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St. Anne’s Chapel
By The Episcopal Church of Lincoln County
The historical events which led up to the building of St. Anne’s Chapel begin with the Lincoln County War, when the Coe brothers, Al, Lou, Frank and George, moved into the Hondo Valley and became embroiled in the range wars between John Chisum, Alexander McSween, and John Tunstall on the one side and Lawrence Murphy and James J. Dolan on the other. The latter two Coe brothers, who were so-called “Regulators”, rode with William Bonney, known also as Billy the Kid. The two moved to the Ruidoso Valley in 1876 to live with their brother Lou with whom Billy the Kid was also an associate. When the Lincoln County War erupted in 1878, Frank and George aligned themselves with the Tunstall-McSween faction.
In August 1878, Frank Coe left Lincoln County for Farmington, San Juan County, where his brother Lou had started a ranch in order to avoid the range wars in Lincoln County. There, Frank met Helena Anne Tully whom he married February 7, 1881. Helena, of Anglican background, originated from Toronto, Canada, and moved to Farmington by way of Chicago, where she had been a member of the Episcopal Church. The couple migrated back to Lincoln County to live on the former Dick Brewer Ranch along the Ruidoso River, where they later built a home on land presently occupied by the Ruidoso Downs race track.
In 1884, another Coe brother, Jasper, returned from California and took up a 160-acre parcel that includes the land where St. Anne’s Chapel is now situated. He later sold the ranch to Frank Coe’s daughter Sydney and her husband, Bert Bonnell. The property remains in the Bonnell family and today consists of pasture, orchards, and farmed acreage. Jasper and his wife, Ada, designated a small parcel of land bordering along the road, now designated as US Highway 70, for a schoolhouse. Almost immediately, the schoolhouse became the location for worship services for the ranch community whenever an itinerant preacher came along, or the chaplain at nearby Ft. Stanton could be prevailed upon to conduct services.
Beginning with Helena Anne Tully Coe, several of the Coe and Tully women conducted Sunday school classes for the children in the schoolhouse, and starting in 1929, when the Reverend Frederick B. Howden became the Missionary to Lincoln County, services of Evening Prayer were held there. Realizing that a permanent church was needed, Reverend Howden designated the offerings one Sunday each month to create a fund to build an Episcopal chapel for the people of Lincoln County. Provided that it always be used for religious services, Bert and Sydney Bonnell, donated the site immediately in front of the schoolhouse of their Glencoe Ranch for the site of the new church.
In addition to monies raised locally, funding for St. Anne’s was secured from the American Church Building Commission, the Missionary District of New Mexico and Southwest Texas, and the Women’s Auxiliary of Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts. A brass plaque inside St. Anne’s recognizes Katherine Elizabeth Briggs, one of the women from Trinity Church of Boston, who supported the construction of the chapel.
On October 3, 1933 a contract for $1,056 was entered into with G. F. Bruns, a local contractor from Glencoe, to build a church of native stone. An article in a 1933 edition of the Roswell Dispatch stated that John Gaw Meem drew the plans for the chapel. Although there is no direct archival documentation linking Meem with the design of the church, Meem was a member of the church’s Building Committee and later corresponded with Bishop James M. Stoney on the plan of the proposed addition to the church. As an Episcopalian and a longtime friend of the Reverend Frederick Howden, it is probable that Meem designed the church as a personal favor to Bishop Howden, whose son, the Reverend Frederick B. Howden, Jr. was Rector of another John Gaw Meem-designed church, St. Andrew’s in Roswell.
The cornerstone was laid at a service held at 3:00 PM on December 3, 1933, with the Rt. Reverend Frederick B. Howden, the Rt. Reverend Frederick B. Howden, Jr., Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Roswell and Missionary to Lincoln County, and the Reverend Edward Smith, Vicar of the Chapel of the Redeemer at Ft. Stanton, in attendance. The Rt. Reverend Frederick B. Howden, Sr. consecrated the completed chapel on June 3, 1934. The church was first called the Church of the Transfiguration but later changed to St. Anne’s in memory of Anne Helena Tully Coe.
