Monthly Archives: August 2015

Thomas Gallaudet, “Apostle to the Deaf” at St. Paul’s

In The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, today’s date, August 27, honors Thomas Gallaudet, known as the Apostle to the Deaf. Among saints so honored, he is the only one who was associated with St. Paul’s Church, and who sparked what has been called “one of the most peculiar and interesting agencies for good connected with St. Paul’s,” a ministry to the deaf that lasted for over one hundred years.

In the early nineteenth century there was no organized education for the deaf in the United States. In 1815, a Hartford, Connecticut businessman, seeking an education for his deaf daughter, paid Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s way to Europe to learn about advances there. When Gallaudet returned, he brought the source of what would become American Sign Language and French techniques for teaching the deaf and he was named principal of the Hartford School for the Deaf, the first school for the deaf in the United States.

But Thomas H. Gallaudet, for whom Gallaudet University is named, is not the person we remember today. It is, rather, his son, Thomas Gallaudet, an Episcopal clergyman who in 1852 established St. Anne’s Church to serve the deaf of New York City.

Thomas Gallaudet

Thomas Gallaudet

From that base Gallaudet reached out to other cities: first Philadelphia, then Baltimore, and, in 1860, Albany. Here, Gallaudet was welcomed by St. Paul’s new rector, William Rudder, who as an undergraduate in Hartford had known of the Deaf School.

Between 1860 and 1872, the Rev. Thomas Gallaudet or one of his associates traveled to Albany each month to conduct services for the deaf and to translate sermons at regular services into sign language. As this outreach expanded beyond the northeastern United States, Gallaudet formed the Church Mission for Deaf-Mutes, for which he served as General Manager for many years.

Albany Evening Journal 9 Mar 1861

Albany Evening Journal 9 Mar 1861

Preaching at St. Paul’s fiftieth anniversary in 1877, Gallaudet proudly described the Church Mission’s activities across the country, and reminisced about the years which St. Paul’s had extended a “helping and guarding hand” to the deaf of this part of the state.

As further support for the Church Mission, this congregation in 1872 called the Rev. Thomas Benjamin Berry as assistant to the rector and as priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s Mission Church on lower Madison Avenue.

Thomas Berry

Thomas Berry

Before his ordination, Berry had taught at schools for the deaf in England, New York and Maryland. Berry’s ministry at the Mission Chapel included monthly services and a Sunday School class for the deaf, and he also assisted Gallaudet in ministry throughout the state as an associate of the Church Mission.

Thomas Berry left St. Paul’s in 1874, continuing his work with the deaf in Wisconsin, South Dakota and central and western New York. But Berry’s departure was not the end of St. Paul’s ministry to the deaf. That ministry lasted until 1976, spanning more than half of the time that we have been a congregation.

Mrs. Hawley’s Legacy — the Deaconess and the Bishop

As the last of our posts about the legacy of Elizabeth Starr Hawley, we come to two more of her great-grandchildren, Gertrude Boucher Mosher, and Gouverneur Frank Mosher, younger siblings of J. Montgomery Mosher. They are unusual, because both brother and sister were ordained ministers of the church, and both served as missionaries. Gouverneur Frank is unique as the only person raised at St. Paul’s who became a bishop.

Gertrude Mosher was born in 1866; she was only 13 when her mother died, and 17 at her father’s death, when she assumed primary responsibilities for housekeeping and care of her two younger brothers. Gertrude was baptized at St. Paul’s in 1867 and confirmed here in 1881. “Gouv” was four years younger than Gertrude, and we are told that she was a parent figure to him. Gouv was also strongly influenced by his mother’s cousin, Sister Julia (born Julia Maria Janes, a granddaughter of Elizabeth Starr Hawley), a member of the Sisterhood of the Holy Child Jesus, who taught in St. Paul’s Sunday School.

Gouverneur attended school in Albany; after graduating from Union College, he decided to enter the ministry. Gertrude’s course through these years is harder to trace. We don’t know what schools she attended, but she must have been an enthusiastic reader. In 1888, she published a small pamphlet, “Spare Moments with Milton,” containing her favorite quotations from “Paradise Lost.”

"Spare Moments with Milton", Selected and Arranged by Gertrude B. Mosher

“Spare Moments with Milton”, Selected and
Arranged by Gertrude B. Mosher

In 1889, Gertrude sailed to Germany, “to continue her musical education.” She was in Germany until July 1891, when she returned to Albany. The next year, she was working as a governess.

