Idaho History: The remarkable career of Episcopal Bishop Tuttle

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANMay 26, 2013 

"I arrived at Boise Saturday afternoon, October 12, with broken neck, bruised head, aching bones, sore throat and disturbed temper… of all the uncomfortable routes I ever traveled over, that from Salt Lake to Boise is the worst." Thus wrote Daniel Sylvester Tuttle of his first stagecoach ride to Boise in 1867.

Tuttle had been elected Episcopal missionary bishop of Montana in October 1866, with jurisdiction over Utah and Idaho as well, and with headquarters in Salt Lake City. He was elected four months before his 30th birthday, after which he was eligible to take office.

Despite his bone-shaking ride from Salt Lake City by stagecoach, Tuttle was cheered by what he found in Boise City: "St. Michael's is quite church-like. The singing and responses are hearty and good. I was much pleased on Sunday. I felt more as if I were in church than I had done since I left Denver. At the morning service I confirmed five." That small white church, built when St. Michael Fackler was its pastor, is still much as it was when Tuttle first saw it in 1867.

Ten years later, the energetic bishop was known and admired throughout the vast and rugged Idaho Territory, whose towns he visited regularly. The Idaho Statesman said of him on October 17, 1876, "BISHOP TUTTLE - There is no subject or sentiment which so nearly unites all the people of Boise City as that of admiration, esteem and reverence for the truly good, able, and devoted Christian Bishop whose name heads this brief mention. His visits are looked forward to with the most eager and pleasing anticipation; his stay among us regarded as a season of delightful social intercourse and profitable instruction, and his departure always brings with it many regrets that he cannot stay longer. His sermons at St. Michael's on Sunday last, during morning and evening services, were models of true eloquence; breathing the broadest philanthropy and the most liberal Christian spirit…

"During the afternoon of Sunday the Bishop, accompanied by the Rector, Mr. Bollard, visited the Sabbath School at the Baptist Church where he joined heartily and fervently in the exercises and addressed the teachers and children in words of instruction and advice which they will never forget and for which they will always feel grateful."

The author of these glowing words of praise was probably Judge Milton Kelly, owner and publisher of the Idaho Statesman, which he had purchased from its founder, James Reynolds, in 1871. Kelly had followed the gold rush to Boise Basin in 1862 and was practicing law in Boise City in 1865 when he was appointed to the Idaho Supreme Court by President Abraham Lincoln. Local tradition has it that Kelly's appointment was Lincoln's last before his assassination.

While in Salt Lake City, Bishop Tuttle oversaw construction of St. Mark's Cathedral, the first non-Mormon religious building in Utah. Although strongly opposed to Mormon doctrine, and particularly to the practice of polygamy, his policy was to oppose it by "preaching the full truth of the everlasting Gospel as contained in the Holy Bible and embodied in the Church, and by striving constantly with His help to do unto others as I would have others do unto me."

In 1886, Tuttle was made Bishop of Missouri with headquarters in St. Louis. He served as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America from 1903 until his death on April 17, 1923. In Boise, memorial communion and prayer services were held in Christ Chapel at noon to coincide with his 2 p.m. funeral services in St. Louis.

St. Michael's Cathedral community had honored Bishop Daniel Sylvester Tuttle many years before with the building of Bishop Tuttle House in 1907, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1927, a six-story brick Bishop Tuttle Memorial Building was erected in St. Louis next to Christ Church Cathedral.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@mindspring.com.

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