Our Two Churches

How did one small country parish end up with not one but two beautiful churches, nearly five miles apart?

Perhaps the single most important explanation is lousy weather.

Winters in this part of the country, as anyone who lives here knows, can be challenging. Now imagine them in the mid-1800’s, before paved roads, snowplows and all-wheel drive. In bad years, winter travel became all but impossible, and getting to church involved serious risk. St. John’s Church had been up and running since 1855 (read the inspiring story of its construction here) and those living close by could manage the trek on foot or by horseback. But for the many parishioners who lived in Vista and parts of Connecticut, there was simply no way to get there safely.

Enter John Lewis. Born near Vista in 1793, he had returned there a wealthy man in 1840. The town fathers, moved by his generous donations to public education, renamed that part of South Salem as Lewisboro. By 1870, he and many of his family members had settled there. Out of consideration for them and other St. John’s parishioners, Lewis deeded the farmhouse in which he was born and 48 surrounding acres to the parish, provided they built a “chapel of convenience,” to be called St. Paul’s, on the site.

Though it took nearly thirty years to accumulate the funds, by 1900 St. Paul’s Chapel was completed and stands today as a beautiful companion to our original church. Miles of woodland trails wind through the 32 acres behind it, where sheltered grottos dedicated to the Blessed Mother and St. Francis provide havens for quiet contemplation.