Milwaukee County Episcopal Churches

St. James Episcopal Church

The New Edifice Built Upon the One-Time City Cemetery

Partial Construction of the Building by Fire in 1872

The history of St. James Episcopal church is one of no little interest. The first organization dates as far back as 1846, at which time services were held in the store-room of I.A. Lapham. Since that time it has brown and prospered until the present time the St. James Church edifice is one of the ornaments of the city. The first church building was erected in 1847, and Rev. Ingraham served as rector until 1849. In July 1850, a call was issued for persons interested in forming a parish on the West Side to meet in the vestry rooms of St. Paul's Church. The following gentleman answered the call:

H.L. Palmer
Winfield Smith
A.W. Hatch
James Kneeland
F. Randall
A.G. Miller
J.B. Martin
J.W. Newbury
T.R. Rhoddies
J.A. Swain
C.S. Ross
J.B. Roe
Archibald Wilson
J.A. Helfenstein.

The Unitarian Church building on the corner of Grand avenue and Second streets was purchased by the new society, and the building was moved to the present location of St. James Church on Grand avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets. This lot had been purchased by the "Trustees of the Town of Milwaukee" in 1839, and was used for burial purposes. On March 31, 1851, the Second Ward deeded the lot to the Fourth Ward, and on the same day the Fourth Ward deeded the lot to St. James parish for the sum of $150. The adjoining lots were purchased from James Kneeland.

A large number of graves were opened and the bodies conveyed to Forest Home Cemetery. Nearly all the bodies were thus removed, but some of them remain even at the present time.

The first rector of St. James was Solon B. Manney, and he remained until 1852 and was followed by Rev. J.P.T. Ingraham, who remained until 1863. From 1864 until the latter part of 1872 Rev. John Wilkinson had charge. it was while Rev. Wilkinson was rector, in 1867, the corner-stone of a
was laid and the building was completed the following year with the exception of the tower. that portion was finished in 1872 and a chime of nine bells was hung. The chime was a gift of members and friends to the church.

On the evening of Dec. 30, 1872, flames were seen rising from the basement and an alarm was sounded as soon as possible. Owing to a scarcity of water and a delay about the engines getting to the scene the whole interior of the church was consumed. The tower and the valuable chimes of bells were saved, however and the walls of the building were not damaged. The old church, which had been used as a chapel, was speedily fitted up until the burned structure was re-built. It was competed in 1874, and Sunday, April 19, of that year, it was formally dedicated by Bishop Whitehouse, of Illinois. The services consisted of consecration prayers by bishop Whitehouse, who also delivered the sermon. Rev. Dr. Ashley, Dr. Egar, Revs. Wilkinson, Ten Broeck, Fiske and Byllesby assisted in the ceremonies.

The Interior

of the church is handsomely decorated and inscriptions from the Bible adorn the walls. The preaching desk, handsomely ornamented, was presented by Mrs. Alexander Mitchell, while the alter was the gift of Mrs. L.F. Hodges. The wood work of the church is all handsomely carved and the whole cost of refitting the church amounted to $40,000. Rev. Nathan Chamberlain became rector in 1870 and remained until 1872, when he was succeeded by Rev. Morrison Byllesby, who remained until 1874. Rev. W.H. Throop then took charge and remained until a very short time ago. During last October it became evident to a number of church members that the congregation was gradually diminishing in numbers. A committee was appointed to call upon Rev. Dr. Throop and to take measures for correcting the evil. The result of the conference was that the rector resigned although his resignation was not asked by the church authorities. Since that time the pulpit has been filled by a number of clergymen who preached one or two Sundays by request. Alexander Mitchell and Dr. S.W. French are the wardens. The vestrymen are H.H. Camp, S.T. Hooker, D.O. Millette, D. Courtenay, H.M. Cananaugh and N.L. Burdick.