History of St. James' Episcopal Church


The Parish was organized on May 27th, 1855 but it wasn't until August of 1857 that Articles of Incorporation were adopted and St. James' became official.  In 1858 a lot was purchased on South Market Street near where the public library stands today, but it was later exchanged for the lot on the corner of First Avenue East and South Third Street -- the present site of the church.

In the summer of 1869 a Gothic style church building and rectory were built on the lot at a cost of $12,000.  The original church was a 28 x 50' frame structure facing north.  Consecration of the church took place on November 20, 1870.

In 1896, the old church was moved to the back of the lot and plans were made for a new, expanded church.  In 1900 the funds were raised and a new brick building with bell tower was built and attached to the original frame structure at a cost of over $20,000.  The church entrance now faces east.  Builder was Henry Wetherell, with Frank E. Wetherell [a communicant of the church] acting as architect.  The new St. James' was officially consecrated on February 2, 1902.

The church was used for several years without an organ, but the necessary $2500 was raised and an organ was installed with a dedicatory recital given on  April 13, 1920. 

The Chimes of St. James' consist of ten massive Meneely bells, each of which bears the inscription "Te Deum" -- the great and ancient hymn of the church.  As the massive bronze table in the church shows, the bells were given in memory of Micajah Williams and Virginia Williams by their daughter, Alice Williams Bennett. Lightning struck the bell tower in the fall of 1927 and approximately a ton of material came to the ground, including the stone cross from the tower.  However, the bells were not injured and the tower was rebuilt.  Operation of the chimes is by manual levers in a room leading to the church tower, and the bells can be heard throughout downtown Oskaloosa when played.

The interior of St. James' features an oak carved altar, lectern, pulpit, rood screen and altar rail.  Stained glass windows line the east and west walls.  In the 1950s, the original frame church was remodeled into classrooms, and office and a children's chapel featuring a round stained glass window.

In June of 1985, N.D. "Tip" Lamberson spearheaded the acquisition and installation of a "new" pipe organ.  Originally made in 1930 for a church in Bloomer, WI the organ was privately owned by a man living in Sioux City.  It took two days and several trucks to transport six tons of organ pieces [including 1,126 pipes] to Oskaloosa.

In keeping with the new philosophy of the Episcopal Church, in 1993 local craftsman Jerry Wood built a new oak altar table for St. James' so the Officiant is now able to face the congregation during preparation of communion.  The altar table was consecrated March 29, 1994.

The summer of 2001 brought completion of work by Don Patterson [Patterson Trim] to gut and remodel the original frame building into a large open fellowship hall, office, handicap restroom, kitchenette, and handicapped ramp from the alley -- and all complete with air conditioning.  This new space was dedicated as we celebrated St. James' 146th birthday.  The remainder of St. James' was air conditioned during 2004.