The first services of the Episcopal Church in Canton were held in 1888 in a second story room of the building now occupied by Morse’s Furniture store, and were in charge of the Rev. F. T. Eastman. As the history of the Episcopal Church in Canton is intricately entwined with St. Paul’s of Troy, Mr. Eastman was presumably rector of that church. These services were conducted for some months and among the regular attendants were Miss Adelle Cleveland, Mrs. Emma McIntosh, Mrs. Mary Jane McDonald and Mrs. William Black and daughter Nelle. After a time these services were discontinued and not resumed until about 1897, when meetings were held at the homes of various members among whom were Mrs. O. W. Jaquish and Mrs. Black.
A little later, on November 28, 1898, an Episcopal Mission service was held in an upper room of the Lewis block, conducted by the Rev. C. H. MacKnight of Troy, with Canon Smith of Denver as one of the speakers. The first communion of the Mission was held at the same location, Tuesday, August 1, 1899, and about this time Lewis Buddy presented the Mission with an oak cross.
These meetings continued to be held in the Lewis Building as late as August 20, 1900, though during the summer of 1899 a number of open air services were held on the lawn of the Lewis Buddy residence, "Hillside," the home occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Casper Weiss until it burned. Carriages were at the Lewis Building for the convenience of those wishing to attend, and more that 100 were present on August 22, 1899.
Regular services were not held until November 1. 1901, but mention of the name "St. James" for the Episcopal Mission occurs before this time, in a notice of a meeting to be held November 21, 1900 at St. James Mission rooms. During the month of November 1901, services were held in a small building on Minnequa Avenue, which is now located at the rear of the home occupied by Dean Morse. This room soon was found to be too small, so a vacant store building was rented and equipped with pews and other bare necessities. This location, now occupied by the American Railway Express Office on Troy Street, continued as the Episcopal Mission through 1901 and 1902. When the Bishop visited Canton, or when an unusually large crowd was expected, meetings were held in the Lewis Opera House.
Late in 1901 the name of Sidney Winter appears as Rector of St. Paul’s in Troy and St. James in Canton, and this arrangement of sharing Rectors with Troy was in effect for many years. About the middle of February 1902, the Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, presented St. James with a silver communion service, consisting of a chalice, paten and flagon, and St. James of Philadelphia sent altar linen and embroidery. Later in 1902, an unknown donor gave a handsome pair of cut glass cruets for the communion service, and the Altar Book Society of New York sent a beautiful set of Altar Books.
On June 11, 1902, a "Sock Social" was held the first of a series of events to raise money for the building fund. Each member or friend of the church had been given a small sock, which was to be filled with twice the number of pennies representing the sock size of the donor. These socks were to be returned filled at the Social, and $75.00 was raised.
Many other events were held, including an elaborate Lawn Fete, with such famous entertainers as Deronda Mayo, Nellie Maye Elverson, Clarence Weymouth, New York flutist, and W. K. Ridge of Philadelphia; later a comic pantomime and several concerts, also monthly socials at various homes. At one of these socials, $14.00 was realized, which seemed a very good sum, but the goal was much nearer when Bishop Talbot announced a gift of $500.00 toward the Building Fund. The children of the Sunday School presented a solid brass book-rest for use on the Altar, and in March 1903 it was announced that the Guild had earned over $200.00 during the year, and an architect was at work on plans for a new church.
During this time Mr. Winter made many appeals for aid to the Building Fund and a number of gifts were received from other churches. The Embroidery Guild of St. Mark’s, Philadelphia, gave a red Dossal, which hangs behind the Altar, the Guild of St. James, Philadelphia, sent a white embroidered chalice veil, St. Paul’s, Bloomsburg presented alms basins, and Christ Church, Susquehanna, a pulpit.
At first plans had been drawn for a church to cost $3,000.00, but owing to an unforeseen business change, many communicants of the church were forced to move elsewhere, so plans were secured for a Chapel to cost $1,600, seating 120 people, and in December 1903, this was nearly finished. There was a debt of $600.00 on the Chapel, which Mr. Winter was most anxious to clear up before the dedication, but he was unsuccessful in this effort.
The Chapel was consecrated January 15, 1904, with a dedication service in charge of Bishop Olmstead, coadjutor of Central New York, assisted by the Rev. Charles MacKnight, of Ithaca, New York and the Rev. A. B. Rudd of Grace Church, Elmira, as well as the Rev. Sidney Winter, through whose untiring efforts the building had been completed.
The first baptism to be recorded in the new Chapel was that of Helen Anna, infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Lancaster of the Park House, the Rector Rev. Francis Huber officiating. This occurred July 17, 1904.
St. James members continued to raise money to liquidate their debt, and in March 1905, held a bag and apron sale at Bull’s Bakery, which netted $28.00. Easter Sunday 1905 marked the first lighting of the new electric fixtures, which were the gift of Harry Buddy, of the General Electric Co. of Philadelphia.