Gouverneur, meanwhile, had entered Berkeley Divinity School, and while there decided that he was called to be a foreign missionary. Gertrude seems to have decided to join him, because she began study at the New York School for Deaconesses. In June 1896 Gouverneur was ordained a deacon, with the backing of St. Paul’s vestry. Later the same year, Gertrude was “set apart” as a deaconess.

On October 6, 1896, at a  service in the chapel of Church Missions House, in New York City, the congregation bade farewell to Gouverneur and Gertrude, “deacon and deaconess and brother and sister”. The next day they sailed for England, on their way to an assignment in China.

Gouverneur Frank Mosher

Gouverneur Frank Mosher

Gertrude worked in China from 1896 until 1900, when she returned to the United States and married the Rev. Franklin Knight in a ceremony conducted by St. Paul’s rector, William Prall. She and her husband had four children, and spent the rest of their lives in Massachusetts, Franklin’s home state. We have no further record of Gertrude’s activities, although it seems likely that she continued to contribute in other ways as well.

Gouverneur worked in China until 1919, when he was elect missionary bishop of the Philippines. He was consecrated in Shanghai on February 25, 1920.

Gouverneur Frank Mosher

Gouverneur Frank Mosher

The bishops who participated in Gouverneur Frank Mosher’s consecration as missionary bishop of the Philippines February 25, 1920 are listed below. Unless otherwise noted, they were bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States. There is no record of a Church of England bishop named Morris in China, so we assume that the label on the man to the far right of the picture is an error.

Bishops at the consecration of Gouverneur Frank Mosher as Bishop of the Philippines

Bishops at the consecration of Gouverneur Frank Mosher as Bishop of the Philippines

Gouverneur Frank Mosher resigned as bishop in 1940 because of ill health,  and returned to the United States. He died in 1941.


Hackett Boulevard — The Lay of the Land

Approaching St. Paul’s Church on Hackett Boulevard, the building presents an impressive, but not particularly friendly, aspectHackett Blvd. building seen from west. Whether one is coming from the west




or from the east,churchonhill-190



the church rises fortress-like above the street, its massive walls showing no clear inviting entryway. IMG_8157

It is only when the driver turns into the parking lot from Samaritan Road that the  building opens, and the visitor is invited to enter. IMG_8191 v002

The building turns its back to the street; its entrance faces the buildings to its north, the buildings that originally composed the Episcopal diocese’s Good Samaritan Center: Child’s Hospital, Nelson House and St. Margaret’s Home. St. Paul’s, which it was hoped would become the chapel for these institutions, faces and invites those that it serves.

This explains the orientation of the building. but how did the church building come to be placed so high above the roadway? To answer this question, we first need to understand that in the mid-1950s the eastern section of Hackett Boulevard was unpaved, and reached only from Holland Avenue to what is now Samaritan Drive, where it angled northward to provide access to St. Margaret’s Home.

1953 topographic map of Albany's University Heights section (credit

1953 topographic map of Albany’s University Heights section (credit

A 1953 USGS topographic map of this area (provided by Andy Arthur, with a blue oval enclosing the area) shows this road stub clearly, as it follows the bed of a small creek and then bends north toward St. Margaret’s Home. The creek flowed through quite a deep ravine along its entire length, with another, deeper gully (parts of it colored green to indicate that they were wooded) branching off to the north just east of St. Margaret’s Home.

It was only in 1959, as part of a larger plan to develop the University Heights section of the city, that Hackett Boulevard was extended from Holland Avenue to Academy Road.

Knickerbocker News 16 July 1959

Knickerbocker News 16 July 1959

This photograph, taken early in the project, shows how drastically the landscape had to be changed to create Hackett Boulevard as we know it now.







But how can we visualize where St. Paul’s was placed, what the landscape looked like before construction began, and why the church now stands so high above the roadway? By cartographic magic, Andy Arthur has laid the 1953 topographic map over a 2014 aerial photograph.

1953 topographic map with 2014 aerial photograph underlay (Credit

1953 topographic map with 2014 aerial photograph underlay (Credit

Hackett Boulevard was paved and extended to follow the line of the creekbed, at the bottom of the ravine; the northward bend to St. Margaret’s is now Samaritan Road, extended to serve the entire Good Samaritan Center. St. Paul’s (indicated in a blue circle) was not built on an artificially-built platform , but on the only level spot available at the entrance of the Good Samaritan Center, placed high above the creek, now flowing underground. This is the geography that produces the imposing view our visitors now see.

