by Mary Klein, diocesan archivist
Bishop Sutton traveled to the Diocese of Easton last week to join in a celebration of the 150th anniversary of their founding. Easton, once part of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland became its own diocese in 1868 when parishes on the Eastern Shore, after years of thoughtful discussion, decided to separate from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. Churches and clergy on Maryland’s eastern shore needed more access to bishop’s visitations among other relationships, which had been difficult due to geography.
Agitation to form a separate diocese for the Eastern Shore began as early as 1819, but that first call for a Bishop to serve the Eastern Shore failed to materialize. The Bishop of Virginia would not visit his parishes on the Eastern Shore, so many of the clergy in Delaware and the Eastern Shores of Maryland and Virginia wanted their own diocese, and actively agitated for it. But the plan fizzled out by 1826. Again in 1858, reports were commissioned and correspondence abounded in favor of again trying to divide Maryland into Eastern and Western Shore dioceses. The intervening Civil War put the plan on hold, but by 1866, the stirrings were heard again. In a Memorial to the Maryland Diocesan Convention of 1867, the clergy on the Eastern Shore laid out their rationale for a division of the diocese, not least of which included Nature herself. Maryland’s “Eastern and Western portions are separated by a wide Bay, whose icebound shores, at some seasons of the year, forbid the visitation of a bishop who resides on either side, and nature herself may seem to suggest the propriety of a division.” On October 19, 1868, General Convention authorized the creation of the new Diocese of Easton, and called on the convention to meet and organize it.
In today’s modern hectic times, the Eastern Shore may be seen as a restful, idyllic place, but in earlier days, it was perceived as a less-than-ideal place for clergy to serve. A letter from 1798 described the “dismal, melancholy state of the church”, and that only Divine Grace could revive it. In 1802, one clergyman wrote to Bishop Kemp saying “Ague and yellow fever are prevalent in September” and that the area is too unhealthy to live in before November. The big problem of 1804 seemed to be that Methodist fanaticism and dreaded camp meetings kept men from entering the ministry. Another problem was transportation. There was one stagecoach a week from Philadelphia to the Eastern Shore, although the roads were in terrible condition. Sailing ships ran between Baltimore and Cambridge, but by 1819 the steamboat brought in an age of “facility of travel.” And, of course, the building of the Bay Bridge in 1952 altered the course of history for the Eastern Shore.
Eastern Shore clergy to Bishop Kemp 1819
The Memorial 1867
Delaware clergy to Bishop Kemp 1825
Bishop Henry Lay
Bishop Whittingham was in full support in Maryland of the formation of another diocese. He wrote to Convention, which he was too ill to attend, the following:
“Since the first year of my experience in office, I have been thoroughly satisfied that the Diocese of Maryland would never thrive as it might and ought to do, until divided into three or more. You can all bear me witness that such has been my talk with you, on all fit occasions, at any time within the last quarter of a century…Nothing could more gratify me that such action of the Convention as Memorial: The Convention of the Prot. Ep. Church in Maryland, anno 1867, Diocese of Maryland Archives. should divide the present jurisdiction and income of the Diocese into three, and set off, each with its equal share of the Diocesan Fund and its proper proportional allotment of territorial jurisdiction, two new Sees of Washington and Easton.”
That 1866 Memorial was signed by an appropriate representation from all over the Eastern Shore. Essentially town hall meetings, discussions, rector visits, research and relationship building had taken place to ensure that the decision was not forced but a collaborative proposal of the Eastern Shore churches. Our dioceses didn’t split in schism. Instead they took a look at the practical and ministerial needs of our churches and, as that Memorial states, put forth a trust in God that diocese are human institutions and therefore must change as needed to accomplish God’s mission on earth.
Bishop Marray is the latest in a line of “translated” bishops for the Diocese of Easton. The first two bishops, Henry Champlin Lay and William Forbes Adams, were also consecrated for other dioceses before they came to Easton. Bishop Lay, born in Virginia, was Missionary Bishop of the Southwest which included territory from Arkansas to Arizona) and Bishop Adams (who was born in Ireland, but raised in Kentucky) had been Missionary Bishop of New Mexico and Arizona.
Today so many congregations struggle with shrinking numbers in our congregations and the heavy expense of big buildings. We worry that our church is not growing or that people aren’t attending services or pledging. Dioceses struggle with the reality that congregations often cannot pay their allocations to the diocese. But look at this faithful example of our brothers and sisters from the 19thcentury. The country had been torn apart by war, and, starting with the establishment of American Independence, the Church of England, even then, began to lose members to other denominations, but it didn’t lose faith. And Maryland and Washington Episcopalians didn’t lose faith. The history of the Diocese of Easton is one of mature leadership, of concern for the greater Church and of having God’s sheep tended. We love and appreciate our brothers and sisters in Easton. We are partners in faith and in ministry. For example, we hold our New Beginnings and other youth events at Camp Wright. And now that transportation is not as difficult as it once was and the internet connects us all the time, we can share in love, ministry and learning more than ever.
