History of St. Thomas & Grace
St. Thomas & Grace takes its name from two historic church buildings – St. Thomas Church in Brandon and Grace Church in Forest Dale. The history of the parish dates back to the 1830s, prior to either building. The town of Brandon was incorporated in 1761. In the early 1820’s, a blast furnace for iron smelting was built in East Brandon. The iron master, Royal Blake, and members of his family were instrumental in establishing an Episcopal Church in the Brandon area. Beginning in 1836 Blake opened his home, known as “Forest Dale”, for public worship according to the Book of Common Prayer. These celebrations led to the formal organization of St. Thomas’ parish in 1839. Grace Church was designed by Royal Blake as a summer chapel. It was completed in 1851 and consecrated in 1853.
As parish membership increased and the center of population moved to Brandon Village, the need for a centrally located year-round building was recognized. The St. Thomas’ Church building was designed by the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, the first Bishop of Vermont. Construction was completed in 1861 (the same year as the Brandon Town Hall) and it was consecrated in 1863. There were major renovations to the Undercroft in the 1950’s and the access ramp was added in the 1980’s.
Since the beginning, the Episcopal Church in the Brandon area has been served by one priest. During 1980s the parish began operating with one parish leadership group (the Vestry), one budget, one shared St. Thomas & Grace identity using both St. Thomas and Grace Church buildings. In 2008 the Diocese approved the official merged organization, St. Thomas & Grace Episcopal Church. The parish continued to use both buildings, alternating between buildings on seasonal basis. In 2015, the parish made the difficult decision to sell Grace Church. St. Thomas & Grace Church now meets for worship in the historic St. Thomas building but has a strong commitment to its historic ties to Grace Church.