St. Thomas Episcopal Church History

In September 1807, before there was a town of Berea or an Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, a small group of pioneers left Waterbury, Connecticut, to journey to the Western Reserve. By December 7, 1807, one of the pioneers, Bela Bronson, had made his way to Columbia Township and built a crude shelter for his family by turning the box of the sled up against a tree for protection against the Ohio winter. There, he knelt to give thanks for divine guidance using The Book of Common Prayer. From that first Episcopal service, and through a number of by-gone parishes including St. Mark's, St. Luke's, and St. Phillip's, Albion, St. Thomas emerged.

St. Thomas was organized October 9, 1864. The first congregation met in an old schoolhouse formerly used by the Congregationalists. But by 1873, the congregations of St. Thomas and St. Phillip's, Albion, had dwindled so much that it was clear both could not survive. St. Phillip's, which had built a "beautiful church edifice," made a gift of its church structure to St. Thomas "in order that one parish might live where two were dying." In 1875, an octagonal font of Berea stone was given to the parish by the Sunday School, and this font still stands in the church today. For a few years, the parish of St. Thomas grew, but after loosing their rector in 1877, the parish was officially declared to be "extinct" in 1891. Its rebirth came from an unexpected source - the will of John Ogilvy of Strongsville - who had bequeathed $5,000 to St. Thomas to build a new church. John had made a small fortune selling horses to the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1893, "a little gem in the way of a stone church" was built at the corner of Seminary and Bagley, thus reviving the parish and serving the congregation until it grew enough to require a larger structure, which was built in 1961. The little stone church is used for parish activities and became known as "Ogilvy Hall." In 1975, old buildings and houses on the property were razed to make room for the new educational, meeting-hall, kitchen and office facility, which was dedicated May 9, 1976.

In 2002, the sanctuary of the main church underwent major renovations to make room for a magnificent new tracker pipe organ built by Karl Wilhelm. St. Thomas has grown from its 1864 membership list of "4 infants, 60 students, 7 male and 11 female communicants" to our present enrollment.

Seven rectors have led the parish over the last 60 years. The most recent joined the parish in 2017.