200 year history of St. James Episcopal


PIQUA — St. James was without a priest late in the year 1828 when the Vestry (local church leaders) under the leadership of Col. John Johnston, agreed to build its first church. A grassy lot surrounded by locast trees at the corner of North and Spring Streets, close by the canal, was given for this purpose by Charles Manning.

The Church was brick and the door opened onto a center aisle . The pews were deep and boxy with high seats. Close by the pulpit on either side of the aisle were two pews which were filled by Johnstons family every Sunday. The choir filled the left hand pew at the back just inside the door. They sang acapella. Daniel Horton struck a tunning fork to sound the key note for the Psalms and hymns.

The Church cost $1,400 to build, $500 of which was given by friends of Johnston in Philadelphia. The Tower was built at a cost of $400, to hold a bell given to the church by John Willis of Liverpool, England, to honor Nicholas Greenham and his family.

The Church was consecrated by the Rev C.P Mcllvain “to the service and worship of Almighty God” on Nov. 13, 1832.

On Dec. 13, 1832, Vestry wrote to the Rev. Alvah Guian asking that “he come to minister to the Church.” There is no record of Guian’s hometown. In part the letter reads — “The Vestry has unanimously elected you Rector or Minister of this church, praying your acceptance thereof and that the Lord will bless your labors to the people and cause, to their spiritual and temperal comfort.”

Later that month came Guian’s reply, after repeating the Vestry’s invitation, he went on to say, “the station of Parish Minister, having the care of precious immortal souls, is awfully responsible. The most momentous consequences depend upon his fidelity. But, permit me to say, that his faithfulness may be much increased by his parishioners.”

By this paragraph he seemed to set the tone for the relationship between priest and parish. “I will do my part, but you must do yours.” We find this as true today as it was in 1832.

Guian accepted the call to take charge of St. James the following year. At that time St. James had a congregation of 22 families while Piqua had a population of 690.

The next article on the history of St. James Episcopal will find Guian a horse and a home. He will organize the church with rules and by-laws and write a stern letter to us and sadly say goodbye in 1841.

As researched by Vi Das.

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