History

Saint Matthias; Church was organized in 1869 and the first parish meeting was held on February 24, Saint Matthias’ Day. Although there are not many parishes with Saint Matthias as their patron, there are some in many of the churches of the Anglican Communion.

Saint Matthias was the disciple who was chosen to replace Judas. You can read the story of St. Matthias in the Acts of the Apostles. See Acts 1:15-26.

The History of Saint Matthias from 1869 to 1936 by Paul A. Spengler.

Saint Matthias’ parish had its origins in the post-Civil War period, one hundred and forty four years ago. The world was, in many ways, a very different place then. In 1869 the United States had a population of only 38 million people and there were only 37 states in the Union (The thirty-seventh state, Nebraska, had been admitted to the Union in 1868.) The Civil War had ended only four years earlier, and federal troops still occupied most of the southern states to enforce the Reconstruction Acts. Andrew Johnson, who had succeeded to the presidency on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, was still in office when Saint Matthias’ church was founded in February, 1869. His successor, the immensely popular commander of the Union armies, General Ulysses S. Grant, had been elected to the presidency the previous November and would assume office a few weeks later, in March, 1869.

Despite the recent war, the period from 1850 to 1870 was one of growth for the United States and for the Episcopal Church. Between 1850 and 1870 the nation’s population grew from 23 million to 38 million people, an increase of 65 percent. During the same period, the number of Episcopal churches in the United States grew from 1,459 to 2,601, an increase of 78 percent. Western New York, however, was still a relatively thinly populated area one hundred and forty four years ago. In 1870, Erie County had a total population of on 178,699 people. The town of Aurora had a population of only 2,573, including the village of East Aurora. The town’s population consisted of 2,173 native-born persons, 400 foreign born Whites, and one “Colored” resident. There were 11 Episcopal churches in Erie County, with a seating capacity for 3,700 people, included in that number was the recently founded parish of Saint Matthias.

The Beginnings, 1869-1877

Very little is known about the presence of the Episcopal Church in the East Aurora area prior to 1869. Prior to that date, the Reverend 0.W. Witherspoon held occasional services in East Aurora but his period of service is not documented. He may have been a missionary priest serving the diocese, and he was later instrumental in founding Saint Philip‘s church in Buffalo.

The history of the parish of Saint Matthias began in 1869 with the activity of the Reverend David A. Bonnar, then an Episcopal deacon. On February 14, 1869, Arthur Cleveland Coxe, second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, received a letter from a small group of Episcopalians in the town of Aurora. They had been holding Episcopal services in the Universalist meeting house in Aurora and now sought the bishop’s canonical consent to organize their congregation as a parish. Attached to their letter was a brief note from the Reverend David A. Bonnar, Deacon officiating at Aurora, attesting to their membership in the congregation. On February 27, 1869 Bishop Coxe replied, “I hereby give my canonical consent to the above organization and invoke God’s blessing on the undertaking.”

In addition to requesting the bishop’s consent for the formation of a parish, David Bonnar gave public notice of an incorporation meeting for the parish to be held at the Universalist meeting house on February 24, 1869 at 7:00 P.M.; Saint Matthias’ Day. Six people attended the organizational meeting: Byron D. Person, Warren S. Rogers, William D. Jones, Thomas Wright, John Townsend and Clark Bowen, who was elected secretary. It was agreed that the parish would take its name from the saint whose feast day it was, Saint Matthias, and the corporation, therefore, would be known as “The Rector, Church-Wardens, and Vestrymen of Saint Matthias Church in the Town of Aurora, in the County of the, State of New York.” Annual elections were to be held Monday in Easter week and the Vestry was to consist of the Rector, two wardens and five vestrymen. The first wardens were John Townsend and Clark Bowen; the first vestrymen were Byron Person, William D. Jones, Henry B. Miller, Nathaniel A. Larner and William D. Wallis.

During the first year as a parish, the congregation of Saint Matthias continued to rent space for worship at the Universalist meeting house. Vestry meetings were held in the homes of vestrymen. At the first regular meeting of the parish, the vestry called The Reverend David A. Bonnar “… to fill the office of Minister in charge of this Parish.” He would be designated as Rector later that year. His salary was set at $300 per year. Upon the prompting of the Diocese, however, the Rector’s salary was increased later that year to $400, including a subsidy from the diocese. The Rector and Vestry also adopted a corporate seal for the parish.

