Centennial Celebration

The Centennial Celebration Committee is planning an event for Feb. 1st, 2020 to mark the 100th anniversary of the current St. Paul's Church building, the 4th on the same site. To stimulate interest in our history, the committee is running a series of history questions and answers in The Epistle. Thanks to parishioner and church historian David Eyer for supplying the questions and answers.

August 2, 2019
Q: What is the sad story of the origin of the statue of the Blessed Mother with Child (Mary holding the infant Jesus) located near the Lady Chapel?

A:  It is a memorial to a mother and daughter who were members of St Paul’s Church and who died in the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane while visiting in the Islamorada area. Both were named Mary Ingraham and both were school teachers.  There were other members of the Ingraham family who also died in this tragic event. The hurricane caused little damage in Key West but it devastated the Upper Keys including destroying miles of track of the Overseas Railroad.  The tracks were restored to a limited extent in order to get locomotives and rail cars out of Key West and back to the mainland. The hurricane ended service on the railroad, which interestingly was already in bankruptcy proceedings prior to the hurricane.

July 4, 2019
Q: What Oscar winning film had about five minutes of scenes at St. Paul’s?

A: Winner of 3 Oscars, the 1955 film, The Rose Tattoo was based on the play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, a St Paul’s parishioner at the time. The setting of the story was coastal Louisiana but much of the movie was actually filmed in Key West. The filmmaker reportedly wanted a very proper appearing Roman Catholic Church and St Paul’s fit the bill more so than our local RC St Mary’s Star of the Sea. 

June 7, 2019
Q:  Where did the largely Roman Catholic Cuban cigar making families of the 1880-1905 era worship? They were one of the largest ethnic groups of the city then as are their descendants today.

A:  In a parish they called St John’s (not San Juan) that was at and part of St Paul’s Church. Until 1903, St Mary’s RC Church was across Duval St from St Paul’s. The Cubans regarded the Roman Catholic Church to be a tool of the Spanish government and refused to go there. Cuba was part of Spain until the Spanish American War of 1898. The St John’s genealogical records are part of the records of St Paul’s Church.

May 3, 2019
Q:  What role did the wife and widow of prominent Key West founder, William Fleming, play in establishing St. Paul's and what strings were attached?  

A:  Mary Rotch, by then re-married, gave the current lot to the newly established St Paul’s Parish in 1838 with the proviso that the pews be free - no family owned pews as was common at the time. She also stipulated that her deceased husband's remains, which had by then been buried on the property, were to be undisturbed on the grounds forever. Their location is unknown.

April 26, 2019
Q:  When and where was the first service held by the first rector, Rev. Sanson K. Brunot?

A:  Two days after his Dec 23rd arrival in Key West, Rev. Brunot held the first service, Christmas Day, 1832. As there was no church, the service was held at the County Courthouse on Jackson Square. That same day the congregation signed an “Act of Association” of the Episcopal Congregation in Key West to be called St. Paul’s Church.      

April 19, 2019
Q:  Who was the first rector of St. Paul's and what is his sad story?

A:  The Reverend Sanson K. Brunot of Pittsburgh, PA was the first rector.  He arrived in Key West December 23rd and soon became the house guest of vestryman William Whitehead as there was no rectory or church building. He was only 24 years old and had not been long in ministry.  His services were well attended, and he was generally well liked. He had accepted the call to Key West largely on account of his ill health, hoping the climate would lead to an improvement.  Unfortunately, Rev. Brunot's health soon began to fail and after officiating only a few times, frequent hemorrhages put a stop to further public services. Feeling that his end was approaching and desiring to pass his last days in his old home, he left Key West for Pittsburgh in May, 1833 and died there soon after his arrival.

April 12, 2019
Q:  When and how was St. Paul's Episcopal Church founded?

A:  It was established by an act of the Town of Key West Council in 1831. At that time there was no church property much less a structure, a pastor or priest, or even a congregation. In fact, there were no churches at all in Key West of any denomination.

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