LEE — St. George’s Episcopal Church, which was due to celebrate its 100th anniversary on Friday, survived two fires, one of which destroyed the original church building and the second gutted the current building.
According to a history of the church described by the rector, the Reverend Douglas J. Berndt, the land at St. George’s was made suitable for a church building when in 1856 a group of “friendly Congregationalists” gave the Episcopalians a strip of property along Franklin Street. This provided access to land owned by the Episcopal parish south of Franklin Street.
At this time, Episcopal services were held at the Old Methodist Meeting House.
The first St. George’s Church was completed in 1858, only to be destroyed by fire on Christmas Day 1860. All that was salvaged in reasonably usable condition was the church Bible.
The present marble church was built with stones from the Lee quarries in 1863.
A second fire broke out again in 1879, destroying the interior. Since that time, the interior has been refurnished twice.
In 1902 the parish purchased Bottomly House, which stood at the southwest corner of Franklin and High streets on the site later occupied by the Greenock Inn. The house was moved to the opposite corner, in what was known as the Bryning lot, where the building is now used as a parsonage.
Plans for the construction of a parish house were drawn up under the rectorship of the Reverend Frank C. Wheelock. The plans were executed by Benjamin Teale and Richard Cahill, who acted on behalf of the vestry. Mr Wheelock had left the local church and a replacement had not yet been appointed when the parish house was built.
Others who were most important in the history of the church, according to Mr. Berndt, were Lester Filley Esq., who started the organization of the parish; Thomas Oman, who gave generously; and Richard J. Cahill, who since 1902 has served “faithfully and tirelessly.”
The current sexton of St. George’s are Principal, Thomas W. McClelland; Deputy Director, Mr. Cahill; treasurer, Raymond C. Pecon; clerk, George Kurosaka; Elmer V. Forrest, Theodore Crittendon, George Simmons, John E. Blake Jr., and Richard P. Davis.
“When over the past 100 years hard times and other discouraging factors have afflicted the church,” Mr. Berndt says, “a small core of the faithful have always stood by St. George’s side.”