This snapshot of a rural church is universal in implication because God chooses to act in particular ways in the lives of ordinary men and women just like you and me. In the spring of 1875 Reverend E. Folsom Baker, convened a group together for the first Episcopal services in the hamlet of Springfield Center. Baker was the Rector of St. Paul’s Church in East Springfield. The group worshipped on and off in the tiny Universalist Church. Later in the decade Rev. Reeve Hobbie of Cherry Valley held a house service at Swanswick, the elegant lakeside home of Leslie Pell-Clarke. Hobbie baptized several children during this service. Finally in 1889 the Bishop of the Diocese of Albany consented to the formation of an Episcopal mission in Springfield Center with Leslie Pell-Clarke as warden. One month later on St. Matthew’s Day, September 21, 1889, the cornerstone for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was laid on land donated by E.N. Catlin on Catlin Avenue.
The vestry and wardens purchased the property called the Shipman Farm with its central location on the highway, now designated as State Highway 80. They moved the farmhouse on the property 100 feet and then with horses and muscle moved the church building to occupy a prominent place in the village to the corner of Catlin Avenue and Route 80. The former location of the church was deeded to the Roman Catholic diocese and a Catholic church was built on the site.
The mission church became a full-fledged Episcopal parish in 1899.
In 1903 Senior Warden Leslie Pell-Clarke presented the rectory, as a gift to the parish, in memory of his mother, Anna Pell. He died just one year later, “a grievous loss for the parish,” but leaving a great legacy for the community in this beautiful, gothic, shingle-style church and Victorian rectory thanks to his largess.
The Pell-Clarke family continued their support of the church after Leslie Pell-Clarke’s death. In 1906 the vestry accepted the offer of Mrs. H. Pell-Clarke to build a parish house. The Vestry minutes of 1911 note that the Vestry thanked Deaconess Pell-Clarke for the new building, a beautiful arts and crafts style parish house that included the chapel of the Holy Child, an apartment and a Guild Room. Upstairs a kitchen, stage, and large hall provided space for special events and church suppers.