History of St. Paul's
According to church records, 1852 is generally recognized as the
year St. Paul's was established. This was the year the Diocese
of Virginia divided the Botetourt Parish to create a new parish
embracing all of Roanoke County to be known as the Salem Parish.
However, as early as 1836 a loosely organized group of
Episcopalians in Salem was attended by ministers from
established nearby congregations. In 1867 The Rev. Edward Ingle
began holding regular services for Episcopalians in Salem. He
also had a congregation at St. John's in Roanoke.
There was a single Vestry made up of members of both
congregations. Services were held in homes and later in a rented
room over a tinner's shop.
In early 1867 the combined Vestry chose the name St. Paul's for
the Salem congregation and in the Fall of 1868 a small brick
church was built on the site of the current Parish House. Ingle
continued to be the rector at St. John's and St. Paul's as did
his successors Edwin Penick and Robert Goodwin. In 1883 the two
parishes officially split and Goodwin remained at St. Paul's
For the next 25 years under a succession of Rectors, St. Paul's
steadily grew. Perhaps the most momentous event of the first
half of the 20th century occurred on August 20, 1910 when the
cornerstone was laid for the current church building. The new
building was completed in 1911. The new building had a capacity
of 250 and contained stunning stained glass windows. In 1936 the
intricately carved Reredos was added.
In 1926 work began on the Parish House which was built from a
legacy left by Alice Chalmers in whose memory the Parish House
was blessed. During the period of the Great Depression, The Rev.
Roland Moncure led St. Paul's through very difficult financial
times and kept the congregation together.
In 1942 The Rev. Frederick Griffith arrived and began his 27
year ministry that ended with his death in 1969. During his
tenure St. Paul's endured three wars and the social upheaval of
the 1960s. In 1952 the church acquired the Post House, one of
the oldest buildings in Salem, and utilized it as church offices
for the next 50 years. Air conditioning was added in the late
1950s and perhaps the most dramatic event of his tenure was the
addition of the steeple to the tower.
After his death The Rev. Bob Copenhaver began his 28 year
ministry. His tenure was one of dramatic growth. Two additions
were built and several properties adjacent the church were
acquired. A new organ was added, bells were installed in the
steeple, St Anne's Day School was established, the new prayer
book implemented, and columbarium added. Membership steadily
After Copenhaver's retirement in 1997 St. Paul's was served by a
female interim rector until The Rev. Timothy Vance arrived in
1999. In 2005 the new ministry center was built and improvements
made to the sanctuary and The Post House. The Rev. Bradley
Laycock served as Priest in charge from 2006-2011.
The Rev. Jim Lively began his tenure as rector on Jan 1,
2012. He and his family moved to Salem from Clearmont, Florida.
The Tower Bells
Fifty years before the installation of our Tower Bells, St.
Paul's Tower would ring forth each evening with sounds of
heavenly music. There was a "LP" player within the building and
speakers high atop the old Tower. This gift of heavenly sounds
to downtown Salem remained until the early 1960's. All was
silent until the summer of 1994.
During 1994 Bob Copenhaver located a bell that had never been
used. Good fortune prevailed and two additional used tuned bells
were located making a "Major Triad". He then obtained the
necessary donors for the bells and the tower renovation. The
renovation of the tower was a major undertaking. There had to be
a bell ringer's room just above the Tower Vestibule. The
Ringer's room is in memory of John Burress ( the father of the
St. Paul's Spire).
The three bells 1,200 pound "G" note, 1,000 pound "B" and 350
pound "D" were installed in July 1994. A crane hoisted the bells
through one of the four by eight foot towers that had been
removed. We must thank the builders of the church in 1910 for
not constructing the opening any less in size. The clearance for
the largest bell was about one inch to spare.
The largest bell, "G" has a toller that can be rung for
funerals or memorial services. Tolling an American Peal (all
three bells) the ringer or ringers must do so from the bell
The bells are in memory of Joseph Logan, Jr. (St. Joseph's Bell)
"G" note, Nancy Logan (Miss Nancy Bell) "D" note, and in honor of
Anne and Elizabeth Higginbotham (St. Anne's Bell) "B" note.
These "tuned" bronze bells were manufactured by the McShane
Foundry of Glen Burnie, Maryland. This foundry is the only
remaining "Tuned" bell foundry in the United States.
Please see photo of the installation that hangs in the "Hall of
Post House Ghost
Have you ever been in the Post House late at night and heard
a window open and close and you're the only one in the building?
