My Ancestors (30a) – Rev. Elijah Guion’s Pastorates in Louisiana – 1843 – 1865

Last June I  read about a Challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and I was intrigued. I decided to take up the challenge. Some Ancestors may take more than one week, but I still intend to write about 52 Ancestors. I hope you enjoy reading about My Ancestors as much as I am looking forward to researching and writing about them.

(1) Elijah Guion; (2) Alfred Beck Guion; (3) Alfred Duryee Guion; (4) Alfred Peabody Guion; (5) Judith Anne Guion

Elijah Guion became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church in Louisiana by Bishop B. T. Oderdonk, April 13, 1843.

December 9, 1844 to 1848 – Trinity Church, Natchitoches

December 9, 1844 – summer, 1848, St. James Episcopal Church, Alexandria

In October, 1844, Mr. Burke resigned, and was succeeded, December 9, 1844, by the Rev. Elijah Guion. For nearly 2 years the Rector served the mission at Alexandria. In the early summer of 1848, Mr. Guion resigned.

But making the services of the Church available to all was no easy matter. In the early fall of 1846 the Rev. Elijah Guion, then serving Natchitoches and Alexandria, wrote graphically to the Domestic Committee (of the Archdiocese of Louisiana) describing what the life of a missionary was like in this report, published in the December, 1846, Spirit of Missions, he tells of his experiences:

… the distance by land, between the two extremities of my route, will be about 135 miles, and this journey I shall be expected to perform monthly, mostly on horseback, with a horse hired, often times at my own expense, this being all Missionary ground, and but few see me to think of the expense the Missionary is at.

I think, if it were possible for those at the eastward who feel interested in the success of the Church at the West, to see me on my journeyings and wanderings through the woods and swamps, now exposed to the drenching rain, and again almost fainting under the burning heat of a nearly vertical sun, that some active and efficient measures would be speedily adopted to relieve me of a portion of this burden, by sending out two or three additional Missionaries well supplied with Bibles, prayer-books, and tracts and with a support suited to the expensive nature of Missions in this part of the country.

With so little money to do with and so much to do the Domestic Committee was able to assist such missionaries as Mr. Guion only to the extent of $300 a year. The rest of his support was dependent on the generosity of those among whom he ministered.

Mr. Guion was the more discouraged at this time because he had twice been ill of “the fever”, probably malaria, with its debilitating chills; and prospects for erecting two churches had been “blasted by the destruction of the cotton crop by the caterpillar.”

Moreover, he had other ills to contend with. Said he: “With the blighting effects of Romanism on one side, the Infidelity on the other, our little barque still keeps afloat, though contending against fearful odds.”

Believing that education should be under the guidance of the Church, he was instrumental in founding the school for young women, Rapides Academy, at Cotile, in August, 1848 with the Rev. Mr. Guion in charge. This school was especially endorsed by Bishop Polk.

… In the years that Bishop Polk had been her diocesan, Guion was conducting a small school at Natchitoches; …

Schools established by clergymen in connection with their cures naturally lasted only so long as the clergyman remained in that particular parish. And schools run by clergymen as their sole source of livelihood were equally unable to survive. Mrs. Guion’s school at Natchitoches closed when her husband accepted a position elsewhere. Then when he opened an Academy for Young Ladies in 1851 at Carrollton, above New Orleans, he was forced to move it to Greenville, nearer the city, when fire destroyed the Carrollton building, and then to close it completely in 1854. However, in connection with his rectorship of St. James’, Baton Rouge, he again ran a girls school until he left for New Orleans in 1860.

August 7, 1848 to June, 1850 – Principal at Rapides Seminary

November, 1850 to 1853 – Carrollton Seminary

July 1, 1854 to July 18, 1860 – St. James Church, Baton Rouge

On the 29th of January, 1854, the Rev. Elijah Guion began to hold regular services. He became director July 1, 1854. A seminary for young ladies was opened, and conducted by the Rector and his wife. In 1856, the ladies of the congregation raised quite a sum of money towards the erection of a rectory, and on April 11, 1857, paid $750 for a lot of ground immediately in the rear of the church, and after doing this had $200 left towards the building. The church lot was paid for in January, 1858.

