St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is the second oldest church in Waynesville. Only the white brick Quaker meeting house has held services in the same location longer.
The Episcopal Church in Waynesville began in 1869 when Rev. W. T. Helms of Nashville, TN held services for J. Drew Sweet and Mrs. Thomas Brown – two local members of the Church of England. Services were held in various locations around town.
In 1870 members bought the lot at the corner of Third and Miami Streets for $300.00. In August, 1870 the cornerstone was laid and construction began. Cincinnati architect Edwin R. Proctor (of the Proctor & Gamble family) drew the plans. Local contractor A.E. Merritt oversaw the work, as funds were available. Fund raising included an ice cream social with admission of 15 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. $250.00 was raised from this and another festival held in October 1870. Beautiful stained glass windows were made in Cincinnati & transported to Waynesville. The shingle/gothic style church has an ashlar foundation made from limestone quarried near Centerville, Ohio and a steep gable slate roof. The building was sufficiently completed to hold Easter services in 1875.
Original members were Mrs. Brown, Mr. Sweet, John F. Missildine, Captain William R. Hoel (Civil War riverboat hero), Israel Harris (banker & geologist), Israel Wright, Gordon J. Wright, Charles E. Merritt, Joseph W. Haines and their families. The church was consecrated April 21, 1881 by the Rev. Thomas A. Jagger, the first Episcopal Bishop of Southern Ohio. Among those members confirmed by Bishop Jagger at this service were Walter Edwin Dakin and John Cadwallader. Both later became Episcopal priests. Walter Dakin was the maternal grandfather of playwright Tennessee Williams. John Cadwallader served as rector of St. Mary’s from 1898 to 1922 (the church’s longest serving minister).
Some firsts at St. Mary’s include the first art show ever held in Waynesville as part of a church festival in 1874 and a display of the first Christmas tree in the village – December 25, 1876. The church doubled in size in 1950 with the addition of the Parish Hall which included a kitchen, basement, new heating system and landscaping. A new organ and pews were added to the church. The addition has been the site of many community meetings and events. Currently, AA, Weight Watchers, and the Dollyologists use the facilities. St. Mary’s also houses the Wayne Township Community Aid and Food Pantry.