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The fact that members of the English colony had severed their connections with the Anglican Church of the mother country did not mean a lapse of religious life in the wilds of northwestern Iowa. On the contrary, as early as April, 1880, the Rev. H. P. Marriott-Dodington of Trinity College (Cambridge), a clergyman of independent means with estates in Dorset, was ministering gratuitously to their needs in the parish of Grace Church at Le Mars. During his absence to look after his affairs in England, lay services were con ducted in Apollo Hall by M. J. Chapman and Captain Moreton whom the Bishop of the Iowa Diocese had asked to be ordained. Early in March, 1881, the rector returned to his parish and took a foremost part in promoting the building of a place of worship; but it was not long before he found it necessary to journey back to England to be gone for at least one year.
As lay reader, Captain Moreton again took charge until the arrival in August, 1881, of a new, rector, Rev. Herbert Noel Cunningham of Brasenose College, a graduate of Oxford University and a man of fine ability and great scholarship. Ordained in England by the Bishop of Oxford, he resigned his cure near Reading and came to Le Mars. He had visited Bishop Perry at Davenport, Iowa, and had been made a presbyter of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America. His appointment was duly confirmed, and induction by the Bishop of Iowa followed soon after. Services according to the Anglican ritual thus became regular among the English settlers; and, according to a newspaper report, to Le Mars belonged the "distinction of possessing the only church in the United States wherein prayers are offered for Queen Victoria as the head of a nation". (284)
The rector's first duty, it is said, was the burial at Portlandville (now Akron), fourteen miles away, of a countryman who had but recently crossed the ocean to make his home in Iowa. There he also held services at stated intervals for the benefit of his English parishioners. On one such occasion his pulpit at Le Mars was ably filled by Canon Neville who had purchased a section of land in Sioux County and offered it for sale at eight dollars per acre in order that he might be nearer his friends in Plymouth County. It is interesting to note here that another distinguished churchman had recently invested in thirteen hundred acres of Sioux County land - Rev. F. G. Howard, M. A., Fellow of Trinity College and Proctor of Cambridge University, which last title prompted the newspaper scribe at Le Mars to write: "We dare say our good friend Mr. J. Wakefield will remember when, in his college days, he met Mr. Howard at a wine in Malcolm Street. " (285) At another time Rev. Edgar Jacob, vicar of Portsea, officiated in Grace Church.
In his travels about the country to meet the members of his widely scattered flock, the rector also conducted services at West Fork or Quorn (the home of William B. Close). Not content with his labors as a circuit-riding parson, he undertook to conduct a school or academy for the children of his parish and organized a singing class for their benefit, so great was his diligence and enthusiasm as a worker. As a token of his parishioners' appreciation, he received an elegant student's lamp at the time of his first Christmas party in the colony. He became, moreover, the president of a chess club of eighteen members who met frequently to enjoy their favorite indoor game. He also advertised that as late Colghitt Exhibitioner of Brasenose College and graduate in classical honors he would undertake the education of boys and make arrangements for boarding pupils: and so, shortly after New Year's, 1883, he opened a day school for boys and girls. A few weeks later he journeyed to Philadelphia to await the arrival of his fiancee from England and returned to Le Mars a benedict. In the summer occurred the consecration of Grace Church's new place of worship as St. George's Church, which had been erected at a cost of $6000. (286)
An event of some importance in the history of St. George's parish at this time was the coming of Major Nassau Somerville Stephens and his family, announcement of the fact at Le Mars being conveyed by one of the newspapers in the following terms:
Major Nassau Stephens, of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, arrived here last Thursday, and will act for the time being as Lay Reader in St. George's church at this place. The Major served in the British army twenty-two years, but finally decided to take orders, for which he is now preparing. His ordination is expected to take place in Lemars about Christmas. He is a frank, genial, earnest gentleman, deeply imbued with a spirit of devotion for the work to which he consecrates his life. THE SENTINEL wishes him success, and his family much pleasure in their chosen home.
After his ordination the major declared he would probably do mission work in the parish. He attended Nashotah Theological Seminary, was recommended for deacon's orders in 1889, and in due time became a priest. (287)
Along with all the activities already suggested, Rev. Cunningham three times during his incumbency prepared for the press St. George's edition of the monthly publication of the Episcopal Church in Iowa. (288) To the sincere regret of the whole parish, which had found him earnest, efficient, and faithful in his work, Rev. Cunningham tendered his resignation to take effect on April 4, 1884, and bore with him to a church in Gardner, Massachusetts, the best wishes of his numerous Le Mars friends. Services in St. George's Church were then conducted by the Revs. B. R. Kirkbride, G. W. Seppings, J. E. Higgins, and H. L. Braddon. Not until November 27, 1884, did the Rev. A. Vaughan Colston fill the vacancy. He remained for about four years.
For the benefit of the rectory the parishioners rendered Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" in the playhouses at Sioux City and Le Mars; and upon the death of General Grant they paid a solemn tribute to his memory and character. To celebrate Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1887 Rev. Colston preached a jubilee sermon to Americans and English in St. George's Church, draped with the flags of both countries. The rector closed with the words: "If, this morning, I have revived your patriotism, it is but to make you love your adopted country the better". After the sermon the congregation sang "God Save the Queen. " (289)
Not only did Captain Moreton serve as lay reader in the colony's Episcopal Church, as indicated above, but as one of its most active leaders in religious life he early exerted himself in the formation of a Young Men's Christian Association, and he worked for a home in which the young men of the community might spend their evenings and leisure hours. Having obtained $1500 from friends in England, he sought an equal amount among the people who were to be the beneficiaries of his project. He secured the good wishes and support of many citizens who hoped that the association would "not be placed on a narrow footing but made broad and liberal so that all may feel at home in it." That the Captain's plans carried is evident from the fact that he served as president of the society.
