Dusting off our past… a chronological timeline of parish history

This community is steeped in history as a summer retreat for Charlestonians. Our gorgeous sister parish, Saint John in the Wilderness, established in 1843, helped guide Saint James to consecration in 1863 during the troubled times of the Civil War. Saint John was more of a summer parish but Saint James grew to become the largest year round parish in our community. Hendersonville grew exponentially once the railroads traversed the mountains in 1894.

There were prosperous times and there were times of stressful hardship but Saint James maintained a passion dedicated in love and faith which proved resilient. Fortunately, many parishioners had the vision to initiate the very design of our current unique church; founded on the examples of older English parish churches. A regionally prominent architect, who was a member of our parish, helped with the master plan. Influential parishioners created our cherished bell tower with the direction to follow the iconic design of English architects. Our bells come from the same foundry as that which cast Big Ben. Our stained glass windows come from the same design craftsmen who restored windows at Westminster Abby and Canterbury Cathedral. Our gorgeous organ, built in Durham, England, is recognized as one of the most exquisite in the United States.

History is certainly very important to all of us. We hope to continue and enhance this history and create an important legacy not only for ourselves but for generations and centuries to come.

Read about the history of St. James Episcopal Church in Hendersonville, NC

St. James Episcopal Church, Hendersonville, NC

Here is a partial timeline of St. James’ history:


Before St. James became a parish, clergy from St. John in the Wildness in nearby Flat Rock held services in Hendersonville. 


Services began in a new brick church built by parishioners. You can see an image of this church in the front stained glass window on the Gospel (lefthand) side of the Nave.

St. James calls its first rector, the Rev. Nicholas Collins Hughes.


After the debt was retired, Bishop Atkinson consecrated St. James on September, 19. Diocesan records indicate that St. James had very humble begins—founded with only 8 or 9 members. 


As the Civil War drew to a close, Union troops confiscated the one church bell on the grounds.

1866 – 1894

Fr. Hughes departs St. James and the parish is without a rector for many years. Clergy from the surrounding area help by holding services here. Diocesan records, though, indicate without a consistent clergy person, the parish dwindles to only three communicant. 


The railroad is now operational and the Rev. Thomas Wetmore serves as the primary clergy person at St. James and other nearby parishes. St. James regains its seat at the WNC Missionary District Council.

1902 – 1917

St. James experiences remarkable expansion under the leadership of its new rector, the Rev. Reginald Wilcox. Construction begins on a new chancel, behind the church, to increase seating capacity. Due to World War I, construction stalls before completion. The unfinished chapel will sit unfinished and open to the sky for decades.


Rector Arthur Farnum leads St. James from a mission status to a self-sustained parish and helps create the new Diocese of Western North Carolina, no longer a missionary district.


Elizabeth and Carrie Hughes open their School for Little Folks which moves to St. James in 1962.


The “Ruin” is completed and joined to the east wall of the church.


The War Memorial Chapel, designed by Erle Stillwell, is dedicated by Bishop George Henry.


First wing of new Parish House and new steps to Main Street are dedicated by Rector John Barr.


Original brick nave replaced, new stone edifice echoes an earlier Stillwell design. Jack Bennett, rector, oversees replacing windows with stained glass. The stained glass at St. James was designed by renowned stained glass artist, Frederick Cole of Westminster, England. Mr. Cole was responsible for the restoration of Canterbury Cathedral’s windows.


Debt retired and new nave consecrated by Bernard Hellman, Rector.

1974 – 2004

Father Alex Viola serves as rector for 30 years.


Patton Memorial Bell Tower is dedicated, houses 8 English-made change ringing bells, one of two of its kind in North Carolina.


Harrison & Harrison Organ, having been constructed in Durham England, is installed at St. James. The nineteenth-century style organ has 2,573 pipes with slides with a total number of memory levels of 256.

2004 – 2005

Father Alex Viola retires and Father Joel Hafer becomes our new rector.


St. James celebrates with a “Sesquicentennial Commemoration and Rededication of St. James Church and Her People.”

2019 – 2020

Father Joel Hafer retires.


Father David Henson becomes St. James’s new rector.

First church, circa 1860

First church, circa 1860

Unfinished chapel, circa 1910

Unfinished chapel, circa 1910

Stained glass window as shown today

Stained glass window as shown today

Alter with Harrison & Harrison organ shown in back ground

Altar with Harrison & Harrison organ shown in background

Current view of our chapel and gardens

Current view of our chapel and gardens