Monday, September 08, 2014


This is one, perhaps the first, in a contemplated series of posts on the history of St. Mary's, Manhattanville.  Researching and writing that history is my current project.

We are about to have a new rector at St. Mary's.  (For the moment, I won't release her name on the internet since the Letter of Agreement has not quite been finalized .)   I'm taking this opportunity to make a list of all of the rectors we have had since our founding in 1823.  By and large this is just a list of names and dates.  More information about these people will be included in my history, and some of it will be posted here..

First, the rectors during or just before my time at St. Mary's.  I first came to St. Mary's in November of 1958.  The list begins with Dr. Ackley, who had retired when I cam here, and ends with Earl Kooperkamp, who left a little over two years ago.  The dates given here are from my memory..

When my partner Rex Slauson came to St. Mary's, the rector was Charles Breck Ackley.  Dr. Ackley had served as rector throughout the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and here it was the middle of the 1950s.

Dr. Ackley was succeeded by Richard Gary, who was priest in charge in the late fifties and early sixties.

Dick was succeeded by Neale Secor, who started as seminarian, became assistant and then priest in charge in the late 1960s and finally was styled rector, although he was never formally called as rector.

Neale left in the early 1980s and after a brief interim was succeeded by Floyd "Butch" Naters Gamarra, who had to leave because we didn't have the money to pay him.

After another brief interim, in the mid eighties Robert Castle became rector.

Bob left at tne end of the 1990s and was succeeded by Earl Kooperkamp.

Earl left in May 2012 and we have been without a rector since.
After an interval of over a year, we began a formal search in the summer of 2013 and the search has just concluded with the selection of a rector.
We expect that our new rector will begin on October 5, but the Letter of Agreement has not yet been finalized and signed by the Rector, the Senior Warden, and the Bishop.  So it's almost a done deal but the i's aren't yet dotted and the t's are not yet crossed.

Second is the list of rectors from the the organization of St. Mary's in December 1823 up to Dr. Ackley in 1920.  The dates here are from my notes and I have not double checked them yet.

This brief account necessarily can only hint at the fascinating complexity of the first thirty five years of St. Mary's' history and the various ministries associated with its early rectors, William Richmond and Thomas McClure Peters.

When St. Mary's was organized at the end of 1823, William Richmond was elected as rector.  William Richmond was already rector of St. Michael's and St. James'.  Over the course of the next thirty years, William Richmond served three stints as rector.

After less than two years William Richmond resigned in 1825.  John Sellon was elected to succeed him, and his name appears on the mortgage for the church building, but he never actually served as rector.

Next the vestry elected Thomas Thornton Groshon, who was lay reader from even before the church was organized in 1823 and who was a member of the first class to enter General Seminary.  Unfortunately, Thomas Groshon died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1828, before he was ordained, so he never served as rector.

In 1828, William Richmond resumed the rectorship for the next ten years, while still the rector of St. Michael's and St' James'.  He considered his parish to be all of Manhattan north of Greenwich Village.
In 1837 William Richmond turned over his duties at St. Michael's, St. James, and St. Mary's to his brother James Cook Richmond, who remained until 1842.

In 1842 William Richmond resumed the rectorship and held it until 1852.  Also in 1842, he appointed Thomas McClure Peters, a seminarian at General Seminary, to be lay reader.

William Richmond went on a misison trip to the West Cost at the end of the 1840s and Thomas McClure Peters was effectively in charge.  Peters realized that St. Mary's could not survive without resident clergy and he was responsible for the erection of the rectory in 1851, at which time he also became rector.  Thomas McClure Peters was also Rector of All Angels Church in Seneca Village.  In the meantime he had married the daughter of William Richmond and they all lived in William Richmond's house. in the 90s.  St. Mary's Rectory was occupied by George L Neide, an assistant who did most of the services at St. Mary's.
In 1855 George Neide resigned as assistant.  The rectory was enlarged to its present size and Thomas McClure Peters moved in wirth his family.  He remained only until 1858 when his father in law William Richmond died and Peters was elected rector of St. Michael's.

Charles F Rodenstein became recotr in 1859 and stayed only until 1860 when he entered miedical scgool.

George F Seymour, who had been the first warden of St. Stephen;s College, later Bard College, was rector from March 1861 to 1862.

Charles Coffin Adams came in 1863 abd stayed until he died in 1888.

Lawrence Schwab was rector from at least 1891 to 1898.  I need to check some records that are not  avaialble online to determine when he started.  That is the time the Sunday School Building, now the parish hall, was built.

Hiram Richard Hulse was rector from 1899 to 1911 or 1912.  Again the records are not online.  During his tenure, the old church was torn down and the present church was built.

John Loftus Scully became rector in 1912 and he died in 1914.

Francis A Brown came at the end of 1914 and remained until 1918.

Frederick W Goodman came in October 1918 and stayed only until  sometime between May 1919 and May 1920.

Charles Breck Ackley was here by May 1920.

Five, now almost six rectors since I have been at St. Mary's.
Twelve rectors and one lay reader, who was in effect the pastor, before I came.
We are about to engage the eighteenth rector, nineteenth if you count Tom Groshon or John Sellon, twentieth if you count them both.

Stay tuned.

About my sourcesAs I indicated, for the rectors after Dr. Ackley, I have relied on my memory for the purposes of this post.
For the earlier period, my principal sources are online scans of Journals of Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York; the Annals of St. Michael's Church by John Punnett Peters; and the Landmarks Preservation Commission's 1998 report on St. Mary's (researched and written by Eric K. Washington).  There is also a list of Rectors, without dates, on the St. Mary's Harlem website, that appears to have been compiled by Dt. Ackley for the 100th anniversary of St. Mary's in 1923.
My finished history will have appropriate citations to sources.  I have not yet been able to consult the actual minute books of St. Mary's because access to the archives closet has been blocked for several months and it hasn't seemed worth it to try to gain access

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