While much of the original terrain has been leveled and smoothed, one feature remains little altered: the deeper, wooded gully lying to the west of Child’s Hospital and St. Margaret’s Home (now Albany Medical Center South Clinical Campus and St. Margaret’s Center).  Paul Grondahl in his Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma (Albany: Washington Park Press, 1997, page 473)  tells us  that  the mayor arranged that much of the otherwise unusable clay and soil excavated for the South Mall (now the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza) was used to fill parts of the gully during an expansion of Child’s Hospital. “Child’s Hospital happened to be operated by the Episcopal diocese; the mayor’s wife was a board member and the Corning family was a longtime major donor of the hospital.”



Mrs. Hawley’s Legacy — J. Montgomery Mosher

In our account of the legacy of Elizabeth Maria Starr Hawley, we come now to her great-grandson, J. Montgomery Mosher.

J. Montgomery Mosher

J. Montgomery Mosher

Jesse Montgomery Mosher was born 12 Oct 1864, the son of Jacob Simmons Mosher and Emma Starr Montgomery Mosher, and named for his maternal grandfather. The Moshers were from Coeymans; Jacob and two of his brothers, Cornelius Duel Mosher and Francis Gillette Mosher, were all doctors. Cornelius’s daughter (and little Montie’s childhood playmate) Clelia Duel Mosher, also became a physician, and as a professor of medicine at Stanford was an influential advocate for women’s health.

Mosher spent a peripatetic early childhood with frequent moves caused by his father’s career. Both of his parents died when he was in his teens: his mother in 1879 (when he was 15) and his father in 1883 (when he was 19), leaving the family in “straitened circumstances,” and with much of the parenting of younger siblings devolving on his younger sister, Gertrude.

Jesse Montgomery Mosher was baptized at St. Paul’s 19 Nov 1865, and confirmed here on Easter 1882. He attended Albany Academy, and graduated from Union College in 1886 and from Albany Medical School in 1889. During summers while in medical school, he worked in the pharmacy of a mental hospital. Mosher wrote his thesis on a psychiatric topic and upon graduation worked in mental hospitals until 1895; he took a European tour that year to update his training in other medical specialties, returning to Albany in June 1896.

While conducting a private practice, Mosher also edited the Albany Medical Annals. He was named an instructor in neurology in the Albany Medical College in 1896 and began clinical teaching at Albany Hospital in 1898. During this period, he conceived a novel idea for improvement in the care of the mentally ill:

“This idea was: that it having been definitely established that insanity was not merely an aberration of the mind, but rather a symptom of disease of the brain, whether functional, toxic or organic; therefore, these unfortunate victims of disease should be so considered and so treated. They should be sent neither to the “Poor House,” as was the custom in Albany in those days, nor to an Insane Asylum, which was so overcrowded and its medical staff so small that the individual patient could receive but little personal attention and treatment; but rather to a well-equipped, general hospital, where they could obtain treatment by the most modern methods.” [Albany Medical Annals, Volume XLIII, Number 1 (January 1922), page 526]

Mosher had to fight many years for a psychiatric ward in the hospital, facing opposition from physicians, administrators, and politicians. He succeeded in 1901, with the establishment of Albany Hospital’s Pavilion F, the first psychiatric ward placed within a general hospital in the world. It was to become a model for psychiatric wards in other cities in the United States, and later around the globe.

J. Montgomery Mosher

J. Montgomery Mosher

Like his father, J. Montgomery Mosher was elected a vestryman at St. Paul’s, and served from 1906 until his death in 1922. St. Paul’s Year Book for that year contains an unusually warm tribute to Mosher, praising both his professional dedication and his commitment to community organizations, including St. Paul’s, which his great-grandmother had joined more than ninety years earlier.

In Memoriam J. Montgomery Mosher, from 1922 St. Paul's Year Book

In Memoriam J. Montgomery Mosher, from 1922 St. Paul’s Year Book

We have now reached the fourth generation of the legacy of our Mrs. Betsy Hawley. The next post will primarily concern J. Montgomery Mosher’s younger siblings, Gertrude Mosher Knight and  Gouverneur Frank Mosher, with an appearance by another of Betsy’s descendants.