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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Christ Church's 80th Anniversary Sermon by Rev. J. McVickar Haight on November 18, 1923

On Sunday, November 18, 1923, the congregants of Christ Church in Pelham Manor gathered to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the church.  In honor of the anniversary, the rector of the church, J. McVickar Haight, delivered a lovely sermon recounting the history of Christ Church.  The sermon was so interesting that the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun, published it in its entirety five days later.  That article, with the complete text of Rev. Haight's sermon, appears at the end of today's posting followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"Photograph by S. Roots
Photograph of Rev. J. McVickar Haight
in 1929 Taken at Camp Pasquaney
School in Hebron, NH.  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

John McVickar Haight (known as J. McVickar Haight) was born October 11, 1882.  He was a son of Effie Kneeland Haight and Charles Coolidge Haight.  He met and married Elsie Stanton, a great granddaughter of John Harper, one of the founders of Harper Brothers Publishers.  The couple had two children:  John McVickar Haight Jr. and Phyllis Haight (who married William Mitchell Robinson of Rutherford, N.J.)  

For several years before 1917, J. McVickar Haight served as the Civilian Chaplain at the Pelham Bay Naval Training Station.  He was called in 1917 by the Vestry of Christ Church to serve as the rector.  While he was at Christ Church, Parish Hall was built and the Sunday School grew into a successful institution with over two hundred pupils.  He authored a book on The History of Christ Church.

Rev. Haight resigned as rector of Christ Church in 1935.  Thereafter he became the rector of St. Luke's Church in Tuckahoe, New York.  In 1937 he was instituted as the tenth rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Harlem.

He and his wife lived in Pelham for 23 years (a number of those years in a home located at 118 Clay avenue.)  They also owned a cottage on Newfound Lake near Bristol, New Hampshire where they spent time during many summers.  In 1941, Rev. and Mrs. J. McVickar Haight purchased a 150-year-old farm on the Pemigiwasset River about 3-1/2 miles east of Bristol, New Hampshire on Route 104.  The couple moved to the farm where Rev. Haight began rural church work under Bishop John Dallas of New Hampshire.  

Reverend Haight died in 1965 at the age of 83.  He is buried in Heath Cemetery in Bristol, Grafton County, New Hampshire.  

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Below is the article containing the text of the sermon Reverend Haight delivered on November 18, 1923 regarding the history of Christ Church in honor of the 80th anniversary of the church.

Eightieth Birthday of Pretty Church on Pelhamdale Avenue Commemorated by Large Congregations Last Sunday.

The commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the founding of Christ's Church brought large congregations to the services on Sunday.  The Rev. J. McVickar Haight preached a special sermon which outlined the history of the church, taking for his text Genesis 28:17, 'This is noe other but the house of God and this is the gate to heaven.'  There was so much historical interest in his remarks that The Sun publishes it in full herewith.  Mr. Haight said:

How true these words are as we assemble in this beautiful church.  A few years ago Bishop Shipman came here for the first time, and after carefully looking about the Church said, 'This building is filled with the atmosphere of worship;' and this is true because this building was planned, built, beautified and dedicated by persons whose hearts were full of the love of God and their fellow-men.

Reverend Robert Bolton was the founder of this parish.  He was born in Savannah, Ga., on the 10th of September, 1787, and was the son of Robert Bolton, the cotton king of Savannah.  He was sent to England on business, and there he met and married Anne Jay, the daughter of the Rev. William Jay of Bath, England.  Mr. Jay gave permission for his daughter to marry on condition that the young people would not go to the 'wilds of America.'  So Mr. Bolton and his wife settled down to a peaceful life in England, but after Mr. Jay died and because of financial reverses Mr. Bolton decided to bring his wife to America.  They bought a place in Bronxville where they expected to make their home but for reasons they felt that this was not a good place for them to live, and they decided to mmove to Pelham Manor where Mr. Bolton bought what is now known as the 'Bolton Priory,' property where he built the large house where he lived for several years.  This house was designed after the Norman style and bears the date of 1838.

Mr. Bolton was ordained Deacon at St. Paul's Church, Eastchester, on the 25th day of Juy, 1837, by Bishop Onderdonk, and preached the same year, the 12th of November, by the same Bishop.