It has been said by some that they experienced a cold draft late
at night when all windows and doors were closed. It's been
reported there have been occasions prior to the 1962 addition to
the Post House when gas jets in the parlor fireplace would come
on or go out without anyone controlling the regulator. Roanoke
College students studying in the parlor late at night have
experienced these occurrences. Church members and staff have
reported finding a ladder-back chair facing and within a few
feet of the fireplace as if someone had been sitting there for
warmth. Reportedly there have been times when a small table
would be in the rooms center, a chair would be next to the table
with a candle. College students during the 1950's reported
attempting to use the restrooms (at that time the restrooms were
outside the Post House). The doors would be locked from the
inside as if in use. After waiting they would try again to open
the door, the door would open, the restroom would be empty.
Legend has it during the War Between the States a Union soldier
wounded during the Battle of Hanging Rock, was left at the Post
House. He was to be cared for by the Inn Keeper. The Union army
was driven from the valley and did not return for the soldier.
He soon afterwards died from his wounds. Could it be this lone
Union soldier is waiting for his unit to return for him?
Tradition, what is a tradition? It has been said, do something
once and it becomes a tradition at St. Paul's. The following are
some of our Christmas traditions that have been done more than
The pageant has been held in the church as part of the service
since 1870 and most years since. Some years it would be the
Sunday morning service. A few times it would be a week day
evening. Sunday mornings became the most popular. Another long
standing tradition is the star and evergreen rope. The date of
the first such display is not known, but it does date to the
original 1870 church building. A photo of this tradition can be
viewed hanging in the "Hall of Memories" or see the photo on the
back cover of "A History 1836-2000." The use of the electric
star in the original building is interesting since gas lamps
were used to light the Church.
In 1968 St. Paul's first Chrismon Tree was lighted. The youth of
the church supplied both the tree and lights, the ladies the
ornaments. This was the second such tree in Salem, now it's
everyones tradition. Then in 1970 the Tower entrance was
enhanced with the Elizabeth Paxton Christmas Creche. This creche
display is now dedicated to the memory of its creator.
Three other St. Paul's Christmas season traditions begun in 1982
are the Children's Tree, now referred to as the Parish Tree; the
outdoor live Nativity; and the Angel Tree. This tree was first
referred to as the Mitten Tree. The outdoor Nativity was truly
outdoor for the first fifteen years before it was moved from
Market Street to the Tower entrance. The Parish Tree was first
intended to be for the children to hang their ornament on the
tree with the date of their baptism. Now all are welcomed to
help adorn the tree.
Crosses at St. Paul's
There are four crosses seen only during two of the church
seasons, Lent and Easter: The "Old Rugged Cross", Lily Cross,
Children's Flower Cross and the Mite Box Cross. The origin of
the Flower Cross is unknown. The custom on Easter Morning is for
the children to bring a cut flower to church and attach it to
the cross. This cross stands in the Tower Entrance. The age of
the cross is unknown, but it was rebuilt during the 1980's.
The cross that stands next to the Children's Flower Cross is
known as the Mite Box Cross. This cross dates to the mid 1970's.
Children, and adults, place their mite box in it. The cross has
never been full. In recent years there have been fewer mite
boxes returned each Easter Sunday for the special mission
offering. Prior to the Mite Box Cross a plain cardboard box was
The first "Old Rugged Cross" at St. Paul's was Lent 1969. The
trunk of the first Chrismon Tree, 1968, was used. This trunk was
also used for the first "Lily Cross", 1969. This trunk,
thereafter, remained the cross for the Lilies. The 1969 Chrismon
tree trunk was used for the future "Old Rugged Crosses". The
Lily Cross for many years was tended by a committee of four
ladies of the church. A photo of these ladies hangs in the Hall
of Memories. There is also a photo of the first Lily Cross
hanging in the Hall. In the 1970's the Lily Cross was given
yearly in the memory of the Reverend Frederick Griffith. Easter
1983 there were no Lilies on the cross, only the boxwood used
for backing. This was the year the Frederick Griffith Easter
Lily Cross Endowment was set up to insure the cross in
The idea for this cross came from Kathryn Garst and after Mr.
Griffith's death suggested it be dedicated to him. Upon her
passing in 1997 the cross was rededicated as a joint memorial.
Gifts may be made to this endowment.