Note: Some of the history in this article came from a paper written by then seminarian David N. Michaud in 2007. We are grateful to David for his extensive research. You can read his full paper on the Episcopal Diocese of Easton’s website.
Bishop Whittingham's Visitations to the Eastern Shore, 1848
May 5-8 to Easton; Examination for deacon’s orders; Ordination; “congregation of colored people”; confirmations
August 23 -28.
- St. Paul’s, Kent County; confirmations; Convocation meeting
- Chestertown – laid cornerstone
- Shrewsbury: baptisms, confirmations
- Chestertown: baptisms
- Church Creek
- East New Market
- Vienna: baptism
- Cambridge: confirmations
- St. Peter’s, Whitemarsh
- Wye Church
- Centreville: Convocation
- Elkton: confirmations; catechized children
Visitations, 1848, Cont'd
December 14 – 30:
- Salisbury: St. Peter’s Church
- Matthew’s, Worchester County: confirmations
- Berlin: St. Paul’s – baptisms; catechized youth; confirmations
- Snow Hill: All Hallows’: confirmations;
- John’s Church, “The Trap”:
- Newtown (now Pocomoke City): St. Mary’s Church
- Dividing Creek – laid cornerstone to St. Stephen’s Church
- Anamessex – consecrated church
- Newtown (Pocomoke City) St. mary the Virgin
- Princess Anne – St. Andrew’s Church: Examined two for ordination; ordained 1 deacon, 1 priest
- Monie – All Saints’ Church: confirmations
- Tyaskin – St. Mary’s Church, Stepney parish
- Spring Hill – St. Paul’s Church: confirmations
- Hungry Neck –Grace Church: consecrated church
- Quantico: St. Philip’s Church: confirmations
Bishop Whittingham's Mileage and Ministry with the Eastern Shore, 1848
Friday, May 5. 84 miles to “Ratcliffe” seat of Mr. Henry Halliday, esq., near Easton.
Saturday, May 6. 2 ½ miles to Easton; 2 ½ miles to “Ratcliffe”
Sunday, May 7. AM: 2 ½ miles to Easton. Held final examination of John Neely, a candidate for the Diaconate. Christ Church, Easton. Morning Prayer, sermon, ordained John Neely to the Diaconate; administered Holy Communion. Offering $14.33. PM: in the Old Church, with a congregation of colored people. Evening Prayer, sermon; the church was crowded, with some unable to obtain admission. Evening: Christ Church. Evening Prayer, sermon; I confirmed 4 females; 2 ½ miles to “Ratcliffe”.
Tuesday, May 9. 96 miles to Baltimore.
Tuesday, August 22. 30 miles by sailing packet to Rock Hall; 4 miles to Swan Creek and Mr. T. Miller’s.
Wednesday, August 23. AM: 5 miles to St. Paul’s church, Kent County. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon; I confirmed 4 persons. PM: Evening Prayer, sermon. In the intermission, the Convocation of Kent County, Queen Ann County and Cecil County held a meeting. Evening: 5 miles to Mr. Wilmer’s at Farley’s Creek.
Thursday, August 24. 5 miles to St. Paul’s Church. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon; Holy Communion to 26 females, 7 males. Convocation met. PM: Evening Prayer, I addressed the congregation. Evening: 8 miles to Chestertown.
Friday, August 28. Evening: Chester Parish Church. Evening Prayer, sermon.
Saturday, August 26. AM: Chester Parish Church. Morning Prayer. The Sunday School scholars, teacher, wardens, and vestry, clergy & myself, and congregation, went in procession to the site of a Sunday School House about to be erected in the N.E. part of the churchyard, reciting Psalms 122 & 133. I laid the corner stone. I delivered an address.
Sunday, August 27. AM: 12 miles to Shrewsbury Parish Church. Morning Prayer. I baptized Nathaniel Thornton; ante-communion, sermon; I administered the Lords’ Supper to 26 females, 15 males. PM: 4 miles to Mr. Thomas Comegys’; 4 miles to Massey’s Crossroads Chapel. Evening Prayer; I baptized Mary Jane, Edward Hutton and David James, children of David and Rachel Blackistone; sermon; I confirmed 5 persons; Evening: 9 miles to Mr. Comegys’.
