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«Anglo-Catholicism in Antebellum North Carolina: Levi Silliman Ives and the Society of the Holy Cross By Lewis Wright He has instituted at Valle ...»

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Anglo-Catholicism in Antebellum North Carolina:

Levi Silliman Ives and the Society of the Holy Cross

By Lewis Wright

He has instituted at Valle Crucis a monastic order... composed of persons bound

to him by a vow of celibacy, poverty and obedience.... He has given to the

members, as their peculiar dress, a black cassock extending from the throat to the

ankle.... He allows to be placed on the altar a pyx, in which are reserved the

remaining consecrated elements after a communion... there is used at Valle Crucis in a little manual of devotions... prayers to the Virgin Mary and the Saints.... He has announced to two of his clergy an intention to send a “penitentiary” through the parishes in the Diocese to receive the confessions of the people.1 THESE CRITICISMS of the Rt. Rev. Levi Silliman Ives (1797-1867), bishop of North Carolina, were made in 1849 by George Edmond Badger, a prominent layman, lawyer and United States senator from Raleigh, North Carolina. Several accounts have been written of the life of Bishop Ives, a cradle Presbyterian who converted to the Episcopal Church. Ives served as the second bishop of North Carolina (1831-1852) and spent the last fifteen years of his life as a Roman Catholic layman (1852-1867).2 These accounts have included few details of the Society of the Holy Cross and of the bishop’s beloved mission-monastery outpost in the wilderness of the North Carolina mountains, which he called Valle Crucis Abbey. 3 On an evening in late October or early November, 1847, at St. Luke’s Church, Hudson and Grove Streets, New York City, Ives received the life vows of poverty, chastity and obedience from the Rev. William Glenney French and first annual vows from Oliver Sherman Prescott, who had recently been ordained [George Edmond Badger], An Examination of the Doctrine Declared and the Powers Claimed by the Right Reverend Bishop Ives in a Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and Laity of his Diocese (Philadelphia, 1849), 68.

Marshall Delancey Haywood, “Levi Silliman Ives, Second Bishop of North Carolina.” Lives of the Bishops of North Carolina (Raleigh, 1910), 91-139; Michael T. Malone, “Levi Silliman Ives: Priest, Tractarian, and Roman Catholic Convert” (Ph. D. dissertation, Duke University, 1970); John O’Grady, Levi Silliman Ives, Pioneer in Catholic Charities (New York, 1933);

Richard J. Purcell, “Levi Silliman Ives,” Dictionary of American Biography, Dumas Malone, ed. (New York, 1932), v. 9, 521-522; Blackwell P. Robinson, “The Episcopate of Levi Silliman Ives,” The Episcopal Church in North Carolina, Lawrence Foushee London and Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, eds. (Raleigh, 1987), 171-221.

Joseph Blount Cheshire, “Levi Silliman Ives,” unpublished biographical sketch, Charles Van Noppen papers, Duke University, c. 1890; Mrs. H. H. Prout, “Recollections of the First Mission at Valle Crucis.” Messenger of Hope, February 1909, 1.

–  –  –

deacon. 4 It was a dramatic scene, lit by a single candle. The men had been inducted into a recently founded Anglican monastic order, the Society of the Holy Cross. French was to serve as superior. These matters were carried out in utmost secrecy. Ives was at the time visiting his brother-in-law, the Rev. John Henry Hobart, Jr., who in 1841 had been one of the founding members of the monasticlike mission in Wisconsin that later evolved into Nashotah House.

Ives was one of the most respected bishops in the American church and was an acknowledged leader of the high church party. Born in Meriden, Connecticut, on 16 September 1797, he was the son of Levi and Fanny Silliman Ives and the oldest of ten children. The family, of modest circumstances, moved in his infancy to Turin, New York, where his father obtained work in a saw mill. Ives studied for a period at Lowville Academy in Lewis County.5 On 11 October 1814 he enlisted as a private in the Sixth Regiment of Mounted Dragoons of the New York Militia, and served at a salary of twenty dollars a month during the final months of the War of 1812.6 Ives’s father is thought to have committed suicide by drowning in a creek in 1815.

