St. Paul’s Episcopal Church celebrates 150 years in Marquette, by Patricia Micklow and Judd Spray

Remember • Rejoice • Renew

This year St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette is celebrating its sesquicentennial—150 years in the Marquette community. In that time, it has grown from a small-but-dedicated handful of parishioners meeting in one another’s homes on the shores of Lake Superior to a full-fledged congregation occupying one of Marquette’s landmark buildings, the imposing sandstone structure on the corner of Ridge and High streets.
Adopting the theme of “Remember-Rejoice-Renew,” the congregation has enjoyed much of this year reflecting on the church’s past while looking forward to its future.0608fea
“In general,St. Paul’s hopes to continue to be a voice for progressive and practical faith among the congregations that make up the faith community,” said Rev. Dr. Mark C. Engle, Rector of St. Paul’s. “We treasure our role as a congregation that has nurtured the development of other congregations, both in the Episcopal tradition, and among other faiths.”
Shortly after Marquette County was organized in 1848, some of the families in the village of Marquette began to meet for prayer in the Anglican-Episcopal tradition. By 1851, Peter White, Philo and Mehitabel Everett, Charles C. Trowbridge and Henry Mather, among others, were meeting more or less regularly to hold church services.
They met most often in the Everett home, but from time to time the small congregation gathered in the open air, weather permitting, and according to St. Paul’s tradition, the first formal service using the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer took place in the cabin of the steamship Planet as it lay at anchor in Marquette’s harbor.
In 1856, Charles A. Trowbridge, Charles C. Trowbridge’s nephew from Detroit, donated money for the establishment of a parish rectory on the condition that the rector of the nascent community, Rev. Henry Safford, hold Sunday services each week for three years in Collinsville, a small settlement built around an iron forge some three miles north of the village of Marquette. Peter White took on the responsibility of getting Rev. Safford to Collinsville each Sunday afternoon after the morning services in Marquette held in the Washington Street schoolhouse. While three miles may not seem like much of a journey today, in 1856 it occasionally meant traveling by dog sled.
At this time, the parish had no definite organization and no permanent place of worship, but Rev. Safford was a man of strong character and energetic zeal, and on August 18, 1856, St. Paul’s was duly incorporated as “the Parish of St. Paul’s Church in the Village and County of Marquette.” The new parish elected Philo Everett and Mr. H. Stafford to be its first wardens and its first vestry members were Dr. J.J. St.Clair, Peter White, Charles Judd, Dr. G.H. Blaker, Charles T. Harvey, Alvin Brooks and William Ferguson.
“St. Paul’s parish members have provided leadership knowhow to community initiatives since our earliest days,” Engle said. “The plaques on the walls of the church note important figures in the development of Marquette. They include a startling variety of roles St. Paulers have played in our area. We have managed, over the years, to do our part to maintain and develop the fabric of our community in ways that make Marquette more livable and cohesive.”
The first permanent church, a wood frame structure, soon was raised on Ridge Street on the site of the present church at a cost of $10,000.
By 1875, St. Paul’s had outgrown the small frame church on Ridge Street, so construction was begun on the stone church that stands there today. The old church was sold to the German Lutheran Society and moved two blocks west. The new church was built of brownstone from the quarries in south Marquette and roofed with Lake Superior slate from the quarries at Huron Bay. The original bell from the old church, described by a contemporary writer as a “sweet toned McNeely bell,” was installed proudly in the new church’s bell tower. Unfortunately, the bell had to be recast a short time later when it cracked after a patriotic parishioner rang it 400 times in a burst of Fourth of July enthusiasm.
Later, in 1887, an addition to the church was built along High Street between Ridge and Arch. This was the Morgan Memorial Chapel, built through the generosity of Peter White in memory of his son, Morgan. The Morgan Chapel is graced by a splendid stained glass window designed by Tiffany.
There are many stained glass windows throughout the church. They add to its beauty while memorializing names that resonate in the history of Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, such as the stunning window donated by A. Lamphear Norrie in 1887 in memory of Douglass Houghton, the first state geologist of Michigan.
Other windows celebrate long, full lives of people like John and Merob Wetmore (who lived to be eighty-three and ninety respectively), or sadly short lives like those of Albert Jory, ten, Ida Jory, five and Arthur Jory, four, all of whom died in 1870.
Twenty years after the completion of the Morgan Chapel in 1907, St. Paul’s again undertook a building campaign motivated by a sense of community consciousness and outreach under the leadership of Rev. Bates Burt. (Rev. Bates’s son, John Burt, is a long-time resident of Marquette, having retired as Bishop of Ohio).
Noting that “there is presently no institutional program for keeping young boys off the street and surrounding them with uplifting experiences,” Burt proposed the building of what came to be known as the Guild Hall in order to “help offset the many evil influences that now surround them.” The Guild Hall would have a gymnasium, a swimming pool, and health exercise classes would be offered.
According to Burt, “such a building would provide facilities where people could meet and work in a social way, a clubhouse for the parish where it could do efficient work not only once in seven days, but every day.” Eventually the Guild Hall housed, in addition to its swimming pool and gymnasium, pool and billiard tables, a bowling alley, an archery range, a reading room and an assembly room with a stage. Although the swimming pool had to be closed in 1929 due to structural problems, the Guild Hall was used for many years thereafter for indoor sports, social events and public meetings before it had to be demolished in 1988.
