History of Christ Church
Before 1868 there were no communicants of the Episcopal Church in Clayton except Miss Florence C. Benjamin, who, in 1867, started a Sunday school in her home. The class soon moved to Barker’s Hall on what was then Water Street, now Riverside Drive, and regular services followed with the donation of an organ by Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Brush, who also organized a choir.
On August 10, 1868, Christ Episcopal Parish was formally established at Barker’s Hall. The Reverend Henry R. Lockwood was the first rector at a salary of $75.00 per year.
The first wardens elected to serve were John Johnston and Lyman E. Phillips. The first vestrymen were Luther Eddy, C. M. Marshall, F. M. Brush, A. F. Barker, and Thomas Rees.
A subscription list was started for funds to be used to construct a house of worship. The first pledge was received on August 28, 1868.
Christ Church was a parish in the Diocese of Western New York until November 1868 when the Diocese divided and the Diocese of Central New York was formed.
On March 1, 1869, plans for a church building, donated by Philadelphia, PA architect T.W. Richards, were accepted. On June 27 the vestry authorized preparation of a lot on the corner of John and Hugunin, donated by the Johnston family, for construction of a building. Construction was begun on August 23, 1869. The cornerstone was laid on October 4, 1869 and the brick church building, with an open belfry and mission style front, was finally finished in 1876, although services and weddings had been held in the church as early as 1872.
The slates on the roof are fish scales slates, an early symbol of Christianity. Many valuable donations were received such as black walnut lumber for furniture and trimmings, chancel furniture, and memorial window frames. In 1885 the belfry was remodeled to accommodate a donated bell. During the 1870s the adjoining lot was obtained from the Barker family and a rectory was built in the mid-1880s.
In 1949 excavation began on the undercroft and the first parish hall was constructed. A large portion of the funds for this construction came from the sale of Bluff Island, given to Christ Church by summer parishioner William Robinson after the death of his sister, Anne Robinson. The rear entry to the Sacristy and Parish Hall was built in 1969. In 2003 the present parish hall adjacent to the church building was completed.
The exceptionally beautiful stained glass windows are not only meaningful memorials, they are also artistically valuable. Several have been appraised as creations of the J&R Lamb Studio in New York and the Wippell Studio in Exeter, England.
The handsome brick edifice, with a seating capacity of about 200, along with the first stained glass windows was built for less than $10,000.
The first baptism performed in Clayton was that of Elizabeth Maria Radcliff, on August 24, 1867 by Reverend R. Brewer of Carthage. On July 27, 1868, in the church’s first confirmation class, 22 were received. In December 1871, the first couple married in the new church was Gardiner Mills Skinner and Mary A. E. Girard.
The first vested choir was organized in 1893. A pipe organ - with a water motor - was installed in 1908. It was replaced in 1927. Installation of the present organ, a Neo-Baroque type, Opus #3 of the Delaware Organ Company of Tonawanda, NY, was completed on September 21, 1959. A 37 note set of hand bells were purchased in 1976. Most are engraved as memorial gifts.
Iron rods were placed in the church in 1910 to prevent spreading of the walls.
The carved panels over the doors were created by the Rev. Theodore Haydn, Rector, in 1911.
A Children’s Altar was dedicated in the 1950’s in honor of Charlotte Barrett, who had served the church as a Sunday school teacher, financial secretary, and the first president of the Altar Guild.
In 1962 the Episcopal Church gave women the right to vote at annual meetings and elections. It wasn’t until 1971, however, that Sue Grant was elected to the vestry at Christ Church, one of only two women elected that year in the Diocese of Central New York. In 1988, Shirley Carpenter was appointed as Christ Church’s first woman warden. In recent memory, the longest serving senior wardens, together stewarding Christ Church for almost five decades, were Gordon Cerow Sr., whose tenure began in January 1952, and Charles Wingerath, who assumed the position in January 1972.
In 1969 Christ Church and St. John’s Cape Vincent became yoked parishes allowing the two parishes to share the services of a priest, the Reverend Richmond Hutchins, while maintaining their individual identities and vestries.
The governing body of Christ Church is made up of the rector, two wardens, and six vestrypersons.