St. James Episcopal Church serving for 200 years


PIQUA — In June of 1811 Col. John Johnston moved to upper Piqua. To the left of his home were a cemetery and a cabin that the first Episcopal Church services were held in. Later, the Winan and Johnston families deeded this land to the Methodists and they built a church on it. At this time, the Episcopals started meeting in the homes of the parishioners. After the Methodists built a church in downtown Piqua, the land was deeded back to the Episcopals.

In 1822 Bishop Chase visited Piqua and appointed Col. John Johnston as Lay Reader. The Rev. Intrepid Morse, who was visiting from Steubenville, formally organized a parish in 1823.

In 1825 the church called its first Rector, the Rev. Gideon McMillan.

In 1828 Mr. Charles Manning gave the church a lot on the corner of Spring and North Streets and this was the first of four churches to be built.

In 1847 John, son of Johnston gave the church a lot on the corner of Wayne and High Streets which is it’s current location. This church faced Wayne Street and was consecrated the same year, 1847. Many of the items found in our current church like the font, pulpit, lectern, bishop and priest chairs and the rose window were given to the Wayne Street church as memorials.

The present church was built on the same site, but facing High Street. It was dedicated and consecrated Oct. 1, 1899. The architects were Wing and Mahurin of Fort Wayne, Ind. and the contractors were Morrow and Morrow of Muncie, Ind. There is not an official record of the style of the church but the square bell tower indicates a Norman style. The total cost of building the church was $25,000.

Around 1923 the pipe organ was installed. It was built by E.M. Skinner of Boston, Mass. The estimated cost to replace this organ today would be $400,000 to $500,000. It was a memorial gift from the Boal family.

A major renovation of the nave and chancel was carried out in 1961 and in 1999 the interior was completely redecorated.

From 1994-2000 St. James together with St. Marks, Sidney, and St. Paul’s, Greenville, formed the Western Ohio Episcopal Cluster. This organization disbanded in 2000 and in 2002 the Rev. Robert E. Baldwin became the 30th Rector of St. James. The Rev. Jeffrey Bessler from Richmond, Ind. served as supply priest in the interim. Jan. 1, 2013-March 2014, Rev. Aaron Gerlach was Priest in Charge. The Revs. Greg and Margaret Sammons were interim from April- November 2014. Bessler served as Priest in charge at St. James in Piqua and St. Mark’s in Sidney from November 2014- November 2016. The Rev. Robert Hill was Priest in charge from 2018 & 2019. Rev. Jean Cotting served at St. James in Piqua from 2019-2021.

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