History of
Bellingham, WA


1883 - 1948

The founder and first Minister in Charge of St. Paul's Church was the Revd. R. D. NEVIUS, D.D., who came to Whatcom in 1883 and was succeeded in 1884 by the Rev. J. H. BIRCKHEAD [BIRKHEAD]. St. Paul's Church was built in 1884. No record was kept of all the officiating clergy but approximately the following have been in charge prior to the time at which this record begins and up to June 1st 1900:

1887 - 89  The Rev. S. R. GRAY

[In a different hand is a note: "From minutes of Women's Guild records, it is clear that the Rev. S. R. GRAY was succeeded by a Rev. Mr. JOHNSON."]

1890 – 91  P. E. HYLAND

1892 – 93  D. L. V. MOFFETT

1894 – 98  Mark JUKES

1899 – 1900  I. M. BARR

The Register of St. James', Fairhaven during its existence shows that the work there was very successful in the days of Fairhaven's prosperity. It is certain that L. W. APPLEGATE while Minister in Charge of St. James', founded St. Luke's Hospital in 1892.

The hospital was carried on at first in rented quarters, one of which was at Elk St. and the other was the Baker Hotel, Cor East Holly and Forest. Bishop BARKER bought the present property upon which St. Luke's is situated in 1894. St. Paul's appears to have been known as a Parish during the term of Rev. Mr. MOFFETT in 1892-93 but evidently the panic of '93 resulted disastrously to the Church on Bellingham Bay, for while still called a Parish, very little was done for some years in the way of financial support.

A great many people moved away during this period, including the most active and energetic churchpeople both in Whatcom and Fairhaven. Whereas in 1892 two clergymen were at work on the Bay and apparently two self-supporting parishes, for a long period there was only one clergyman and he received very little support. The work was kept going by a grant from the Missionary funds. St. Paul's reported only 60 communicants and $600.00 total offerings for all purposes for the year 1899. About this time however there began the movement which eventually consolidated Fairhaven and New Whatcom into the one city now called Bellingham. In 1903 St. Paul's was incorporated as a Parish and assumed the entire support of the Missionary who then became Rector.

In order to ensure the status as a Parish, application was made to Convocation and St. Paul's was received as a Parish in union with the District of Olympia. The property known as St. Luke's Hospital was deeded by Bishop KEATOR to St. Paul's Parish; the rights of reversion held by the two land companies; viz. The Bellingham Bay Improvement Co. and the B. B. Land Company were relinquished, a new corporation known as St. Luke's Hospital was created providing for the election of Trustees by the Vestry of St. Paul's Parish to which Corporation the Vestry deeded the Hospital property.

St. Luke's Hospital was continuously operated as a Church institution during these years except for a time in 1898 and 1899, Bishop BARKER making up the deficits when the Hospital did not pay its way, so that the Church is clearly entitled to whatever honor or emolument which this institution may win. When a new building for St. Luke's was erected 1904-1905 very little outside help was received in the way of donations, the entire responsibility both for building and maintenance being carried by the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Paul's Parish.

The Hospital having been established, however, and progressing under its Board of Trustees, it is confidently hoped that the future will see a suitable building erected for the Parish Church, and the work which has been carried on under many and great difficulties in the past will go forward with increased energy of the future.

During all the years of its history the clergy of the Church have ministered on Bellingham Bay to a large number of people the majority having come from the Middle West where our church was very weak if not almost unknown; there have been actually very few loyal and bona fide churchpeople. At times the Church seems to have been filled; at other times almost deserted. Of Church work in Whatcom County and on the Islands adjacent there has been little if any, with the result that St. Paul's has occupied an isolated position with a large list of nominal adherents but very few actual supporters. Such work as has been done is due in large measure to the church Guilds of women who by precarious and unapostolic methods of Strawberry festivals and other entertainments have nevertheless always in dark days kept the Church going.

Yet even by such methods the foundations were being laid; and this brief and unsatisfactory statement is put here not by any means claiming to be a complete record but to recall some of the many past efforts which have been put forth in the past as well as for the encouragement of those who follow.

-- Additional History added by W. B. TURRILL --

St. Paul's Church was enlarged in 1905 under the Rev. A. W. CHEATHAM, Rector, and a pipe organ installed in 1919 as a memorial to the Rev. R. Marshall HARRISON and Mrs. HARRISON, his wife.

A new Rectory was purchased in 1920 by the Vestry under the leadership of E. W. STIMPSON, senior warden.

Rectors, continued:

1900 - 13   The Rev. A. W. CHEATHAM

1913 - 18   The Rev. R. Marshall HARRISON, D.D.

1919 -        W. B. TURRILL

A Parish Hall was erected in 1921 by Mr. F. Stanley PIPER, senior warden, under Dr. STIMPSON's chairmanship.

The following notes cover the period of 1923 to January 1948. They were made in January 1948 by the Rev. Canon Ernest B. SMITH, who twice served as Rector of St. Paul's Church.

In the summer of 1923 - Mr. TURRILL resigned from St. Paul's and moved to Seattle. In August - Canon SMITH - rector of St. John's Church of England in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was called to St. Paul's - He arrived in Bellingham and assumed charge on St. Luke's [Oct 18] 1923.

In 1924 - the new St. Paul's Church was started under the rector's direction and plans - opened in Nov. 1927. (see further particulars in ... copy of Olympia Churchman - Date Oct. 1927.) The new fire proof wing of St. Luke's Hospital was also built during this period (see same copy of Olympia Churchman).