In addition to securing a permanent clergyman, the parish began seeking land for a new church building of its own. A building committee was created in November, 1869, to study the feasibility of erecting a stone or wood church with room for 150 worshippers. The Vestry minutes speak also of the need for a Church of due style and character becoming a holy offices and purpose of public worship.” By early 1870, the Rector and Vestry were looking for a lot on the plank road (Main Street) and were pricing cut stone at $6.00 per cord. That the struggling young parish was in some difficulties, however, appears from the fact that, a few months later, the Vestry voted to ~ fourteen cords of stone for $54 to pay parish debts.

There is a lengthy gap in the minutes of the Vestry from 1870 to 1876.   David Bonnar left Saint Matthias in 1871 and the church was without a Rector until 1877. The Reverend Francis Granger served briefly at Saint Matthias in 1875, but he was apparently a non-parochial priest sent by the diocese to conduct services, and was never appointed Rector.

H. A. Duboc. 1877 – 1879

In 1876 Saint Matthias’ church was still without a Rector. The congregation apparently found it difficult to afford a full-time priest because the Vestry minutes of May 2, 1876 indicate that the Vestry had called the Reverend H. A. Duboc ” … to give us morning and evening services each and every alternate Sabbath during the ensuing year,” at a salary of only $300.

Initially, Father Duboc refused, but later agreed to serve as Rector beginning in February, 1877. Records from this period of the parish’s history continue to be scanty. A church edifice, however, had by now been erected on Main Street and in 1878 H.A. Duboc, after many setbacks, was able to enlarge the church to include a chancel and vestry room. The church was valued at $700 and the lot it stood on at an additional $900.

Henry S. Huntington. 1881 – 1883

Father Duboc left Saint Matthias in 1879 and the church was again without a Rector for two years until the Vestry called the Reverend Henry S. Huntington, who accepted their calI on April 11, 1881.

It is evident that the low figure set by the vestry for the rector’s salary made it difficult to maintain a Rector. Early in 1882, Bishop Coxe wrote to the vestry of Saint Matthias’ Church, telling the vestrymen that it would be impossible for them to retain Father Huntington on the same terms offered to previous Rectors. “I cannot ask him to remain on such a pittance as heretofore,” the Bishop wrote. He suggested that the parish provide Father Huntington with a house in East Aurora, but allow him to serve the Episcopal church of Ellicottville on alternate Sundays. Instead, the Vestry asked Fro Huntington to serve Saint Matthias’ Church on a full-time basis, at a salary of $600 per year with four weeks of vacation. Father Huntington accepted this offer.

Father Huntington initiated several new ventures at Saint Matthias’ Church.
Standing committees of the Vestry were created on Pledges, Music and Sunday School The church accepted the donation of a pipe organ from Mr. E. Bancroft. Finances, however, remained a problem. In 1883, the Good Friday collection was $3.22 and the Easter offering $14.00. When Father Huntington resigned in 1883, the vestry called his successor, The Reverend Henry M. Brown, at a salary of $600, the same offer made to Father Huntington two years before.

Henry M. Brown. 1883 – 1894

Father Brown’s tenure as Rector lasted eleven years, the longest period of service by a Rector at Saint Matthias’ Church up to that time. In addition to the Vestry committees created by Father Huntington, he added a Standing Committee. Additionally, a greeters’ committee was organized to “… greet guests at church, call on them in their homes, and welcome them to the parish.” A ladies’ committee was also organized to help win new families to the parish.

In 1885 the number was vestrymen were increased from five to six, and in 1892 their number was expanded to eight. In 1892 the Vestry consisted of E. J. Johnson and F.W. Gardner as wardens, and W.B. Jones, W.H. Gail, MD, E.G. Hurlburt, A.M. Burgetter, William Harris, H.W. Knip, Charles B. Adams, and R.S. Van Kuren as vestrymen.

The original church building was no longer adequate for the needs of the parish, and thought was being given to the building of a new church edifice. The Panic of 1893, and the resulting depression, however, made it impossible to proceed with those plans. The following year witnessed a major conflict between the Rector and the Vestry. The surviving parish records to not identify the issue that provoked the crisis. on July 19, 1893, however, the vestry held a special meeting without the Rector and resolved to terminate him retroactive to May 31, 1893. Apparently the Rector had already ceased to serve de facto as of the end of May. A copy of the notice was sent to Bishop Coxe.

