The History of Christ Episcopal Church, Saint Joseph, Louisiana
The first known Episcopal Church services in the Newellton-St. Joseph area were conducted by the Rev. John Philson, Rector of a parish in Port Gibson, Mississippi, who began holding services near Lake St. Joseph in March 1855. By April 12, 1856, a church had been organized and incorporated as St. Joseph’s Church; the Articles of Incorporation being recorded on April 12, 1856, in Notarial Record “D” page 745 of the Records of Tensas Parish, Louisiana. The first vestry consisted of the following men, all pioneer settlers of the Lake St. Joseph area: Dr. A. T. Bowie, warden; E. D. Newell, warden; Dr. J. Y. Hollingsworth, S. N. Routh, B. Mason, Samuel W. Dorsey and J. K. Routh, vestrymen.
May 1, 1856, the mission was admitted into union with the Convention of the Diocese of Louisiana, and in 1857 the Rev. Philson resigned and was succeeded by the Rev. W. K. Douglas, the Vicar of Grace Church, Waterproof, who was in charge of the parish until May 1858.
The original register of the mission reflects that on January 11, 1857, the first Sunday after Epiphany, the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, D.D., Bishop of Louisiana, confirmed ten persons, and other confirmations by Bishop Polk are shown on January 14, 1857 and June 27, 1858.
Although no official transfer of the mission was made, it appears that after 1858 the congregation merged with the congregation meeting in St. Joseph which was also known as St. Joseph’s Church. This congregation was also served by the Rev. Mr. Douglas beginning February 3, 1856, and he was succeeded in 1858 by the Rev. T. T. Castleman, who held services until his death in 1860.
During the years of the war between the states and reconstruction the work of the Church at St. Joseph languished, but in 1872 a group led by Mrs. Carrie Hardemann Tullis reorganized the parish and built the present building , which was constructed by Patrick Murphy, a prominent Natchez contractor, for the sum of $3,200.00.
In February, 1874, the Rev. Caleb Dowe became the vicar, and on April 17, 1874, the mission was admitted to union with the Convention of the Diocese of Louisiana as St. Joseph’s Church. The building was consecrated on May 14, 1876, at which time there were 15 communicants. On June 13, 1888, the name of the mission was changed to Christ Church. The Rev. Thomas W. Smith served as vicar from April 3, 1887 until March 1, 1901.
During the ensuing forty-seven years the church was a mission primarily in the care of priests-in-charge who were rectors in Tallulah or Lake Providence.
On December 10, 1947, the congregation incorporated as Christ Episcopal Church and was formally recognized as a parish in 1948. Since that time, except for brief periods, the church has been served by a resident rector who has also served as Priest-in-Charge (or vicar) of Grace Church in Waterproof.
In 1947, under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Whitaker, the church acquired the historic Bondurant House as a Rectory, and in 1953 a parish house was constructed behind the church.
On April 23, 1972, Christ Church celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the church building.
CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: RECTORS OR PRIESTS IN CHARGE
1855-1856 The Rev. Philson
1856-1858 The Rev. W. K. Douglas
1858-1860 The Rev. T. T. Castleman
1870-1873 The Rev. William Johnson
1874-1876 The Rev. Caleb Dowe
1881-1882 The Rev. M. T. Turner
1886 The Rev. R. H. Prosser
1887 The Rev. E. W. Hunter
1887-1901 The Rev. Thomas W. Smith
1903-1905 The Rev. F. O. H. Boberg
1906-1907 The Rev. J. B. C. Beaubien
1907-1912 The Ven. H. H. Carson, Archdeacon, Monroe
1912-1914 The Rev. Robert F. Johnson
1917-1923 The Rev. Walter Linni-Smith
1924-1925 The Rev. Frederick Bertram Hornby
1926 The Rev. Richard Bolton
1931-1935 The Rev. Skardon D’Aubert
1936-1941 The Rev. George Alfred Alexander Tocher
1941-1948 The Rev. J. Dean Maurer
1948-1951 The Rev. William F. Bumsted
1953-1956 The Rev. W. Donald George
1957-1959 The Rev. Albert H. Marshall
1960-1963 The Rev. Lyle F. Parrott
1963-1966 The Rev. James H. Douglass
1967-1977 The Rev. J. Philson Williamson (Great Nephew of the Rev. John Philson)
1977-1982 The Rev. Edwin G. Webster
1982-1991 The Rev. Benjamin A. English
1992-1994 The Rev. Eugene E. Kohlbecker
1995-2000 The Rev. William J. Dennis
2000-2011 The Rev. Robert N. Cooper
2012- The Rev. Canon Gregg L. Riley (Priest in Residence)
Rectory of Christ Episcopal Church
The structure now at 212 2nd Street in Saint Joseph, was originally built in 1852 by Captain Albert Bondurant as the upper level of his home on Pleasant View Plantation on the Mississippi River, Tensas Parish, LA. In 1882, this upper portion of the home was moved to its present location.
During the civil war, Captain Albert Bondurant served with the Tensas Cavalry. In 1863 when General U. S. Grant marched through Tensas Parish to complete the encirclement of Vicksburg, the Pleasant View Plantation was left in charge of Mrs. Bondurant while her husband and his company were at the front. Aided by the plantation slaves, Mrs. Bondurant set fire to 100 bales of cotton, valued at $600 a bale, to keep them from falling into the hands of the Union troops. As a measure of reprisal for the destruction of the cotton, the Union forces shelled the home. However, the house was not destroyed and was used by General Grant while his army was being ferried across the river to Bruinsburg, Mississippi. Years afterward, when the house was moved to save it from encroachment by the Mississippi River, cannon balls, shell fragments and bullets were found imbedded in the timbers. The home was acquired by Christ Episcopal Church in 1947 for use as a Rectory. After being damaged by fire in 1962, the Rectory was renovated and restored. Christ Episcopal Church continues to utilize and maintain the Rectory.
Photographs of the home and family members (circa 1897) and additional historic photographs of members of the Bondurant family are available for viewing at the Rectory. Contact Christ Episcopal Church if you would like to visit the Rectory.