HomeBrowseAdvanced SearchAboutHelpContact

Records of Emmanuel Church, Newport RI

Historical note

Emmanuel Church began with the concern of three congregants of Trinity Church that the spiritual needs of Newport's mill workers were unmet. The effort to establish a free seating church was led by Charlotte Tew, Phoebe Bullard and Elizabeth Wormsley. These women felt that the mill workers might find it difficult to afford the rent or purchase of pews at Trinity. The emerging congregation, first established as a mission, met in private homes until 1847 when the congregation began to worship in the Old Colony House in Newport. When the Free Will Baptist Church building on the corner of South Baptist and Thames Streets became available for worship in 1849, services were held there with a storefront on Thames St. serving as space for a Sunday School until their own church was built on a lot purchased by Edward King for the purpose. The cornerstone of the original, wooden building was laid on July 28, 1855. The Architect was Richard Upjohn, the architect of Kingscote and the Edward King House in Newport, Rhode Island. The congregation moved into its new building on the corner of Dearborn and Spring Streets.

In October of 1850, Rev. Darius Brewer from Trinity Church, along with other clergy from the Newport Convocation (Now known as the Aquidneck Deanery) offered their services to the mission. Two years later, the mission was admitted into the Diocesan Convention and a state charter for the formation as an Episcopal parish was granted. Following the death of his only child in 1848, and then of his wife in 1852, the health of Father Brewer declined and he took a sabbatical to recover. During this time, Rev. Kensey Johns Stewart, served as rector until Rev. Brewer's return in 1855.

The church began regular Sunday services on July 6, 1856 announcing that all seatings would be free. Under the leadership of Fr. Brewer Emmanuel became self-supporting within three years, no longer requiring support from Trinity. The church was consecrated on April 7, 1858 by the Rt. Rev. Thomas March Clark, Bishop of Rhode Island.

The tower bell was a gift of Fr. Brewer. It was cast by A. Meneely and Son in 1857 in West Troy, NY and weighed 910 pounds. In 1907 this bell was later given to St. Paul's Church in Portsmouth. In 1860 a weekday school and chapel built west of the church began with 25 students and one teacher. On September 8, 1869, when the "Great Storm" blew through Newport the tower was knocked down onto the School building and a resulting fire swept through and destroyed the building.

In 1888 a new parish school and chapel was designed and built by Charles Burdick for the 285 students now enrolled. A large addition was built in 1912 for assembly purposes and included a permanent stage.

In 1899 a vested men and boys choir replaced the volunteer mixed choir. The first organist and choirmaster was E. Power Biggs. A Girls' Handbell Choir was established in 1982 and the women's St. Cecilia Choir began a decade later in September of 1992. A mixed volunteer choir and the Handbell Choir continue.

In April, 1901 the church building was moved to the corner of South Baptist and Spring Streets and was used for services until the new church was completed. The old building was then sold at a public auction on August 28, 1902, dismantled and moved.

In 1902 the original organ was sold for $300 and its replacement, built for $4,125, was installed into the new stone church. This organ was enlarged and rebuilt by James Cole of the Welte-Mignon Corp. of NY in 1928. The organ was restored in 1969 and again in 1993.

The current church was a gift of Natalie Bayard Dresser Brown in memory of her husband John Nicholas Brown who died at the age of 38 in May of 1900. The granite building was designed in a 15th Century English Gothic style by Ralph Adams Cram (of Cram Goodhue and Ferguson, Boston). The church was built on the original foundation by H. P. Cummings of Boston. The only window from the original church to transfer to the new church was the window given by Julia and Lewis Brown (Brown and Howard's Wharf) in memory of their daughter, Sophie Fowler Brown (d.1889, aged 17). The cornerstone was laid on June I, 1901 by the Bishop of the United States, Thomas March Clark and was consecrated June 4, 1902. In 1996 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The four-story tower was built for the two bells given by Sophia Augusta Brown in memory of her son, Harold who died just ten days after his brother, John Nicholas. The bells were cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in England, casters of Big Ben and the original Liberty Bell. The larger bell is no longer rung, but the smaller one is rung for all weddings, funerals, and other special occasions.

A club house was built in 1904 for athletics and the parish center was used for the girls sewing group and Girls Friendly Society (GFS). The Emmanuel branch of the GFS was established by Harold Brown's widow, Georgette Wettmore Brown in 1905. In later years the group was lead by long time parishioner, Elizabeth Bork Gilmore (1922-2001). The group was active until at least the 1996.

Burrill House encompassing an apartment and library, a gift of Natalie Bayard Brown, was added to the west end of the church and furnished by Georgette Wettmore Brown in 1913. In addition, the church is equipped with a chapel with a capacity for forty people. Originally known as "The Chapel of the Nativity", it was reappointed and rededicated on All Saint's Day, 1983 as "All Saint's Chapel." In 1993 a ramp was installed at the South Baptist Street entrance for access. The Church of the Emmanuel remains an active Parish.

This history was amended from a history written by Anne Sherman in 1996.

Rectors of Emmanuel

  • Kensey Johns Steward, D.O. 1852-1855
  • Darius Richmond Brewer 1855-1858
  • Charles Wingate 1858-1861
  • Lewis P. W. Batch, D.O. 1861-1865
  • Francis Manon McAllister 1866-1867
  • Darius Richmond Brewer 1855-1858
  • Simon Cochran Hill 1867-1875
  • Robert Barfe Peet 1875-1891
  • Emery Huntington Porter, D.O. 1891-1917
  • Charles William Forster 1917-1921
  • Francis K. Little 1922-1923
  • Arthur B. Rudd 1924-1926
  • Harold St.George Burrill 1927-1947
  • Francis Bayard Rhein 1947-1950
  • Daniel Quinby Williams 1951-1976
  • Roy Wheaton Cole III 1976-1985
  • Everett Henry Greene 1985-1994
  • Mary Johnstone (interim) 1994
  • Richard Laramore (interim) 1994-1995
  • Gregory A. M. Cole 1995-2008
  • Stephanie Shoemaker (interim) 2008-May 2010
  • Anita Louise Schell. May 2010-