Warren Watson Walsh. 1894 – 1902

On the recommendation of Bishop Coxe, the Vestry of Saint Matthias’ Church issued a temporary call to the Reverend Warren Watson Walsh. The salary offered, however, was only $800. “Possibly should he accept and settle among us,” the Vestry minutes of May 6, 1894 stated, “we could do better.”

Bishop Coxe felt the Vestry already needed some encouragement to “do better.” He wrote to them stating:
In my opinion, you have secured a treasure for East Aurora, in this able and godly man and his very charming family. Faithfully, and trusting that you will receive him as the Master enjoins (“Whosoever receiveth you receiveth me”) and will not fail of your reward.

In reply to the Bishop, the Vestry agreed to the $800 salary figure and to find a home for the Rector and his family. They also set up a committee to study the possibility of building a permanent rectory. Bids were sent out, and the parish accepted the low bid of $2,339 submitted by Newell and Cadzow. The parish took out a loan of $1,500 towards this project, and secured property on the northeast corner of Main and Maple Streets.

Despite this major initiative, the church continued to struggle with finances. At the January 13, 1896 meeting of the Vestry, it was reported that “the parish was in arrears to the Rector of four and a half months of salary from 1895, and was also in debt to the extent of $170 for electricity, lumber and church school expenses. By the end of that year, parish indebtedness had grown to $280.49 and a special appeal was made to the congregation to contribute to a special effort to payoff the debt. The parish was also $29 in debt to the diocese. Despite these problems, however, the parish was able to budget for a surplice choir. The date of the annual meeting was also changed to the first Monday in Advent.

By 1897 it was again evident that major work had to be done on rebuilding the church. The cost of excavating,’ basement walls, windows, moving the organ and other expenses came to $1,400 plus $450 to repair the guild room. These costs were in addition to annual operating expenses of $900. Revenue, however, was only $550 in pledges and $160 to $200 in offerings. A major effort, therefore, was made to persuade parishioners to increase their pledges and pay any late pledges. Ultimately, the parish also found it necessary to take out a loan for $300. one of the vestrymen, E.J. Johnson, also installed a railing for the front steps at his own expense. Also, in 1902 the bank agreed to lower the interest on this loan from 6 percent to 5 percent.

Father Walsh’s “temporary” appointment lasted eight years, until 1902. Despite continuing financial difficulties, the parish achieved significant progress under Father Walsh. It continued to provide a surpliced choir, at a cost of $471 annually, added a mixed girls’ and boys’ choir, and hired its first regular choir director, Ida Johnson, in 1902. A rectory had been built and considerable renovations had been done on the church. When Father Walsh resigned for health reasons in 1902, the vestry noted that, “… we feel that with his departure is marked the flight of eight of the best years of our lives.”

J. W. Dennis Cooper, 1903 – 1907

A few months after the departure of Father Walsh, the vestry called The Reverend J. W. Dennis Cooper to be the new Rector of Saint Matthias’ Church. Cooper was from Ontario and the new bishop of the Diocese of Western New York, Bishop Walker, did not want the parish to call a Rector from outside his Diocese. Father Cooper, however, had been invited to preach at Saint Matthias’ Church. He made an excellent impression on the congregation and the Vestry finally prevailed on the Bishop to consent to Father Cooper serving at Saint Matthias’ Church. The Bishop insisted, however, that Fr. Cooper be called initially only for three months, with the option of a further extension for one year. only at the end of the year could the Vestry formally call him as rector. The Ladies Service Society set to work redecorating the rectory and Father Cooper began his ministry at Saint Matthias on March 8, 1903.

Financial issues and the poor condition of the rectory were, of key concern at the beginning of Father Cooper’s ministry as Saint Matthias. The first Vestry meeting was devoted to discussing budget shortfalls, including the cost of coal, and repairing the rectory. The rectory had a very inadequate heating system. This issue was to drag on for years. The parish was also five months in arrears on its pledge to the Diocese, and it was decided that the collection from the 8:00 AM communion service should be dedicated to paying various Diocesan pledge commitments.

