Stories from the First Cathedral  - Faribault, MN 

The Rev Canon James C Zotalis

July 7, 2020

Special Gift for Bishop Whipple

Two years before the construction of the First Cathedral in 1860, Bishop Whipple received a very special gift from his father-in-law, Mr Wright of Waterloo, NY. The gift was a beautiful black horse, who was 8 years old and named Bashaw. Bashaw was a second cousin of the celebrated horse George M Patchen (Dan Patch). Bashaw was widely known throughout the state of MN having carried Bishop Whipple over 50,000 miles over prairies and wilderness in the course of his pastoral calls. Bishop Whipple would take a carriage pulled by two horses. Bashaw had 6  partners in the course of his career for the Bishop. The carriage used by Bishop Whipple is a treasure of Blue Earth County Museum in Mankato, MN. Bashaw loved Bishop Whipple and Bishop Whipple loved Bashaw. Basha';s sensitivity, intellect and faithfullness were qualities which saved the Bishop's life several times. Next week I will tell such a story from Bishop Whipple's autobiography called "The Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate".

June 30, 2020

Whose idea was it to build the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour? Let's turn to the book the "First Cathedral", which I mentioned in my article last week, for the answer to this question.

"On April 18, 1862, Mrs Breck died. Though Whipple does not explain exactly why, this was the specific occasion for his decision to build the Cathedral. In his funeral sermon for Mrs. Breck, he refers to this idea and quotes the verse, "Work while the day lasts, for the night cometh in which no man can work." Both the funeral sermon and his address at the laying of the cornerstone would be printed and circulated widely. On Easter Day, the congregation of the Good Shepherd contributed over $600 to the cause, and eventually Dr Breck would raise over $11,000 for the building fund. As the Bishop said, "It was while my heart was sad for my brother's [Breck's] loss...that the thought came to build the [Cathedral] even in troublesome times. I believe God put that thought there...and it grew to be a plan..."

July 16, 1862, must have been a poignant day for Dr Breck. Bishop Whipple laid the cornerstone of the Bishop's Church, but as he himself said, "This world did not take much notice." Even the Central Republican thought it was nothing more than the Coxe of Western New York -- "The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour." The building was designed in a rather plain Gothic style, apparently by Renwick & Co. of New York City. Stephen Congdon was the chief supervising architect, and Robert C Wiley of St Paul was the local supervising architect. C.N. Daniels of Faribault was the supervisor of the exterior stone work. The stone for the Cathedral was native blue limestone from Milan Ponds' Fall Creek quarry east of Faribault. Edward Goodman, the chief stonecutter, had recently come to Faribault from Yarmouth, England."

We need to give credit to the strong and faithful women, who gave leadership and support to their husbands in the early history of the Episcopal Church of Minnesota. Marie Breck and Cornelia Whipple were the wives that sparked the evangelical zeal in their husbands! If Marie Breck had lived longer she most likely would have done many important tasks to help her husband James Lloyd Beck. Cornelia Whipple was probably responsible for Henry B whipple coming to Christianity and pushed him to study for the priesthood. Cornelia died in 1890. Before her death she created St Mary's School for young women and many more monumental ministries in Faribault, MN. St Mary's is still in operation on the Shattuck-St Mary's campus. One can take a tour of the Maple Lawn Cemetery in Faribault, MN and view Cornelia's grave which reads: "She did what she could."

Cornelia did what she could and made many more contributions to the beginning of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Dr Breck and Bishop Whipple were very blessed to have wives who were true saints!


June 20, 2020

Starting next week, I will be submitting a weekly story about the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour for the ECMN news. I have gotten permission from the ECMN office and the Chapter of the Cathedral to share these weekly stories about the place, the people and the events from the past and present. The Cathedral is truly a treasure of the ECMN.

Let me take a minute to introduce myself to those who don't know me. I am the priest-in-charge at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Kasson. I am also the archivist at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour where I was the Dean from 2001 - 2013. My ordination to the priesthood by Bishop Anderson took place at this cathedral in 1988. The Cathedral is a significant place for me because my children were married there, my grandchildren were baptised there and my wife Paula's funeral was held there in 2012.

And now a little background on the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. It was our First Bishop Henry B Whipple who had the idea to start the building of the Cathedral in 1862 and it was finished in 1869. This is the first church built as a Cathedral of any denomination in the United States. A book titled "The First Cathedral" was written in 1987 and revised in 2003 by the Venerable Ben Scott and Robert Neslund. A copy of the revision was sent to every faith community in Minnesota. Check your library for a copy of " The First Cathedral".

I believe it is time to share stories and history about this treasure called The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour as we begin a new Episcopate with Bishop Craig Loya. Hopefully you will find my weekly stories enjoyable and informative.