History of St. Paul's


The "Golden Hind" in 1577

The earliest recorded Christian services on the west coast of the New World used the Book of Common Prayer and were conducted on board the “Golden Hind” at San Francisco Bay on July 23, 1579, by Rev. Francis Fletcher, a priest of the Church of England and Chaplain to Sir Frances Drake. The first Anglican clergy in the Oregon Country was the Hudson Bay Company Chaplain, at Fort Vancouver, The Rev. Herbert Beaver (1836-1838).

The first Episcopal priest to reach the Oregon Territory worked his way west by driving the first flock of sheep to Oregon and later became the first Rector of St. Paul’s, Salem, was The Rev. St. Michael Fackler. He reached Oregon in 1847, and in 1848 became a teacher at the Oregon Institute [Willamette University]. In 1849, Fr. Fackler was given a lot on which to build a church by Dr. W. H. Willson. His colorful life can not be related here but Col. Loring, Commander of Fort Vancouver, called him the “mountain man with a turned around collar”.

It would not be until May 14, 1853 that the first Episcopal services were held in Salem. The Oregon Statesman, August 22, 1854, reported that an Episcopal Church (St. Paul’s) was under construction at the southwest corner of Church and Chemeketa. It was consecrated on Sunday, April 22, 1855, by Bishop Scott, assisted by Fr. Fackler. This was the third Episcopal Church structure in the Oregon Territory. The original St. Paul’s, was to stand 100 years, serving as a church for 70 years, and as a parish hall for 30 years.
Fr. Fackler was succeeded by James R. W. Sellwood in June 1856. The Sellwood family provided many priests and lay leaders to the Oregon church over a period of a century and the Sellwood Community, in Portland, was named for them.

James R.W. Sellwood

Parish House at Church & Chemeketa, 1942
In 1922, after moving the first church to the back of the lot, the second St. Paul's was built under Fr. Chambers at the corner of Chemeketa and Church Street. June 1929, the 17th Rector, Fr. George H. Swift, rapidly expanded the parish and built the third St. Paul's, in 1953. This church is located on the old Lincoln School site amongst the Willamette Prairie native oaks at the corner of Liberty and Myers, across from Bush Park.

Many Rectors served faithfully and quietly over the years. Three are here mentioned; whose outreach into the community left a legacy not seen since the “mountain man with the turned around collar”: One; Fr. George H. Swift [1929-1961], from 1943 -1961, wrote a weekly column in the Capital Journal entitled “Fireside Pulpit”. At the turn of the Millennium 2,000 the Statesman-Journal would say, George Swift was one of two men who cast longest shadows on the Oregon religious scene during the past century. The Rev. Daniel H. Ferry [1962-1974], had a Sunday radio broadcast on KAPT-1220, Salem [1963 -1974]. And third, Fr. “Bill” Steinberg [1974-1990] was probably best known in his “other” role as Salem Hospital’s Chaplain.

The Rev. George & Mrs. Alice Swift - 1953


Fr. William Cavanaugh

Under the leadership of Fr. William Cavanaugh, 21st Rector from 1996-2004, the church was recognized as the second largest Episcopal Church in the Pacific Northwest with a membership of 1,800. It is known regionally for "The Music" under Dr. Paul Klemme. A newly finished $1,000,000 educational wing houses a Montessori style catechism program.