Life at the Priory was very charming.  Mr. Bolton and his wife had five sons and nine daughters, though two of the daughters died while quite young.  They published a little paper in the household called the 'Pelham Chronicle,' which consisted of poems and articles and bits of humor.  It was for the amusement of the family living in the 'wilds of the country.'

One of the rooms of the Priory was a large hall which Mr. Bolton called the 'Armory.'  Here he gathered together the children of the neighborhood for Sunday School and the older people for Sunday services.  Very shortly after this his congregation outgrew the hall and he and his sons decided to build a church.  They went to a sooded spot of their estate near the cow lane which is now Pelhamdale Avenue, and there they laid out the church, and on April, 1843, the foundation stone was laid by Mr. Bolton and his five sons.

The following poem, which was published in 'The Harp of Pelham,' a little book gotten out by Mr. Bolton and his family, must have been used at the time of the dedication of this stone.

'The Foundation Stone.'

Head of the Church! with light divine
Deign on thy people's works to shine,
And make the building now Thine own, 
By blessing this, 'The Corner Stone.'

Hence let the gospel's joyful sound
Enlighten every desert round
And here let sinners find the road
That leads them to the Lamb of God.

Oh Thou! who wast Thyself the stone
Which haughty builders did disown
Let this Thy house uninjured stand,
Establish'd by Thine own right hand.

The 'corner stone' surmounted thus
Shall be a footstool to the cross,
The Church a fruitful garden prove,
To train us for the Church above.

On September 15th, 1843, the church was consecrated by Bishop Onderdonk.  The church was built of Gothic style and was beautified by Mr. Bolton and his five sons.  The large East window, which was directly above the altar, is the first stained glass figured window to have been made in this country, and was probably made by William Jay Bolton.  All the windows in the old church were made by some member of the Bolton family -- a number of them are copies from Salisbury Cathedral.  On either side of the present main entrance of the door are two windows which were made by Robert Bolton in 1850.  One bears the Pell coat of arms and the other the Bolton coat of arms.  Under the large window was a Reredos [Ed. Note:  a screen or a decorated part of the wall behind an alltar in a church] made by John Bolton in 1853.  It is handsomely carved and painted and is divided into five panes, the entire one of which bears the sacred initials of Christ; the other four contain the Creed, the Lord's prayer and the Ten Commandments.  The old Communion table was also made by one of the Boltons, as was the Communion rail, which is said by Mr. Lamb, the ecclesiastical artist, to be one of the finest communion rails in the country.

The old pulpit was also designed and made by one of the Boltons.  Originally it had a flat soundinug board over it.  I wish that this sounding board might be replaced.

The marble font, which was originally used in the church, was given by Miss Clark.  The organ was situated in the loft over the main entrance of the door in 1887.  This organ was enlarged and a beautiful case was put about it which bears this inscriptioin:  'Praise Him in the psaltery and hary; praise Him in stringed instruments and organs; praise Him in sound of the trumpet.'

The Christ's Church was attached a parochial free school for male and female children of the neighborhood.  At first it had 15 male aand 20 female scholars.  This building was erected in about 1845.  The door of this building is most interesting as it is a Norman arch executed in brick.  It is said that Mr. Bolton could not get anyone to execute the arches so he made them himself.  It is interesting to note that all the sons of Mr. Bolton were ordained into the ministry, and Reverend Cornelius Winter Bolton returned to Christ's Church as its rector several years later.

In 1861 a Mission was commenced at City Island.  The Sunday School at Pelhamville and City Island was started largely through the personal efforts of Miss Nanette Bolton, Miss Fanny Schuyler and Miss Grace Schuyler.  Miss Fanny Schuyler and Miss Cornelis Jay Bolton organized the Woman's Auxiliary of the Board of Missions, and for many years Miss Fanny Schuyler was the inspiring leader of the parish branch of the Woman's Auxiliary.

We gleaned the following from the rector's report of 1861:

'Pelhamville.  This mission established some two years since has continued to flourish with the most blessed results during the past year, amply compensating the loving and Christian hears who first organized and still under God continue to nourish it.'

'City Island.  A church is in the course of erection.  $1,358 has been most generously contributed for this glorious purpose by the ladies connected with the Pelham Priory, exclusive of $600, promised by the Islanders, one of whom, Mr. George Horton, gave the ground for the church and $100 toward the funds.  The building will cost $3,000.  Already there is a good and active congregation and a flourishing Sunday School.'

