The Story of St. Mary's by-the-Sea
by Eliza Jarvis Nagle
The Story of St. Mary's-by-the-Sea is so much a record of love and devotion, not only among its own members, but among churchmen and churchwomen throughout the country, and its beautiful completeness has been made possible by so many gifts from all quarters that it is in a spirit of deep thankfulness to Him through Whom all good gifts come, that this little story of beginnings is written, as a permanent record of those whose generous gifts and faithful service have in so large a way contributed to its history.
The story must begin with the history of the Guild, for the Guild has been from the first the nurturing mother of the little church. The Guild of St. Mary's was organized on February 18, 1886. Its constitution and by-laws were adopted the following month, March 25, on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, whose name had been chosen for the association. The meeting for organization was held at the home of Mrs. Page, on the corner of Fountain and Ocean Avenues. By unanimous vote of the Guild it was decided that the object of its work should be to raise a fund for the erection of a chapel in Pacific Grove, and the Secretary was instructed to write to the Bishop of the Diocese, communicating to him the existence of the Guild and placing it under his pastoral care.
The first officers were Mrs. J. M. Page, President; Mrs. Fred May, Vice-President; Mrs. E. F. Esterbrook, Treasurer; and Miss Helen E. Reed, Secretary. The first regular meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Dills, one of the earliest and most faithful church workers in the Grove. For more than two years she walked every Sunday morning from her home on Fifteenth Street, in this city, to St. James Church, Monterey, to conduct a Sunday School at a time when there was no priest in charge and very few people to give her any encouragement or financial support.
Naturally she looked for, and received, both from the Guild. The President, Mrs. Page, opened this first meeting with a collect and the Lord's Prayer. Selections from the "Spirit of Missions" were read, and the afternoon was spent in work and in discussing the hoped for chapel.
Seven, a small but sacred number, was the average attendance at the meetings.
They met; they worked; they prayed; they used their influence; they proved their faith that it was built on foundations of which Jesus Christ was the chief corner stone.
During the summer the Pacific Improvement Company, largely through the efforts of Miss Helen Reed, donated a lot, 75x100 ft., valued at $2,500, on Central Avenue and Twelfth Street, to be used for church purposes.
In the fall of that year the Rev. J. Fred Holmes was appointed Missionary in Charge, at Pacific Grove and Monterey, in addition to his work in Salinas. Mr. Holmes was a remarkable man, possessing a genuine talent and great personal magnetism. To his enthusiastic efforts, perseverance and indefatigable energy, and to the steady faith and prayers of the first members of the Guild we owe, under the blessing of God, the original church, begun in April, 1887, a year after the organization of the Guild, and completely finished, furnished and ready for the opening service on the following July 10th, THE FIRST CHURCH BUILDING in Pacific Grove.
Standing among the pines, within sight and sound of the blue waters of Monterey Bay, St. Mary's-by-the-Sea, small as it was, was a dignified and beautiful expression of the worship of God. Designed in pure old English gothic by William H. Hamilton of Sacramento, it stood 32 feet side and 70 feet long, the spire 75 feet high, surmounted by a finial cross and crown.
The interior was finished in natural woods: pine, cedar, redwood and walnut, polished and varnished.