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History of St. Paul's, Georgetown:
A Timeline

St Pauls Vintage Christmas

  Above: Christmastime at St. Paul's before the 1930  "Te Deum"  altar window was installed.  

1784 -- The Rev. Samuel Seabury becomes the first American bishop.

1789 -- The first American prayerbook is authorized.

1791 -- Georgetown becomes the Sussex County seat and receives its name from George Mitchell, who was an instrumental founder and promoter of the city.

June 21, 1794 -- St. Paul's is formally organized.  A lot at Front and Pine Streets is acquired for a church but is never used and will be sold in 1806.

1795 -- The Rev. James Wiltbank conducts services in the court house infrequently over the next decade.

1804 -- The present site at E. Pine and Academy Streets is acquired and a frame building is begun but funds are hard to raise.  The building will not be finished for more than two decades. 

1805 -- The Delaware Legislature passes an act allowing the vestry to raise $1500 by lottery for building the church.  This is a not uncommon way of raising money for public buildings at this time.

Jan. 25, 1806 -- On the Feast of St. Paul the yet uncompleted church is dedicated by its rector, the Rev. Hamilton Bell.  "Parson Bell" also served other parishes as well, as did eight of St. Paul's first nine rectors. 

1827 -- Another lottery is authorized by the Legislature to raise $10,000 to build an academy, a Masonic hall and to finish St. Paul's, but the lottery is never held.

1828 -- St. Paul's has a total of 20 families and six communicants.

1833 -- The Rev. Nathan Kingsberry (or Kingsbury) becomes rector and also conducts an academy.  Most rectors at St. Paul's also will teach in the academy until 1900.

1838-40 -- The Rev. John Linn McKim succeeds eight transient priests to become rector.  He will also serve from 1844-1867, thus serving St. Paul's for 25 years.  He will resign from St. Paul's in 1867 in order to become a missionary.

1841 -- The Diocese of Delaware is formed as a separate entity from the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  The first Delaware bishop is Alfred Lee, who is consecrated on Oct. 12.

1843 -- The frame church building is removed from the site to permit construction of a new church, begun this same year.

1844 -- The present brick structure is completed, and consecrated on Nov. 19.

1880 -- The rector's salary is $500 per annum--but over six years it will never be paid in full for any one year.  (Even in 1898 the Rev. John Warnock will receive only $400.)

1881 -- The church building by now having fallen into disrepair, it is rebuilt and remodeled in the early Victorian Gothic style.  The architectural firm is McKim, Meade & White of New York City, distinguished for planning a number of famous churches.

1885 -- The Rev. James C. Kerr arrives and soon installs a pipe organ.  There are 53 communicants and a flourishing Sunday School.  He gives the altar in memory of all the faithful departed of St. Paul's Parish.

1886 -- St. Paul's acquires the Sunday School chapel, built in the 1870's, on adjoining land.

1887 -- There is no regular priest nor is there a bishop at this time.  There is also no rectory.  Fr. Kerr informs the vestry he can no longer tolerate hotel living and that Christ Church, Milford has offered him a position with a rectory.  He resigns.

1894 -- The Rev. John Leighton McKim (the son of the Rev. John Linn McKim) resigns after serving five (or seven) years.  Over the next 14 years seven priests serve no more than two years each.  The low salary is problematic and each succeeding priest is offered a higher salary.

1897 -- A 29 x 43 foot two-story frame rectory is constructed on adjacent property for the sum of $1500.  The architect and supervisor is John W. Messick.  The Rev. John Warnock becomes the first rector to live in the rectory.

1900 -- The Delaware Churchman reports that St. Paul's has the best-kept churchyard in the diocese.  Also at this time a robed choir of men and boys sings at the services.

1901 -- The rectory debt is reduced to only $40.

1908 -- The Rev. D. Wilmot Gateson becomes rector for $750 per annum and serves four years. 

1914 -- The Rev. Samuel D. Van Loan becomes rector and will put the pipe organ in good condition.  He will resign in 1929.

1930 -- Sen. Williard Saulsbury in his will gives St. Paul's its distinctive stained glass altar window.  It is called "The Te Deum Window" because it depicts the faith of the Church as stated in the creed-anthem The Te Deum.  Designed by James H. Hogan, it is made in the London studios of James Powell & Sons.  It is dedicated Feb. 9 by the bishop.

1941 -- A new brick and steel parish house and sacristy are built for $21,000 to replace the old Sunday School chapel.

1949 -- The organ is rebuilt through a $1000 bequest.

1952 -- New hardwood floors are installed throughout the church.

1953 -- The memorial porch and vestibule are added.

1979 -- St. Paul's is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1987 -- A fire of unknown cause destroys the parish hall, Sunday School classrooms and sacristy.  The sanctuary and nave are miraculously saved just in time. 

1990 -- A new state-of-the-art parish hall, Sunday School classrooms, offices and sacristy are constructed.  The architecture is carefully designed to be historically and architecturally compatible with the original building. 

1998 -- Renovations, again historically compatible, are made and a new audio system is installed.

2005 -- The slate roof on the church and the shingle roof on the parish hall are replaced due to deterioration, the funding provided by the diocese as well as parish fundraisers.

2006 -- St. Paul's historical building and cemetery merit an article in the online reference Wikipedia, which see here.

2010 -- The vestry unanimously approves a Hospitality Resolution welcoming everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity to St. Paul's worship and ministries. As a result, St. Paul's becomes Delaware's first Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation, publicly welcoming and affirming LGBT people.

Overview -- St. Paul's was born at a time of great difficulty for Episcopal churches in America due to this country's separation from England.  The parish nonetheless heroically persevered despite low membership and limited financial resources, both of which persisted throughout much of the 19th century.

St. Paul's, in keeping with most American Episcopal churches in the early 1800's was more evangelical than catholic, not being much influenced by England's 1840's catholic revival.  Fr. James Kerr in 1885 moved the parish from "low church" to "high church" by hiring an assistant priest and an organist, and purchasing "elaborate" vestments, all out of his own pocket.  He was probably the first priest in the diocese to utilize such vestments.  At the same time he conducted several Georgetown area missions for African Americans. Subsequent incumbents have encouraged an evangelical-catholic balance.

St. Paul's today is known for its parishioners, who are deeply dedicated not only to parish life but to easing the burdens of the disadvantaged.  Its mission statement refers to the parish's inclusiveness and concern for others.  At St. Paul's everybody without exception is welcome!  Thanks be to God!

The information on this page comes from the careful research of Mr.  James M. F. Short, the Rev. George E. Stokes, Mr. John Messick, Jr. and others, to whom we are grateful.   Historical sign
Historic Marker  

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