The clergy who have served at St. Anne’s Chapel have all been primarily attached to another Episcopal congregation, initially St. Andrew’s in Roswell, then, the Church of the Holy Mount in Ruidoso. The chapel continues to be served by a team of clergy licensed under the Reverend Canon John W. Penn, Rector of the Episcopal Church in Lincoln County. In addition to Canon Penn, the clergy staff currently includes the Reverend Anna L. Gaddy, the Reverend Jeffrey D. McClough, the Reverend Jan Davey, the Reverend Dr. Laren R. Winter, and the Very Reverend Ronald R. Thomson.
The original pastor, Frederick B. Howden, Jr., was martyred following the Bataan Death March in 1942. A prisoner of the Japanese, he died of starvation at Davao Penal Colony, Philippines, giving up his own rations to feed others whom he thought were more in need. The Convocation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande in October 2000 approved a Resolution to Commemorate the Reverend Frederick B. Howden, Jr. in the Calendar of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Some twenty years later, Edith Coe Rigsby again actively sought an Episcopal chapel, which was realized in the 1953 Church of the Holy Mount in Ruidoso. On July 18, 1977, both churches were incorporated as the Episcopal Church in Lincoln County. St. Anne’s never attained independent parish status and continues as a “chapel of ease” of the Episcopal Church in Lincoln whose principal place of worship and offices are in Ruidoso. Today St. Anne’s serves as one of three parochial chapels attached to the Church of the Holy Mount in Ruidoso. The chapel sustains an average congregation of twelve people, many descendants of the original settlers of the Hondo Valley, who attend a regularly scheduled Sunday morning worship service.
Boles, L. G., State Highway Engineer. Memorandum to H. V. Parr, Technical Services Engineer regarding meeting with the Rev. John Miner to discussing drainage problems at St. Anne's Chapel. 12 Jan. 1973.
Certificate of Consecration of St. Anne’s Chapel, Program for the Consecration Services at St. Anne’s Chapel. 3 June 1934.
Henn, Walter. “Landmarks of Lincoln County–St. Anne’s Chapel at Glencoe.” Date or publication not provided.
Meem, John Gaw. Letter to Rt. Rev. James Moss Stoney. 6 May 1949. John Gaw Meem Archives, Job File #318, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Minutes of the Vestry of the Church of the Holy Mount, January, 1974; 9 June, 1974; December, 1974.
“N.M. Pioneers’ Tiny Church Becomes Tourist Attraction.” Denver Post. 24 Nov. 1964: 1.
“New Episcopal Church at Glencoe.” Roswell Morning Dispatch. December 1933. Date of publication not provided.
Stoney, James Moss, Rt. Reverend. Letter to John Gaw Meem. 4 May 1949. John Gaw Meem Archives, Job File #318. Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
“Tenth Anniversary of St. Anne’s Chapel.” The Southwest Churchman. Vol. III, May, 1944: 1.
Vestry of the Church of the Holy Mount. Letter to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Mexico and Southwest Texas regarding impact of the roadbed of US Hwy 70 and drainage problems affecting St. Anne's Chapel. 13 Dec. 1972.
*** In addition to the print materials, I am grateful for the willingness of members of the Coe, Bonnell, Tully and Howden families who have first-hand memories of the St Anne’s Chapel story to share their knowledge and family archives. Particularly helpful have been Eleanor Bonnell Shockey, granddaughter of Helena Tully Coe and daughter of Sydney Coe Bonnell; and John and Olivia Howden and their daughter, Deborah Howden, who have graciously shared their memories of the early days of St. Anne’s Chapel and the people who made up the early congregation.
Essay taken from "St. Anne's Chapel," New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties, September 2001.