NEWBURG, MD–A pastor-historian from North Carolina made a long-awaited research visit to Christ Church Wayside in Charles County, also known as William and Mary Parish, on September 22.
Dr Francis Kyle, Baptist pastor and independent researcher, has carried out sporadic research on Episcopalian Fitch Waterman Taylor (1803-1865) over the past two decades. After twenty years of patience, his travels finally allowed him to visit Taylor’s pastorate site a long time ago on his way to Annapolis.
Originally from Connecticut, Taylor served as rector of Christ Church Wayside from 1831 to 1835. It was his first and only pastorate after graduating from Lawrenceville School (NJ, five miles south of Princeton), University of Yale (1828) and, after being transferred from Yale Divinity School, Virginia Theological Seminary (1831) in Alexandria, Virginia. He later rose to prominence as a career chaplain in the United States Navy, writing books about his sea voyages around the world.
Christ Church Wayside Rector Dr. Kate Heichler assisted with Kyle’s visit to the Anglican-turned-Episcopal parish which was officially formed in 1692. Located along Highway 257 at 13050 Rock Point Road in Newburg, the small building of The church’s Flemish connecting brick is considered the oldest public structure in Charles County. It was the childhood church of Thomas John Claggett, the first American-born Episcopal bishop.
“What a joy to finally visit Christ Church Wayside,” says Kyle. “Although the church’s pre-Civil War documents are minimal, the visit helped this Connecticut Yankee and Mid-Atlantic novice better understand the geographic and historical context of the Southern Maryland congregation. and their beautifully preserved church. Special thanks to Dr Heichler and parishioner Alicia Cordelle for showing me around and for their patience with this North Carolina motorcyclist on a rainy Wednesday.
In 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri, and virtually in March 2021, Kyle lectured on FW Taylor and the once-prominent Connecticut Taylor family at the Nineteenth Century Studies Association annual conference. The last descendant of this particular branch of the Anglo-American Taylors that began in 1635, Prudence Taylor Palmer of Middle Haddam, Connecticut, died an only child and childless in 2003.
Among other national and regional organizations, Kyle is also a member of the American Society of Church History, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Underground Railroad Advisory Committee for Halifax County (NC). His book reviews and articles have appeared in theNew England History Journaland other periodicals.
Biography of Fitch Waterman (Welwyn) Taylor
Taylor was born in 1803 in Middle Haddam, Connecticut, then a thriving shipbuilding village along the Connecticut River. He was baptized as a child at the city’s Christ Church (founded 1785, Episcopal). (For some reason, in February 1844 in New York’s capital Albany, Fitch legally changed his middle name from Waterman to Welwyn.)
After pastoring Christ Church Wayside for four years and being ordained a priest in 1832 by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, the bishop commissioned Taylor to travel to the Florida border. There Taylor planted a church in two growing towns: one in St. Joseph (Port St. Joe) and the other in nearby Apalachicola. The two churches helped form the Episcopal Diocese of Florida in 1838.
Apalachicola’s Trinity Episcopal Church (founded 1836) is considered the sixth oldest church in the State of the Sun and the oldest surviving church in the state with an active congregation. It has the first prefabricated church structure in the United States, having been prepared in White Plains, NY, and sent by boat in 1839. Current Trinity rector (2019-), Eric Zile, is from the area of ?? Baltimore. While in eastern Florida this spring, Kyle visited Trinity in the historic port town of Apalachicola in the Gulf of Mexico.
From Connecticut to New York when I was a teenager, to New Jersey for high school education, back to Connecticut for college studies at Yale, Virginia and the Washington, DC metro area for Protestant theological studies, south from Maryland to Pastor Christ Church Wayside and then to Florida to plant two churches, Taylor moved. To add to these places on the American east coast, there are the Seven Seas. Taylor served as chaplain in the United States Navy for twenty-four years, from 1841 to 1865. At the time of his death, he was the oldest chaplain in the navy. He served in the Mexican-American War and with the Union Army in Mississippi on theUSS Hartfordduring the American Civil War.
