The Episcopalian Society of Racine dates back to 1839; from the Church Register we
find that the first services were held in that year, and were conducted by Rev. Dr.
Hull, of Milwaukee. In 1840, services were held every two weeks. Rev. Mr. Allison of
Waukegan officiating. In 1841, the Rev. Drs. Adams, Breck and Hobart conducted the
services, and in 1842, a regular parish (St. Luke's) was organized, the Rev. William
Walch taking charge of the parish until April 1, 1843. Rev. F. W. Hatch, of Kenosha,
officiating part of the time. In 1844 and in 1845, Rev. Ebenezer Williams conducted
the services, and early in the latter year, the first church edifice was erected on
the east side of the market square, which was used by the society until the memorable
fire of 1866, when that with the Titus Hall, the Racine House, and many other
buildings were destroyed. After the erection of the building, the rectorship was
filled by the gentlemen in the order hereafter named, commencing with 1846. First,
Rev. S. Marks to June, 1849: Second, Rev. A. D. Cole, from December, 1849 to
September, 1850: Third, Rev. James De Pere, from January 12, 1851 to April 1851: he
died at Chester, Pennsylvania, October 1868. The Rev. James Bowman officiated, on
invitation, until November, 1851. The fourth Rector was Rev. Joseph H. Nichols, who
was appointed in November, 1851, and served until 1856; he died at Washington, D. C.,
in December, 1862. The fifth was Rev. Roswell Park, who accepted the call in 1856, and
filled the rectorship until July, 1863. Rev. Dr. Park, besides taking charge of the
parish, was the founder of Racine College; he died at Lake View, Illinois, July 16,
1869, and was buried in the College grounds. The sixth Rector was Rev. A. D. Benedict,
who accepted a call in April, 1864, and resigned on September 1, 1866, when Rev.
Edward C. Porter was called to the parish. Mr. Porter was very popular with his
congregation, working earnestly for the completion of the new building. His health
failing, he resigned on the 1st of February, 1875. His resignation was reluctantly
accepted. Although broken down in health, he regarded Racine as his home, and the
parish of St. Luke's for which he had labored so faithfully, was the recipient of many
favors. He died in this city on the 8th of January, 1876. The funeral services were
conducted at St. Luke's Church, and his remains were taken to Rose Hill, near Chicago,
for interment and on the following Sunday, an eloquent memorial sermon was preached by
the Rev. Dr. De Koven, from St. Matthew, v. 4: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they
shall be conforted." After the resignation of Mr. Porter, Rev. Arthur Piper was called
to the rectorship, and is the present incumbent. After the destruction by fire of the
first building in 1866, the society purchased the lots on the corner of Main and
Seventh streets, and in July of the same year, the corner-stone was laid; the plans
were prepared by E. T. Mix, architect of Milwaukee. L. Bradley of this city being the
builder. The cornerstone was laid by the venerable Bishop Kemper, assisted by the
following clergy: Rev. Drs. Kelley and Keene, of Milwaukee, Dr. Cole, of Nashotah,
Rev. Mr. Smithett, of Kenosha, Rev. Drs. De Koven, Passmore, and Rev. Messrs. Wheeler,
Dean, Shaw, Seibt, and Machin, of Racine College. Rev. Dr. Passmore delivered the
address. A statement of the financial condition of the society, July 20, 1868, showed
that the total amount paid out up to that time was $26,209.66, leaving an indebtedness
of $2,632.57, which has since been paid, leaving the society entirely free from debt.
The present organization is as follows: Rev. Arthur Piper, Rector; Dr. J. G. Meachem,
Senior Warden; H. G. Winslow, Junior Warden; Vestrymen - Dr. S. C. Duncombe, H. B.
Monroe, W. H. Lathrop, T. D. Wales, John Tapley, George Crosby, David Lawton, D. A.
Olin. There is a volunteer choir of from twelve to twenty members. The seating
capacity of the church is 600. Three hundred families are connected with it, giving
the Rector spiritual charge of, at least, one thousand persons, two hundred of whom
are communicants. One hundred and ten children attend the Sabbath School, which is
under the direction of H. G. Winslow, as Superintendent. Besides St. Luke's, there is
one other regular parish, the Immanuael Church, and four Missions, not including St.
John's Chapel at the College; they are: The Church of the Holy Innocents, St.
Stephen's Church, The Taylor Orphan Asylum Mission, and St. Paul's Mission. The
pulpits of all these have thus far been filled by Professors from the College, who
have taken great interest in the spiritual welfare of those committed to their charge.
Thus, in the comparatively short period of forty years from the time of the first
services held in what is now Racine, St. Luke's parish has become one of the largest
and most properous in the city, the members of the society have also aided very
materially in building up the other churches spoken of, and last but not least, have
contributed largely toward the College, which is now recognized as one of the leading
institutions of the Northwest.