Two other budgetary issues were crucial at that time. First, the parish settled a bill for $75 from John Lord O’Brien, Superintendent of the Layman’s Missionary League, for providing supply clergy during the interval that elapsed between the departure of Father Walsh and the arrival of Father Cooper. The League had provided supply clergy for fifteen weeks at a cost of $5.00 per week. (In addition to being Superintendent of the Layman’s Missionary League, John Lord O’Brien was also a prominent Buffalo attorney and would later be an unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate.)

Secondly, the vestry agreed to raise the compensation for the parish janitor, who said he could not continue to serve unless his salary was raised from $4.00 per month to $6.00 per month, based on a rate of 15¢ per hour. The vestry agreed to those terms.

At the annual parish meeting on November 30, 1903, it was reported that the annual revenue of the parish was $1,435.43 and expenses were $1,441.31, leaving a balance due of only $5.88. Furthermore, the Ladies Services Society had raised $306.19 to help repair the rectory.

Besides the Ladies’ Service Society, a number of other organizations had been founded or revitalized. The Parochial Guild for women, headed by Miss M.E. Wise, was founded in 1903. It had 33 members and had raised $98 to help pay the Rector’s salary. A Junior Board of the Women’s Auxiliary had been created for girls ages 11 to 19. The adult Women’s Auxiliary Guild reported its success in a drive to collect blankets for the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. The parish also had a chapter of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, with 11 charter members. A Committee on Ways and Means had been organized in the vestry to conduct evangelism and parish growth activities. Finally, Father Cooper had suggested refurbishing the basement of the church and renting it as a place for boys to meet for activities such as reading, games and gymnastics.

Given Father Cooper’s energetic leadership, it was not surprising that he was officially called as Rector on February 9, 1904. At that point, the parish was still $126.76 in arrears on its pledge to the Diocese. The Diocese, however, agreed to settle the debt by accepting a payment of $40. Problems with the rectory, however, remained, including a continued severe problem with the heating system. In order to contain costs, the vestry voted to repair the existing boiler, add some registers to the upstairs hall, and add an artificial gas log to the reception room, at a total cost of $17. The condition of the rectory, however, continued to be an item of contention between successive rectors and the vestry for several years. In 1905 it was necessary to replace the bathroom plumbing fixtures and repaper the kitchen.

The year 1905 saw the parish in some financial difficulty. In June it was unable to pay several bills, including the janitor’s salary, the coal bill and the paving tax. Consequently, the parish took out a sixty day loan of $100 from the Bank of East Aurora to meet current expenses. (The loan was repaid in October.) The parish also found it necessary to increase the insurance coverage on the church to $1,000. The additional coverage cost $4 per year.

By the end of 1905, however, parish revenue was $1,418.14 and expenses stood at $1,460.80, leaving a shortfall of $42.60. Fund raising by the Women’s Serving Society, Women’s Auxiliary, and the Parochial Guild, however, brought in an additional $535.28, of which $508.62 was used to defray parish costs not covered by the operating budget. The parish also contributed $189.48 to the Diocese to support a number of Diocesan projects including general diocesan support, Diocesan missions, domestic missions, foreign missions, Indian missions, Colored missions, theological education and clergy retirement. These contributions from the parish represented a major increase in Saint Matthias’ support for the diocese.

In 1906 annual parish revenue was $1,425.84, exactly equal to expenses. The biggest expense item was the Rector’s salary which, however, was still only $800. The most important revenue items were pledges ($689.28), collections at morning and evening services ($279.44) and the Easter offering ($204.84). Additionally, there were a number of special appeals. 1906 was the year of the San Francisco earthquake, and $26 was collected for its victims. There was also a collection of $5.86 for the Jews. It is unclear whether this money was to be used for proselytizing efforts or whether it was humanitarian relief. (Following the unsuccessful 1905 Revolution in Russia, there had been savage reprisals against the Jews.)  Also in 1906, the parish reported 36 pledges out of 80 families and 150 communicants in the parish. There was some discussion at the annual meeting about the possibility of building a parish house to accommodate various church activities.

Allen Prescott. 1908 – 1909

Father Cooper resigned on September 10, 1906 to accept: the position of rector of Christ Church, Rochester.  A lay reader from Hamburg, Mr. Adams, conducted services at Saint Matthias’ Church during October and November, 1906.

