St. Paul's Parish has an amazing history

The congregation was formed in 1864. the church was built in 1865 making St. Paul's Episcopal Church is one of the oldest churches in Ohio. Still in its original wooden form, it is located just south of the downtown area of the village of Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio.

History Tours are available Tuesday Mornings at 9am in the summer months or by appointment.
Contact St. Paul's at 419-285-5981 . If you have information related to our history, we would love to hear from you!


1912 - 1914 - St. Paul's Returns to the Episcopal Church

On May 15th – 18th, 1912 the the triennial General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church met in Philadelphia. The Rev J. Fred Speel, St. Paul’s rector since 1907, did not attend with St. Paul’s delegate, Mathias Burgraff and John Wonnacott, the alternate. That year, the parish reported 77 members that year and the annual budget was $3,172.58., which included over $350 for outreach beyond the parish.

In his report to the Council, Reformed Episcopal Bishop Chenny told the representatives of the REC parishes that “St. Paul’s Church, Put-in-Bay continues to present a very difficult field of effort for our church. We have some devoted and praying people in the congregation, but the fact that the island is a place, not merely of summer resort, but of Sunday excursion from all cities on the boarder of Lake Erie, is a very grave obstacle to spiritual religion. The Rev. Mr Speel deserves the fullest credit for the brave struggle which he has made against overwhelming difficulties…”

Laura Barney’s entries in the Gibraltar records for the summer of 1912 indicate Mr. Speel was away from the island on Sunday August 4th. When he returned the following week he tendered his resignation and told the congregation he was leaving the island for a larger church in Albany NY.

Mr. Speel was well liked by the congregation. As part of his ministry he made regular visits to the people on Middle Bass Island. In appreciation for his service there, the residents of Middle Bass gave St. Paul’s a baptismal font in August 1912 at the conclusion of Rev Speel's ministry.

Laura Barney and her husband Charles met with Mr. Vroman after Mr. Speel’s announcement but waited for his departure to take any action. Laura’s journal entry indicated Mr. Vroman felt the church should seek re-admittance by the Episcopal Church. At the time, Jay Cooke’s son, the Rev Henry Cooke, was the editor of the Diocese of Ohio’s Episcopal newspaper. His published articles provide insight into the decision of the parishioners.

Almost immediately after Mr. Speel’s departure the congregation voted to return to the Protestant Episcopal Church. On Saturday, September 28th the members of St. Paul’s sent a letter to Bishop Leonard in Cleveland asking to be taken into the church under his Episcopal Care. The majority of the adult members signed (69) the petition to Bishop Leonard of TEC in Cleveland requesting reacceptance.

That October Bishop Leonard visited the island to welcome the parish back in the Diocese of Ohio under his Episcopal oversight. Over the next two years the parish completed the documentation required and then petitioned the Diocesan Council for acceptance.

At the time of the transition, the property title where the church sits was held by Jay Cooke’s daughter, Laura Barney who, like her father, was a devoted member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. After the return was complete Laura transferred the land to the Episcopal Church following the Canons of the Episcopal for stewardship of the property.

An overview of St. Paul's history was prepared for the 150th anniversary of the Congregation's creation in 1864 and the completion of the church in 1865. It is available from the church office. A more expansive and comprehensive history is being prepared. Contributions of historical facts are welcome!

JZ Put-in-Bay-Sunrise 2012 06 19

St. Paul's Episcopal Church Vision Statement

Our mission is to welcome all people, encourage Christian growth, and proclaim the Gospel by word and deed.


The records of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Put-in-Bay, Ohio, were transferred for microfilming to the Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University in October 1984, with the cooperation of Reverend Neilson Rudd who was St Paul's rector at the time. The Bowling Green copies consists of copies of parish record books dating from 1865-1962, which include histories, financial abstracts, lists of communicants, baptisms, marriages, deaths and confirmations, as well as a church constitution and two letters regarding this church's membership in the Ohio Diocese. To view information about these records, click here:

Records are also located in:
Grace Luebke Local History Room Material Holdings
Harris-Elmore Public Library
328 Toledo Street (P.O. Box 45)
Elmore, OH 43416
These Records include:

  • Constitution April 10, 1908
  • Correspondence October 22, 1912, July 30, 1952
  • Record Book 1865-1962
    • The Journal of Jay Cooke by James E Pollard (1935) contains copies of some key documents and reflections on the sermons of various ministers at St Paul's

      Island Splendor by Robert Dodge talks about the development of the Church in Chapter 2. Articles about Jay Cooke also mention St. Paul’s.

      The University of Virginia has some letters written by Laura Cooke Barney in the 1860s. There are a few brief references to St. Paul's in her letters.

      The archives of the Diocese of Ohio has some records which may be seen by appointment. The Diocesan newspaper called Church Life has short articles about the parish beginning with the editions published in 1912 and continuing until 1915 when the editor, Rev. Henry Cooke died..

      The archives of the Reformed Episcopal Church contain very little information about the years from 1869 to 1912.