Saints march on

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peterborough's All Saints Church. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough's All Saints Church. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peterborough’s All Saints Church will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the laying of the historic building’s cornerstone this weekend. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Rev. Jamie Hamilton with the trowel used to dig the hole to lay the cornerstone of the church 100 years ago which now hangs in the church vestry. The inscription on the trowel reads: “This trowel was used by the right Reverend Edward M. Parker, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, in laying the corner stone of All Saints’Church, Peterborough on Sunday afternoon, September sixteenth, being the fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, 1917. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 14, 2017

On a Sunday afternoon, in September of 1917, after a solemn procession, the cornerstone of what was to become Peterborough’s iconic All Saints’ Church was laid.

Inside were a few marks of the time: records of the parish and the town, the carols sung by all the churches of Peterborough that Christmas, an address by President Woodrow Wilson to Congress, and the most recent copy of the Peterborough Transcript. 

It would be several years yet before the church could be finished and consecrated – World War I interrupted the church’s construction. And so, the church, in part, became a memorial to those lost in the fighting.

Including the son of the woman who was the impetus behind the church’s construction. William Cheney, a pilot, was killed in Italy during the war, and now lies entombed in the All Saints’ Church along with his father, stepfather, and mother, Mary Cheney Schofield, without whom, there would be no All Saints’ Church.

Mary Cheney Schofield

Jean Peters, 90, of Peterborough was only a few years old when she first laid eyes on Mary Cheney Schofield. 

“This lady came out of the house, and as far as I was concerned, that lady was the Queen,” said Peters, whose parents were transplants from England. “When I first saw her, that was my first thought. She was a real grand lady.”

Schofield was born in December of 1868 in Connecticut and was a well-known supporter of the town. She paid to have the wires buried when electricity first came to town, to preserve the village appearance. Her funds went to build the first Peterborough golf club house, and start up the Brantwood summer camp, which served inner-city children.

And, of course, the construction of All Saints’ church and parish.

At the turn of the century, Schofield was among a small number of Episcopalians in town. She purchased the land and built the first parish house, and commissioned Ralph Adams Cram, one of the most prominent names in ecclesiastical architecture, to design the church. 

“She was the mover and the shaker in all this,” said the Rev. Jamie Hamilton, who has been the minister at All Saints’ for the past three years. 

In some ways, Schofield was well ahead of her time, said Hamilton. 

“She believed strongly in early childhood education before many people were talking about that,” Hamilton said.

Schofield established a Kindergarten at the church – the first Kindergarten in New England. Peters was one of the attendees, she recalled.

“That was the best school you could send anyone to,” Peters said. Although she admitted, she wasn’t always appreciative of the fact as a young girl, recalling one time she disliked the lunch that was served, and refused to eat it – resulting in her having to sit in the dining room with her untouched meal in front of her for the rest of the afternoon.

“I was stubborn,” she admitted. “But they didn’t want me to spend the night, so eventually they had to let me go home.”

Peterborough’s gem

“It’s a very beautiful church,” said Bob Weathers of Peterborough, who has been a member of All Saints’ since 1951.

All Saints’ Church wouldn’t look out of place when compared to some English cathedrals – and that’s just as was intended by its architect, Ralph Adams Cram. 

Cram is famous for his designs of churches – mostly Episcopalian, like All Saints’ – and All Saints’ is modeled after the St. Mary the Virgin Church in Iffley, Oxfordshire, England.

The building is meant to convey the same grandeur of those English cathedrals, said Hamilton, while at the same time lacking the intimidation factor that the grand structures can instill.

“It’s bold, but it’s still small and intimate, and has a nice invitation to it,” said Hamilton. “It’s beautiful, but it’s welcoming.” 

One of Cram’s s signatures is the use of local materials, so it's natural that the church be made from the state’s most recognizable stone – granite. The material is made even more significant by the fact that the stone was quarried from land owned by the Schofields.

But though the architecture has made the church an instantly recognizable landmark, that’s not the limit to the building’s beauty. Some of the most notable craftspeople in the region put their touches on the building. 

Woodcarver Johannes Kirchmayer, for example. A Bostonian originally from the country of Bavaria, Kirchmayer is noted for the carvings he’s done at several famous institutions, including Boston’s All Saints Church, the U.S. Military Acadamy at West Point and St. Paul’s School in Concord. And walking into All Saints’, his work is there as well – St. Ambrose on the post leading to the choir gallery, scenes from the life of Jesus and St. John the Baptist on the wooden cover to the baptismal font, angels and flowers on the pulpit and roses and fleurs-de-lis on the lectern. 

But even more prominently displayed than these details, are the windows – 27 of them in stained glass. And most prominent of these, the Rose Window that sits above the church entrance, showing Jesus Christ in the center, surrounded by four major archangels – Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. 

The Rose Window, and the others but one that make up All Saints’ were the work of Charles J. Connick Associates of Boston, who was known for his stained glass work.

The windows were such a source of pride for the church, in fact, that during the church’s dedication, when it was discovered that the yellow sunlight reflecting off the field of hay outside a depiction of the Madonna and Child was giving the illusion that Mary’s blue robe was green, Connick instructed his assistant, Orin Skinner, to take care of the problem, by gathering sheets from the parishioners and covering the slope to give the window a white background. Later, trees were planted along the slope, resolving the issue.  

“The combination of Ralph Adams Cram, Mrs. Schofield and Connick – we’re really indebted to these three people for the creation of our church,” said Weathers.

A long way 

There have been renovations done to the church, but for the most part, the details that make it a particularly special piece of architecture have remained unchanged. But in other ways, the face of the church has changed.

For one thing, it’s a growing congregation. Far from the 27 members of its original founding, there are often more than 100 people attending Sunday services. So much so that the church had to recently purchase a lot adjacent to its Reynolds Hall parking in order to put in more spaces. 

“We’re planning for our next 100 years,” said Hamilton. 

And Reynolds Hall itself, compared to the rest of the church campus, is itself a new addition, said Rod Falby of Peterborough, who has been a member of the church since 1972. 

The hall was built in the 1980s, using funds that came from the sale of a house left to the church by Dr. Margaret Reynolds, the town’s pediatrician and parishioner at the church.

But in other ways, the church has remained the same, and what attracted them to it in the first place remains its most attractive feature – even more so than the Rose Window. 

“It’s the people who are the parishioners,” said Falby. “It’s very welcoming, generous and warm. It has the feel of a parish family.”