Our History

This will probably always be under construction… 🙂

The early history of Grace Episcopal Church dates back to 1857 when the Reverend Dr. James Abercrombie, Rector of St. Paul’s Church (now the Cathedral) in Erie, requested Mr. Albert Lewis, a student at Nashotah House Seminary, to conduct Episcopal services at the Methodist Church in Girard. This was the first move toward establishing the mission of Episcopalianism in the Lake Shore region west of Erie. Seminarian, Mr. Lewis continued holding services with some regularity until the fall of 1862 with the aid of visiting clergy and local laymen.

The first entry in the Parish registry of Grace Church is that of the baptism of James Hall and Charles Miles, September 26, 1861. This Sacrament was administered at the home of James Miles by the Rt. Rev. Henry W. Lee, first missionary Bishop of Iowa. In that same year John H. Hall received the Sacrament of Holy Conformation at the hands of the Rt. Rev. Samuel Bowman, Bishop Coadjutor of Pennsylvania.   Rt. Rev. William Stevens, fourth Bishop of Pennsylvania confirmed a class at Miles Grove that same year. The Diocese of Pennsylvania with its See in Philadelphia covered the entire Commonwealth at that, Girard and Miles Grave (to become North Girard and then later Lake City) were at the furthest corners of the Diocese.

 In 1862 The Rev. John f. Spaulding, Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Erie secured the appointment of the Rev. John Ireland as Lake Shore missionary, who served until 1868. Services were held at the Girard Presbyterian Church and in the school house, midway between the Boro and Girard Station.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh was created in 1865 to serve the western part of the Commonwealth. The Rt. Rev. John B. Kerfoot was its first Bishop and he arranged for the Rev. Calvin C. Parker of St. John’s Church, Erie, to take charge of the Episcopalian services at the Methodist Church Girard Station. St. John’s Church has been re-named the Church of the Holy Spirit after it united with another Erie Parish. Services continued in 1870 with; the Rev. William Ballard and followed by the Rev. P. O. Tongue in 1873 in various locales in both Girard and Girard Station. Thus for sixteen years Episcopalian services had been held with some regularity in the area without the building of an actual church structure.

Mary Jane Bell, eldest daughter of Judge James Miles, placed a bequest of $2500.00 in her will in 1874, for the purpose of the building of a Protestant Episcopal Church at or in the vicinity of Miles Grove provided the balance of the money be raised and the church be built within two years after her death. Mrs. Bell died November24, 1875 and within two years the erection of the present was begun. May 1877 saw work begun on the foundation of the present church on the land donated by J. Robert Hall, who was the agent for the estate of Mrs. Bell’s father Judge Miles.

The Congregation the moved to incorporate under the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a charter was applied for in May 1877 and was granted. On July 3, 1877 the Charter was officially recorded and Grace Episcopal Church officially came into existence. Incorporating members included Julia Hall, Zeruah Miles, N.M.VanAken, Eliza Miles, Elizia Davis, Carrie Davis, Nancy Miles, J.D. Kelley, and P. M. Magee, The first Rector was called at this time, the Rev. Edward D. Irvine, who remained as spiritual leader of this fledgling congregation for the next twelve years

 The cornerstone was officially laid on August 14, 1877 by the rev. William Mills, Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Erie and the Dean of the Erie Deanery officiating. The rev. Dr. James Moore, rector of St. Peter’s Church, Ashtabula, Ohio, was the preacher at the service. The Rector of the two Erie parishes was also participants at this service.

Nearly a year later the brick church was completed and the first service initiating its use was the Baptism of Henry Ward, initiating his life in Christ, June 30, 1878.

Grace Episcopal Church, Miles Grove, Pennsylvania, was consecrated in the Name of the Blessed and Undivided trinity, November 20, 1878, by the Rt. Rev. James Barrett Kerfoot, Bishop of Pittsburgh,. The service of consecration brought clergy from Erie, Pittsburgh, Ohio, Western New York, and the Bishop preached the service.

Of some interest today is the cost involved in building this church which has served as the spiritual home of many for the past one hundred years. The actual cost of construction was$3785. The furnishings within the church cost $382.00. a 700 pound bell made of brass is still hanging in the belfry, inscribed in memory of Mrs. H. C. Davis, cost $203.00. The main Church windows, dedicated to the memory of Mary Jane Bell, as well as the other stained glass windows were all installed for $405.00. Fencing around the church, now valuable for its antique value, cost $204.00. Total cost of the building and furnishings in 1878 was $5603.00. Nothing has been changed in the basic structure of the original building. To be sure, pulpit, candles, crosses, and choir pews have been added and moved around conforming to changing liturgical expressions of the Eternal Truth of Jesus Christ. The basic lines, unique in their style and architecture still remain as they did one century ago; still there to express the hopes of God’s Family assembled for worship in their century.

