The Galion Historical Society, Inc. owns several properties clustered at the intersection of West Walnut and South Union Streets in Uptowne Galion.
Brownella Cottage and Historic Grace Church
This narrative is taken from the listing of Brownella Cottage, its outbuildings including the carriage house and study, Grace Episcopal Church and the Grace Church Rectory on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Brownella Cottage-Grace Episcopal Church & Rectory complex is significant not only for its unique architecture but also for its associations with Bishop William Montgomery Brown, one of the most fascinating individuals in Galion’s history and probably in the history of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the twentieth century, for he was, according to his obituary, “the first Bishop of his communion to be tried for heresy since the Reformation, and the first of any creed in America to be disposed for heretical teachings.”
Brown’s conversion from the orthodox Episcopal priesthood as a missionary to Grace Episcopal Church from 1883-1891, as author of The Church for Americas (1895) to explain the beliefs of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and as Bishop of Arkansas from 1899-1912 to his interest in Marxism, socialism, and Communism in the 1910s and authorship of Communism and Christianism (1920) dramatically increased and challenged his influence in the church, leading to his heresy trial in 1924-25. He tried to prove to his fellow Bishops that they did not believe in a strict interpretation of the Bible any more than he then did. While awaiting the final verdict on his deposition as Bishop in October 1925, he had himself ordained as Bishop in the Old Catholic Church in his study (originally St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church) in Galion, thus enabling him to retain the title of “Bishop.” Brown felt his real ministry began at age of 71 when he started lecturing to the working class and writing a variety of books until his death in 1937.
To further his dreams to “Banish Gods from the skies and Capitalism from the Earth,” the subtitle of Communism and Christianism, he left money in his will to keep his publications in print and to further the work of the Communist party.
Brownella Cottage was Brown’s home from its construction 1885-1887 to his death in 1937, except for the years in Arkansas. Paid for by Mary Scranton Bradford, the wealthy philanthropist of Cleveland, the house was built for Brown and his wife, Ella Scranton Bradford, the niece and adopted daughter of Brown’s benefactress, reflecting the Bradford wealth and high style of the 1880s architecture in the United States. The house is totally unlike any other house of its period in Galion, and it is clear that no expense was spared in its construction.
The house is the design of Cleveland architect Clarence O. Arey. Architecturally, the cottage complex (house and carriage house) is important as an example of late nineteenth century architecture unique to Galion but similar to the large suburban cottages being built through New England by architects like McKim, Mead, and White or to country houses in England built at this time. There are Queen Anne style features in the tower, but it is not a pure example of this style. There are also Stick and Shingle style elements represented, as well.
The large lot and spacious setting of the house, with the house, carriage house, and study interconnected by glass-enclosed walkways, adds to the suburban setting of the complex, which is just a few blocks from uptown Galion. The study was originally the second home of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Galion and was built in 1866; it served as the church until the third building was erected in 1881.
Grace Episcopal Church began as a missionary congregation in October 1867 under Rev. George Davis. The building is now on its third site, having been moved from the corner of the Brownella lot in 1893 with funds given by Brown. The original section of the building was designed by the firm of Lloyd and Pearce of Detroit, who later built large cathedrals in Denver and Cleveland, but this section was enlarged and covered with brick veneer after it was moved. The 1859 Italianate frame house that used to sit on the church lot was moved east in 1893 when the church was moved, again with funds from Brown; it was enlarged to become a rectory in he 1890s and given a brick veneer in the 1900s.
Finally, the buildings are related to Brown’s philosophy, for it was his ideas that caused such a furor as he got caught up in the Fundamentalist-Modernist quarrel shaking the Protestant church in the 1920s. In his autobiography, My Heresy (1926), he noted that he never considered himself a great intellectual “in the battle against orthodoxy.” “All I could do was to spill the beans, and I spilled them all over the place,” he said.
While such a colorful controversial figure is hard to place in a small rural community like Galion, the Bishop was apparently well liked in the city, and his lengthy will included many bequests and instructions to his trustees, including funds to support a hospital or home for the aged in Galion and bequests to his alma mater, Kenyon College. The extensive coverage given his trial, funeral, and will in the New York Times attest to the fact that he did, indeed, spill the beans “all over the place.”