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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 23:  St. Stephen's Church

The first Episcopal Church in Thurmont made its appearance around 1887. Although there was no church building, services were held in a room above Mr. Frederick White's office. Mr. White lived next to the Belva Birely property on West Main Street. In 1889, Episcopal services were conducted on the first floor of the I. O. O. F. lodge building on East Main Street. This was during the rector-ship of the Rev. Richard Whittingham. About 1891 Episcopalians living in Thurmont felt the need for a church building and decided to do something about it. Generous friends from all over the country contributed as well as those in the area, and in 1892 St. Step-hen's Church was built. Harriet McPherson, who later became Mrs. William McPherson McGill, spent many hours in writing to her friends, telling them of the proposed church building. Her interest in helping to obtain several memorials will always be remembered and today they serve as a reminder of her loyal support and deep interest in the church. Among them should be mentioned three beautiful stained glass windows. One, a memorial to Mrs. McPherson, one in memory of Rev. Ernest McGill and a third in memory of Rev. McGill's wife, a daughter of Mrs. McPherson. The church, when completed was a very beautiful structure and most of the fittings were memorials.

In 1896, the Rev. Ernest McGill, who had been serving a parish at Sparrows Point, was returned by the Bishop to Catoctin Parish, where he contributed much to the church and remained a faithful rector until his death in 1906. His work was outstanding and he labored faithfully between the three mission churches, namely St. John's in Walkersville, St. Stephen's at Thurmont, and Harriet Chapel at Catoctin Furnace.

Mr. McGill and his family lived at Auburn and traveled between the missions by horse and buggy. On Sundays the rector's gig was on the road most of the day. Seldom was a church service cancelled because of bad weather. On occasions, the rectory at Catoctin was rented and this explains the reason for the McGills residing at Auburn. Rev. McGill maintained his study there which occupied a portion of the north wing. It was while the McGills were living at Auburn, that the north wing was destroyed by a bad fire, including the rector's study and all of the early church records an irrevocable Loss

 Auburn at Catoctin
Auburn at Catoctin

Following the death of Rev. McGill, the parish was left vacant for a short period of time. At Walkersville, most of the congregation had moved away. At Catoctin only a small group remained as the iron works had slowed down considerably. St. Stephen's in Thurmont seemed to be the liveliest church among the three.

A few years later, after meeting with the Archdeacon, a few vestrymen met to discuss the condition of the parish. After serious consideration, they voted to sell the church at Walkersville. They also voted to sell the rectory at Catoctin and all the buildings and land of the Fitzhugh gift (see Chapter 9 Harriet Chapel). The proceeds were to be used to build a rectory in Thurmont. Around

1910, when the parish was under the leadership of the Rev. Bee-man Browne, the rectory in Thurmont was built. Located on East Main Street, this building has served the parish well through the years and is well-kept and modern in every respect.

By 1921, Bishop Murray called the Rev. Warren K. Damuth from New York to serve as rector of the parish. Fr. Damuth was a native of Thurmont and because of this, accepted the charge willingly, serving it faithfully for twenty-seven years.

St. Stephen's Church

Fr. Damuth died in 1947 and his passing left much to be desired. A short time after his death, he was succeeded by the Rev. Oscar F. R. Treder. In 1952, the Rev. Bernard Jennings became rector of Catoctin Parish which included St. Stephen's and Harriet Chapel.

In 1955 St. Stephen's underwent a number of repairs and improvements. The church was painted, plastered and the sanctuary enlarged. A new carpet was laid and the Bishop's chair refinished. The vestry room was improved, a new organ was purchased and the beautiful stained glass windows were repaired.

The Rev. Lloyd L. Wolfe succeeded Rev. Jennings in 1956 and through his efforts an active and very efficient Church School was maintained both at St. Stephen's and at Harriet Chapel.

On November 1st, 1967, St. Stephen's held its last service, con-ducted by Bishop Harry Lee Doll. The few families in Thurmont who have remained faithful to St. Stephen's to the very end were willing to go to Harriet for the time being. This closing has eliminated a costly maintenance problem and marked the beginning of a consolidation of St. Stephen's and Harriet Chapel, which will take place at some future date on a new tract of land just outside of Thurmont, where the whole parish activity will be concentrated.

Serving St. Stephen's, were the following:

  • 1880-1906 Ernest McGill
  • 1907-1909 E. C. Alcorn
  • 1909-1910 Thomas Getz Hill
  • 1910-1914 Lewis Beeman Browne
  • 1914-1918 Louis H. Ewald
  • 1962- Leslee E.
  • 1918-1921 Clarence E. Wolfe
  • 1921-1947 Warren K. Damuth
  • 1947-1952 Oscar F. R. Treder
  • 1952-1956 Bernard Jennings
  • 1956-1962 Lloyd L. Wolf Schwindt

Chapter Index | Chapter 24: Church Of The Brethren

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