• This Is Rutherford

This Was Grace Episcopal Church

Updated: Oct 20, 2019

By Rod Leith


Grace Episcopal Church, Photo Credit: Rutherford365

The first meetings to organize Grace Episcopal church were in April and May 1869. Dr. W.G. Farrington presided at the first organizational meeting at the Rutherfurd Park Hotel (the old John Rutherfurd Mansion) in Lyndhurst. Robert W. Rutherfurd and George F. Woodward were chosen as wardens at the first official meeting on May 24,1869. Plans were presented by George R. Blakiston on August 11, 1872 to build on a lot at the corner of Wood Street and West Passaic Ave on property donated by Floyd William Tomkins. It was a land gift 200 feet wide and 150 feet deep. Ground-breaking occurred on September 5, 1872 and the corner stone (which apparently is missing) was dedicated on October 14, 1872. At a meeting of the church vestry on December 30, 1871, the motion stated, "Mr. Tomkins' offer of the plot of ground for the church on condition that the vestry use it for no other purpose for the next twenty years was accepted." Tomkins, born in 1813 must have figured he stay alive for the next two decades. The church was completed in 1873 at a cost of $7,957.48. Tomkins passed away on October 28, 1828.


While Blakiston was responsible for the rough exterior design, in an English Gothic style, the interior chancel and transepts were designed by W. Halsey Wood, a New York architect who later designed interiors of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. This architect would have been selected by Floyd Tomkins, who was a prominent New York publisher at that time.



Recently the church celebrated its 100th anniversary of the Gold Star Window dedication (September 28, 1919). This Gold Star Window marks the loss of seven World War I veterans who are among the 19 named on the WWI Monument: Private H.A. Barrows, Corporal T.E. Everett, First Lt. H.M. Ladd Jr., Private A.L B. Leader, Sgt. G.A. Lewis Jr., First Lt. G.E. Reynolds, and First-Class Private C. H. Schneider Jr.



Apart from the memorial window dedication following the tragic loss of seven of the church's young men in WWI, I think another important event that stands out in this church's history was an unusual burial ceremony held at the church for an infant child of African-American parents, Daniel and Hannah Gatewood. The Gatewood's three-year-old daughter, Jane, died of croup on January 17, 1879. A memorial service was conducted by Nelson R. Boss, a lay reader who later became Grace's rector and served as rector at Grace until 1883. Jane Gatewood was buried in the black section of the old Charlestown Cemetery in Carlstadt.



For more information regarding Grace Episcopal Church, click here to see their website.