The year was 1984, the occasion, a St. Paul's Seniors' Trip to
Glendale Springs, North Carolina. The, then rector, Bob
Copenhaver, suggested the possibility of having a columbarium
such as the one under the Church of the Holy Communion. The
original thought was to have ours under the church. This idea
caused a major change in plans for the ramp from the Parish
House to Market Street. It had been suggested to have the ramp
come from the Chapel door, go parallel to the building, then
right to the sidewalk. If there was to be an under church
columbarium, then the ramp had to be changed and it was, to the
It was not until February 1990 that the Vestry appointed a
committee to study the possibility of a columbarium somewhere
"on, in or under." During February and March two surveys were
conducted of the congregation as to the need or desire for a
columbarium. The committee made five on site visits to churches
having columbariums: St. John's, Bedford; St. John's, Roanoke;
St. Thomas, Christiansburg; Trinity, Rocky Mount; and Christ
Church, Martinsville. During this period of time the Vestry
hired an architect who met with the committee. When the agreed
upon site was set, the architect began submitting plans to the
committee. The process went along rather well until the point
of, should it be bronze or brick. The committee appeared equally
divided, but decided to recommend bronze to the Vestry. The
brick people did not give up and the rector called a special
meeting of the committee to meet twenty minutes before the
Vestry meeting to "re-visit" this question. The rest is history.
The brick people won the others over and the Vestry agreed. A
contract was entered into in September 1992. A change order
during October added the Bronze Cross (the bronze people didn't
give up). The columbarium was completed June 13, 1993. It should
be noted, the south wall and gate of the Meditation Garden had
to be moved. The gate now is at the entrance to the columbarium.
The columbarium has been designed for easy expansion.
A sidebar to the construction was the stopping of work when
bones were found where pipes for drainage were being laid. Did
St. Paul's already have a burial ground? No, the bones were
likely a cow. This is the general area where the Post House
tearoom/ kitchen was located. See photo hanging in the Hall of
Memories. The drain pipes are under the parking lot and connect
to the city storm line at Calhoun Street.
The Fellowship Terrace and Meditation Garden
In the late 1980's the Vestry approved a plan to have the
yard behind the Post House landscaped. There having been an
understanding no general church funds would be used, all funds
would be donated. It would be a memorial garden. This idea
evolved into a Fellowship Terrace and Meditation Garden.
Everything: lamps, lighting, benches, walkways, gates, walls
would be memorialized. The one type of item that could not be
individually memorialized were plants, trees and bushes. They
would be memorialized in general. The Terrace and Garden were
dedicated May 1, 1988. A plaque to the affect hangs on the Post
House hall wall. While all this was taking place during 1987 a
member of St. Paul's, Alice McVitty, advised Bob Copenhaver she
wished to donate the well head sitting in her High Street front
yard. This well head was brought to Salem by her husband during
the 1930's from the Holy Land. A mill wheel, once used in a
Roanoke River grinding mill, was part of this offer. Having
these two gifts moved would prove to be a challenging endeavor.
Since the north brick wall between the Post House and Church was
already in place (as was a wall at the south end), a forklift
and crane were needed to lift the well head and wheel over the
wall to its resting place in the Meditation Garden. A sidebar to
this is the two wooden benches in the garden were not the
original benches. The original were of steel construction and
half-barrel in shape. Upon agreement of all parties the change
was made a few years later. The Louton Bench in the Fellowship
Terrace was not a part of the original dedication and has its
own memorial plaque. This bench did serve as the model for the
others. Also, as promised, no general church funds were used for
the grand improvement with one exception. The Younger Park
building's brick wall was added with use of Younger Park
building's Capital Funds.
St. Paul's Steeple - Tower Spire
Since that historic day in June 1966 when the skyline of
downtown Salem was changed, there has been an ongoing series of
comments. Does St. Paul's Church Spire enhance or detract from
the appearance of the church? It was a clear, warm, late spring
day when a helicopter lowered our spire atop the remodeled
tower. If you were to stand in the tower under the spire you
would be unable to see over the side without standing on a
stepladder. Some of the comments heard since that day have been
similar to those later heard regarding the "new" Prayer Book.
Why change a good thing? That's not to say many people thought
it was a grand improvement (both the spire and Prayer Book). The
question is, how did it come about? The Senior Warden at the
time, requested the Vestry to agree to a spire "to enhance the
appearance of the church." If they did, he would cover all
costs. The Vestry agreed. A search of Vestry records reveals
just two entries, May 3, 1965 and July 10, 1966. There was at
least one other discussion not recorded and one field trip to
view a similar spire style of a Methodist Church in Southwest
Roanoke. The Vestry, May 3, 1965, after the Senior Warden's
persuasive discussion, "unanimously" authorized the architect
"to design and have erected a tower addition to St. Paul's
Church if and when the design is acceptable and the means are
provided." The two conditions must have been met since a year
later we had a spire. The second and final spire Vestry entry
was a called special meeting July 10, 1966. "Motion made and
passed that we thank Mr. and Mrs. Burress for the new steeple.
