And the book on the windows, which makes a pair. The books will be selling and I’ll be talking at the Creamery on Tuesday, November 25, at 7:30 p.m. And the books will soon be selling in the Creamery gift shop all by themselves, Fridays, 1-4. Or you can call 685-1360 to make a special arrangement.
The reredos, or back altar, at St. James’ Episcopal Church has evolved over the years – The reredos seen in 2013 is not the original that graced the sanctuary.
1874-1891: No Reredos
Between the present church’s completion in 1874 and the enlargement of the sanctuary in 1901, the Children’s Window (today on the east side of the sanctuary) was in the south wall over the altar, as shown above. And before 1892, there was no reredos (or rood screen). Rather, as you can see, there was a type of mantle and a curtain behind the altar.
1892-1901: The First Reredos
In 1891, a new altar was planned, and the Christmas offering was dedicated to its construction. In February of 1892, the altar was completed, and the Skaneateles Free Press (February 27, 1892) noted:
“The handsome new altar just erected in St. James’ Church will be consecrated or blessed next Sunday morning, the exercises taking the place of the usual service. The altar is of oak, with mahogany panels, the top covered with Italian marble, and reflects credit upon its designer, Rev. F.N. Westcott, rector of the church. The joiners’ work was executed by Messrs. Edward Dent and Thomas Wilkins, and hardwood finishing by Frederick Williams, all local workmen, while the marble was furnished by T.S. Hubbell & Son of Elbridge.”
This reredos, shown above, was lower than the one seen today, given that it had to fit beneath the Children’s Window. Here you can clearly see the mahogany panels.
As for those who built it, Edward Dent was a contractor whose projects included a new interior for Theodore Specht’s “Hazelhurst” (today’s Athenaeum) in 1906 and a new interior for the Packwood House (today’s Sherwood Inn) in 1919. Thomas Wilkins was born in England; he came to Skaneateles when young and lived here for 60 years; he was probably the primary woodworker on this project.
The marble came from the firm of T.S. Hubbell & Son, founded by Theron S. Hubbell in 1844; his son, Elliston E. Hubbell, entered into the partnership in 1875. The firm also provided scores of stone monuments for the Lake View, St. Mary’s, Mottville and Shepard Settlement cemeteries.
1901-1925: The Second & Third Reredos
With the enlargement of the chancel in 1901 (as a memorial to Robert Minturn Grinnell), the Children’s window was moved to the left (east) and the Tiffany window was installed in the west. The reredos was raised and enlarged, becoming a “high reredos” as noted in the Skaneateles Press, October 4, 1907: “It [St. James’] contains many handsome memorials, the most conspicuous among these being possibly the new sanctuary, which was recently built and furnished with a fine altar and high reredos.”
This was the second iteration of the reredos: raised and “high,” with a statue of Jesus at the top. (But not the statue seen today.) Again, it was designed by the rector, the Rev. Frank Nash Westcott. Minnie Evans, in her A Reminiscence of St. James’ (1909), added this description:
“One feature in particular that should not escape mention is that pertaining to the reredos which rises in the semblance of a throne projecting some distance above the cross and whereon stands in bas-relief a figure of The Christ in majestic grace. Unlike the nave, this spot rejects all shadow; two large stained windows of recent construction admit the sun’s rays to play in myriad colors until all is enveloped in their soft golden light.”
In 1915, the reredos was again modified – the mahogany panels removed, oak inserted, and refinished – as below:
“The beautiful altar and reredos have been refinished to match the other woodwork in the church. The mahogany panels have been removed and oak panels substituted, thus making the sanctuary much more harmonious. Instead of three kinds and colors of wood, the reredos is now all oak and matches in color the fine old chestnut wainscoating.” — Skaneateles Free Press, April 29, 1915
(Also in 1915, the rood screen was added. There is a fuller account of that here.)
This was the third iteration of the reredos. The refinishing was donated by John E. Palmer, who had a paint & paper store in the Legg block (on the first story of today’s Legg Hall).
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Ten years later, in 1925, the reredos as we know it today came into being when the original statue of Jesus was removed from the reredos and replaced with a new statue, which was slightly larger and painted.
