St. Peter's Episcopal Church
History of St. Peter's Episcopal Church
St. Peter's again went though a long period of uncertainty regarding a settled minister in Oxford. During this time, on June 6 and 7th, 1827 it was made official that the chapel at Quaker Farms separated itself from St. Peter's as a new parish. On
Dec. 20, 1828 the first vestry of St. Peter's was elected. At a special Parish Meeting held Feb. 6, 1834 it was voted "that the present society's committee be a committee to procure subscriptions for the purpose of building a new church for this
parish." The reason for a new building was as follows; "Considering the decayed state of the old church and its local situation and disadvantages, it was therefor unanimously resolved at a meeting of the Society of St. Peter's Church held of the sixth day of Feb. A.D. 1834 to erect an Episcopal Church for said society at such place near the main street in the center of town as shall hereafter be agreed upon by said society, on
condition that the necessary funds for erecting the same be obtained by subscription or donation.
The new building was presumably completed in 1835 and it was said that "Sometime during the autumn of 1835 the new church was consecrated to the glory of God and in honor of St. Peter the Apostle by Bishop Brownell, the third Bishop of Connecticut." The demolition of the old church and the building of the new one was done during the short rectorate, 1834-35 of Rev. Charles Smith. After the building of the new church it became a yearly custom to auction off the seats in order to raise money for the support of the services.
In 1851 during the rectorate of Rev Charles Jarvis Todd (1850-54) a meeting was held on May 10 of that year for the organization of a Sunday School. The total of seventeen teachers total seemed to indicate quite a sizable Sunday school with perhaps from eighty to one hundred children. This is the earliest record of a church school at St. Peter's. On April 14, 1854 the appointment of tithing men is recorded for the first time, although it seems likely that such officers had been appointed long before this, to maintain order in church, especially among the young folks. Also during the Rectorate of Rev. Todd, in 1852, the Ladies Association of St. Peter's Church, Oxford was formed.
In the 1959 Convention Journal it was stated that a vestry room had been added and improvements made in the church building at a total cost of $80. No details are given of the improvements.
The Rev. John T. Pearce began his service to the church in 1863 and became the longest serving rectorate (10 years) since Dr. Richard Mansfield's founding. For the first two years he was in charge of both parishes (St. Peter's and Quaker Farms), but in the 1865 journal he reported "At Easter I resigned the charge of Christ Church, Quaker Farms, in which parish I divided half my time and attention, between the parochial reports of 1864 and the date of my resignation, April 16, 1865".
In an historical sketch, written in 1878 by the Rev. Sheldon Davis, he says that "In 1875 a formal proposition was made by St. Peter's Church, through Mr. Anketel (Rev John Anketel 1873-75, Oxford), to merge the church in the Farms, in that of Oxford, which was summarily rejected".
Changes were made to St. Peter's in 1878 as it was said, "After the elapse of a little over forty years from the building of the church, there was a desire on the part of the members to enlarge, redecorate and otherwise to improve the edifice.
The present chancel with two side rooms was built on at this time and the old box pews were replaced by oak ones. The stained glass windows in the side of the church were given by the different families A new red carpet was installed and the interior re-decorated.
The Rev. Lewis L. Morris came to St. Peter's in 1887, in charge of both oxford parishes as well as the Mission of the Good Shepherd in Southford during his tenure. His was the longest rectorate since Mr. Pearce. In 1903 St. Peter's parish bought, for use as a rectory, the house on Academy St., (formerly the old John Twichel house, and known at this time as the Ayers place) on the north side, between the Oxford-Southbury Road (Route 67) and Jack's Hill Brook. Under the leadership of Mrs. Kate Davis, money was raised to buy, repair and paint the house. The Rev. Mr. Peck delivered an address on the occasion of the opening of the rectory in 1904. After Mr. Pecks Tenure, it was occupied by the Rev. George J. Sutherland, from 1906-1914. Then for fourteen years 1914-1923 there was no settled minister and whether the house was vacant or rented out is not on record.
The Rev. Mr. Sutherland came to Oxford in July of 1906, coming from the missionary district of Asheville. His was quite years. In 1931 Bishop Acheson told Mr. Henry S. Douglas that he wanted him to go to Oxford and take charge of the two churches there, and make them his life work. In March of that year, the Rev. Harold Edwards, Rector of Trinity Church, Seymour, reported to the churches Douglas as Lay Reader. Mr. Douglas was ordained Deacon, June 9, 1931 by Bishop Acheson at Christ Church, Quaker Farms and was advanced to the priesthood June 9, 1933 at St. Andrew's Church, New Haven. Mr. Douglas resided with his mother and her sister, and the latter's two children in the rectory in Oxford center until the church.
In 1931 the church building again required new sills, those having been installed in 1858, having again rotted. It is said that at the funeral services of the older Mrs. Cable, while the casket was being carried out down the center aisle there was an ominous cracking sound in the floor, and the casket had to be carried back to the chancel and handed down the side aisle over the pews. As a result the church held an "Old Home Day" to raise money for repairs. Two of the oldest members active in it were Mr. Elijah Treat and Mrs. Harriet Hawkins.