Monday, August 28. AM: 13 miles to Chestertown, Chester Parish Church. Morning Prayer; I baptized James Benjamin, son of B.J. Rickard, and 4 other children. After prayers, I again administered baptism to the son of Mr. & Mrs. Hynson, brought too late for the earlier administration. Large congregation. PM: 60 miles to Baltimore.
Monday, November 6. Travelled 80 miles from Baltimore to Cambridge. Evening Prayer at Christ Church.
Tuesday, November 7. PM: 20 miles to the ferry to Taylor’s Island, failing to get carried over, were obliged to return 20 miles to Cambridge.
Wednesday, November 8. AM: again disappointed, by failing to get a carrier to take us down to Taylor’s Island. Was unable to fulfil the appointment then, for this morning.
Thursday, November 9. AM: 8 miles to Church Creek, Dorchester Parish. Said Morning Prayer; congregation of about 20. PM: 1 mile to Mr. G.W. Jefferson’s; 7 miles to Cambridge.
Friday, November 10. AM: 13 miles to East New Market. Said Morning Prayer & ante-communion. Small congregation. PM: 13 miles to Cambridge.
Saturday, November 11. AM: 20 miles to Vienna. At Methodist Meeting House, I said Morning Prayer & the ante-communion. PM: at the house of Dr. Henry I baptized his infant son. 20 miles to Cambridge.
Sunday, November 12. AM: Christ church, Cambridge; 9 AM, Morning Prayer and Litany; 11 AM, ante-communion, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist. Offering $9.50. later PM: Evening Prayer and sermon.
Monday, November 13. PM: 20 miles to Easton. At Christ Church, I confirmed 1 person. 1 mile to Mr. Loveday’s.
Tuesday, November 14. AM: 1 mile to Easton; 7 miles to Whitemarsh, St. Peter’s Parish. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, the Lord’s Supper, sermon. Participating in communion: 30 females, 2 males; offering of $5.62. PM: 8 miles to Mr. Loveday’s.
Wednesday, November 15. AM: 1 mile to Easton, 12 miles to Wye Church, St. Paul’s Parish. I said Morning Prayer. The Rev. Mr. Mason, the Rev. R.W. Goldsborough, one lady and two black men were present. PM: 2 miles to Clover Fields; 7 miles to Centreville.
Thursday, November 16. AM: St. Paul’s, Centreville; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon. PM: Evening Prayer, congregation small.
Friday, November 17. AM: St. Paul’s, Centreville; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, administered Holy Communion to 19 females, 4 males; offering $7.48 for use of the Convention. PM: Attended meeting of the Convocation at the parsonage. Evening: Evening Prayer; collection of $6.82.
Saturday, November 18. AM: 16 miles to Chestertown.
Sunday, November 19. Chester Church, Chestertown; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon. PM: Evening Prayer, sermon.
Monday, November 20. 60 miles to Baltimore per steamboat.
Saturday, November 25. AM: 55 miles to Elkton. PM: Trinity Church, Elkton. Evening Prayer, sermon.
Sunday, November 26. AM: Trinity Church, Elkton. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, I confirmed 6 persons. PM: Evening Prayer, I catechized the children of the congregation (about 40, about 20 of them male) for 1 hour. Evening: the Third Service; sermon.
Monday, November 27. AM: 55 miles to Baltimore.
Thursday, December 14. Evening: 100 miles, per the steamboat “Thomas Jefferson” to Whitehaven.
Friday, December 15. AM; 20 miles to Salisbury. St. Peter’s Church; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, Holy Eucharist. 50 participants in communion; offering $5.92. Evening: Evening Prayer, sermon, confirmed 10 persons. Congregation very large.
Saturday, December 16. 11 miles to St. Matthew’s in the Forest, St. Matthew’s, Worcester County. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, confirmed 3 persons, administered the Lord’s Supper to 17 females, 5 males; offering $4.6 1/4. Congregation numerous; large proportion female. PM: 17 miles to Berlin.
Sunday, December 17, Third Sunday in Advent. St. Paul’s parish, Worcester Parish; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, administered Holy Communion to 27 females, 8 males; large congregation; Offering $7.96 ¼. PM: Evening Prayer, I baptized Francis King Marshall, Sarah Morris, and George Henry Foster. I catechized youth of the parish (7 of each sex) for 45 minutes. I said remainder of Evening Prayer. Evening: The Third Service, sermon, confirmed 1. Congregation very large.
Monday, December 18. AM: 16 miles to Snow Hill. All Hallows’ Church; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, confirmed 2; administered the Lord’s Supper to 44 females, 13 males; offering $6.23 ½. Evening: Evening Prayer, sermon; congregation very large. 1 ½ miles to Mr. Hayward’s.
