Our History

One Church.
Many Devoted Members and Leaders

St. Martin's Episcopal Church at 136 Rivet Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts, has a long and distinguished history that began as a service to the local community and continues to be so today. In 1887, a number members from Grace Church decided that the more than one-hundred English residents in the South End of New Bedford, those hardy Lancashire folk who worked in the mills, should not have to make such a long trek to attend services and, therefore, should have a neighborhood church.

After arrangements were made to hold services in the Olivet Chapel, located near the present parish buildings, the first service was held on March 3, 1887. Members of Grace Church helped to teach classes for children and adults, and many members, among them Julie Rodman, Elizabeth and Alice Dana gave their time and money to launch and support the mission.

Construction Begins

In 1891, construction began on the St. Martin's Church building. It was dedicated in 1892 as a memorial to Louise Mackie Johnson, the wife of the Reverend Alfred E. Johnson, who served as the first rector and was a most generous benefactor. Miss Julie Rodman secured a brick form St. Martin's in Canterbury, England (597 AD) that was added over the archway by the loft.

Henry Vaughan, a renowned architect of our National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., designed the building and Baptismal Font, which is a replica of that in St. Martin's of Canterbury. Mr. Vaughn also designed the Chancel, organ loft, and the Sacristy, which was added in 1917.

In 1956, the Blackmer Street property was purchased, and in 1967, the Thrift Shop was also bought, offering ample parking and many additional opportunities for relating to the surrounding community.

The history of St. Martin's parish is filled with the names of dedicated and devoted members, too many to mention individually. Many of our veteran members still remember the lovely choirs of George Armstrong from 1900, which spanned over 50 years, and the record confirmation class of more than 200 under the Rev. Linden White in 1921.

Our previous Priest-in-charge, the Rev. John H Olsson III, follows such notable rectors and Priests-in-charge as Rev. Scott Ciosek, Rev. Richard Clark, the Rev Billie Mae Gordon, Rev. Craig Loya, Rev. Deborah Low-Skinner, the Rev. Daniel F. Crowley, Rev. Linden White (1921-1948), the Rev. G. Rowell Crocker (1948-1953), the Rev. Ralph L. Tucker (1953-1962), and the Rev. Arthur E. Cole (1962-1972). Rev. Richard Clark was also our Curate prior to 1969 when Rev. Ellison F. Marvin began his service as our Curate.

The Future of St. Martin's

The vast history and location within the Greater New Bedford community, allows St. Martin's to provide a home, a comfortable place of worship, for all backgrounds, races, and ethnic varieties. The purpose of our parish is to exemplify the Spirit of St. Martin, our patron, to serve and to care, and to show forth the Light, Truth, and Reconciling Love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, now and in the years to follow. Our mission to serve the local community continues with our many outreaches and support programs, including our food/pet pantry, thrift store, choir, church suppers, and fellowship opportunities.