Early in March of 1906, the Rev. Robert E. Roe became Rector of St. James, and the new Mission continued to grow under his ministry until the latter part of November 1908. During the summer of 1906 a boy’s choir was formed and continued to be an important feature of the church for many years.
In February 1907, plans for the building of a Parish room, to be equipped and used as a gymnasium for the young people of the church as well as a meeting place for the guild, were announced. Ground was broken late in March and the building progressed rapidly to its completion about June 1st of that year. A guild tea was the first event held in the new room, with a number of ladies from St. Paul’s in Troy in attendance. This was the first gymnasium and basketball court in Canton and was a very popular place with the young people. Its equipment was largely made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. L. M. Marble.
A new Communion Service was presented to St. James by an unknown woman of the Diocese and was used Sunday, December 29, 1907 for the first time.
The passing of Clyde Burt on March 12, 1908 marked the first death in the ranks of St. James choir boys. Clyde was one of the ten original members of the choir, and in his memory Mrs. F. W. Hull presented the church with two Candelabra. There were ten boys in the first choir, so there were ten candles in the Candelabra.
Greatly to everyone’s regret, announcement was made of Mr. Roe’s appointment as Rector of St. John’s Parish, Ketchikan, Alaska, and he left for that post late in November 1908. From that time until the arrival of the Rev. Royal K. Tucker on January 1, 1909, St. James enjoyed the unique experience of having a Persian Rector, the Rev. S. B, Eshoo, who was completing his religious training in the United States preparatory to returning to Persia as a missionary.
The church grew and prospered under Mr. Tucker until early in September 1911, when he moved to Red Lodge, Montana, and the church was without a rector until the arrival of the Rev. John Clark Dean early in November 1911. The joint meeting of the St. James and St. Paul’s vestries at which Mr. Dean was elected was the first recognition given the St. James vestry by men of St. Paul’s.
Early in 1912 St. James acquired a pipe organ no longer needed by St. Paul’s, and through the generosity of Mr. L. M. Marble this was installed in our chapel. Some time later Mr. Marble had the organ equipped with an electric motor and otherwise renovated.
Mr. Dean watched over the spiritual welfare of the parish until June 1913, at which time he was appointed to the rectorship of St. Mark’s Dunmore and St. George’s, Olyphant. Two years later all were shocked to learn of his death by asphyxiation at his home in Dunmore.
The Rev. William R. Holloway of Douglasville, PA took charge of St. James and St. Paul’s on February 22, 1914 and continued as rector until February 1, 1922. This eight year term of service is the longest any rector has yet served.
From February 1, 1922 to March 1, 1923, the Rev. Robert Lee Lewis, formerly of Windsor, N. C. had charge of the destinies of the two churches. The various departments of the church seemed busy under his ministry and a number of activities were chronicled.
It was with a real feeling of loss that the passing of three faithful members of St. James were noted during 1923; that of Mrs. Fred Newell, Sr. on January 21; Mrs. Emma McIntosh on March 23rd; and Mrs. Emma Lewis on April 12th. Much of the history so far given was obtained from the scrapbook kept by Mrs. Lewis and continued after her death by Miss Hattie Newell.
Succeeding Mr. Lewis was the Rev. C. Edwin Brown who came from Omaha, Nebraska. He arrived early in May 1923, and continued to serve both St. Paul’s and St. James until May 18, 1926. One of the important events during this time was the consecration of Frank W. Sterrett as Bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Bethlehem, which ceremony took place November 9, 1923. About February 20, 1924, the death of Rt. Rev. Alexander C. Garrett elevated our Bishop Ethelbert Talbot to the office of Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America.
On January 1, 1925, a new parish Register was purchased and Mrs. T. H. Beam and Mrs. H. L. Stem did a great deal of work collecting and recording data pertaining to the parish membership and history.
From May 1926 until December of that year, St. James was without a regular Rector, but this defect was remedied on the first Sunday in December by the arrival of the Rev. William H. Robinson of Saybrooke, Conn., who took charge and continued to serve until February 1, 1928. The most notable event of this period was the ordination of Herbert Waldo Manley to the Deaconate on June 18, 1927 with Bishop Talbot officiating. Waldo was the first and so far the only member of St. James congregation to enter the ministry and we follow his career with a feeling of pride. He was ordained to the priesthood on March 24, 1928.
St. James was under the guidance of the Rev. H. R. Bennett of Williamsport from the departure of Mr. Robinson until the arrival of the Rev. Frederick W. Trumbore June 1, 1928. During this interval Bishop Talbot passed away at the home of his daughter in Tuckahoe, New York on February 27, 1928, and was succeeded by Bishop Frank W. Sterrett.