And now, one of the first committees appointed in a Louisiana Convention to deal with national matters was one appointed in 1855 by Bishop Polk to draft a reply to a circular asking whether the Church should take a position on slavery. The circular was drawn up by a commission of bishops appointed at the General Convention. To the Louisiana commission he named his assistant at Trinity, the Rev. John Fulton, the Rev. Dr. Laycock, the Rev. Elijah Guion, John Lobdell, Lucius Duncan and former Gov. Henry Johnson, now of Trinity. Though the Louisiana Journal records this action, it does not tell what reply the committee drafted. And the records of the General Convention disclosed no reference to such a commission of bishops as Bishop Polk refers to.

In 1859 the Rev. Elijah Guion spoke eloquently in favor of a bookstore in the diocese for the sale of suitable books for parish Sunday Schools and family libraries, Sunday School instruction books and “even works of science which can be safely recommended to the unwary but ardent lover of knowledge.” Such a bookstore should be located in New Orleans, he suggested, but he urged that every parish in the diocese open its own. The diocesan bookstore should be financed by the diocese, he thought. And the diocese should have a religious periodical for circulation in every family. This magazine would be better than those from far off which, he said, “are too generally occupied with long-winded dissertations upon subjects about which we feel but little interest and in which it may be well for us to feel less.” The diocese voted not to undertake the bookstore but urged individual members of the clergy and laity to unite in establishing one.

In 1859, the parish was reported as more prosperous than at any former period. The pews were all taken, and there were applications for more accommodation than could be furnished. The communicants numbered 74. Mr. Guion resigned July 18, 1860.

Rev. Elijah Guion’s photo  recently added to display at St. James in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (photo supplied by me – photo is at bottom left)

1860 to 1861 – Chaplain at Poydras Asylum

January, 1863 to September 1, 1865 – St. Paul’s Church, New Orleans

In October, 1862, the Rector (Rev. Goodrich) was interrupted in his administrations by military order and exiled. During his absence, the Rev. Elijah Guion had charge of the parish.

As general Banks prepared in the spring of 1864 to move up the Red River to cut off Confederate supplies to Northwestern Louisiana, the Union military tightened its control over the city. Now General Banks issued the same kind of order that the nefarious Butler had earlier issued; pray for the President of the United States as required by the ritual of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States or close up.

Where the vestries refused to comply, they had to give way to men named by the military authority. Mr. Guion, at St. Paul’s, wrote Pres. Lincoln urging an abatement of the order. But his letters were returned to him through military channels. Finally he too complied.

Rev. Elisha Guion announced that he would begin using the “Prayer for the President of the United States, and the “Prayer for Congress when in session” at the evening service that night, April 10, 1864. This so irritated the ladies of his church, whose sympathies were with and for the rebels, that they chose to attend some other church from that point on.

This arrangement continued from January 1, 1863 to September 1, 1865, when the Rector resumed his office.

Source – The Diocese of Louisiana: Some of It’s History, 1838 – 1888; Also some of the History of its Parishes and Missions, 1805 – 1888. Compiled by the Rev. Herman Cope Duncan, M. A., New Orleans: A. Printer, 73 Camp St. – 12291, 1888.

So Great A Good, a History of the Episcopal Church in Louisiana and of Christ Church Cathedral, 1805 – 1955, by Hodding Carter and Betty Werlein Carter, the University Press, Sewanee, Tennessee, 1953.

Next Sunday, I’ll post information about Rev. Elijah and Clara’s family in New Orleans.

Starting tomorrow, another week of unique, personalized Christmas Cards designed by Grandpa and sent to family and friends, both near and far.

Judy Guion 


3 thoughts on “My Ancestors (30a) – Rev. Elijah Guion’s Pastorates in Louisiana – 1843 – 1865

  1. If my dad were still alive, I would share this post with him. As an Episcopal priest, he would have been very interested in this account of church history, particularly the part about the intercessory prayer during the Civil War.

    • Judy Guion says:

      Liz – Thank you for your comment. I found it fascinating to research this part of my great-great-grandfather’s life. I was unable to find any documentation about this period in his life prior to my research. It was known that he was a Missionary in Louisiana but where or when was not known. It gave me great pleasure in tracking down this information. I still have a couple of questions and will continue searching.

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