Saint Gabriel’s Church Celebrates 150 Years!

The SHS Speaker Series continues on Friday, September 10, at 7:00 pm with a slide show and presentation by Parish Historian and SHS board member Judith Rosbe, entitled “St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church Celebrates 150 Years.”

            This month’s presentation will be held in the Parish Hall of St. Gabriel’s Church (at the corner of Front and South Streets). Masks will be required for this in-person presentation; we plan to offer a Zoom option for any who are unable to attend the in-person lecture.

            Signed copies of Judith Rosbe’s book on the history of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church will be on sale at the presentation for $22, with all proceeds going to the church.

            St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church was founded in 1871, when Rear Admiral Andrew Harwood decided to retire in Marion. Several Episcopalians invited Rear Admiral Harwood to conduct Sunday church services in the parlor of the Bay View Hotel in Marion, because they knew that he had been accustomed to conducting onboard church services in the Navy. Harwood continued conducting services at the hotel and in his home until he was able to purchase the Sippican Seminary building.

            The Sippican Seminary had been built in 1847 as a private school for the daughters of sea captains, and 18 citizens of Marion put up the money as shareholders to build the school. In 1855, when enrollment dwindled, the Town of Marion rented the building, and it became Sippican Academy, a public school. In 1874, the shareholders decided to sell the school building at a public auction and Rear Admiral Harwood purchased it for $700 to become the new home for Episcopal services in Marion.

            Harwood named the building St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church because of a promise he had made while battling a fierce storm at sea. He called upon the archangel Gabriel for deliverance from the storm and vowed to build a church in Gabriel’s name if he survived. In 1875, Harwood donated the seashell font in memory of his 8-year-old grandson who died of diphtheria.

            Beginning in 1913, the chapel was enhanced with the installation of 11 stained-glass windows designed for the church by Charles J. Connick, the most famous American stained-glass artist of the 20th century.

            Judith Rosbe, a local author, historian, and past president and treasurer of the Sippican Historical Society, has been a resident of Marion since 1977. She is the parish historian of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church and has been a member of the board of directors of the Sippican Historical Society since 1978. This is her sixth local history book about Marion.

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