The Origin of St. Paul's

The history of St. Paul's began with a service of baptism on September 13, 1836, conducted by North Carolina's second Episcopal bishop, the Right Reverend Levi Sillman Ives, on his initial visit to Wilkesboro. It took place at the home of James and Susan (Williams) Dodge, parents of the three children who were baptized. 

As the town grew, a small group of dedicated Espiscopalians from the surrounding area in 1847-48 raised $1024.00 to build a church, with donations ranging from $1.00 to $200.00. The beautiful, Gothic brick structure was consecrated on July 8, 1849 by Bishop Ives, with great ceremony, amid the local membership and the faculty and students from Valle Crucis Seminary who walked the fifty-four miles over the Blue Ridge for the occasion.

Samuel Finley Patterson and the Gwyns gave the land for the church and four other families spearheaded the drive to erect the building. They were James and Mary Anne (Lenoir) Gwyn, Dr. James Calloway, and two sisters, Miss Fanny Williams and Mrs. Mary (Williams) Peden, a widow who later married the second rector, the Reverend Richard Wainwright Barber.

The Reverend William R. Gries, a native of Pennsylvania and former student at Valle Crucis, was the first clergyman. He was well-received and helped organize the new church, but within three years he returned to his home in the north.

The Reverend Mr. Barber, a native of Rowan County who also trained at Valle Crucis, arrived in 1851 and remained for the next forty-five years, retiring due to age and ill health. He served not only Wilkesboro, but a wide area of scattered communicants, and eventually established churches in Elkin and Statesville. Under his leadership St. Paul's became a parish in 1858.

After Mr. Barber's retirement at the turn of the century, the parish purchased a house near the church for future rectors and their families. However, except for a few years, the congregation was often without a long term resident priest and had to depend on supply clergy. As a result, the membership dropped drastically to only a few families.

Then in 1928, the north wall of the church was destroyed by a wind storm; with great effort by the small congregation and help from other sources, the historic structure was saved. New life was given to the parish that same year, when the Reverend Boston M. Lackey assumed the duties of rector, as well as resident clergy at St. James, Lenior. He retired in 1950.

In October 1982, St. Paul's was included in the National Register of Historic Places.