Bishop Walker met with representatives of Saint Matthias’ vestry regarding the calling of a new rector. He told them that he thought the salary offered was inadequate but finally recommended The Reverend Allen C. Prescott, then serving the Episcopal congregation in Cuba, New York. Father Prescott was invited to preach twice and was then called as rector on December 13, 1907. The vestry offered him a salary of $800, $100 additional to cover moving expenses plus the rectory.

Father Prescott began serving as Rector in February, 1908. The poor condition of the rectory immediately arose as a major issue between Father Prescott and the Vestry. Given the concerns expressed by Bishop Walker the previous year, salary may also have been an issue. In October, 1908, Father Prescott resigned. Having been without a Rector for a year following the resignation of Father Walsh, the parish was again without a regular clergyman.

Frederick A. Heisley, 1910 – 1911

At first, the vestry of Saint Matthias tried to call Father Reed of Trinity Church, Buffalo, but he declined their offer.  Attendance continued to decline and in May, 1909, the vestry called Father Saunders from Ludlow, Ontario. He was interested in coming to Saint Matthias, but the Bishop of Ontario was unwilling to allow Father Saunders to leave the diocese. Between May, 1909 and January, 1910, three additional candidates were screened, including Father Frederick A. Heisley of Cory, Pennsylvania.

The Vestry had offered Father Heisley a salary of $800 plus $100 in moving expenses and use of the rectory. He stated, however, that he would not accept their call unless the salary was increased to $1,000. The Vestry felt it could not do this without the expressed support of the parish and the issuewas taken to the annual parish meeting on January 31, 1910. The parish agreed to Father Heisley’s terms and he became Rector on February 6, 1910. The Vestry voted its thanks to Mr. Adams of Hamburg, the lay reader who had been conducting Services at Saint Matthias’ Church during the long periods when the parish was without a Rector.

Early in Father Heisley’s ministry at Saint Matthias, it was found necessary to repair the chimney of the church. The Vestry also discussed providing for the safe storage of the communion silver service in the church instead of transporting it from the rectory every communion Sunday. (At this time, communion was held monthly.)

The long period Saint Matthias’ Church was without a Rector was evidenced in the parish’s financial situation. At the January 10, 1911 annual meeting it was reported that receipts had dropped to $1,304.74 while expenses totaled $1,540.19. This left a deficit of $235.45.

At the March 29, 1911 vestry meeting, Father Heisley informed the Vestry that he had rented the rectory for five months to a Mr. Sicard. Father Heisley stated that, ” … the house was too expensive for him (i.e., Father Heisley) to maintain and too severe upon his family to keep in proper order and that he wished to do so as a means to reimburse himself of the outlay on extra furniture which he had found necessary to provide in order to comport with the size and uses of the house.” Although the vestrymen were very concerned about the effect this action might have on the church’s tax exempt status, they approved his action with the proviso that no further such action was to be taken without prior Vestry approval.

Later that year, the Vestry rejected the Rector’s request to spend $5 to raise the chancel rail. It agreed, however, to his request for two weeks of additional vacation so that he could accept an invitation to preach in Pittsburgh, provided that he personally pays for supply clergy during his absence. Later that year, Father Heisley resigned.

Lewis Carter Harrison, 1912-1916

The departure of Father Heisley was followed by a relatively short search for a new Rector. on February 25, 1912 the Vestry called The Reverend Lewis Carter Harrison, who was then serving at Trinity Church, Buffalo. The parish was very keen to have him as Rector, because the Vestry offered him a salary of $1,200, significantly above the $1,000 minimum suggested by the Diocese, and more than the parish had paid any of its previous Rectors.

The late nineteenth century had been America’s “Gilded Age.” It was the epoch of industrial expansion, “rugged individualism,” and the rise of the great American fortunes. In religion, it was an era that emphasized personal moral uplift and overseas missions. In contrast, the first two decades of the twentieth century have been designated by historians as the country’s “Progressive Era.” During these years, people became more concerned with the conditions of labor, making industry more responsible to society with women’s rights and with environmental conservation. The heroes of the Gilded Age had been powerful industrialists and bankers such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. In government, the country had voted for political “stalwarts” such as Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley, and Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York. Between 1900 and 1920, however the public’s attention turned to radical “muckraking” journalists such as Lincoln Steffens and lda Tarbell, who exposed the scandals of big business in urban government. For political leadership. the country turned to reformers such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. In religion, it was the age of the Social Gospel. The proponents of the social gospel emphasized the church’s mission to reform society and to deal with such issues as urban slums, alcoholism, poverty, and working conditions in the factories. Proponents of the social gospel were to be found in all of the major denominations, and included such nationally known Episcopalians as Bishop Henry Codmon Potter, Bishop Frederic Huntington, and Professor Richard Ely.