“A memorial to Rev. Frank N. Westcott… has been erected in St. James Episcopal Church. Skaneateles, of which he was rector for upwards of 30 years. The memorial consists of a statue of Jesus of the Sacred Heart. It was dedicated by the present rector, Rev. Donald C. Stuart. It was given by friends of Mr. Westcott.” — Auburn Citizen, September 24, 1925
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1873-1892 No reredos
1892-1901 Low reredos
1901-1915 High reredos with mahogany panels, statue of Jesus in natural wood finish
1915-1925 High reredos with new oak panels, original statue of Jesus
1925-Present High reredos with larger, painted statue of Jesus.
Photography by Stu Gallagher; I’m sure he’d be happy to sell you a print.
As I am no longer a member of the parish of St. James’ Episcopal, the entries here will be fewer and farther between. But I do plan to complete the book I am writing about St. James’, and to publish it some time in the near future. I would like to thank the Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter, the Rev. Margaret “Toppie” Bates, the Rev. John Keydel, and the Rev. Dr. Becky Coerper for their encouragement, their counsel, their prayers and the freedom to roam about the church as I wrote about its history. And I should like to thank Brian Ackles, who served as Choir Director during my time at St. James’, for his example of how a true Christian gentleman conducts himself, who showed by power of example how we are called not just to talk about Jesus, but to behave as he would have us behave. Brian never had a negative word to say about anyone; his oft-repeated phrase of “open mind, open heart” is one I hope I will remember always.
I have written too little about John S. Furman, Esq., lawyer, Justice of the Peace, member of the Vestry and gentleman farmer, but hope to remedy that shortcoming with this short appreciation.
Before St. James’ Episcopal Church was first established in 1816, those few villagers of the Anglican persuasion met in a small building (on the site of the present church), the front of which served as the village post office and a store. In the back, benches were arranged for Sunday services, and W.J. Vredenburgh (the postmaster), Charles J. Burnett (Vredenburgh’s son-in-law), Samuel Litherland (Vredenburgh’s gardener) and John S. Furman acted as Lay Readers.
In 1806, John S. Furman came to Skaneateles from New York City where his father, Gabriel Furman, was an officer of the Mutual Fire Insurance Co., the oldest such company in the city. John must have had an interesting boyhood; among the Furman’s friends and neighbors were the eleven children of William and Sarah Irving.
One son, John Treat Irving, graduated from Columbia College (Class of 1798) and studied law in the office of Josiah Ogden Hoffman, a New York State Attorney General and one of the original justices of the New York City Superior Court. Also studying law with Hoffman were Alexander M. Beebe, Columbia College (Class of 1802) and James Kirke Paulding (whose sister Julia married John Treat Irving’s brother William). And another of the Irving sons, Washington, known to friends and family as “Wash,” studied law at Hoffman’s law office and then joined his brother John in his law office.
In 1806, John Treat Irving married Abigail “Abby” Spicer Furman, John S. Furman’s sister.
In 1807, Alexander Beebe was admitted to the bar, married Mary Margaret Roorbach, and moved to Skaneateles to become John S. Furman’s law partner. (The couple’s journey from New York to Albany was in a sloop up the Hudson River, and took an entire week.) Jonathan Booth, with whom Furman was boarding, built a law office for the two men.
Which brings us to a moment in 1807, while John Treat Irving was waiting for his case to be called in court, and used the time to write a letter to his brother-in-law, John Furman:
“Alexander [Beebe] arrived a few days since, and has given us most flattering accounts of your Land of Canaan, which like that of old appears from his description to flow with milk and honey. He has also made honorable mention of the eleven [law] suits in your register, detailed to us a particular history of the Booths, with whom you are domesticated, not omitting sundry anecdotes of the Vredenburgs, closing with an account of the large house which the head of the family has lately erected. So that you see we know the whole annals of the village. I understand that you are making great progress in your legal pursuits, having been very near making a speech on some celebrated occasion, and at all times evincing great intrepidity provided you are allowed to face the enemy with green goggles…
“I expect your father will return with Alexander. He has heard so much of your beautiful lake, and Swartwout and Beebe have expiated so handsomely on the beauty of its borders, the clearness of its waters, and the richness and abundance of its fish, that he feels quite curious to behold a spot that concentrates so many elegancies, comforts and pleasures.”