The tower spire was later dedicated to the Glory of God and in
loving memory of Glenna Burress. The illuminations was not made
permanent until 1993. Like it or not, we have a tower spire and
the "new" Prayer Book. Visit the Hall of Memories, Parish House,
view the photos of "before" and "now" and you decide.
During this same period of time, first six months (around 1965)
the Vestry delayed action on the rector, Fred Griffith's,
request for a typewriter . There are four entries in the
minutes. The Vestry kept requesting additional information
(cost) before authorizing the rector to purchase a typewriter
for the office.
During 1937 The Reredos was installed and dedicated to the glory
of God by the Rt. Rev. Robert Jett. It is of carved oak having a
polychrome finish. The Rev. Mr. Moncure designed this memorial.
The paneling in the Sanctuary adjoining The Reredos is dedicated
"to the glory of God and in loving gratitude to the Rectors of
this Parish." The Reredos is below the East Window a.k.a. Altar
Window or the Trinity Window. This window was installed in the
new church in 1911. For the installation of the Reredos the
window had to be raised four to six inches.
Now for a brief description of this work of art. The fish symbol
behind the cross was used as a means of recognition by early
Christians. This is called Vesica Picis. The Vesica holds "the
fruit of the vine." From this symbol extends the rays of light
into the world. The early Church's growth is represented by the
two large figures of St. Peter and St. Paul. St. Peter is on the
Gospel side "because he walked with Jesus in the days of the
flesh and because of his associating with the Gospel of Mark."
The panel on the Gospel side represents Christ before the
resurrection. Remember his visit to the home of Mary and Martha.
The Epistle side has St. Paul. Paul was the writer of most of
the Epistles. The panel represents Christ after the resurrection
on the road to Emmaus.
The Church down through the ages is represented by the four
small figures: St. Chrysostom of Constantinople, representing
the Eastern Church; St. Francis of Assisi, the Western Church on
the Epistle side; St. Colomba of Iona, representing the British
Isles; and Robert Hunt, Chaplain of the first colony at
Jamestown, the Church in America, are on the Gospel side. In the
paneling, the conventional "fish symbol" can be found. Above the
Reredos are grape leaves and grains of wheat. The top of the
Reredos has a Greek Cross. On the side of the cross are the
symbols in Greek of Jesus and Christ, Alpha and Omega. Please
view the photographs of the Reredos by James C. Malley, organist
1930's and 40's hanging in the "Hall of Memories", Parish House.
St. Margaret's Chapel
Prior to 1928 there was a straight hallway from the Nave to the
church grounds; after 1928 the Parish House. In 1930, when the
Moller organ was installed, one organ pipe chamber protruded
into the hallway making it both narrow and crooked. The
passageway remained obstructed and drab until 1997. The new
Noack organ did not require the chamber. However, a smaller
obstruction was added. The steps from the new chancel exit lead
into this passage. That is when this previously drab hallway was
transformed into an attractive useful chapel. The official name
is "St. Margaret's Chapel", dedicated in 1998.
In 2005, with the completion of the Ministry Center and
restoration of the Post House, St. Margaret's Chapel was moved
to the old church office in the Post House. The Chapel has both
old and new appointments. The Altar Table is the original Altar
Table from the first church and the cross is from the old
"Children's Chapel". Who was St. Margaret? She is a Scottish
Saint who was Queen of Scotland, 1070. She died in December 1093
shortly after her husband, King Malcolm, was murdered. Queen
Margaret was "most beloved and revered" by Scottish people. Her
feast day is November 16. Saint Margaret is our Rector Emeritus,
Robert T. Copenhaver's favorite Saint.
The Altar Cross and Other Artifacts
Have you ever wondered how long has the Cross been on the Altar?
What happened to the pews from the 1868 building? Perhaps the
following will answer some of your questions. The Altar Cross as
well as the large brass vases are from the first church. The
1868 Altar Table is now in St. Margaret's Chapel. A double chair
used in 1868 is in the hallway between the Sanctuary and the
Parish Hall. A small pew can be found in our St. Anne's School.
The Baptismal Font was a gift from the Junior Auxiliary of St.
Paul's in 1898. Both the Bishop's chair and the Priest's Chair
were used in the first church. Yes, we are surrounded by our
past. The history of St. Paul's is living.
The Parish House
Our first church building stood on the site of the present
Parish House. The Parish House was dedicated October 24, 1926 to
the Glory of God and erected that year in memory of Alice
Chalmers. Mrs. Chalmers not only left a legacy for St. Paul's,
but also to the Methodist Church. The Methodists built an
educational building next to their church on College Avenue.