In 1920, Grace Church, City Island, became part of this parish.

'David's Island Hospital.  A kitchen has been built upon the Island with sleeping apartments and servants employed, and the ladies in turn devote a week-day and night in ministering to the sick and wounded soldiers.  Garments furnished to the sick and wounded 3,224, boots and shoes 286 pairs, sheets 321, other garments to the value of $318.'

David's Island is now Fort Slocum.  

On Hart's Island there was a military rendezvous where the Rector of Christ's Church held frequent services.

In 1866 the parochial school was closed because a public school was started in Pelham Manor.  

In 1872 the Church of the Redeemer, Pelhamville, was incorporated as a separate parish and severed its connection with the mother parish.  

The eldest daughter of Mr. Bolton's was Nanette Bolton.  For many years after her father's death she conducted a school for young ladies in the Bolton Priory, and when she died in 1884, her former pupils and friends raised a fund to erect the Nanette bolton Memorial Building, which was placed close to Christ's Church.  With one of the gifts came this message:  'Nothing seems too good for me to give in memory of that dear friend who was chosen by my dear mother to lead me in the paths of righteousness.'  This building is now used for our Sunday School.

In 1893 Reverend Alfred Francis Tenney became Rector.  The outstanding event of his rectorate was the enlargement of the church which was done in 1910 at a cost of $13,000.  The church owes it Mr. Tenney's untiring efforts that the enlargement fits in so perfectly with the spirit of the old church.

Five years ago Reverend J. Mcvickar Haight became Rector, and in 1920, the old system of renting pews was abolished and all pews were declared free and unassigned.

As we think of the love and interest of the founders of this parish we raise our hearts in gratituded to God for this beautiful church, hallowed by the prayers and devotions of these saintly men and women.  Let us learn to love this beautiful building and to make it indeed our religious home, and let us seek to beautify and adorn it still more, for there are several improvements which we should make at this time.  The lighting fixtures are out of date and very trying to the eyes -- new ones should replace these.  We need a new and larger organ to lead our choir and congregation in singing the praises of God.  The church should be redecorated and we should raise an adequate endowment fund, but above all let us catch the inspiration of the missionery spirit of the early members of this parish, aand let us give and work for things outside this parish, catching from this building the inspiration which will help us in all our lives." 

Source:  INTERESTING HISTORICAL SERMON DELIVERED BY PASTOR AT CHRIST'S CHURCH ANNIVERSARY OBSERVANCE -- Eightieth Birthday of Pretty Church on Pelhamdale Avenue Commemorated by Large Congregations Last Sunday, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 23, 1923, p. 7, cols. 1-4.   

"Rev. And Mrs. J. McVickar Haight Leave To Live In New Hampshire

The Rev. and Mrs. J. McVickar Haight of Clay avenue moved on Wednesday to their new home in New Hampshire.  They have purchased a 150 year old farm on the Pemigiwasset River, 3-1/2 miles east of Bristol on Route 104.  Rev. Haight will do rural church work under Bishop John Dallas of New Hampshire.  The Haights have been spending their Summers on Newfound Lake near Bristol, where they have a cottage, a spot well known to their many Pelham friends.

Mr. and Mrs. Haight and their two children, John McVickar Haight, Jr., and Phyllis, now the Mrs. William Mitchell Robinson of Rutherford, N.J., have resided in the Manor for the past 23 years.  Mr. Haight was called in 1917 by the Vestry of Christ Church.  Prior to that time he was Civilian Chaplain at the Pelham Bay Naval Training Station.

During his ministry at Christ Church, Parish Hall was built and the Sunday School grew into a successful school of over two hundred pupils.  Mr. Haight endeared himself to his parishioners by his personal interest and by his firm belief in the powers and comforts of prayer especially in times of illness.  He is the author of a book on The History of Christ Church.  After his resignation as rector of Christ Church in 1935, Rev. Haight became the rector of St. Luke's Church in Tuckahoe.  

Mrs. Haight is the former Miss Elsie Stanton, great granddaughter of John Harper, one of the founders of Harper Brothers, publishers."

Source:  Rev. And Mrs. J. McVickar Haight Leave To Live In New Hampshire, The Pelham Sun, May 29, 1941, p. 5, cols. 1-2.  

Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."

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