History of The Church of Our Saviour
The Church of Our Saviour was born from Providence, Rhode Island where Mrs. Frances Maine Vinton had a hope that “the Glory of God might be told from sea to sea.” She tasked Rev. Dr. Henry Messenger to find a location for a church on the west coast.
At the same time a Sunday School had organized in the San Gabriel area under Rev. Mr. Birdsell and Rev. Mr. C.F. Loop. Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin D. Wilson and their daughters were among the first children to attend services.
Encouraged by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, Dr. Messenger decided upon San Gabriel and started to hold services at the school and the first Protestant church in the San Gabriel began.
Mrs. Vinton sent $2,500 in greenbacks via Wells Fargo stagecoach for the building of the church. Dr. Messenger acquired the section of land north of Roses Road and a small house on the land became his home while building of the church began.
The building was made of adobe bricks from the adobe soil on Don Benito Wilson’s property. An expert Mexican brick maker was employed to fire the bricks on the Wilson ranch and nails were hand-forged for the building.
With the walls of the church up, the roof covered and cloth over the window openings, the first Protestant Church in San Gabriel Valley held regular services. That is, when the weather was warm and fair. When it rained or was too cold, the congregation would still meet at Dr. Messenger’s nearby home.
Between the years of 1870-71, glass windows replaced the cloth, and all services began to meet within the church. Mrs. Vinton arranged to have the church bell shipped around Cape Horn for her little brick church. The rectory would be finished in 1879.
In 1912 The register showed only 22 communicants in the parish, 12 of whom were active. But a few dedicated members who loved the little church so much were determined to save the parish. Mr. Erasmus Wilson offered to buy the property where the old rectory stood. A new rectory was built and the Parish Hall was moved back alongside the church. The Vestry called Rev. John Atwill to begin a rectorship that lasted 30 years and rejuvenated The Church of Our Saviour.
Soon the old Church needed to be expanded and work was completed in October 1922. At a cost of $25,000 the old nave and tower remained standing as they were built in 1869, a new Sanctuary was built which expanded the seating capacity from 90 to 250 parishoioners.
The Church was starting to outgrow the old Parish House, built in 1896, as well. Now with over 50 children attending, a new Parish House was needed and built at a cost of $21,000.
At the end of the World War II, General George S. Patton Jr. visited his boyhood home and worshiped in the Church of Our Saviour where he had been baptized, nurtured in the faith and confirmed.
In 1952, A new era began for The Church of Our Saviour when Rev. Crawford W. Brown took over as Rector and more expansion began. St. John’s Chapel, an addition of a Sunday School unit for the Kindergarten and Nursery grades and the enlargement of the Parish Hall were completed. But more families were joining so soon another church expansion began.
An additional 3 acres of land was purchased and the congregation held services in the Parish Hall while enlargement of the Church began. The sanctuary, altar, windows, woodwork and beams (all but floor and supporting walls) were moved from its location beyond the vestibule transept to its present more elevated position. The new chancel and nave were built in between, connecting the old original nave and bell tower to the old sanctuary. A wrought iron rood screen from the old church was used to set off St. Luke’s. The new church held the first service on Christmas Eve, 1959.
In 1969, the old rectory, built over 50 years before, was renovated for a Nursery School. The first class of 48 children began using the building and enjoying the gardens of what would become A Child’s Garden School.
In 1975, Rev. Donald S. Miller was called to be Rector. The parish met new challenges, including the lack of adequate meeting and educational facilities. With matching funds from the Keck endowment, the rectory was relocated which allowed for construction of a new building dedicated to Dr. Crawford W. Brown for Christian Education, the traffic pattern was improved and the church grounds were re-landscaped.
The Reverend Canon Denis O'Pray became Rector in 1990 and oversaw the construction of Cleaver Hall and Grace Chapel, completing the current buildings of this campus.
The Church of Our Saviour continues today into the new millennium with Mrs. Vinton’s spirit and vision of bringing the glory of God to all. COS is proud to offer many parish life and spiritual opportunities. From Sunday School and Youth Group for young families, services in Mandarin and Cantonese for our Chinese congregation, or bible study and Forums, there is something for everyone here.
But COS’ reach extends beyond our beautiful campus as well. Outreach ministries range from Our Saviour Center, which aids families and the homeless through the foodbank; Kids Campus, which provides a healthy and active after school learning environment to the students and families in El Monte; Cleaver Wellness Clinic, which makes low cost preventative health care and health education programs available to all; Our monastic community and PRISM, who provide spiritual care to the incarcerated; and Jubilee Transitional Housing, providing support to those recovering from addiction.
Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, we hope you will come join us and help us ignite our future.