In 1810, Furman married Susan Booth and began dabbling in farming about half a mile north of the village. The endeavor was not without its misadventures. In July of 1810, the newspaper reported that a red heifer – “hole in the left ear, white between the horns and under the chops, and a little broke off the end of one horn” – had broken into his pasture, and that the owner was “requested to call, prove property and pay expenses.”
John and Susan Furman lived on West Lake Street. The family often came to Sunday services at St. James’ by boat, as the trip across the water was shorter than walking. Jonathan Booth lived nearby and on Sundays the Booths and Furmans occupied the southeast corner pew box at St. James’.
And on at least one occasion, church went to John Furman. In September of 1855, the Sabbath Schools of the village journeyed to “the beautiful grove belonging to J.S. Furman, Esq., lying at the foot and west margin of the lake.” And the report continued, “As the procession passed our office, with their best ‘fixens’ on, we should say there was several hundreds—all told—pupils, teachers and parents. The weather is very favorable to the fete, and everything would indicate a happy enjoyment by all participants.”
Alexander Beebe worked as a lawyer here for 15 years. But after the death of a child, he sought comfort in religion, becoming a Baptist. He moved to Elbridge in 1822, and then to Utica in 1825, where for 30 years he was editor of the Baptist Register.
After Beebe’s departure, Furman gave up farming and returned to the practice of law. He was active with the Skaneateles Library Company, the Skaneateles Academy and the Skaneateles Temperance Society, and explored business opportunities. In 1825, he served as secretary of a company that hoped to link the Erie Canal at Jordan with a new canal, via Skaneateles Lake, to Port Watson (today’s Cortland) from whence boats could navigate south via the Tioughnioga, Chenango and Susquehanna rivers to Pennsylvania and Maryland. (That didn’t happen.)
Mary Elizabeth Beauchamp in her Recollections of the Parish of St. James, Skaneateles (1897) notes that John S. Furman was known always as “Squire Furman,” and was “a refined gentleman of the old school, and had fine literary tastes.” And she tells us one more story that is easy to believe:
John Treat Irving’s younger brother, Washington, didn’t spend much time with the law. He became one of America’s most famous writers, known for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” author of biographies and histories, and U.S. Ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846. And at some time, Beauchamp tells us, Washington Irving found time to come to Skaneateles and visit his friends and relations, Alexander Beebe and John S. Furman.
I don’t know the date, but I imagine the conversations were fabulous.
Portrait of Washington Irving (1830) by Gilbert Stuart Newton
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John Treat Irving’s letter to John S. Furman was reprinted in the Skaneateles Press, November 11, 1938
A small gold plaque on a wooden choir stall commemorates the lives of Peter and Geoffrey Shumway, father and son.
Peter Shumway was the husband of Adele Shumway. They came to Skaneateles in 1959, after Peter retired from the U.S. Navy. A 1939 graduate of the Naval Academy, he served as a naval aviator and fought in the Battle of Midway, the turning point of World War II in the Pacific.
Peter and Adele’s son Geoffrey graduated from the Naval Academy in 1964 and served as a Naval Aviator in the Vietnam war. During his first tour, in 1967, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross for “heroism and extraordinary achievement” during an attack on the North Cam Pha bridge in North Vietnam.
After a tour stateside, Lt. Shumway returned to Vietnam. On June 25, 1972, while piloting an A-7 Phantom over dense jungle 60 miles southwest of Hanoi, he saw an enemy truck in a clearing and went in to attack. His wingman lost sight of him for a moment under cloud cover, then saw a ball of flame in the jungle. There was no response from Lt. Shumway’s radio.
In Skaneateles, Peter and Adele Shumway waited for news of their son; Geoffrey’s wife Kathryn and his children also waited, at their home in Sunnyvale, California. For several years, Geoffrey was listed as Missing in Action. Peter Shumway died in 1990, before there was any further word about his son’s fate.
In 1993, Geoffrey Shumway’s remains were found and returned to the U.S., but they were not identified until 2002, and today are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Adele Shumway, who spent 30 years waiting to learn what had happened to her son, finally knew. She dedicated a small memorial to her husband and son at St. James’, where she sang in the choir, and died in 2008 at the age of 93.