After the death of Cornelius Roosevelt Duffie, worship continued, but no vacancy in a rectorship is easy and, as it turned out, the total transition to a new era for Saint Thomas lasted over four years. During the vacancy, services in the new church were taken by several of the city clergy. After calls were made to Rev. William Heathcote DeLancey, rector of St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia, and then to Rev. Henry Anthon, rector of Trinity Church, Utica, New York (both declined the call), an acceptance came from the unanimous third choice, Rev. Dr. George Upfold, from the neighboring St. Luke’s on Hudson Street.
Second Rector, 1828 - 1831
Dr. Upfold was born in England, but came to this country with his parents at the age of six. His father taught school in Albany, New York, and was for several years warden at St. Peter’s Church, the mother parish of that city. Young Upfold graduated from Union College in Schenectady and went on to receive a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City before reaching the age of twenty-one. His thoughts, however, soon turned to the ministry, and, like his predecessor at Saint Thomas, he read for orders under the direction of Bishop Hobart. He was ordained deacon in 1818 and assumed charge of the churches upstate in Lansingburgh and Waterford. Two years later, he was ordained priest and returned to the city to organize a new parish, St. Luke’s in Greenwich Village, as well as to serve as a temporary assistant minister of Trinity Church.
On March 6, 1828, the thirty-two-year-old George Upfold was formally instituted as the second rector of Saint Thomas Church. Bishop Hobart presided and preached the sermon for the occasion, taking for his text 2 Timothy 3:17: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
It is not altogether easy to estimate the character and achievement of Dr. Upfold. A man of undoubted ability, since he later became rector of Trinity Church, Pittsburgh, and was eventually elected first bishop of Indiana, he must have seemed, after the exceptionally kind and gentle Duffie, rather stiff and unbending. Under Duffie, the vestry had things pretty much its own way. Upfold, however, was more inclined to stand on his rights. At first, all things went well. The parish continued to grow, reporting 170 communicants by 1829. The parish was paying in full its promised contributions to the national, diocesan, and missionary funds. In those days, when parochialism ran rampant, this meant something.
About this time, Sunday Schools for girls were started (in 1827) and soon after ones for boys were started as well, and there was also a women’s association that functioned as an auxiliary to the diocesan missionary society. Some additions and improvements were made to the church building. A marble font was installed, the gift of Mr. Hadden. A gallery was built across the end of the church opposite the altar, and the organ was placed there. Lamps were hung down the center of the nave. In 1830, saddened by the sudden death of Bishop Hobart, the vestry ordered the church to be “strung in the customary mourning until the festival of Christmas” out of respect for his memory.
Early in 1831, it began to be evident that all was not well with the parish. A vestry committee was appointed in the early January of 1831 to make a thorough examination of the state of the church’s finances and to recommend measures of relief. With debt growing and far exceeding annual income, “it must be obvious,” the report said, “how rapidly such an increase of debt must lead of itself to utter bankruptcy.” An appeal to Trinity for a gift of $10,000 was successful, and the Corporation of Trinity advanced a loan of $20,000 without interest, taking a mortgage on the church property for security.
The financial condition of the parish was an obvious concern and, naturally, an embarrassment to the rector. His relationship with the vestry appears to have been less than warm. In the summer of 1831 he tendered his resignation to the vestry with “earnest prayers for the peace and prosperity of the congregation.”