“The initiative about which I have heard about most was the hospitality of our former Guild Hall,” Engle said. “It was constructed in the early twentieth century to be a community center. The Guild Hall facilities included meeting rooms, a dance floor and a swimming pool. Until the 1980s, area residents used the facility for meetings, dances and recreation. Many are the couples who met at the Guild Hall and were later wed.”
The early founders of St. Paul’s established a benchmark of community service and outreach that continues to serve as a beacon to the parishioners of today. The tradition of viewing the church as a resource for the entire community and not just for its members has become a part of the fabric of life at St. Paul’s. Over the years, the church opened its doors to other faith communities—the Greek Orthodox Church, the Lake Superior Society of Friends and the Unitarian Universalist Congregations—when they needed a place to meet and worship. The Marquette Women’s Center once had its offices in the Guild Hall; now the church shares its facilities with such diverse groups as Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA), LaLeche League, a home-school organization and, recently, the Marquette Rowing Club.
Today the St. Paul’s family strives to honor the commitment to community outreach established by its founders. Joining with other faith communities in Marquette County, St. Paul’s and its members have been in the forefront of support for the establishment and maintenance of Habitat for Humanity in Marquette, the Medical Care Access Coalition and St. Luke’s Hospital. Through its Camp New Day U.P. program, St. Paul’s gives children of state prison inmates an opportunity to get away from the pressures of urban life and enjoy a north woods camping experience each summer.
“Today, the breadth of involvement of St. Paul’s Parishioners in community is a feature of our congregation of which we are very proud,” Engle said.
Recognizing that it is a member of the global as well as the local community St. Paul’s began its International Craft Fair and Alternative Gift Market a number of years ago. Held during the Christmas season, it provides an outlet for the sale of crafts created by Third World artisans, with the proceeds being returned to the artisans themselves. At the same time, the Alternative Gift Fair offers a unique selection of gifts to benefit people and families around the world. Other international outreach efforts include educational support for two of the Lost Boys of Sudan, the young men victimized by the local wars in Africa; Our Little Roses Ministries, a home for abused, abandoned or neglected girls in Honduras; and nutritional programs in Haiti.
The future holds many challenges for churches everywhere, particularly churches in smaller communities like Marquette, and St. Paul’s is no exception. For the past several years, under the guidance of Bishop James Kelsey of the Diocese of Northern Michigan and led by current rector Rev. Mark Engle, St. Paul’s parishioners have been exploring new modes of ministry, which will be built on the foundational gifts of all parishioners.
Four covenant groups totaling nearly forty members have been going through a process of development and study that will result in the commissioning of a Ministry Support Team in 2007. The team will assume many of the roles traditionally filled by the parish rector.
“While we continue to provide support for programs in housing, health care, women’s concerns and prison ministry, what is emerging is a pattern of hands-on ministry that involves parish members in direct contact with Marquette County residents working in common cause,” Engle said. “We are now concentrating on building partnerships with others at work to build stable communities. One such partnership is the ABCD (Asset-based Community Development) initiative at the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, where we partner to support the residents to achieve their own objectives.”
This year has seen a flurry of activity at St. Paul’s as volunteers have been working to redecorate and renew the church in anticipation of the anniversary.
A Sesquicentennial Committee chaired by Phyllis Reynolds has been busy planning events, designing keepsakes in honor of the occasion and coordinating volunteer efforts. A highlight will be a special reunion weekend beginning on August 18. The weekend will feature a reception at the church, and the premiere showing of a DVD specially created in honor of the sesquicentennial, and a high tea. Additional information and a full calendar of events are available at
“There are a number of community events scheduled to celebrate the 150th year of St. Paul’s,” Engle said. “Chief among these will be the August 20 celebration service at Mattson Park at 10:00 a.m. You are welcome to join us in that celebration. We want you to know that St. Paul’s is a resource not only to contribute to projects that build the quality of life of our community, but also to be a facility available for all to visit, use and enjoy.”
Recreating the early outdoor services attended by the church’s founding families, the liturgy will be taken from the 1789 Book of Common Prayer, which was in use in 1856, and hymns from the same period will be sung. Bishop James A. Kelsey of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan will officiate. Light refreshments will be served following the service. The public is invited to attend and join St. Paul’s as it remembers its past, rejoices in its gifts and renews its commitment to the future.
“Throughout its illustrious history, St Paul’s has provided significant leadership and support for all of the congregations of our diocese, which extends throughout the Upper Peninsula,” Kelsey said. “We are proud of the creative and innovative ministry which has been shared by the remarkable people who have gathered there week after week and year after year over so many generations. It’s exciting now to imagine what lies ahead as we move into the next 150 years of the life and mission of this ministering community.”

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