Elsie W. Lewis (1892-1987)

elsielewis

At the time of her death in October, 1987, she was the oldest St. Georgian.

Carroll Quenzel reports “Miss Elsie” held the position superintendent of Sunday school from the mid 1920’s to 1950. She had previously been a pupil of the Sunday school, then teacher and assistant superintendent and finally to superintendent. 

As Quenzel writes “In that capacity she master-minded the annual Christmas entertainment for more than a quarter century. Miss Lewis’ infectious laugh, almost inexhaustible good nature and unmistakable goodness endeared her to the Sunday School pupils and teachers.”   The Christmas and Lenten pageants were legendary.  According to her niece Tomi Reneau, parts in the Christmas play were distributed according to seniority. Oldest girl became the virgin mary, the next oldest angel, etc.

The church school at the time was large relative the rest of the church. We know that in 1949 the church was considering an expansion of the church encouraged by Miss Elsie since the Sunday school numbered 200. That was a significant number at a time when the number of communicants was 437. (In 2014 we had 1,084 communicants. We would have close to 500 in the Sunday School if that ratio had held). It was Elsie Lewis who later made the congregation motion in 1957 to name the new educational wing after the Rev. Edward McGuire.

Miss Lewis also was involved in music, organizing and directing the junior choir and sang in the Adult choir. Among her other accomplishments was organizing a junior vestry in 1948.

Outside of St. George’s she was a charter member of the Rappahannock Garden Club and worked with the Kenmore Association in the restoration of Kenmore.  Her family was the Wellford family  who originally came to Fredericksburg after the Revolutionary War. Her great grandfather John Spotswood Wellford  donated the property where the Presbyterian church is located and built the row houses. (He stipulated no grave yard on the property)

Tomi Reneau her niece remembers her this way “You always saw her with her hat on and her glasses were always on a string around her neck.  She always wore a dress and she had a coat with a fur collar. She was stout. She was 5’5” or 5’6” and she always had a smile. And was well known in her town for her laugh. You could hear it for blocks away.”

Charles Sydnor relates the following story about Elsie Lewis:

“As I heard the story and I am not sure from whom, but maybe Mary Faulkner, after my cousin Walter Chinn, at a vestry meeting, objected to the integration of St. George’s ( this is soon after many people were disturbed when Dr. S. Obrien Payne, an member of the Episcopal Church In Trinidad moved to Fredericksburg to start his practice and came to worship at St. G’s with his prayer book in hand). When Miss Elsie met Walter on Prince Edward St. where she lived and also where Walter lived two blocks from her house, she told him she had heard about his comments at the vestry meeting. Then she raised her cane tapping him on the shoulder and said, “Young man, I taught you better than that. Don’t you remember, in my class we sang, Red and yellow, black and white. they are all precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world. So I am ashamed of you.” With that Miss Elsie, in her usual hat, continued her daily constitutional walk around the block. Walter had apparently been in the six grade Sunday School class Miss Elsie taught.”

Carter Frackelton told another story about her older brother Nick. Nick and another boy were in Miss Elsie’s class with hats on. She reached around with both hands and plucked each hat off simultaneously startling the boys saying “Young men don’t wear hats inside the house “

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