Henry Yates Satterlee

St. Paul’s is proud that four of its rectors went on to be consecrated as bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States. They were:

  • William Ingraham Kip: rector 1837-1853, first missionary Bishop of California, first Bishop of California
  • Thomas Alfred Starkey: rector 1854-1858, Bishop of Northern New Jersey (now the diocese of Newark)
  • Arthur R. McKinstry: rector 1927-1931, Bishop of Delaware
  • George Taylor: rector 1932-1948, Bishop of Easton

There were several others associated with St. Paul’s who also became bishops, and we remember one of them today: Henry Yates Satterlee, the first Bishop of Washington, D.C.

Henry Yates Satterlee

Henry Y. Satterlee was born in 1843 in New York City, but both of his parents were born in the city of Albany and had long family ties in this area. The family moved to Albany in 1846 so that his mother, Jane Anna Yates Satterlee, could manage the household of her father, Henry Christopher Yates. The Yates Mansion (also known as the Yates-Kane house or Ash Grove) was located at what is now the south side of Ash Grove Place between Grand Street and Trinity Place. It was here in the Yates Mansion that Henry lived from age 3 to 13. [i]

The Yates Mansion

Henry’s father, Edward Satterlee, was only nominally a member of the Dutch Reform Church.[ii] Henry’s mother. on the other hand, regularly attended two churches: the Dutch Reformed on Sunday mornings, and the Episcopal in the afternoon. She owned a pew at St. Paul’s Church during the period when William Ingraham Kip and Thomas Alfred Starkey were rectors.[iii] St. Paul’s building on South Pearl Street would have been convenient to the mansion; it was only a ten minute through Kane’s Walk (the park that gave Ash Grove its name) and up Pearl Street.

Kane’s Walk and the Yates Mansion

We know that Henry Satterlee attended St. Paul’s Sunday School.[iv] But Mrs. Satterlee must have also brought Henry along with her to St. Paul’s services where he heard sermons. The family tells a story about his reaction to the services:

Henry, as a small boy, used to come back after service, tie an apron over his shoulders and deliver a sermon, saying the Episcopal Church was the one he proposed to enter.[v]

One wonders whether Satterlee’s attraction to the Oxford Movement started when he heard the sermons of Thomas A. Starkey. Whose “high-church notions” caused an uproar at St. Paul’s in this period.

Henry was first privately tutored by Miss Ellen P. Frisbee, an 1849 graduate of the State Normal School[vi], and then attended the Albany Academy.[vii] Satterlee also learned Dutch from his mother, who was fluent in the language.[viii] When he visited the Pruyn household in Albany as an adult, he was still able to write out a Dutch poem for the Pruyn children. Huybertie Puryn reported that “[h]e did not vouch for the accuracy of his spelling, as his so-called ‘Bible Dutch’ had become blurred in the passing years.”[ix]

Albany Map of 1857, showing Ash Grove and its neighborhood

Henry’s grandfather, Henry Christopher Yates, died in 1854. Two years later, the family returned to New York City.[x] Henry graduated from Columbia College in 1863 and then (following up on his boyish enthusiasm for preaching in the Episcopal church), attended the General Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1865.

He served at Zion Church, Wappingers Falls, New York from 1865 until 1882, initially as curate, and later as rector. He was then called as rector of the influential Calvary Church in Manhattan, where was rector until 1896.

Henry Yates Satterlee was consecrated the first Bishop of Washington, D.C. in 1896, and served in that role until his death in 1908. He is best known as the driving force behind the construction of the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, popularly known as the Washington National Cathedral. Satterlee is buried in the Bethlehem Chapel of the cathedral.[xi]

Henry Y. Satterlee’s Tomb (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

[i] Charles H. Brent, Master Builder: Being the Life and Letters of Henry Yates Satterlee First Bishop of Washington (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1916), 6. Huybertie Pruyn Hamlin (see note ix below) also reports that Satterlee lived in the Yates-Kane house, but is mistaken when she says that it was at 102 State Street.

[ii] Brent, 2-3.

[iii] Brent, 3-4.

[iv] Label on Saterlee’s portrait in the St. Paul’s portrait gallery.

[v] Brent, 4.

[vi] An Historical Sketch of the State Normal College at Albany, N.Y and a History of Its Graduates for Fifty Years (Albany: Brandow Printing Company, 1894), 124.

[vii] Brent, 9.

[viii] Brent, 5.

[ix] Huybertie Pruyn Hamlin, An Albany Girlhood, ed. Alice P. Kenney (Albany: Washington Park Press Ltd., 1990), 137.

[x] Brent. 9.

[xi] Wikipedia “Henry Y. Satterlee,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Y._Satterlee. accessed 19 Feb 2018.

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