Captain Reynolds Moreton was a broad churchman, and some said that on account of his natural enthusiasm and excess of zeal he was more of a preacher than a business man. It is interesting to add that he had assisted Moody and Sankey in London, had charge of the Presbyterian Church of Sioux City during the regular pastor's illness for nine months, and later spent several weeks in revival meetings at Fort Dodge. (290)
Reports of the diocese of Iowa show a gradual decline in the condition of religious activities among the English settlers of northwestern Iowa. In 1887 St. George's Church at Le Mars consisted of sixty-three families of two hundred and seven persons of whom eighty-nine were communicants; at Akron six families of twenty-one persons and at Calliope in Sioux County one family of eight persons were cared for by a missionary, Rev. Arthur Everard Marsh. (291) Unorganized missions at Kingsley and Hawarden made no report, while those of Sibley and Spirit Lake ministered to eleven and twelve families of fifty-six and forty individuals, respectively. Organized missions had been established at Larchwood, Cherokee, Sheldon, and Spencer. From 1882 to 1890 Episcopalians of Sioux City were quite well looked after by the Rev. William Richmond, a Dublin University man. (292) In 1890 the organized missions of Larch wood, Spencer, and Spirit Lake were vacant and made no report, while Sheldon had only fourteen communicants. Unorganized missions at Akron and Kingsley existed in name only. At Sibley, where services had been regularly celebrated, it was reported that "the people of the congregation being English, the majority of them have returned to their native country to remain ", leaving the church very small: all the towns mentioned, besides Cherokee and Estherville, reported only eighty-one Episcopalian (chiefly English) families, while St. George's Church at Le Mars alone claimed seventy-three families of two hundred and seven persons. In 1893 missions still existed at Sheldon, Sibley, Spencer, Spirit Lake, Kingsley, Larchwood, and Rock Rapids, but they were insignificant. The mission at Estherville cared for only thirty families, and St. George's congregation had dropped to fifty-four families of one hundred and seventy persons, comparatively few of whom were English. (293)
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284 The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), April 6, July 27, 1881; The Lemars Sentinel, March 10, 17, June 2, July 28, August 11, 1881; Records of St. George's Parish (Le Mars), pp. 5, 8.
285 The Lemars Sentinel, October 6, August 11, 25,
1881, November 7, 1883.
The reference to Rev. Howard's meeting Jack Wakefield at a wine is likely to be misconstrued by American readers it means that when the proctor was making his rounds at Cambridge as the university's police officer he encountered Jack drinking wine at some time or place prohibited by the university statutes. Under such circumstances the proctor took his name and college address and requested him to appear next day to pay the fine prescribed for such an offense. This system of discipline still prevails at Oxford and Cambridge and contributes somewhat to their treasuries.
286 The Lemars Sentinel, September 15, October 6, 20, 27, November 10, 1881, January 26, July 13, 1882, January 18, 1883.
287 The Lemars Sentinel, July 27, December 28, 1882. See also Journal of the Annual Convention of the Diocese of Iowa, 1887, p. 80, 1890, p. 20.
288 The Iowa Churchman. See also The Lemars Sentinel, October 17, 1882, February 8, November 7, 1883.
289 The Lemars Sentinel, February 5, April 8, 1884, January 9, June 9, 1885, June 17, 24, 1887. See also Records of St. George's Parish (Le Mars), pp. 107-115, 136.
290 The Lemars Sentinel, August 17, 1882, April 22, 1884, January 6, 13, 27, 1885.
291 Mr. and Mrs. Arthur E. Marsh had come from England, Mr.
Marsh being at Le Mars as early as 1880. Their son, Arthur Henry (born on July
12, 1883), was baptized at Calliope by Rev. H. N. Cunningham. - Records of
St. George's Parish (Le Mars), p. 143.
Since his ordination, Rev. Marsh has for many years served as rector at Blair, Nebraska. His son graduated from the University of Nebraska; was elected Rhodes Scholar for Nebraska in 1905; studied theology at Keble College, Oxford; received the degrees of B. A. and M. A. from the University of Oxford; was ordained a priest in the United States; and was vicar in charge of St. Paul's Church in Omaha when war was declared against Germany in 1917. He became a chaplain with the rank of first lieutenant, and sailed for France on July 30, 1918. On the night of October 3, after only two months of service, he was gassed and died of pneumonia at Vittel in the Vosges on October 7th. The younger Marsh was well known to the writer who spent the same three years at Oxford and had the pleasure of his company on vacations in North Wales, the Scandinavian countries, and Germany.
292 Mr. Henry H. Drake married Mr. Richmond's daughter and Sioux City has been their home for many years.
293 Journal of the Annual Convention of the Diocese of Iowa, 1887, pp. 7, 9, 65-70, 1890, pp. 40, 41, 1893, pp. 7, 8, 114.
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