View “A Guide to Symbolism in St. Paul’s Church”
This beautiful Gothic Revival church was built in 1875 by the Hon. Alfred P. Edgerton. The idea had been planted two years earlier by his friend Rev. Joseph Talbot, Bishop of Indiana.
Rev. Talbot had preached Hicksville’s first Protestant Episcopal service after morning prayers in the old Presbyterian Church on High Street. The Bishop suggested Mr. Edgerton build an Episcopal house of worship for his family, visiting friends, and the people of the town.
Mr. Edgerton followed through with plans designed by Bishop Talbot, placing the church in the apple orchard across from his home. He conveyed St. Paul’s in trust to the Diocese of Ohio to be forever held as a free church.
Sunday, October 17, 1875, saw the church’s consecration at 10:30 a.m. At 3:30 p.m., a service of prayer and baptism was conducted with Edgerton’s grandson, Robert Swartwout, received as St. Paul’s first member. A third overflow crowd assembled at 7:30 p.m. for a third service.
The Gothic Revival style of the church is evident in the arched doors and Elizabethan windows, with stained glass imported from England. The interior, finished in native ash, features original furnishings, including a pump harmonium. Oil burning lanterns (now electrified) still illuminate the aisle.
The only rector of St. Paul’s was Rev. Abraham V. Gorrell, who arrived in 1876. He left to serve in Defiance’s newly built church in 1878. Later services were held intermittently by Defiance and Bryan rectors, but the small congregation struggled to maintain the church. An appeal for funds was launched in 1909.
By the 1970’s membership had fallen to three. Assorted creatures had made themselves at home inside and underneath the church building. The walls were bowing out from the weight of the roof.
Inspired by the U. S. Bicentennial and Hicksville’s Centennial celebration in 1975, The Friends of St. Paul’s organized efforts to preserve the building. A National Historic Site, the church building is now maintained for the Episcopal Diocese by Hicksville’s Historical Society and is often used for weddings and meetings.
Email Mary Smith to schedule the use of or a tour of a historical site.
Compiled by church member Ercal Tuto; revised 1995
This church and the two 60-foot lots upon which it sits were gifts from A. P. Edgerton, one of Hicksville’s founding fathers. Mr. Edgerton had come to Hicksville in 1837, but was living in Fort Wayne at the time this church was built. His home across the street (present site of library) was used as a summer retreat where the Edgertons often entertained out-of-town guests.
In November of 1873, Mr. Edgerton’s house guest was Rev. Joseph C. Talbot, Bishop of the Indiana Episcopal Diocese. The bishop delivered an Episcopal sermon in the Presbyterian Church down the street following the Presbyterians’ own worship service. By the end of the bishop’s stay, Edgerton had agreed to build an Episcopal church of the bishop’s design. This was completed in 1875 at a cost of $7,000. It was consecrated on October 17, 1875.
- The first thing you see when you enter the church is the Baptismal Font. It is located at the entrance to symbolize baptism as the first step in your Christian life. The whole congregation participates in the baptismal service. They turn and face the font and respond from the prayer book as the priest administers the sacrament.
- The wide center aisle goes the full length of the building. At one end is the font and at the other end, the seat of God. There are no barriers along the way.
- The windows were made in England and shipped here for this building. They crossed the Atlantic by ship, where they were off-loaded in New York, carted to the Eric Canal, and brought by steamboat to Toledo. They came up the Maumee to Defiance where the crates were packed in hay and carried by wagon with a man named Beerbower at the reins. The pattern of the crown and the cross reminds us of the reward of believers who are faithful to the death. They also speak to the glory of Christ and His life of redemptive suffering.
- The side windows have borders of green, gold, purple, and red. These signify the seasons of the church:
PURPLE heralds the Advent season when we anticipate the coming of Christ. Purple paraments repeat the theme at the altar and on the lectern.
GOLD for Christmas and Christmastide and again on Easter Sunday reminds us that Christ is the King of Kings. White paraments are used to symbolize Christ’s purity.
GREEN symbolizes the manifestation of God’s plan in Christ. In the Epiphany season between Christmas and Lent, the life and teachings of Christ are remembered.
RED was used on Pentecost or Trinity, marking the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginnings of the Christian Church.
- The windows above the altar have the symbol of the cross and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega. This is taken from Christ’s teachings: I am the alpha and the omega. I am the beginning and the end.
- The organ is thought to be original to the 1875 completion of the church. It is said to be a harmonium, a manually pumped instrument in which the air is pumped through reeds instead of pipes as a true organ would have. The two candle holders gave extra light for the musician.
- Sconces on the wall are not original. Those were stolen in the 1940’s. These replacements are very close to the look of the originals.
- If you look up, you will see the original central lighting fixtures. Before they were electrified, they burned coal oil. When the church was restored in 1975, the lamps had to be raised to accommodate cables used to pull the walls together. The cables are concealed inside wooden boxes made to copy the style of the beams.
- The area just outside the Communion rail contains two items of furniture. On the left is the lectern and pulpit. Psalms and lessons are read from the large Bible. The minister delivers the sermon from here as well. On your right is the kneeling or prayer bench. Prayers for the day, as found in The Book of Common Prayer, are led from this bench.
- Our Communion Rail is to the right and left of the altar. We have an open Communion. No one is turned away.
- The other furnishings near the Communion Rail are:
- COMMUNION SHELF-on the wall to the right of the altar. It holds unblessed sacraments for Holy Communion.
BISHOP’S CHAIR —on your left, for the officiating priest, or bishop if he/she is present.
SECONDARY CHAIR — on your right, for the person assisting the priest.
- The altar or sacristy table is the focal point of the entire building. Its purpose is to remind us that the ultimate purpose of your life’s journey is to dwell with God. On the altar are:
TWO CANDLES, symbolizing Christ’s humanity and divinity;
THE CROSS, a symbol of the risen Christ; and
THE RITUAL BOOK, used for celebrating the festivals of the church year.
- Notice the wooden beams. They are made of native ash.
- The steep pitch of the ceiling and pointed arches are typical of the rural Gothic Revival style popular in the mid to late 1800’s. They are meant to convey a feeling of spaciousness, awe, and reverence.
Although St. Paul’s no longer functions as a working Episcopal church, the Ohio Diocese is kind enough to allow Hicksville’s Historical Society to maintain the building as a National Historic Site. Meetings, weddings, and occasional other services are held at St. Paul’s. It is preserved through the work of Historical Society volunteers and the support of area citizens.
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