St. Paul's History
Church History St Paul's Parish owes a great debt to the past. The early founders and builders of the parish built upon very substantial foundations and handed down much for which the present generation should be thankful.
St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church was the first church built in Oxford, NY, in 1816. The first rector of the parish was the Rev. Wm. B. Lacey. Funds were "subscribed" to procure a place of worship for the congregation and, in two years, a wooden building was erected and consecrated by Bishop Hobart, September 8, 1816. A bell was purchased in 1818, which at the time was also a first in Chenango County.
The Congregation eventually began to need a larger church. Meetings began in 1853, with great debate over the materials: wood or stone. Many fires had destroyed properties but stone was very expensive. Finally the matter was resolved and "subscriptions" were collected to raise funds. Transportation was another issue as dirt roads weren't in good shape, however, the Chenango Canal was made ready on May 1, 1854, which solved the problem. By September 1856, construction began on the new church.
About St. Paul's Architect
The beautiful Gothic Revival stone church on the East side of the Village of Oxford, NY, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, was designed by architect, Henry C. Dudley, (1813–1894), with the firm Diaper and Dudley of New York City, NY. The prestigious designer was selected due to his national reputation. Dudley, originally from England, was a prolific architect. Some of his other noteworthy structures include The Church of the Holy Trinity (1852) in TN; Trinity Episcopal Church (1855) in Elmira, NY; the Church of the Ascension (Episcopal) in Brooklyn, NY; St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral (1885) in Syracuse, NY; and the Park-McCollough House (1864-65) in VT to mention a few. The Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, MA (1865), was a collaboration of Dudley and Chauncey W. Lessey, the same master builder he used for St. Paul's of Oxford, NY. Today, many of Dudley's buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Right after the building of St. Paul's, in 1857, Dudley became one the first 13 founding members of The American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Stone Church Construction 1856-57
The construction of Oxford's St. Paul's Church took place in 1856-57 with bluestone from local quarries, and other materials from the area according to architect Henry C. Dudley's plans. The oak that was used came from what today is Whaupaunaucau State Forest, then reputed to have the hardest oak in Chenango County. Limestone plaster, what Henry Dudley chose to use, came from a community with the name, Plasterville, which was/is four miles north of Norwich, NY, on County Rd 32.
Dudley selected Chauncey W. Lessey of New York City (originally of CT, 1837-1877) as master builder, Charles Shear of Coeymans, NY, as master mason. Responsibility for quarrying and delivering the required stone, at a cost of $576.15 belonged to J.C. Bowers, a member of the church. Procurement and installation of the slate roof fell to Frank W. Jones, who was paid $430. Elihu Cooley, an architect and craftsman from Cooperstown, NY, hand carved the ecclesiastical furniture from chestnut. Israel Kenyon from McDonough, NY, was hired as the practical mechanic. Work crews signed on who had worked the canal construction and were familiar with stone construction. It is very possible that Dudley was inspired by the design of the St. Michael at the North Gate Church of Oxford, England, originally built around 1000–1050.
A BRIEF CHRONOLOGY
- 1814 On May 23 a meeting was held at the home of Abijah Lobdell, Jr., corner of Washington and Chenango Streets, to form a new parish to be called St. Paul's.
- 1816 A wooden church was erected on Fort Hill at a cost of $2200.
- 1857 Present stone building designed and built by Henry C. Dudley, noted New York City architect, for $13,387.
- 1858 Rectory (demolished in 1971) built to Dudley's plans.
- 1859 Chapel (Parish House) completed, also to Dudley's plans.
- 1861 Iron fence, designed by Dudley, installed.
- 1863 Square bell tower, of pre-Gothic design (approx. year 1000), and stone entry porch added, also to Dudley's specifications. Cost $4,000.
- 1868 Five crystal chandeliers given by the Van Wagenen family installed in church.
- 1874 Clerestory windows added according to Dudley's plans.
- 1876 Interior wall frescoes, designed by Dudley, painted.
- 1877 New bell purchased because old one cracked. 1889 Brass chancel furnishings replaced originals made of chestnut.
- 1890 New side windows given by the Clarke family.
- 1895 Favrile glass altar window installed.
- 1925 Chancel enlarged, new Moeller organ purchased, choir moved from gallery to chancel.
- 1971 New rectory, gift of the Packard family, built.
- 1972 Fence and sidewalks heavily damaged by runaway truck.
- 1974 Six new lighting fixtures installed in church nave.
- 1983 Stained glass windows repaired and covered with Lexan on exterior. Interior walls replastered and painted.
- 1996 Extensive exterior stonework repairs completed. New Baldwin console piano purchased for church.
- 1997 Sidewalks to church replaced. Ramped entry made as well as handicapped access rest room installed.
- 1999 116-year old church roof replaced with Welsh slate at cost of $90,000. (Same roof cost $4,000 in 1883.) Parking lot enlarged and paved. Extensive interior repairs done to Parish House including handicapped rest-room and ramped access. 2000 Parish House kitchen renovated and storage room enlarged.
150th Anniversary of the Stone Church 2007 On October 28, 2007, St. Paul's marked 150 years since the building of the stone church with an Ecumenical celebration. The Rev. Ralph Osborne, presided, and Diane Thorne was the director of church music. Over 150 people attended and enjoyed music from the four Oxford church choirs and musicians combined (St. Paul's Episcopal, United Church of Oxford, United Methodist, and St. Joseph's Catholic churches), directed by Sue Franco. Organist was Francis Wilcox; pianist, Diane Thorne; and guitarist, Kathleen M. Anderson. It was a glorious tribute to the original founders. The reception that followed in the Parish house featured a display of articles of historical significance and photos dating back to the days before and during the nineteenth century. A specially printed anniversary book, "Building a Stone Church," written by Dorothy W. Race and Marjorie K. Rogers, was available for sale.
The book, "Building a Stone Church," by Dorothy W. Race and Marjorie K. Rogers, was the source for most of this history.