This month Rectory Roots travels back to 1917, Pomfret, CT, and to Rectory School’s co-founders, Frank and Mabel Bigelow.
Frank Hoffnagel Bigelow was born in 1873 in New York City. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1894, he and went on to study at Union Theological Seminary of Columbia University and Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, earning a divinity degree in 1899. The following year, he was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church and served churches in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Frank married Mabel Brittain in 1902 in New Brunswick, Canada, which is where Mabel was born in 1877. Mabel’s father, Dr. John Brittain, was a noted Canadian naturalist and educator. Richard (Dick) Rose ’30, who came to Rectory in 1927 when he was eleven years old, tells us a story that illustrates how her father’s interests must have influenced a young Mabel.
“I was [living] in the Main House [of Rectory] when the frogs and salamanders got loose. Mother Bigelow was the daughter of a well-known naturalist so she was interested in all of nature's living creatures. In my room I had a cage of reptiles and amphibians with her blessing. Every once in a while the snakes and the frogs would get loose. That didn’t upset Mrs. Bigelow because she had grown up with all these things. Some boys were upset; some weren’t.”
The Bigelows moved to Pomfret in 1917 when the Episcopal Church in town, Christ Church, was in need of a rector. Bishop E. Campion Acheson, while noting “this is the man I think will suit you,” recommended the Reverend Frank H. Bigelow, who at the time was the rector of Trinity Church in Lime Rock, CT. Rev. Bigelow preached a few times at Christ Church before he was offered and then accepted the position.
With arrangements made, Frank, his wife, Mabel, and their two children, Elizabeth and John, moved across the state to Pomfret and into the rectory of Christ Church, the School’s original home. Over the ensuing years, three generations of the Bigelow family would play roles in Rectory’s history.