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.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Brief History of Grace Church on City Island in the Town of Pelham Published in 1886

Among the many beautiful churches built in the Town of Pelham is Grace Church, built in 1862-1863 on City Island when that area was part of the Town of Pelham.  Grace Church is located at 116 City Island Avenue, Bronx, New York.

The origins of Grace Church extend back to 1849 when Adele Bolton, a daughter of Rev. Robert Bolton of Christ Church in Pelham Manor, urged one of her brothers, the Reverend Cornelius Bolton, to offer a Sunday afternoon service every other Sunday for the benefit of the 800 residents of City Island.  The services were held in Union Chapel at the intersection of Tier Street and City Island Avenue.

With no bridge to City Island from the mainland during this era, Adele Bolton and Cornelius Bolton rowed to the island to oversee the Sunday services until Rev. Cornelius Bolton was called to serve in a parish in Maryland.  Adele Bolton and her sister, Nanette Bolton, continued to minister to the residents of City Island until Cornelius Bolton returned in 1855 to become rector of Christ Church, the church founded by his father in Pelham Manor.

During Rev. Cornelius Bolton's absence from the area, the tiny little Union Chapel became a Methodist Church.  Rev. Bolton and his sisters, Adele and Nanette, pushed for the construction of a new Episcopal church building on the island and enlisted the services of the students of the Pelham Priory School for Girls to raise money in support of the endeavor.  

Noted City Island resident George W. Horton, Jr. donated land for the church and construction began in 1862.  Construction was completed by 1863.  The church was constructed by ship carpenters from the nearby shipyard founded by David Carll who became a member of the church.

The Church building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a stunning stained glass altar window depicting "The Trial of Christ" that was crafted by John Bolton, another son of Rev. Robert Bolton (the founder of Christ Church).

"The Trial of Christ" by John Bolton,
The Altar Window of Grace Church, City Island.

Grace Episcopal Church in an Undated Photograph
Believed to Have Been Taken in About 1904.

Undated Post Card View of Grace Episcopal Church, Ca. 1906.

Adele Bolton, a Founder of Grace Episcopal Church,
City Island, in an Undated Nineteenth Century Photograph.

I have written about Grace Church before.  See:

Fri., Jan. 5, 2007:  The Early Years of Grace Church, City Island -- Once a Church in Pelham

Fri., Apr. 04, 2014:  Death During Evening Service: The Shocking Death of Rev. Joshua Morsell of Grace Episcopal Church in the Town of Pelham.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of a brief history of Grace Church published in 1886 as part of the celebration of the 1885 centennial of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of New York.  The brief history is followed by a citation to its source.  


Was organized in 1862.  The first services were held in May, 1861.  The church was built in 1863.  The rectors have been:  Rev. William V. Feltwell, 1868; Rev. George Howell, 1871; Rev. Joshua Monsell, D.D., 1874, and Rev. John McCarthy Windsor, since 1885, and at present, incumbent.  A rectory was procured in 1868.  There is a record of 108 baptisms and 87 have received confirmation.  The record of communicants is incomplete; the present number is 52.  The wardens in 1862 were George W. Horton and Charles Stoltz, Jr.; in 1872, George W. Horton and E. L. Worden, and Jacob Ulmer, junior warden from 1882.  The church lot was given by Mr. George W. Horton and his wife, Margaret, of City Island, and the church was erected largely under the generous auspices of the Misses Bolton, of Pelham Priory.  For several years it was part of the property and under the control of Christ Church, Pelham, whose assistant minister resided on the island and officiated as its pastor.  Thus, Rev. Mr. Bartow, Rev. Mr. Cheevers, and Rev. Mr. Feltwell were successively in charge, the latter becoming its rector in 1868.  The records of the parish have been imperfectly kept; and the testimony on which the above facts are based, gathered chiefly and necessarily from persons connected with both churches, is, in some respects, conflicting."

Source:  Wilson, James Grant, ed., The Centennial History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York 1785-1885, p. 356 (NY, NY:  D. Appleton and Co., 1886).  

To read more about the history of Grace Church, see:

Grace Church City Island - History, Part 1 (visited Sep. 28, 2014).

Grace Church City Island - History, Part 2 (visited Sep. 28, 2014).

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