Canon SMITH resigned the parish as of Dec. 31st, 1931 - going to St. Luke's, Monrovia, California. Rev. T. DeWitt TANNER became the new Rector. Rev. Clifford SAMUELSON succeeded Mr. TANNER in ____ [1940]. Rev. David C. GRAHAM succeeded Mr. SAMUELSON in ___ [1941].

Mr. GRAHAM enlisted as Chaplain [U.S. Army] in May 1942. Canon SMITH was called from California to take charge. Mr. GRAHAM returned in Nov. 1945, resigning the parish. Canon SMITH remained in charge and later was re-elected Rector.

Canon SMITH resigned the second time as of July 31, 1947, to accept the position of General Missionary of the Northern Deanery of District of Olympia, with immediate responsibility of organizing the rural areas of Whatcom County.

About September 1947 - the Vestry called the Rev. W. R. WEBB from Juneau, Alaska - who assumed active charge - Jan. 1st, 1948; the parish in meantime being administered by Rev. O. S. SMITH, Ret’d of Mount Vernon and Canon SMITH.

The above historical information about the work of the Protestant Episcopal Church along Bellingham Bay was extracted by Bob Witherspoon from an early church record book and other sources at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Bellingham, Washington. The historical notes concerning St. Paul's Church in Bellingham and St. James' Church in Fairhaven, long since extinct, appear to be in the handwriting of the Rev. A. W. CHEATHAM, Rector of St. Paul's Church from 1900 to 1913.

to be Observed

Tomorrow, June 7, is Whitsunday, or, as it is sometimes called, the Feast of Pentecost. It celebrates the birthday of the Christian church when the apostles received the tongues of fire to preach the gospel to every man in his own language. It is the day which recalls the universal mission of Christianity. In St. Paul's church this day has come to have an especial historical interest.

St. Paul's congregation is twenty-five years old and on this day all persons who have been baptized in the church or presented for confirmation, or who have been married there are gathered in.

The first Episcopal church in what is now Western Washington was built in Tacoma in 1873. It was the old St. Peter's with a fir tree for a tower and from which a bell called the early settlers to worship. Through the efforts of Bishop MORRIS, of Oregon, services were held occasionally in Whatcom the first clergyman being the Rev. R. D. NEVIUS, who was the founder of St. Paul's Whatcom. Although services had been held in different halls in Whatcom, nothing was done toward the building of a church until the year 1883, and, as usual, it was done by the women.

On September 12, 1883, the Women's guild of St. Paul's church was organized at the house of Mrs. W. W. GARDNER. It had eight pages of constitution and by-laws, twenty-nine active members and twenty-seven honorary members, the honorary members being men who contributed so much per month. The women endeavored to buy lots on the installment plan, but in the spring of 1884 tow lots situated on Walnut street were donated by Mr. Henry ROEDER. On May 1, 1884, the minutes of the guild show that "A motion was made that the committee on church building should begin clearing lots immediately, preparatory to building," also "that the ladies of the Episcopal church have a strawberry festival as soon as advisable." The church was built then, although not completely furnished and occupied until the spring of 1885.

The minutes of the guild October 15, 1884, show the following: "A motion was made and carried that some lady be appointed to ask certain gentlemen to assist in paying a clergyman and that we, the ladies of the guild, agree to pay the Rev. BIRKHEAD $5 each month." So the Rev. Mr. BIRKHEAD, the first minister in charge of what is now St. Paul's church, received $5 per month and this church was built by the Woman's guild, who secured the lots, let the contract and constructed the building; so when one inquires today why we do not have more splendid church buildings in Bellingham, it is well for him to read local history and learn that the first churches were built by means of strawberry festivals, concerts and the PEAK Sisters and Mrs. JARLEY's Wax Works.

There have been the following ministers in charge of St. Paul's church: The Reverends: R. D. NEVIUS, J. H. BIRKHEAD, P. Edward HYLAND, S. R. S. GRAY, D. S. V. MOFFETT, Mr. FAIR, Mark JUKES and I. M. BARR.

The church register shows baptisms, confirmations, marriage and burials as far back as 1884. Confirmations are by Bishops PADDOCK, Lemuel H. WELLS, of Spokane; William Morris BARKER and F. W. KEATOR.

The first marriage in the new church was that of Miss Lottie ROEDER to Charles I. ROTH, September 16, 1885.

To illustrate the changing character of the work, there are but seven communicants left today who were recorded in 1888; ten of those who were recorded in 1893. Of sixty-two families reported in 1894 but sixteen are left in 1908. Of forty-six communicants in 1894, only ten can be reported as still in the church in 1908. Of one hundred confirmations during the last eight years, only thirty-five can still be reported as active communicants. Not more than fifteen persons can be shown by actual record to have made contributions regularly every year for the last ten years.

This old church, today surviving the wrecks of the years, living on in spite of the changes in business, in politics and social conditions, bears eloquent testimony to the value of what is permanent. These old records show that history repeats itself; that men bear very much the same attitude towards the church now that they did twenty-five years ago; that women who worked then left an example so that the original build which built St. Paul's has grown into six guilds now, which are the life of the parish; that people who do not really mean to take hold and work are the same, whether in Whatcom in 1883 or in Bellingham in 1908, and that the church that goes straight on, standing for the same great principles, the unchanging faith, is going to endure and against her the gates of hell cannot prevail.

From The Bellingham Herald, June 6, 1908; copied by Susan Nahas

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