Ives entered Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, in 1816 with the intention of becoming a Presbyterian minister.7 He completed five semesters of study but left in the second semester of his third year because of an illness. In 1819 he was appointed the second principal of the St. Lawrence Academy at Potsdam, New York, at a salary of four hundred dollars a year.8 So satisfactory were his services that he was given a raise of a hundred dollars for 1820 and an assistant was provided. Ives also served as a lay preacher because there was no Presbyterian minister in town. His interest in the Episcopal Church began after he received a Book of Common Prayer as a gift from a clergyman.9 By 1820 he was confirmed in the Episcopal Church. He then wrote the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hobart, bishop of New York, telling him of his desire to become a priest.

Ives’s actual seminary education extended over only two semesters.

Initially he enrolled in 1821 as a second-year student at the New York Theological Academy, a diocesan institution founded by Hobart earlier that year.10 By the end of the year it had been decided that the General Theological Seminary would move Historical Notes, 1820-1939, St. Luke’s Chapel, Trinity Parish (New York, 1939), 18.





Lowville Academy, Semi-centennial anniversary celebrated at Lowville, N.Y., July 21st and 22nd, 1858 (Lowville, 1859), 8.

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Hamilton Literary Monthly 2, no. 6 (1868):191; personal communication, Frank K. Lorenz, Curator of Special Collections, Hamilton College, 5 September 1996.

George H. Sweet, St. Lawrence Academy, Historical Sketch 1816-1869 (n.p., 1916), 6.

William Hooper Haigh diary, 7 February 1842, p. 61 of typescript, unpublished manuscript in the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Journal of the Proceedings of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New York, 1821 (New York, 1821), 33.

[2] Anglo-Catholicism in Antebellum North Carolina, by Lewis Wright from New Haven to New York and the two institutions would be consolidated.

Ives continued his studies at General Theological Seminary, enrolling with the first students on 13 February 1822. He left the seminary in July 1822 “in consequence of his expectation to shortly take orders.”11 He did not graduate and received no seminary degree. The practice of ordaining young men who had attended but not graduated from seminary was not unusual at the time.

On 4 August 1822, Ives was ordained to the diaconate by Hobart at St.

John’s Church, New York. His first post was as missionary to Batavia in Genessee County. In 1823, he was elected rector of Trinity Church, Southwark, Philadelphia, and on 24 December was o rdained to the priesthood by Bishop William White. In 1824 Columbia College (now Columbia University) awarded Ives an honorary Master of Arts degree.12 His mentor, Hobart, had served as a trustee of Columbia College since 1801. On 15 February 1825, Ives married Hobart’s daughter, Rebecca. In 1826-1827 Ives served as co-rector of St. James Church, Lancaster, St. John’s in Pequa, and Christ Church, Leacock. In 1827 he returned to New York as assistant rector of Christ Church. He resigned in less than six months to become rector of St. Luke’s, New York, on 19 February

1828. The parish grew steadily under his leadership. In 1831 Columbia College honored him again with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. In May 1831, much to his surprise, Ives was elected bishop of North Carolina at the annual convention of the diocese. The election had been unanimous with the exception of one ballot that was returned blank.

At the time the Episcopal Church was at best borderline in North Carolina. The vast state stretched more than four hundred miles from the ocean to its westernmost edge adjacent to Tennessee. Parts of North Carolina were actually west of Detroit. Although attempts had been made in the early eighteenth century to establish the church, by 1739 there were only two parishes in which Episcopalian services were regularly held.13 After a period of gradual growth the church virtually disappeared following the Revolution. Charles William Janson, an English visitor in 1806 to the Carolinas, observed, “... religion is at a very low ebb... there is a total neglect not only of religion but also of moral duties... the baptism and burial services are dispensed.”14 There seemed little interest of any sort. Baptist and Methodist congregations began to grow, but by 1816 there was Proceedings Relating to the Organization of the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (New York, 1854), 133, 137.

Columbia University Alumni Register 1754-1931 (New York, 1932), 435.

William L. Saunders, ed., The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh, 1886), v. 4, 357.

Charles William Janson, The Stranger in America 1793-1806 (Reprinted from the London Edition of 1807). (New York, 1935), 104.

[3] Anglo-Catholicism in Antebellum North Carolina, by Lewis Wright not a single Episcopal priest who resided in the state.15 Within a year there were three. Formally organized in 1817, the diocese of North Carolina elected John Stark Ravenscroft, a high churchman from Virginia, as the first bishop. Ravenscroft remained until his death in 1830. During those years the Episcopal Church in the state grew to sixteen congregations and over nine hundred communicants.16 Only one parish in the state, however, St. James, Wilmington, had more than a hundred communicants.