With the coming of Mr. Trumbore, St. James seemed to take a new lease on life. In September a choir was organized – the first in some years – and was continued during Mr. Trumbore’s pastorate. A branch of the Women’s Auxiliary was organized in April 1931, and a piano was purchased for the Parish House. In March the men organized a chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. Sorrowfully the members learned of the impending departure of Mr. Trumbore for St. Clement’s Church, Wilkes Barre, which was to take place September 1, 1933.
The Rev. George Warburton of Susquehanna followed Mr. Trumbore, coming September 1, 1933 and leaving April 30, 1935, at which time he retired from the ministry. Mr. Warburton was succeeded in May 1933 by the Rev. Harry J. Fenwick, who came from White Haven. Following Mr. Fenwick’s departure, St. James no longer shared rectors with Troy, as it was decided to place Troy with Athens and Canton with Towanda, which was an admirable arrangement. The first rector under this plan was the Rev. Davis Johnson who continued in that capacity until his death a year later, May 15, 1939.
On September 10, 1939 the Bishop sent the Rev. G. Clayton Melling who had been serving as assistant at the Pro-Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. St. James prospered under his ministry and all members were grieved to learn of his acceptance of the pastorate of the Episcopal Church at Mauch Chunk, PA, and of his resignation here effective September 1, 1941. Following the Rev. Melling’s departure, St. James was again without a rector until the coming of the Rev. G. H. Russell on November 9, 1941. Christ Church, Towanda held a delightful reception for the Russell’s on November 12, several coming from Canton.
Mr. Russell was elevated to the priesthood some months after coming to the parish by Bishop Sterrett who had asked him to remain in charge of Towanda and Canton for at least five years. He stayed a little longer however, as he moved to East Mauch Chunk in September 1947.
Because of the war, clergymen were scarce in Bishop Sterrett’s Diocese in 1947, so the Rev. Glen Walter of the Church of the Redeemer, Sayre, was asked to supply at Towanda and Canton and also St. Barnabas, a new mission which the Rev. Mr. Russell had established at Milesburg. He continued to do this until November 1948, when he accepted a call to Georgetown, Delaware.
Easter Sunday 1948, the Bishop asked the Rev. Paul Phipps, a semi-retired rector living near Dushore, to relieve Mr. Walter of part of his heavy burden of services on that day by conducting Easter Service in Towanda and Canton, and thus the members of St. James met Mr. Phipps. After Mr. Walter moved to Georgetown, Mr. Phipps again agreed to supply Towanda and Canton with at least one service a month until a new rector could be appointed. This continued to be the arrangement until May 1949, when St. James Sunday School was reorganized, and church services were held twice monthly.
As September approached, the time when the Bishop had promised a permanent pastor for Canton and Towanda, the members of St. James became loath to part with Mr. Phipps who had been doing a splendid work reestablishing the Episcopal Church in Canton. A number of letters were written Bishop Sterrett pointing out the difficulties of sharing a rector with Troy or Towanda, as had always been the custom, and asking him to permit Mr. Phipps to continue his work at St. James. The Bishop finally gave his consent to this arrangement, and for the first time in their history, the communicants of the Canton Church had their own rector.
St. James has grown and prospered under Mr. Phipps guidance. The men of the congregation redecorated the interior, cleaned and renovated the basement, and aided by the Women’s Auxiliary placed a modern gas heater in the parish house. New doors were made for the vestibule and a very beautiful carpet bought and laid in the church.
Early in October 1950, the congregation was saddened to learn of the death of the Rev. Sidney S. Winter under whose direction the church had been built, and through whose tireless efforts much of the money was raised to pay for the building. At the time of his death, Fr. Winter was rector emeritus of St. Paul’s Church, Owego, New York.
During 1951 the Auxiliary became more active; a successful card party was held in August and a large Halloween Party given for the children in October.
In 1952 a Sample fair was held by the Auxiliary in the Borough Building. This was one of the most ambitious and successful projects undertaken in a number of years and netted nearly $200.00. In March of 1952, the first of a series of birthday parties honoring Mrs. Phipps was given.
On June 15 a beautiful new dossal and rod, the gift of the children of the church was dedicated. The choir members sponsored a pancake supper in October, which realized $47.00 toward new cassocks, which were later ordered and made by the members of the Auxiliary. Another successful Halloween party for the children was given in October of 1952. St. James Day was observed with a picnic at New Albany.
Bishop Frederick J. Warnecke, who was named Bishop-coadjutor in 1952, made his first visit to St. James on March 23, 1953, accompanied by Dr. Bennett of Towanda, and his first official visit on September 19. A dinner was served in the parish house following the service.
Recent gifts to the church include a large Litany Service Book, a new walnut retable and tabernacle, set of white brocade altar hangings, a credence table with hand wrought iron brackets and a rod and shelf in the vestibule for hats and coats, equipped with Belmar hangers.
Eleanor PARSONS Keagle (1896 – 1971)