At the age of 62 and just under 100 days after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Fitch W. Taylor died in New York at the Brooklyn Naval Hospital. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His obituary of 1865 appeared in theNew York Timesand a few Connecticut newspapers.
An original oil portrait of Taylor – and that of her parents and siblings – is held at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, Connecticut. And the US Navy records contain a photograph of Taylor in his Civil War chaplain’s uniform. The same photograph appears inChaplains of the sea: some chaplains of “the old navy”,published by the Navy in 1984.
Some of Taylor’s patriotic manuscripts, books, and poems are professionally preserved in various ecclesiastical, naval, and university libraries. Among these are hisA trip around the world, and visits to various foreign countries, aboard the American frigateColombia.Published shortly after the 772-day naval expedition, May 1838 to June 1840, which traveled nearly 50,000 miles and crossed the equator five times, the popular two-volume memoir / travelogue has seen many later editions. The voyage was one of the first US Navy ships to sail around the world and was part of the American Exploration Expedition of 1838-42.
Taylor’s prominent brothers and the origin of Kyle’s research
Kyle first discovered Fitch W. Taylor in 2000. At the time, he was beginning his research on Fitch’s most popular younger brother, James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829).
Although a high episcopal in Connecticut, JB Taylor switched to Presbyterianism in New York City while working there as a teenager. He was a member of the Class of 1823 at Lawrenceville School (NJ) and a member of the Class of 1826 at Princeton University. While at Princeton, he was the primary founder of what is now known as the Princeton Christian Fellowship Campus Ministry. While a student at Yale Divinity School, JB Taylor received his ministerial license to preach as an evangelist from the Congregational Church of Connecticut.
With failing health from tuberculosis, JB Taylor died at the age of twenty-eight while “watching the snow” at Union Seminary in the warmer winter climate of central Virginia. He is buried in the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church at Hampden-Sydney College near Farmville, Virg. At the time (1829), Union was on the campus of Hampden-Sydney College. He moved to Richmond in 1898.
James B. Taylor and Fitch W. Taylor both have an entry inAppletons’ Cyclopedia on American Biography(1887-89) and the ten volumes Cyclopedia of biblical, theological and ecclesiastical literature(1867-181). Among a host of other published and unpublished sources, additional biographical information on the two brothers can be found inSketches of religious experience and the work of a layman, an 1860 work published by their older brother and lay Episcopalian leader, Jeremiah H. Taylor (1797-1882).
During summer vacation as a twenty-seven-year-old student at Baptist Seminary in Toronto, Canada, Kyle’s interest in the Taylor brothers and the extended family began when he purchased a second edition in 1998. , an 1833 copy of theBrief by James Brainerd Taylorfor $ 10 at a second-hand bookstore in Manchester, Connecticut. He then bought for $ 30 a copy of FW Taylor’s 1838-publishedA new tribute to the memory of James Brainerd Taylor, a type of suite and extension to the popularBrief by James Brainerd Taylorwhich was compiled by two big brother Presbyterian ministers from Southern Virginia.
Kyle’s research on Princeton University graduate and Second Great Awakening evangelist JB Taylor resulted in a master’s thesis (2005), two books published (2008 by the University Press of America in Lanham, Maryland, a division of Rowman & Littlefield) and a doctoral thesis (2009, future third book).
It should be noted that the Taylor brothers, including the older and wealthier brother Knowles Taylor (1795-1850), the main benefactor who helped form Union Seminary in New York and Union Seminary in Virginia, had as maternal cousin (four times distant) the famous missionary of the First Great Awakening to the Amerindians, David Brainerd (1718-1747). And they were probably the collateral paternal descendants of Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), the Church of England cleric-author-poet who is sometimes known as “Shakespeare of Divines” or “CS Lewis of the 17th Century ”.