On 22 September 1831, at the age of thirty-four, Ives was consecrated bishop at his former parish church in Philadelphia. The consecrators were bishops William White, Henry Ustick Onderdonk of Pennsylvania, and Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk of New York. Returning to New York for a period, Ives delayed his trip south until the summer heat had passed and in October he traveled from New York to North Carolina. The journey took a week.

In North Carolina he initially maintained residences in Raleigh, the capital, and in Salisbury, to the west. Ives approached his work with zeal. Congregations were widely separated and travel was arduous. Roads were primitive and often barely passable, for at the time maintenance of roads was left to the discretion of each county. Ives traveled widely and was keen on extending the church to rural areas and small towns and ministering to the poor and the slaves. For the latter he encouraged missionary efforts, wrote for blacks a special catechism, encouraged special services for them, and supported a few new parishes that had been formed by freed slaves. According to the 1840 and 1850 census reports Ives himself owned no slaves. Lack of clergy and lack of funds were the major problems of the diocese. Low salaries and torrid summers made recruiting clergy from other areas difficult. Moreover, the costs of sending candidates for holy orders from North Carolina to the seminary in New York were prohibitive. Ives became convinced that priests should be recruited from local young men and that they should be trained in the state.

In 1833 the Ives’ only child, John Henry Hobart Ives, died while visiting in New York with his mother. That year also saw the opening of the Episcopal School in Raleigh after two years of planning. It was to be modeled on the Flushing Academy in New York, and Ives had persuaded Joseph Cogwell of the highly respected Round Hill School of Northampton, Massachusetts, to accept the position of headmaster.17 The school flourished for a period but ultimately failed to Journal of the Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of North Carolina, 1818 (Wilmington, 1818), 8.

Journal of the Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of North Carolina, 1830 (Fayetteville, 1830), 9-14.

Michael T. Malone, “The Episcopal School of North Carolina, 1832-1842,” North Carolina Historical Review 49, no. 2 (Spring 1972): 178-194; James McLachlan, American Boarding Schools: A Historical Study (New York, 1970), 31-101.

[4] Anglo-Catholicism in Antebellum North Carolina, by Lewis Wright achieve financial stability. The buildings were purchased by Judge Duncan Cameron, one of the trustees, and were leased in 1842 to the Rev. Albert Smedes of New York, who opened St. Mary’s School, which continues today. In 1840 Ives had traveled to New York to give the commencement address at General Theological Seminary. Among the members of the class was his brother-in-law, John Henry Hobart, Jr. Bishop Hobart had died in 1830.

Relations with the adjacent diocese of Virginia were less than cordial. In 1829 Bishop Ravenscroft had opposed the election of William Meade as assistant bishop of Virginia because of differing theological views. Ravenscroft even refused to attend Meade’s consecration. Although the seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, had begun admitting students in 1823, few from North Carolina enrolled. In its first thirty years there were only three students from North Carolina.18 Both Ravenscroft and Ives were strong supporters of General Theological Seminary and were wary of local diocesan seminaries that taught evangelical doctrines.

In 1842 Ives made perhaps his only official visit to Virginia when he was invited to preach at the consecration in Richmond of the Rt. Rev. John Johns as the assistant bishop.19 This led to the strongest public condemnation of Ives to date when a North Carolina clergyman, the Rev. Bennett T. Blake, published a review of the sermon.20 Ives was accused of viewing all churches but the Episcopal Church as heretical and schismatic and as being unduly influenced by the “Oxford tract writers.” Ives heartily endorsed the Tracts for the Times that had resulted from the Oxford movement over the years 1833-1841 in his address to the diocesan convention in North Carolina in 1842.21 In 1841 the annual convention in adjacent Virginia had strongly condemned these and the Oxford movement in general.22 At the General Convention of 1844 bishops Moore and Meade of Virginia sought to persuade the church in America to do likewise and introduced a resolution.23 Only three other dioceses favored it—Georgia, Ohio, and Maine. The remaining dioceses, including North Carolina, refused to support it.

Virginia Theological Seminary Alumni Database, Virginia Theological Seminary Archives.



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