A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST. PETER'S
Sailing vessels brought the lumber from Galveston to build St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Rockport. The edifice was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, Bishop of Texas, on November 30, 1871. The church was located near the train depot, and services came to a halt during the arrival and departure of trains.
During the hurricane of 1875, the church was destroyed and then rebuilt on the same site. It was demolished again in 1919. Since its second rebuilding, St. Peter's has been moved twice. The lumber, the windows, and the doors used in its original construction, have been preserved.
The church was moved to its present location in 1953. In 1954, the Parish Hall was added. Between 1954 and 1962, the church, parish hall, and grounds were improved. The chancel and seating capacity were enlarged.
In the spring of 2001, the seating capacity, parish hall, and parking were expanded, and a new Sunday School building was erected. In 2003, a nine acre tract on Henderson Street was purchased for future expansion.
For ninety-three years of its life, St. Peter's was a mission dependent for worship upon the bishop, clergy and lay readers living nearby and the community. In 1964, St. Peter's was admitted to parochial status by The Diocese of West Texas, which meant its long infancy had ended, and the church was self-supporting and ready to stand on its own.
Following a period of service by The Rev. Harry Carter, who was a lay reader, The Rev. Harold Edmundson was called as the first rector. He was succeeded by The Rev. Lester Hill in 1968 who served until 1975 when The Rev. Walter D. Clark assumed duties of priest to the parish. The Rev. Maurice Lane Friedman succeeded Fr. Clark in 1997 and served until the summer of 2002. Interim Priests conducted services untill the arrival of The Rev. G. M. (Mac) Keeble who was rector from 2004 until his retirement in 2007. Then interim rectors including The Rev. Art Hadley served us untill the arrival of The Rev. James W. Friedel, our present rector.
TEXAS STATE HISTORICAL MARKER
The longevity of St. Peter's Episcopal Church made it a candidate for the Texas State Historical Marker Program, and in 1991, an historical marker of bronze casting was produced and planted on site in front of the Church. The historical note on the marker reads:
"St. Peter's Episcopal Church
The Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, Bishop of the Diocese of Texas, officiated at the dedication of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Rockport on November 30, 1871. Led by lay ministers for much of its early history, St. Peter's first was located at the corner of Live Oak and Wharf Streets near the railroad depot, where services often were halted due to the noise of arriving trains. Relocated to this site in 1954, St. Peter's became a self-sustaining parish ten years later. It continues to serve the community with a variety of programs."
OUR CHURCH BELL
Church bells symbolize not only God's call to freedom in Christ, but also the joyous occasions found in celebrations such as Christmas and Easter.
St. Peter's bell was cast in 1859 in Troy, New York. It was originally used to call slaves on the Millikin Plantation located in Mississippi and Louisiana. The Millikin family presented the bell to the Aransas County Emergency Corps (now the Rockport Fire Department) during 1915. Subsequent to this, the Millikin home in Rockport was destroyed in the hurricane of 1919.
The Rockport Fire Department presented the bell to Iris Sorenson upon her retirement as secretary. She later gave the bell to St. Peter's. The church loaned the bell to the Aransas County School District where it was rung at the local football games for many years. The bell found its way back to St. Peter's and finally found a resting place in a gazebo, dedicated in 1986. It was given in loving memory of Doris Nelson Winship by the Lola Sorenson Guild and the Vestry of St. Peter's.
John Youngman originally found the bell stored in an old storeroom at St. Peter's. It was dirty and full of weeds. He asked a Vestryperson about it, and then asked the Lola Sorenson Guild if they would provide funds to have the bell cleaned, polished, and build a gazebo with the bell cemented into place inside the gazebo. The Guild agreed to help pay for the cost, and the remainder of the funds came from the Doris Winship Estate. In late 2001, the gazebo, in need of extensive work, was torn down. The bell was moved to a platform to await a new housing, which was built and dedicated in 2002.
THE STATUE OF ST. FRANCIS
The statue of Saint Francis which graces the grounds of St. Peter's Episcopal Church was commissioned and given as a gift to St. Peter's by James H. Sorenson, Jr. in memory of his father and grandfather.
The statue was carved by Robert Borglum (1912-1986) in 1956. Mr. Borglum's father, Gutzon Borglum, created the national monument at Mount Rushmore.
The model for the child figure standing with St. Francis is the son of the artist, James Gutzon Borglum.
Robert Borglum had carved a bird that was placed in the up-raised hand of St. Francis but it was lost over the years. Eventually, Mr. Bob Hillman, a member of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, created another bird to replace it.
In 1996, the University of Texas Press published a book entitled "Outdoor Sculpture in Texas" and included a picture and short survey of the St. Francis statue. The book carried a brief historical overview of outdoor sculpture in Texas and contained a large survey of approximately 1000 sculptures.
St.Peter's Episcopal Church
555 Enterprise, Rockport, TX 78382 361-729-2649 Fax 361-729-1107 e-mail: email@example.com
Mailing address: P.O. Box 1807, Rockport, TX 78381