GRACE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, ST. FRANCISVILLE
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Reward yourself with visit to the enchanting Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville—an historic town located on a hill atop the Mississippi River, just north of Baton Rouge and New Orleans. You’ll be captivated

 

by the peaceful setting of the Church and graveyard which dates back to 1828.

The original church was first used in 1828 although construction was not fully completed. Ten years later the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana was formed and the Rt. Reverend Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of Arkansas, was appointed diocesan bishop. In 1839, a parochial report on Grace Episcopal noted that there were 3 marriages, 14 funerals and 14 communicants, 12 white and 2 colored. Bishop Polk visited Grace Church that same year and again in 1840 and 1841.

Bishop Polk served as leader of the Louisiana Diocese for 23 years and left to lead the Southern forces in battle against the North in the Civil War; never resuming his diocesan duties due to his death in June, 1864 in a battle at Pine Mountain, Georgia.

The present church was erected in 1858 and its cornerstone was laid by Bishop Polk before resigning his spiritual duties to assume his military leadership.

In June of 1863 a Union officer, Lt. Commander John Hart of New York was buried in the Grace cemetery after much discussion between the church leadership and the local Feliciana Masonic delegation. Senior Warden W. Leake, of Grace Church, felt it his duty to allow the Hart’s interment there despite his military opposition to the South. In the 1990’s, nearly 130 years later, Hart’s descendants journeyed down to St. Francisville from New York to discuss moving his remains closer to family up north; however after viewing the peaceful serenity and beauty of the graveyard, they decided to allow his final resting to remain in this beautiful setting.

Grace church was not without its difficulties during the Civil War. Most of the able men of the congregation were off to battle and the women were left with the burden of providing for the homestead and children too young to fight. Monies for upkeep of the buildings and grounds was scarce and on January 16, 1864, because of it’s location near the Mississippi, Grace and the town of St. Francisville were shelled for four hours by a Union gunboat. The southwest corner of the church was hit and the damage is still evidenced today.

Following the end of the war, the congregation numbers fell from nearly 100 in 1861 to only 34 in 1866. The church relied almost entirely upon the generosity of two parishioners from 1861 until 1883. Their support enabled the repairs and renovations to be completed over a 20-year period. An unverified story that at some point during the construction, a repentant Union naval gunman who was present and participated in the attack on the Church, sent a $100 contribution following the war. The money was used to purchase the four glass panels in a red and white floral pattern for the door to the right of the altar.

Electricity and gas were added during the 20th century and in 1948 a new marble altar was purchased to replace the old wooden one. Beyond scheduled maintenance and repairs, Grace Church remains as it was in 1858.

Today this timeless structure provides sanctuary to its 500 members who gather faithfully for worship on Sundays and religious holidays. Many of these people are third and fourth generation descendants of Grace Episcopal’s first congregation.

Now take that ride through Feliciana’s rolling hills and visit this historic church and its lovely old graveyard in the shade of stately, moss-draped live oaks started from acorns gathered from the nearby Butler plantation in 1855.