History of Our Church
The St. Johnís Episcopal Church, Marion, NC dates back to May 24, 1881, but it was not the first Episcopal Church in McDowell County. St. Gabrielís Episcopal Church can be traced to 1874 when the first service was held in the hotel in Old Fort. It was not until 1893 when the Bishop consecrated aĒstick GothicĒ structure for St. Gabrielís.
Bishop Theodore B. Lyman fully supported the mission in Old Fort, but he also wanted to see an Episcopal Church in the county seat so in 1881 he sent the Rev. Charles T. Bland to McDowell County to serve St. Gabrielís and to found a church in Marion.
For the first two years of St. Johnís, services were held in private homes and other church buildings. A sixty by 90 foot plot of land where the church stands today was purchased in June 1882 for twenty-five dollars and construction began in April, 1883. It is likely that the original building design was based upon a plan book by Richard Upjohn, designer of Trinity Church in New York.
The first service in the new building was held on November 26, Thanksgiving Day, 1883 although construction and furnishing of the Church building was not completed until 1886. In 1891 the church was consecrated by Bishop Lyman with seven families and ten communicants. The building was valued at $1000 and had a seating capacity of seventy-five. In 1897 the first Rectory was purchased, being an ďold houseĒ on a lot extending from Main Street to Garden Street.
The two parishes continued to thrive, often sharing the services of the Rector until the flood of 1916 when St. Gabrielís was broken apart by a landslide and floated off its foundations. Beyond repair, the building was abandoned and the congregation merged with St. Johnís in Marion.
In 1899, Albert and Charlotte Walker Blanton were married by Rector Charles Wingate. The Blanton family would later (1924) give the stained glass window depicting St. John the Scribe located above the altar. The window was imported from Munich, Germany.
In 1944 the Sacristy and Choir Room were enlarged and the church nave was extended by seventeen feet toward Main Street. For many years, there were dreams of having a Parish House to support the church activities and finally, on April 29, 1956 the cornerstone was laid for the building we now use every day, especially to support our many Outreach activities.
The stained glass window facing Main Street was dedicated in 1978 in memory of Silas Walker Blanton. The final design combined a theme both personal and biblical taken from a Morning Prayer Canticle and Psalm 148, ďA Song of CreationĒ and includes mountains and hills, green things, waters, fish (whales), quail (foals) and dogs (beasts).
A building committee was formed in 1963 and recommended that the Rectory be sold and a new house purchased. This is the house located between the Church and the Parish House.
The remaining land between the Church and the Rectory was then purchased with the intent of constructing a new church and converting the existing church into a chapel. This never happened and the original structure is still in use today. In 1965 a playground was established, including a swing set and sandboxes. In 1994 a Noahís ark was added.
In 1991 St. Johnís Episcopal Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The North Carolina Historic Preservation Office then recommended extensive repairs including foundation repair, added crawlspace, removal of built up paint and repainting and the addition of gutters and downspouts to channel water away from the foundation, which were carried out in 1994.
In 1998 the St. Johnís Episcopal Menís group constructed the St. Johnís Peace Chapel and Pavilion located beside the Community Garden. This space is used for outdoor gatherings including the annual Pentecost Service, the Animal Food Bank, a space for bagpipe lessons, and many other events. Photo of picnic shelter
In 2002 St. Johnís purchased the property south of the Parish House and this became the site of the Columbarium/ Memorial Garden and Labyrinth in 2010.