Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Building an Episcopal Church in a Lutheran Town: Women and the Founding of St. John's Episcopal Church, Mt. Prospect

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Building an Episcopal Church in a Lutheran Town: Women and the Founding of St. John's Episcopal Church, Mt. Prospect

Article excerpt

In 1930 Edwin and Gladys Baskin took a big step. For the first thirteen years of their marriage they had lived in apartments, staying close to her family in the northwest reaches of" Chicago. As sales manager for the Chicago office of Upson Walton Corporation (the major producer of wire rope in the United States), Edwin was blessed with a relatively secure financial future despite the growing economic collapse.1 Now with land prices plummeting, it seemed a prudent time to buy a house. They found a house to their taste on the edge of Mt. Prospect. It was half of a sprawling old farmhouse, which they moved across Russell Street to face its other half. To the north and west of their lot stretched vistas of open fields broken only by an occasional farmhouse and lines of recently planted trees from defunct housing developments. To the south and west were a few houses scattered along the four blocks of dirt roads leading to Mt. Prospect's commercial center.

The Baskins quickly became a part of the community. Their twelve-year-old daughter Lois enrolled in the area high school, and their nine-year-old, Ruth, began walking to Central Standard School, the three-year-old, four-room brick public school. Ed became one of the town's first commuters, either driving into the city using the Northwest Highway or taking the train. Gladys joined both the P.T.A., and the Mt. Prospect Improvement Association, and then within three years was president of both. She also found a bridge group.2 What they could not find was a church. Mt. Prospect, with a population of about 1225, had only two churches, and both were Lutheran. Arlington Heights, the next town to the northwest and site of the area high school, had seven churches: Lutheran, Catholic, Evangelical Free, Universalist, Methodist and Presbyterian, but no Episcopal church.3 In fact, the nearest Episcopal church was St. Mary's in Park Ridge, about nine miles distant.

Until 1920, Mt. Prospect had been a farm community settled mostly by immigrant German Lutherans who began pouring into the northwestern part of Illinois around 1840.4 The earliest German settlement in the Mt. Prospect area was south of Weller Creek in an area later annexed by the town. St. John Lutheran Church, affiliated with the Missouri Synod, served this southern community of scattered farms with German language services. In the 1880s a developer built a train station at a crossroads he named Mt. Prospect and a few stores clustered near the station. As the town developed, Germans opened and owned the local stores, real estate agencies, and banks, and in 1913, St. Paul Lutheran Church opened to serve townsfolk. It was situated a few blocks east of the little business district in what was then the residential center of the town. Also affiliated with the Missouri Synod, St. Paul's was an English language congregation.0

When Mt. Prospect incorporated as a village in 1917, it had three hundred residents. There were three schools in the area. St. John's Lutheran School served the unincorporated region south of town. It had been the only school in Mt. Prospect area for the town's first forty-seven years. In 1895 a one-room public school (Central School) opened on the northern edge of Mt. Prospect's business district. When St. Paul's formed in 1913, it immediately opened a school. Village growth in the 1920s led both St. Paul's and the public school to build new brick buildings late in the decade.6 Mt. Prospect became part of a unified high school district in 1917, and Arlington High School was the true melting pot for the entire area. It served more than five towns and drew from both parochial and public elementary schools districts throughout the area. (Even so, Lois Baskin who had started the year at Von Steuben High School in the city, thought Arlington High School "so small that I didn't know where to rurn [sic]."7) At the high school the numerical prominence of Germans was obvious. When Ruth Baskin graduated from Arlington High in 1939, her class had 126 members. …

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