Tuesday, December 19. AM: 1 ½ miles to Snow Hill; 8 miles to “The Trap”. St. John’s Parish Church. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, administered the Holy Eucharist to 13 females, 6 males. PM: 8 miles to Newtown. Evening: Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Newtown. Evening Prayer, sermon; congregation numerous.
Wednesday, December 20. AM: 3 ½ miles to Dividing Creek, Dividing Creek Chapel, Coventry Parish. Morning Prayer, Litany; I confirmed 3 persons. The congregation then proceeded, the bishop and clergy at their head, to the adjacent site of a new church about to be erected, to be called St. Stephen’s Church; there I laid the cornerstone. After the prayers, the bishop, clergy and congregation returned to the old church, where I delivered the address, a hymn was sung and I administered the Holy Eucharist to 35 females, 10 males; congregation large. 6 PM: 3 miles to Newtown Ferry, to Mr. Stephens’; 12 miles to Arlington (Dr. Handy).
Thursday, the Feast of St. Thomas, December 21. AM: 12 miles to Anamessex, Coventry parish. I consecrated the church. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon. I addressed the congregation, expressing my opinion of the church; I administered the Lord’s Supper; after the blessing, I briefly addressed the congregation in the behavior proper in church after and before service. Participating in communion: 19 females, 7 males. PM: 4 ½ miles to “Greenwood”, Dr. William Williams.
Friday, December 22. AM: 7 miles to Rehoboth. Rehoboth Church, Coventry Parish. Morning Prayer, confirmation for 5 persons; sermon, I administered the Lord’s Supper to 21 females, 7 males. PM: 6 miles to Mr. John Mills’; 2 more miles, thence to Newtown.
Saturday, December 23. St. Mary’s Church, Newtown. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, I administered the Lord’s Supper to 6 males, 14 females. PM: 14 miles to Princess Anne. At the rectory of Somerset Parish, I held an examination, assisted by the Rev. J.J. Nicholson, and the Rev. John Crosdale, of the Rev. R.B. Trader, deacon, applicant for Priest’s Orders; and of Samuel Ker Stewart, candidate for Holy Orders, both, giving satisfaction, were passed.
Sunday, the Fourth in Advent, December 24. AM: St. Andrew’s Church, Princess Anne. Morning Prayer, sermon; I admitted Samuel Ker Stewart to the Holy Order of Deacons, and the Rev. Thomas Richard Bailey Trader to the Holy Order of priesthood. I administered the Holy Eucharist to 53 females, 16 males; offering $10.09; congregation very large, completely filling the church. PM: Evening Prayer, sermon; I administered confirmation to 4 persons, addressing them.
Monday, the Feast of the Nativity. AM: visited two sick women (Mrs. and Miss Jane Stewart) using the Visitation Office and other prayers. Then 5 miles to Monie. At All Saints’ Church, Somerset Parish; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon; I confirmed 4 persons; I administered the Holy Eucharist to 37 females, 15 males; congregation large; offering $4.63. PM: 1 ½ miles to Mr. J. Woolfert’s; 8 ½ miles to Whitehaven Ferry; ½ miles to Mrs. Marcellus Jones’.
Tuesday, the Feast of St. Stephen, December 26. AM: 6 miles to Tyaskin. At St. Mary’s Church, Stepney Parish: Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, I administered the Lord’s Supper to 1 male, 7 females. 1 ½ miles to Capt. Ryall’s. PM: 1 ½ miles to Tyaskin; 11 ½ miles to Quantico; 6 miles to Spring Hill, to Mr. R.T. Dashiell’s.
Wednesday, Feast of St. John the Evangelist, December 27. AM: St. Paul’s Church,
Spring Hill Parish; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, 2 baptisms, I confirmed 10 persons (3 males); I administer the Holy Communion to 15 males, 22 females; day very inclement, congregation nevertheless large; PM: 6 miles to Quantico; 12 more to Whitehaven, to Mrs. Marcellus Jones’.
Thursday, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28. AM: ½ mile to Whitehaven Ferry; 3 miles to Withbridge. Grace Church, Hungry Neck. I consecrated the church; Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, I administered the Holy Communion to 39 females, 15 males; congregation large to overflowing; PM: 12 miles to the Upper Ferry; 4 miles to Quantico.
Friday, December 29. AM: St. Philip’s Church, Quantico. Morning Prayer, ante-communion, sermon, I confirmed 4 persons; I administer the Lord’s Supper to 8 males, 12 females; After the blessing, I addressed the congregation which was very large, expressing my satisfaction with the attendance, altho the weather was very inclement; spoke casually to the children present. PM: 14 miles to Vienna; 20 miles to Cambridge.
Saturday, December 30. AM: 90 miles to Baltimore