A fire in the home of Miss Clara Miles destroyed many of the early vestry minutes and obscured the early history of the parish. From the Register we do know that the first Episcopal visitation was made by Bishop Kerfoot to the new church building on May 9, 1879. Conformation class of two was presented. Miles Grove was still on the geographical edge of the Diocese, even with the See city in Pittsburgh, consequently missionary Bishops passed though were often pressed to administer Episcopal Sacraments. The register of 1882 indicates the first wedding held in the church, a young couple who had journeyed from Geneva Ohio. Charlotte McConnell Rice, wife of Dan Rice (of circus fame) was given burial in 1895 from Grace church. The register from 1860 to 1910 shows 119 baptisms, 79 Conformations, 33 Marriages, and 47 burials.

In 1913 the first pastor to take up residence in the locality was the Rev. Fredrick B. Hornby and during his tenure the vestry applied for union with the diocese of Erie which was formed in 1910. On May 27, 1914 at the Fourth Convention of the Erie Diocese Grace Church became part of the dioce  He was replaced by Rev. Fredrick C. Randolph, the first in a series young Priest who were beginning their ministry at Grace.

Clara Miles was the first woman member of the vestry and also served as the church treasury. The Rectory was purchased in 1920 with funds raised by the Women’s Auxiliary; a mortgage of $1500 was paid off in one year.

 In 1925 a WWI veteran, Rev. W.J. Hendry became rector, followed by Rev. Kenneth R. Waldron in 1928 whom, was well known for his involvement in the community. During his tenure Grace acquired a new reed organ, Eucharistic altar candles, and a brass pulpit and altar that came from a church in Mt. holy, New Jersey. The cross that is behind the present day pulpit came from altar.

 In 1945 land was purchased to extend the church property to Denio St. for the sum of $1000 which included the old carriage house which was renovated and used as the parish hall until the present one was completed in 1956.

The present day pulpit was designed and installed during C. Thomas Jackson’s tenure at Grace, during this time we also saw a new steeple installed, as the original one was lost many years before during a wind storm.  In the 1990’s a wheelchair ramp was installed by Alex Podgers   In 2004 Donald Baxter purchased and had installed the present day sound system.  In June of 2005, Robert Burke was ordained at Grace Church and was placed Vicar in Charge.   He, along with three others were raised up from the congregation in 1998 to attend the school for ministry.  This was originally intended to be a team ministry; however, that fell through and Robert became the only one ordained. In 2008 a shed was purchased to comply with the insurance company, so no flammable liquids would be stored in the Parish Hall.  In 2009 the bathrooms in the parish hall were made handi-cap accessible by Russell Kramer bringing it up to federal standards for public buildings. Also in the early summer the landscaping changed with the removal of several overgrown pine trees. A Hawthorn tree was planted in the front yard. In November Vandals broke several of the stained glass windows in the Church and they were replaced by Tirpak Construction.  In 2010, a English Garden was started in front of the Church by David Pangratz. In the summer an Alaskan Weeping Pine tree was planted in the church court yard, it was dedicated for all the Grandmothers.  In 2013 we had to restore the Michael or Rose window in the back of the church.  We had 2 dinners as fundraisers for the funds.

Ministers of Grace Episcopal Church since the Church building was erected:

Edward Irvine           1877-1889 Cloud Rutter Jr.   1949-1957
W.B. Thorn                1889-1893 L. Baxter               1957-1960
T. Chambers              1893-1894 John G. MacDonald    1960-1962
G. W. Preston            1894-1898 Arthur J. Rathbun  1962-1963
Albert                          1898-1904 Willard S. McGinnis     1963-1966
E. Ryerson                  1906-1912 Sidney Cross Newhouse   1967-1970
Archibold                    1912

John M. Master         1970-1974

Fredrick Hornby         1913 Thomas. H. Whitcroft   1975-1977
Ossee Celsus Fox       1914-1915 C. Thomas Jackson    1977-1987
Fredrick Randolph     1915-1917 Steven Herbert       1987-1990
John Fairburn             1918-1925 John Meyers        1990-1993
J. Hendry                     1925-1928 Victor Kinnunen        1993-1994
Kenneth Waldron      1928-1937 William Burrows     1994-1995
Robert Becker            1937-1939 Phil Swickard    1995-1999
Robert Stetler             1940-1945 Warren Fruechtal    1999-2002
Robert Becker              1946-1947 Donald Baxter    2002-2005
Fredrick Haworth Jr.   1947-1948 Robert T. Burke       2005-

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