[The following “An Historic Guide to St. Mary’s Church” was found while backing up some old computer files. Click here to see the complete timeline. – Editor]
Conveniently situated next to the Charles River in Newton Lower Falls, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is the oldest church building in Newton. Built in 1813 in “Federal” style, it was the first Episcopal church established to the west of Boston after the American Revolution. Its magnificent plain glass windows, affording a view of the spacious churchyard on either side, are notable features of the interior. The simple chancel dates only from 1922, but it harmonizes with the original box pews and the choir loft.
Timeline for St. Mary’s Church
1811 The first Episcopal service was held in the Newton Lower Falls village school house.
1812 The new congregation has its first baptism. After services parishoners might have discussed the new war against Britain, declared by Congress. As part of the war, the USS Constitution engaged and defeated the Guerriere off Nova Scotia.
1813 Foundations were laid, making this the oldest church building in Newton. The windows still contain some old glass. The names of the 33 founders are listed on a plaque at the rear of the church. First burial in the churchyard – Ebenezer Stedman.
Veterans of all our country’s wars are buried here, including Zibeon Hooker, who had been a drummer boy at the Battle of Bunker Hill. When his drum was damaged by a musket ball, he seized a gun and fought to the end of the battle. He also fought at Ticonderoga and at Valley Forge. After a long life, he died in his daughter’s home on Washington Street… 1816 Founded for young mill workers as well as families of parishioners, the Sabbath School (Sunday School) encouraged students to excel in committing to memory verses of the Old and New Testaments as well as hymns.
1821 The Rev. Samuel Shaw, appointed by Bishop Griswold to be rector was 21 years old, the youngest rector of St. Mary’s. In Boston, the first high school in the U.S. opened, the May English Classical School.
1822 The longest rectorship in the history of St. Mary’s (1822-1851) begins for the Reverend Alfred Louis Baury. In 1822 the old bell was a gift of Samuel Brown. After becoming cracked, it was taken to East Medway to be cast again and finally re-hung. In 1954 the bell was mechanized to insure the safety of the tower.
1835 On May 14th, the first Women’s Society was orgainized. It was first known as the Ladies Sewing Circle; later the Paris Aid Society; then the Women’s Service League; later the Women’s Auxiliary and at present the Women of St. Mary’s.
1838 The church was extended to the east and a sanctuary added. Two large stoves on either side of the chancel provided heat, and gas lights were used for almost one hundred years. The exterior Gothic wood trim was probably added at this time. The six foot rods standing in the rear pews were used by the wardens to keep the people awake.
1869 Although the Sabbath School had a library for its pupils, the parish established a circulating library in the village. Located in a local store, it was free to all residents.
1871 Weekly Offerings were established.
1883 The Altar Guild was organized.
1884 The gift of a brass altar cross was received and for the first time in the history of the church there was a cross on the altar.
1887 The present stone altar was given by Mr. Slack.
1892 The church building was extended again to add the present chancel and a sacristy. The Boy’s Choir was orgainized.
1922 The chancel was changed to its present simple construction. The stained glass windows above the altar were blocked out. The church was redecorated, and the red and brown colors were painted out. New electric chandeliers were installed. Electricity also enabled local residents to hear a U.S. president give a speech on radio for the first time.
1940 A fire destroyed the old Chapter House (then on the graveyard side of the church) and the present Parish Hall was built in 1941.
1948 A new rectory was built. The Baury House (c.1755) on the corner of Concord and Washington Streets was used as the Rectory for many years.
1951 The Server’s Guild was organized.
1954 The cross on the tower was erected.
1956 A steeple cross was added when the tower was redesigned to eliminate the Victorian ornamentation.
1958 Added Church School classrooms, Choir Room, Parish Office, and modernized the kitchen.
1961 The basement of the church was remodeled into classrooms.
1965 Present organ was installed in the gallery. It is a Novak tracker organ.
1975 Embroidered cushions in the sanctuary were done by a parishioner. The kneelers in the pews have been collected over the years.