Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Brief History of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1907

Throughout the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, Pelham did not have a church. The two nearest churches were Trinity St. Paul's Church in New Rochelle and St. Paul's Church in Eastchester (now within the City of Mount Vernon). Many Pelham residents are buried in the church cemeteries of these two institutions. St. Paul's Church no longer operates as a church, but is on the National Register as St. Paul's Church National Historic Site.

In 1907, Duffield & Company published a book by Nellie Urner Wallington entitled "Historic Churches of America". The book included a brief history of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester. That history is reproduced below.


THE original English settlers in Westchester County, New York, seem to have provided without delay for their spiritual needs. As early as 1665 such arrangements were made as secured to them the services of a rector, who watched over three or four parishes, none of them being sufficiently wealthy to pay for the exclusive services of a rector of its own.

In 1699 it was decided to erect a church building in East Chester, which was completed in 1700. So closely allied at that time were church and state in New York that the consent of the Governor was asked for the induction of a rector into this little parish. This being refused, an application was made to the 'General Assembly' of the State for permission to separate from the parish, which had till then embodied Westchester, Pelham, Yonkers and New Rochelle. This was granted in an act of the Legislature establishing East Chester as an independent religious State organization, with the name of 'the Parish of East Chester.' This Act was not, however, approved by the Bishop [Page 225 / Page 226] of London, and by order of Queen Anne was disallowed.

The little church building erected in 1700 is described as a frame building, twenty-eight feet square, about eighteen feet to the eaves, the sides of the building, as well as the roof, being covered with shingles. The building stood on the 'Green' and to-day is still discernible among such ancient trees as have endured the ravages of time.

Gradually the number of communicants increased, until in 1787 East Chester became an independent parish. In 1795, under the provisions of an act for the relief and maintenance of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, the parish was reorganized, according to the rulings which separated the Church in America from the Established Church of England, and then for the first time the parish in East Chester took the name of St. Paul.

By 1764 the little old chapel had so far succumbed to the elements as to be too cold for worship in winter, despite the piety of the early fathers. The foundations of a new church building were laid. Services in the meantime were conducted in the old building until October, 1776, when the new church was completed.

During the War of the Revolution, the new church building was used as a hospital for the British, who tore portions of it down from time [Page 226 / Page 227] to time and used them as fuel. Fortunately the church authorities had been clever enough to bury the bell and the communion service, which were thus preserved from the enemy. Four years after the close of the war the services were resumed, and have continued till the present day.

The churchyard about St. Paul's is closely connected with the history of the church. In its three and one-half acres it holds over six thousand bodies. The oldest inscription legible bears the date of 1704. The churchyard is surrounded by a substantial wall, in which are incorporated the vaults of the older members of the parish. Among those whose remains rest in East Chester churchyard may be found men whose names have been well known in commercial circles in New York City, as well as officers both of the Continental troops and of the British soldiery who died in the hospital."

Source: Wallington, Nellie Urner, Historic Churches of America, pp. 225-27 (NY, NY: Duffield & Co. 1907).

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