Roanoke College now owns Chalmers Hall and the old Methodist
Church is now a grass lawn. During 1972 what is known as the
"New Addition" was added as the result of a major capital fund
campaign. In the late 1980's the "South Wing" was purchased and
added to the "New Addition." The corner property was owned by
St. Paul's on at least two occasions. St. Paul's owned the land
in the 1930's and 40's when a gas station stood on the corner.
The main beam from the gas station may be seen today as part of
the support for the interior wall of the "South Wing." A photo
of the gas station can be seen hanging in the "Hall of Memories"
in the 'new addition'.
Even in the early days of St. Paul's our concern for reaching
out was apparent. The first reference to a mission was in Vestry
minutes of 1916. We had a mission church on Bent Mountain until
we closed it during 1920 because of the flu. Also, that same
year the Vestry voted to sell St. Paul's interest in St. Andrews
Chapel on Ash Bottom Road, northwest of Salem. It was closed in
1918 because of the flu epidemic. Six years later, in 1924, St.
Paul's founded Mount Gerizim Chapel on Twelve O'clock Knob
southwest of Salem. Unfortunately, due to declining membership,
it was closed in 1951. St. Paul's gave it one more try in May of
1965. Vestry records note the Vestry began a study for future
expansion into West Salem/County. Vestry records show an active
Committee from May through November of that year. In November
1965 the Vestry expanded this study to include a school. The
minutes are silent until September 1967 when the Vestry voted to
confer with the Bishop per the diocese plans for future growth.
This grand plan then withered on the vine.
The Post House
Was it 1812 or 1821? For many years 1812 was above the doorway
of 42 East Main Street. However, this long time mistake was
corrected a number of years ago to 1821. No matter which year
the Post House was built it still is the oldest building on Main
Street and has been designated an historic building. In 1952, at
the time St. Paul's purchased the Post House, it was operated as
a "Tea Room and Restaurant." During 1958 the two first floor
rooms were converted into the first official offices for the
rector and Parish. The original building was expanded into the
current Post House in 1961. For a view of the rear section that
was razed for this addition see the photos of the Post House
hanging in the Hall of Memories.
The Old Rectory
Rectory, "a rector's house; parsonage." On June 7, 1883 St.
Paul's paid Col. Robert Logan the sum of $2,000 for the first
rectory at 301 West Main Street. Prior to this St. Paul's rented
a house to be used by our rectors. In 1905 St. Paul's sold this
house and purchased a house for use as a rectory at Market and
Clay Streets. The Rev. Meredith was its first occupant. This is
where The Rt. Rev. Lewis, Jr. lived as a small boy. This rectory
was sold in 1928 and The Rev. Moncure upon his arrival first
lived in a rental house. The 116 Lewis Avenue rectory was built
that year and remained as the rectory for the rectorship of The
Rev. Griffith. The Rev. Copenhaver also lived at 116 Lewis,
however the church sold the house to him during 1972. He and
future rectors receive a housing allowance.
Salem's First Air Conditioned Church
The last Sunday of June 1958 was like most summer Sundays, hot.
In the attempt to be cool during services the roof vents would
be open, windows opened and many worshippers could be seen
waving the Salem Oakey Funeral Home fans. Main Street, US 11 and
460 was the I-81 of the day. The Rev. Griffith many times had to
wait for the trucks and buses to pass before continuing with the
service. On July 6, 1958 this all changed. The nave was cool;
St. Paul's was now air-conditioned. In fact, St. Paul's was the
first church in Salem to be so cooled.
Bishops From St. Paul's
Two bishops of the Episcopal Church spent part of their younger
years attending St. Paul's. The Rt. Rev. David H. Lewis, Jr.,
whose father was The Rev. David H. Lewis, rector of St. Paul's
from 1922 to 1926. Bishop Lewis at the time was four to eight
years of age. He was Suffragan Bishop, Diocese of Virginia
1980-1987, In later years The Rt. Rev. Frank H. Vest was
baptized during 1936 at St. Paul's. During his college years at
Roanoke he attended St. Paul's and was active in the Canterbury
Club. Bishop Vest was Bishop, Diocese of Southern Virginia
Stained Glass Windows
Facing Main Street is the West Window, aka St. Paul Window or
King Agrippa. It depicts St. Paul's trial before King Agrippa.
He is pleading, "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not
disobedient unto the heavenly vision." Legend has it the German
artist who created this work of art used many of the members of
St. Paul's as models for each figure. Also, the baldheaded man
is the artist. During 1946 the Vestry authorized the lighting of
the St. Paul Window.
*A complete history of St. Paul's can be found in St. Paul's
Episcopal Church, A History 1836 - 2000, written by Charlie