The History of Saint James' Eufaula
As the fourth oldest parish in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, St. James exemplifies the rich heritage of the Episcopal Church and the culture of the Old South.
A Short History: The first Episcopal services were held in Eufaula by The Rev. A. Bloomer Hart in 1838 in the homes of Episcopalians. Services then moved to The Tavern, an 1836 house on Front Street and the oldest existing house now in Eufaula.
The Parish was formally organized in 1844. During the organizational meeting at the Tavern, the stagecoach arrived, bringing news of James K. Polk’s nomination as president. General John L. Hunter moved that the Parish be named St. James’ and his motion carried unanimously. (The Church in Alabama, Walter C. Whitaker).
The Church is associated with James the brother of John and son of Zebedee, also known as James the Elder or Greater (as opposed to James the Lesser). Our Church banner bears the symbols of St. James, three shells and a sword. The shells represent Spain, where James is said to have traveled and preached. The sword is a reminder of the tradition that James died a martyr’s death.
The present building is the third Episcopal Church building in Eufaula. The first was built in 1851 on Barbour Street. Around 1883, this frame building was moved to St. James Place facing the street and library. We have no photographs or drawings of this Church, but we believe that the entrance doors were located where the present double doors under the portico are today. A rectory, facing North Eufaula Avenue, was built in 1890 just north of the Church building.
In 1905, ground was broken for the present Nave with a sacristy and office attached. Construction was completed in 1911. The pews came from the 1851 building and were originally finished in natural wood. Some years later they were painted in the “Williamsburg” style and have remained so. The interior is plaster and dark oak. The exterior is a particular kind of stucco called “Thrown Rock” stucco. After a base coat of plaster is laid and dried, a thinner coat is put on and before it can dry, rocks are hand thrown at the plaster. They stick and, after the plaster dries, a thinner coat of the plaster called “swish” is thrown on with large brushes to cover the rocks.
In 1951, a parish hall, classrooms and meeting rooms were added, extending the building eastward. In 1988, a further extension was completed adding a larger kitchen, offices and additional parish hall space.
By 2002, after four years of visioning, planning and exploration, the parish embarked on an ambitious plan to “Prepare a Place” for our growing parish by more than doubling the size of our facilities. The rectory was removed to make space for the Parish Hall, and ground was broken in April, 2004. The parish moved into newly constructed Margaret Hall, Youth Center, Kitchen and Christian Education spaces, together with remodeled offices, choir room and chapel, in August 2005. A concerted effort was made to preserve the historical character of the building by blending the new with the old.
Inside the nave (what other denominations might call the “Sanctuary”) items of particular historical interest include the altar, the windows (click here for our Windows page), the pipe organ, flags, and the side altar.
The Altar: The main Altar, the reredos (the carved wooden decoration behind the Altar around the window) and the retable (the ledge upon which flowers and candles are set) were hand carved by Anton Lang. Lang, a German, had been a prisoner of war in the United States during WWI. He later played Christ in the famous Passion Play in Oberammergau, Bavaria. Lang is believed to have carved at least two other altars for churches in the Carolinas. His brother, Alois, was a world renowned carver who for many years, headed the carving studio of the American Seating Company in Grand Rapids. Our Altar was commissioned by Tade S. Merrill in memory of her husband, A. H. Merrill, and consecrated on December 7, 1928.
The Pipe Organ: The organ, registered with The Society of Historical Organs, was built by Moeller in 1911. It is one of the last “tracker” organs built by Moeller. In a tracker organ, there is a physical connection between the keys and the valves letting air into the pipes. As additional stops are opened, the key pressure increases and the organ becomes more difficult to play as it takes more pressure to push down the keys. Originally the organ bellows were filled by a hand-powered air pump. Dr. Ed Comer and Mr. “Mac” Reeves, both now deceased, often reminisced about being paid a nickel for turning the organ pump on Sunday morning. Later, a water-powered motor was installed. Now, the blower is electric. In 1993, the organ was removed from the church, renovated, revoiced and reinstalled with new trumpet, four foot and two foot stops.
The Flags: The Episcopal Church Flag and the American Flag were presented to the Church by parishioners, Peter and Pat Trodd. The flags were handmade especially for St. James by George Tuthill and Sons, the oldest flagmakers in the United Kingdom. Tuthill made the flags for Nelson’s flagship, H. M. S. Victory. The Tuthill workshops are in Chesham, Peter and Pat’s former hometown.
Side Altar: The side altar on the left of the nave, was handmade by Sig Bloom, husband of deceased parishioner Helen Bloom, from plans drawn by parishioner Severn Regar. Lovingly constructed, this altar is a memorial to all those from St. James and from Eufaula who served in the Second World War. Incidentally, Sig Bloom was not a member of St. James. He was Jewish.