Our History

 If you’d like a more detailed history of All Saints’, please request a copy through our contact page. We’d be happy to e-mail you the booklet we published for our bicentennial in 2019. Here is a condensed version of our story:

All Saints’ Episcopal Church was organized on June 23, 1819.  The original Articles of Association document is preserved and is stored among the records of the church.  The articles were signed by twenty-three persons, among them were Samuel Gunn, Thomas Waller, Arron Kinney, and John Smith.  The Rev. Intrepid Morse, rector, St. Paul’s Church, Steubenville, visited Portsmouth and held a service in the old courthouse on Market Street.  This was the first visit of Episcopal clergy to the Portsmouth area.

The Rt. Rev. Philander Chase, bishop of the Diocese of Ohio, was present for the official organization of the congregation in 1819. During his visit, he preached several times, baptized several adults, including Margaret and Mary Waller, Mrs. Francis Cleveland, and Mrs. Washington Kinney, administered the rite of confirmation to eight persons, and held the first service of the Holy Eucharist, serving Communion to six people. For twelve years after the organization of the congregation, its members continued to meet in private homes for weekly morning prayer conducted by Samuel Gunn, a licensed lay reader. The chalices (liturgical wine goblets) used by Bishop Chase during his 1820 visit to All Saints’ are displayed in a wall niche in the Narthex, directly under the balcony. They are a strong reminder of the Sacramental ministry that has so faithfully happened in this place throughout the years.

On December 9, 1820, a vestry (the parish board, consisting of lay leaders) was finally elected.  Samuel Wilson, John Smith, John Young, Ezra Hurd, and an unknown fifth man became the elected Vestry people.  Vestry members and wardens are now elected in January of each year.

On June 19, 1831 The Rev. Henry Caswell was installed as our first rector (primary priest and pastor).  In 1833, All Saints’ erected its first worship space. This building survives and houses the Samuel Gunn Parish Hall. The cornerstone for this building was the first laid for any Church in the Portsmouth area and it is the oldest public building in Portsmouth still used for its original purpose. Bishop Chase returned in November, 1833 to dedicate the building.

Much of the early, significant growth of All Saints’ parish began with the ministry of The Rev. Erastus Burr, rector from November 9, 1838-November 9, 1873.  During his tenure, the church was incorporated under Ohio law (a special act for this purpose, passed by the Ohio General Assembly on March 4, 1838), and the present nave was erected in 1851. For the first time in its history, All Saints’ was able its rector’s salary without missionary aid. During this period, a comfortable rectory (parsonage) was built on the site of our current parish administration and education building.

To date there have been twenty-four rectors. Our most recent rector, The Rev. Stephen J. Cuff, retired in 2019. While we are searching for our next rector, The Rev. Dr. Kathleen Murray, priest associate, and The Honorable Rev. Richard T. Schisler, deacon, are celebrating sacraments, preaching the Word, and providing pastoral care, weekly.

The present nave (worship space) was built in 1851.  A vestry-appointed committee composed of Samuel S. Fuller, Washington Kinney, and James Lodwick administered the capital campaign. There were 157 contributors to the building fund.

Our building is located within the Historic Boneyfiddle District of Portsmouth.  All Saints’ was the first public building in Portsmouth to be lighted with gas fixtures in 1855.  Prior to that, the congregation used coal oil lamps to illuminate its worship space. The nave was modernized in the second half of the twentieth century with new pews, kneelers, and a modified ceiling (to provide for more energy efficient heating).  One original pew remains against the wall of the narthex.

The interior of the present nave was restored to much of its original beauty in 1993, and the building was rededicated.  Much of the restoration involved returning the nave to its original architectural style, with its high vaulted ceiling and exposed arches and beams.

All Saints’ current structure has withstood the ravages of time and nature.  In January 1893, fire damaged the interior, carpet, pews and the organ. The building has also sustained damage from several floods, particularly in the great flood of 1937, when water reached the middle of the rose window on the west wall above the balcony. Unfortunately, the 1937 flood destroyed most of the stained glass, but much of it was replaced.

The baptismal font was presented to All Saints’ in 1876 by the Kinney family.  In some instances, three or more generations of current All Saints’ families have been baptized in it.

The chalices (liturgical wine goblets) used by Bishop Chase during his 1820 visit to Portsmouth are displayed in a wall niche in the Narthex, directly under the balcony. They are a strong reminder of the Sacramental ministry that has so faithfully happened in this place throughout the years.

The low altar, located to the right side of the nave, originally served as the high altar in the sanctuary.  We us the low altar at the 8 a.m. service of Holy Eucharist, weekly, and at other occasions, especially for mid-week services.

In the 1990s a columbarium was built in St. Thomas Chapel at the base of our bell tower.  This sacred space serves as the final resting-place for the cremated remains of many faithful parishioners.

The original tower bell is now displayed in the Bob Appel memorial prayer garden on the Court Street side of the building.  It was removed from the tower after the structure was deemed to have problems of structural integrity. The garden was named in memory of The Rev. Deacon Robert Appel, who died in the spring of 1997.

In 2015, a stone was placed in the garden to memorialize the late Diana Vinson Michael, a long-time member who sang in the chancel choir and served as our Parish Administrator until her death. In addition to several other dedicated members, Diana helped maintain the prayer garden so it would continue to provide a quiet, contemplative spot in an otherwise busy, city location.

In 2006, All Saints’ contracted with Peebles-Herzog, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, to renovate and then install its current pipe organ.  The organ was originally built by the Schlicker Organ Company, Buffalo, NY, in 1962, for the Delaware Street Baptist Church, Syracuse. When its original church downsized, we purchased the organ, had it cleaned and renovated, then had it installed in our chancel. In 2007, the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Price dedicated the instrument to lead us in Christian worship and to honor Dr. John Walker who has served our parish for many years as a member of the choir, as a vestryman, and as both junior and senior wardens. Please visit the organ’s listing on the Organ Historical Society’s site for more detailed information and a stop-list.

All Saints’ has engaged in many ministries throughout its history. The first recorded ministry was a Sewing Society organized in 1831. Its original purpose was carried on through the St. Agnes Guild, which provided lay pastoral care to the parish’s members. The St. Francis Guild provides pastoral care and meals to parishioners who have experienced the death of a loved one.  The Holy Cross Altar Guild cares for the altar, Communion vessels, liturgical paraments, and clergy/choir vestments.  A lay Eucharistic ministry provides pastoral care and delivers the Holy Eucharist shut ins. Other ministries include the Loaves and Fishes feeding ministry, the Saints Paul and Silas Prison Ministry, and several other outreach ministries. We are committed to providing meeting space for men and women who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and drugs and to other civic groups who need a well-equipped meeting space. We are also committed to the fine and performing arts, providing performing and rehearsal space for many artists and groups, specifically for the Portsmouth Civic Chorale and Shawnee State University choral ensembles.

Through the ecumenical Scioto Christian Ministry, Inc., we touch the lives of those battling homelessness, poverty, hunger, and drug and alcohol addiction in the greater Portsmouth area. SCM has recently embarked on extending its mission to serve those in our immediate area affected, in one way or another, by human trafficking.

Current congregational membership reaches to all corners of Scioto County and across the Ohio River into Kentucky.  There is a growing sense of mission and evangelism within the parish.  We hope to our gifts of time, talent, and resources to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to restore all people to unity with God.

All Saints' Episcopal Church, Portsmouth, OH