Rev Salmon Regio [S. R.] Weldon, became the 2nd rector of St. Paul’s following the departure of The Rev Kendrick, The actions of his rectorate left a lasting mark on St. Paul’s history.
Rev Weldon arrived at Put-In-Bay in April 1868 at the age of 44. He came from Freeport Illinois where he served Zion Episcopal Church (Later called Grace Episcopal Church) the first seven plus years following his 1859 ordination to the diaconate and his June 1860 ordination to the Episcopal priesthood in Chicago.
One account says he left Freeport for Put-In-Bay for undescribed health reasons. Later it was also reported he left Put-in-Bay for health reasons which apparently followed him the rest of his life. At Freeport he had continued his education while serving the church and completed a degree from Gambier (Episcopal) Theological School in 1866. His wife, Hanna of fourteen years accompanied him to Put-in-Bay. They had four children and resided in the two story rectory next to the church built by Jay Cooke.
Salamon was born on December 3rd in Keene NH in 1823. About 12 years later his father moved the family to Rockford, Ill to establish a farm. Young Salamon helped in the farm and developed a seeder that was later patented. At 22 he left the farm to study theology at Jubilee College in Brimfield. The Episcopal college was founded in 1839 by Philander Chase (1775-1852), who served as Bishop of Ohio and later, as Bishop of Illinois. From an early age Salamon was drawn to ministry in the Episcopal Church.
In his first year at St Paul’s in 1868 the Episcopal Church records reported there were 150 children in the church school. Of those attending services in the church that summer, six adults were Episcopalians.
As rector of St Paul’s Episcopal Church 1867-1869 Mr. Weldon often saw Civil War financier Jay Cooke in the pews of the church. Mr. Cooke often frequently invited clergymen to his his home on Gibraltar Island in Put-In-Bay. Mr. Weldon invited these clergymen from a variety of denominations to preach at St. Paul’s. At the time this was serious contradictory to the Canon of the Episcopal Church.
News of Mr. Weldon’s open pulpit and the way he dressed for the church services reached the Bishop of Ohio through the report of a summer visitor. Over the winter (1868-69) Ohio Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine wrote to Rev Weldon with instructions about the form of worship he should have and the vesture he should wear. Responding to the bishop in the spring of 1869, Mr. Weldon told the bishop that he chose to leave the Episcopal church instead of following the Bishop’s guidance. Mr. Jay Cooke’s journal indicated he supported Mr. Weldon’s position although Mr Cooke never departed from the Episcopal church.
Mr. Weldon informed the parish of his plan to depart the Episcopal church and the congregation voted to depart as well. When this information reached the bishop, Mr. Weldon was deposed on June 24th of 1869. The church on Put-in-Bay became a non-affiliated Congregational Church which allowed the parish to continue doing three things which were the root causes of Mr. Weldon being deposed. These three things were:
1) Allowing ministers of other denominations to preach at St. Paul’s. This was a practice that had gone on at St. Paul’s since 1865. The preachers were visitors to Gibraltar Island which was owned by Jay Cooke (Financier of the Civil War). In 1868 the Episcopal Church had a General Convention where the practice of allowing visiting preachers was highlighted and this led to enforcement of the standards. The Bishop of Ohio wrote to Rev. Weldon telling him this practice had to be terminated which placed Mr. Weldon in an awkward position since Mr. Jay Cooke was providing about 25% of the church’s budget at the time.
2) Mr. Weldon choose to follow a practice adopted by many other clergy, including Rev Cheney and others of Chicago and others in New York. A number of Episcopal Clergy left out the word “Regenerate” from the baptismal service. The Bishop of Ohio saw this as very inappropriate. It was also a topic at the 1868 General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Due to the focus on this practice at the convention, Bishop McIlvaine of Ohio sent letters to Mr. Weldon and all other clergy in his diocese who had picked up this practice. Years later, when the new denomination called the Reformed Episcopal Church REC was formed, Rev Cheney became one of their Bishops and the word was dropped from their prayer book. As an interesting side note, the REC returned the word to their prayer book about 30 years ago while the Episcopal Church removed it in 1979.
3) Mr. Weldon was not wearing the “appropriate” for an Ohio clergyman of the 1860s. We do not know exactly what he did wear but we can speculate he may not have been wearing the formal black cassock in the summer heat.
On June 20th 1869 St Paul’s church members voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and formed them selves as a Congregational Church. It is not clear if this vote was taken from the Episcopal members or all of the island’s adults who attended worship there. Initially the church was unaffiliated with a denomination but when the Reformed Episcopal Church was established in 1873, they joined the group that was created due to the same concerns expressed by Mr. Weldon in 1875.
Mr. Weldon remained at Put-In-Bay until 1872 when he moved to California. Mr. Weldon moved from Put-In-Bay again citing health reasons. He returned to his knowledge of farming and business from his youth and was successful in both in California. From 1872 to 1875 the services were led by independent ministers. During this period the Catholic Church was established on the island.
The year after Mr. Weldon’s departure, in 1873, the continuing disagreement among Episcopal clergy over the wording and understanding of the Baptismal Service and other liturgical practices led to the formation of “The Reformed Episcopal Church” by Bishop George David Cummins.
In James Miller Guinn’s book, “Historical and biographical record of southern California; Mr. Weldon is described as having noble characteristics, and financial ability. He says, “Salmon R. Weldon is remembered as one of the representative citizens of Santa Barbara, and one of the truest-hearted gentlemen who ever struggled against the discouraging condition of years of impaired health.
Solomon R Weldon remained on the rolls of the Congregational church until his death on May 31st 1887, which is recorded as resulting from exhaustion, resulting from an accidental injury, He was 63 years old.
Mr Weldon’s background is included in:
– Episcopal Church Clergy Directories pre 1868
– The native ministry of New Hampshire, By Nathan Franklin Carter in 1903 included information about Mr Weldon because he had been born in Keene NH
– THE CONGREGATIONAL YEAR BOOK OF 1888
– Historical and biographical record of southern California; containing a history of southern California from its earliest settlement to the opening year of the twentieth century by James Miller Guinn. – (see page 102) www.ebooksread.com/…/page-102-historical-and-biographical-record-of-southern-california-containing-a-history–niu.shtml