Click Here for "FROM THE ASHES by Walter Brodie Burwell"
On September 11, 1841, John Rust Eaton, 13-year-old son of Sarah and John Summerville Eaton, lost his life in a hunting accident. Though plans were already underway to establish an Episcopal church in the town of Henderson, young Eaton's death would bring these plans to reality. The Eaton's, with the help of others, channeled their sorrow into an intensified effort to establish a place of worship.
A group of faithful worshippers began meeting in the home of the Eaton's. On November 22, 1841, Bishop Ives confirmed Major John Summerville Eaton. By Easter Monday, 1842, a congregation was officially organized and the first rector assigned. Within two months, on May 15th, a church had been built on a site donated by Lewis Reavis at the corner of Garnett and Church streets, consecrated and the congregation admitted into union with the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. The church was named The Church of the Holy Innocents in memory of young John Rust Eaton.
The Church of the Holy Innocents and Henderson share a rich heritage. In the same year that the church was being organized (1841), Henderson was granted its charter. The tradition of The Church of the Holy Innocents is rooted in the historical development of Henderson and Vance county.
As Henderson grew, so did Holy Innocents. By 1879 the need for a larger building had become urgent. Construction was begun on a new church located on Chestnut Street. The first services were held there on July 19, 1885. On April 19, 1892, with all the beautiful furnishings finally in place, the church was consecrated. Though numerous additions and expansions have occurred over the last 163 years, the Chestnut Street structure is still in use today, rich in symbolism found in wood, stone, brass, and stained glass.
During 1915-1916, the Parish House was built. It contained one of the few assembly halls in town spacious enough for large gatherings. Thus, a practice of community sharing was broadened greatly and continues today. Again, along with the growth of Henderson, membership in Holy Innocents grew. A much needed Parish House annex was built in 1957.
In 1988 a beautiful memorial garden and unique curved brick columbarium were added to the rear of the church. An altar with top made of a rectangular concrete slab set on top of an ornamental stone section from the cemetary monument of young John Rust Eaton was added in 1992. Also, a cross (an original design and handmade of wrought iron)was added at that time and was mounted above the altar on the church building. Since the completion of the memorial garden area, a brick courtyard and gated side entrance has been added to the church grounds in front of the Hughes house and leading to the memorial garden entrance. Improvements and upkeep of the church is ongoing.
The real history of The Church of the Holy Innocents is not found in bricks, mortar, or gardens, however. It is in the dedicated ministry of her faithful worshippers. Since the founding of the church, six men have been ordained in Holy Innocents and two women have gone out to work in the mission field. Holy Innocents has a rich tradition with a living vision for the future.