany. He became Rector of St. Paulís Church, Columbia,
Pennsylvania, on December sixth, 1879 where he ministered for
He was also Rector of
the following parishes: Christ Church, Middle Haddam,
Connecticut, 1883-1884; St. Paulís Church, Willimantic,
Connecticut, 1884-1886; Christ Church, Unionville, Connecticut,
1886-1888; St. Jamesí Church, Arlington, 1888-1893; Christ
Church, Walton, New York, 1893-1896; Grace Church, Scottsville,
New York, 1897-1909; Ascension Church, West Park, New York,
On January fifteenth, 1880, Mr. Searing married Lizzie Christian
Seeley. The marriage was solemnized at Christ Church, Walton,
New York. Mr. Searing was the author of the "History of Christ
Church, Walton, New York. In June 1929, Mr. Searing entered the
Home for the Aged and Infirm in New York. He died at the Home
November sixth, 1933, and was buried in the family plot at
Saratoga Springs, New York.
The rectorship of the Rev. Richard C. Searing was the last of
the ministries at St. James,í Arlington, during the Episcopate
of Bishop Bissell.
It will be
interesting to note from the diocesan records the conditions of
the diocese at the beginning and at the close of this period.
When Bishop Bissell came to the diocese in 1868, there were
thirty-one churches, thirteen rectories, the Vermont Episcopal
Institute property and Trust funds, the total value of which was
$333,092; total indebtedness of the parishes was $20,330.
The number of
parishes and missions in 1868 was forty; clergy, twenty-four;
families, 11,668; individuals, 6,278; communicants, 2,361;
Sunday School scholars and teachers, 1,809: offerings (exclusive
of salaries) $5,254. At the close of Bishop Bissellís episcopate
there were fifty churches, twenty-five rectories, the Vermont
Episcopal Institute property and Bishop Hopkinsí Hall; Episcopal
residence in Burlington with a total value of $602,173; total
indebtedness of the parishes $10,773.
The foregoing figures
show that in twenty-two years, nineteen churches were built;
twelve rectories had been acquired, Bishop Hopkinsí Hall was
built and the Episcopal residence in Burlington had been
The value of church
property was increased $268,081. Trust funds were increased
$59,190; and the indebtedness of the parishes had decreased
diocese was richer by $278,638 than in 1868. The number of
parishes had increased thirteen; increase of clergy, ten;
increase of families, 486; increase of individuals, 2,022;
increase of communicants, 1,617; increase of Sunday School
scholars and teachers, 478; the amount of offerings, exclusive
of salaries, was $10,213 more than in 1868. Seventeen deacons
and fifteen priests were ordained.
In 1879 the diocese
received the gift of an Episcopal residence from Mr. John D.
Jones of New York.
Bishop Hopkins Hall,
Burlington, named in honor of the first Bishop of Vermont, was
completed and opened as a School for Girls in 1888. This was
made possible by a legacy of $20,000 from the late John P.
Howard and by the liberal gifts and energetic efforts of Mr.
Thomas H. Canfield and others.
The Episcopal Fund
had its beginnings in 1868 and in 1890 amounted to $36,000.
The foregoing figures
show that much progress was made in the diocese in the
Episcopate of Bishop Bissell, although the increase in the
number of communicants was counteracted by the removal from the
state during that period of many families.
It was the devout
wish of Bishop Bissell that he might complete the twenty-fifth
anniversary of his episcopate, but his health began to fail in
1888, and for several years before his death he was unable to do
his work with the vigor to which he had been accustomed.
At the Convention of
1888 the clergy and laity of the diocese gave him a word of
congratulation on the completion of his twentieth anniversary, a
part of which follows:
"It is just twenty
years that you have gone in and out among us as our loved and
"Your name throughout
the diocese is as familiar as household words; your presence has
always and everywhere been welcome.
"For these two
decades during which you have administered the affairs of the
diocese, harmony has prevailed in its councils, and peace in all
its borders. There has been a unity of feeling and purpose
between the Bishop, the clergy and the laity. Parties have been
utterly unknown; to your wisdom and prudence much is due for all
this, and we cannot but be thankful for what we have so long
entered into rest at Burlington, May fourteenth, 1893.
The Rev. Dr. Flanders
of St. Lukeís Church, St. Albans, preached a memorial sermon at
St. Paulís Church, Burlington on June twenty first, 1893 on the
death of the Right Rev. William H. A. Bissell, DD, the occasion
being a special Convention for the election of a Bishop.
In this sermon there
are interesting facts, which help to explain the strange hold,
which the Bishop had on the affections of the people of the
diocese. Bishop Bissell was educated a Congregationalist of the
strictest school of Calvinism. However, he was too generously
molded to be swayed by prejudice, and after careful study of the
history and policy of the Church he became convinced of the
justice of her claims, and after struggling with the
prepossessed teachings of his early life, he became a Candidate
for Holy Orders, was ordained Deacon in 1839, made a Priest the
year following and consecrated second Bishop of Vermont in 1868.
As to his character
there was about him a certain dignity of bearing and reticence
of manner that at first gave people an unfavorable impression.
He was, too, a man of decided opinions and expressed himself
with a directness that was challenging to those who disagreed
with him and were of like independent nature.
But he yielded
readily his position when there was proof enough to carry
conviction, and in this he always commanded respect. As a
Churchman and theologian he was sound and conservative. He was
of the old school that was called "advanced" twenty-five years
He believed in the
fact and idea of the church, and in the Divine origin and
Mission of the Episcopate; tolerated no innovations of the
integrity of the Prayer Book, but he was not disturbed by a
ceremony or the color of a stole. This was his common remark
"The church is broad and flexible enough to entertain with
charity all schools of thought so long as essential principles
are not interfered with."
attitude helped to avoid friction in the diocese. He seldom
spoke in the house of Bishops; he devoted no time to the work of
He was effective as a
preacher; people were convinced by his earnestness and
sincerity. There was gentleness in his nature and though
somewhat undemonstrative his soul answered to the cry of sorrow.
He did nothing for effect.
Few men possessed a
richer sense of humor. His home life was delightful; he was
generous in his hospitality.
When Bishop Bissell
came to Vermont he entered upon no easy task as successor of a
bishop who was a lawyer, a musician, a painter, an architect as
well as a scholar and theologian. The two characters presented a
strange contrast. The one was raised up for a special crisis,
and was bold in resources; the other took the work as it was
left; was quiet and undemonstrative and did his work faithfully
and with satisfactory results.
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