Father Harrison appears to have been at least somewhat in the tradition of the social gospel. At his first Vestry meeting at Saint Matthias on June 12, 1912, it is recorded that: A direct suggestion was made by the Rector which was afterward made a motion and carried unanimously; regarding what he wished our church to stand for in this community. He wanted us to be more Democratic, more of a missionary church and to broaden out into social service lines.

Three new committees of the Vestry were created: the Democratic, Missionary and Social Service Committees. The Democratic Committee appears to have discussed a number of topics, but never seems to have decided upon a plan of action. Although it is vaguely referred to in the Vestry minutes a year later, it does not appear to have functioned regularly.

The Missionary Committee, however, was more successful. By the end of 1912, it had instituted a new duplex envelope system and improved the pledge card system. It was still functioning actively a year later. Its “missionary activity, however, appears to have been confined to making improvements in the pledging system.

The Social Services Committee, on the other hand, ventured somewhat further afield and tried to deal with one of the most controversial issues of that epoch: ~. Today, more than a century later, the various efforts by “prohibition” and “temperance” groups to outlaw or limit the use of alcohol are usually seen as cranky or backward looking causes. During the first part of the twentieth century, however, alcohol abuse was a widespread problem, especially in urban America and prohibition was viewed as a socially progressive cause, similar to today’s efforts to control the use of drugs. Prohibition had the support of some of the nation’s most prominent political leaders, including William Jennings Bryan and Herbert Hoover. Hoover referred to prohibition as America’s “Noble Experiment.”

Prohibition would not be adopted as part of the Constitution until 1919. The issue was already volatile in 1912, however, when the Saint Matthias’ Social Service Committee began to concern itself with the violation of liquor laws by saloons in East Aurora. It is unclear how widespread these violations were, or how serious. The Social Services Committee, however, under the leadership of its chairman, R.M. Cushman, contacted the Buffalo breweries to express their concerns about problems in the saloons. One of the brewers discussed the situation with Cushman, made a visit to East Aurora to hear local concerns and visit the saloons, and promised to cooperate with the Social Service Committee in its efforts to see· the liquor laws enforced.

By the end of 1913, the church had the following functioning committees: Music, Finance, Missionary, Social Service, and Insurance. A year later, Saint Matthias’ Church was experimenting with some new musical arrangements and sponsoring its first social gathering. These activities appear to have been in response to the Rector’s call to help make the parish more democratic.

In 1915 further progress was made in enhancing the financial strength of the parish. Mr. Harry M. Barker of East Aurora made a special gift to the parish of $250 in order to retire the mortgage on the rectory. This action left the church virtually debt tree for the first time in its history. Later that year, the parish was able to buy a new organ for $1,000.

After four successful years as rector, Father Harrison resigned on September 25, 1916 to accept a call to be the new Rector of Saint David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

Henry de Wolf de Mauriac, 1917 – 1936

The Vestry minutes of November 27, 1916 show four candidates under consideration to replace Father Harrison. Ultimately, the vestry decided to call The Reverend Henry de Wolf de Mauriac, then serving at Saint Paul’s Church In Lancaster, New Hampshire. On February 15, 1917, Father de Mauriac accepted their call to be the new Rector of Saint Matthias’ Church.

Father de Mauriac’s arrival at Saint Matthias’ Church in April, 1917, coincided with America’s entry into World War I. By the beginning of 1918 the war had penetrated more deeply into the lives of Americans, with lengthening casualty lists and concerns about the duration of the war. A parish honor roll was created, listing the names of all parishioners serving in the armed forces, and parishioners were encouraged to write monthly letters to men serving in the Army and Navy.

The end of the war coincided with the terrible influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919, which claimed millions of lives in the United States and Europe. In October, 1918 the deliberations of the Diocesan Council were adjourned because of concerns about contagion. The council had been meeting to select a replacement for Bishop Walker, recently deceased. Father de Mauriac also informed the parishioners of St. Matthias of provisions for temporarily closing the church in times of epidemic.

