1845: Rev. Dr. William Shelton to Rev. Dr. Benjamin Hale

William Shelton

The letter was written by Episcopal clergyman, William Shelton [1798-1883] from his parish in Buffalo, New York. Shelton was the fifth rector of St. Paul’s Church from 1829 until his retirement in 1881. He continued to serve as rector emeritus until his death in 1883, making him the longest serving rector of St. Paul’s. He was the son of Rev. Philo Shelton of Bridgeport and Fairfield, Connecticut, a member of the first group of five clerics to be ordained in the American Episcopal Church by Bishop Seabury. William Shelton’s tenure at St. Paul’s saw unprecedented change both at St. Paul’s and in the region generally. Buffalo grew from a frontier village to a thriving and prosperous metropolis of national significance. Hand in hand with this growth, St. Paul’s grew from a frontier mission into the Cathedral church of the Diocese of Western New York.

On April 7th — two months before this letter was written — Episcopal Bishop William H. DeLancey officiated at the marriage of William Shelton to the widow Lucretia (Stanley) Grosvenor at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo, New York. In this letter, Shelton expresses concern for the health and safe return of the Bishop to his home in Geneva, New York. Perhaps DeLancey used to the occasion to visit several Episcopal churches in his diocese of Western New York during the summer of 1845.

The recipient of the letter was Rev. Dr. Benjamin Hale (1797-1863) who was serving as the President of Geneva (later Hobart) College, an Episcopalian school, in Geneva, New York.

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[Addressed to The Rev. Dr. [Benjamin] Hale, Geneva, New York]

Buffalo [New York]
June 7, 1845

My Dear Sir,

Benjamin Hale

I am as surprised as gratified with your account of the return of our dear Bishop to his home, and in so much health. For all this, we cannot be too grateful. Had the case turned differently, it would have been to us – first – a great personal affliction, & next, an irreparable disaster.

The calamity would have been to us, first, and different – but it would not have been confined to us. His loss at this moment, to our whole branch of the Ch. Catholic of the U.S. would have been extreme. That he is restored is a subject for which we cannot feel or express too much.

I hardly know the object of your remarks to me respecting the payment of the Bishop’s debts. I hope they will be paid without loss of time and without the smallest regret from any one to whom the application is made. The 80 dollars which I sent to [Rev. John Visger] Van Ingen was paid with the best feeling and with the greatest alacrity. If it is not enough, I could add to it, but it is the full share of my people.

I understand from Mr. Van Ingen that Geneva had paid about 100, Rochester 100, Batavia 100, and from another source, that of W. Morris 40, _____ Rochester, 30. These sums alone amount to 450 [dollars]. But is Utica to do nothing? Have not the wealthy members of the Parish of Geneseo no part in [making payment]? Are there no contributions to a cause like this from Auburn & LeRoy?

I had, with you, hoped that a fund could have been raised to have laid the foundation of a church at Bethany but fear it will not be done – at this time – that is, if these personal expenses are not yet paid.

With my best regards to Dr. Hale & Family. I am your friend, — William Shelton


Shelton is probably referring to the Right Reverend William Heathcote Delancey (1797-1865) who was appointed the first Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York in 1839.

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