Gradually these fears subsided, however, and the Rector and Vestry began discussing two major projects: The conversion of the church basement into a Sunday School and preparations for the fiftieth anniversary of the church in 1919. That same year the Vestry voted to increase the rector’s salary from $1,200 to $1,500.

Father de Mauriac appears to have taken less interest in social issues than Father Harrison. The annual parish meeting of 1918 featured reports from the Altar Guild, Serving Society, Church School and Church Treasurer. Mention was also made of a Saint Cecilia Society and the Women’s Auxiliary. A ladies’ literary group had also been formed. The Democratic Committee and Social Service Committee, however, had vanished.

One social issue, however, was very prominent in 1919. On June 4, 1919 the U.S. Congress had proposed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, given nationwide suffrage to women. Although the state ratification process would not be completed until August 26, 1920, the Diocesan Convention had amended its canon laws to allow women to vote in parish meetings. On November 21, 1919 the Vestry of Saint Matthias’ Church voted to follow the lead of the diocese by unanimously voting to permit women to vote in parish annual meetings.

On Sunday, February 23, 1919 Saint Matthias’ Church started the two-day celebration of its fiftieth anniversary with celebrations of the Holy Communion at 7:30 and 11:00 A.M., followed by an 8:00 P.M. service of Evensong with a special musical service. The next day, Monday, February 24th, Saint Matthias’ Day, there was a 9:30 Holy Communion in the morning, followed by a reception at the rectory from 3:00 to 5:00 P.M. and a parish supper at 7:00 at the Guild Gymnasium on Main and Paine streets. The governor of the feast was John T. Coit, While Howard A. Cushman served as historian. Members of the Vestry in 1919 were Wardens: John T. Coit and Myron M. Ludlow, Jr.; Vestrymen: J. F. Arnholt, Reginald F. Fenton, Richard L. Slosson, William Harris, G. Camp, Charles Adams (Treasurer), Richard M. Cushman, Harry H. Richardson (Clerk) and Howard D. Roelofs.

At the time of the fiftieth anniversary, Saint Matthias’ Church would have looked very much as it did when renovations were undertaken by Father Walsh in 1897. The church was sixty-five feet long, excluding the vestibule and a contemporary account described it as follows: The walls are covered with fabrique of rich indian red color, while the ceiling is painted a rosy terra-cotta. The chancel is stenciled. The building is lighted by electricity. The windows of the church have been filled with new stained glass … The chancel furniture is made of quarter-sawed oak.

Behind the altar stood a reredos, given to the church in 1901. It contained five panels intertwined with carved lilies and pomegranates, and grapes. The reredos was constructed of oak. It also included the motto, “All glory be to thee, Almighty God our Heavenly Father.” In front of the altar there appears to have been some type of rood screen or rood figure.

In 1920 Father de Mauriac was offered the position of Rector of Saint Luke’s Church in Buffalo, but turned it down. He felt that East Aurora offered “… an every growing field of opportunity,” and he had become very attached to the parish and its families.

Consideration was also being given to building a new church. In 1921 Saint Matthias’ held a very successful parish bazaar, which brought in $1,177.04. In 1923, Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Ward donated their house, worth $5,000, to Saint Matthias’ Church. The Rector and Vestry decided to rent the house, for a year, and use the rent to start a building fund for a new church building. They felt this initial amount would galvanize parish support to raise the additional funds needed. Also, while the new church was being built, the Wood house could serve as a temporary rectory, permitting the rectory to be used as the parish house and church. once the new church had been built, the Wood house would be sold to help retire the debt. At the time, the total value of the church’s property was $9,000 for the rectory ($4,000), church ($4,000) and organ ($1,000).

Due to lacunae in parish records, the complete history of the construction of the new church building cannot be completely reconstructed here. The project, however, was formally adopted by the Rector and Vestry and had the warm support of Bishop Ferris, the new Bishop of the Diocese of Western New York. The Bishop laid the cornerstone of the new church on September 10, 1927. It was constructed of Buffalo and Indiana limestone and was formally opened on the Sunday after Ascension Day in 1928.

SOURCES

Burrows, George Sherman, The Diocese of Western New York. 1892-1935 (Buffalo:
Diocese of Western New York, 1935)

Kennedy, Joseph C. G., Superintendent of the Census, Population of the United States in 1860: Compiled from the original Returns of the Eighth Census (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing office, 1864)

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