Our History

Named for a Famous Saint

Our church was named in memory of the fourth century Bishop of Constantinople, present day Istanbul in Turkey. He was greatly beloved in his time and received the name Chrysostom (KRIS-us-tum) due to his eloquent speaking voice and powerful delivery. In Greek, Chrysostom means "Golden Tongue". 
St. John Chrysostom gave generously of his private means and founded hospitals for the poor. A social as well as religious activist, he spoke out fearlessly against the custom of bowing before statues of the Byzantine empress.  For this defiance of authority he was banned into exile. He died in a place of refuge on the slopes of the Taurus Mountains in 407 A.D.  


We consider R. Ralston Cox of Philadelphia as the founding force of our church.  Ralston had plans to follow in his uncle's footsteps by becoming a clergyman and building a church in the "new" State of Wisconsin. His uncle, Robert Cox, had built the Church of St. James in Philadelphia. It is said that Ralston Cox either adapted his plans from his uncle's church in Philadelphia or those of a church in Greensted, England.

Before his dream could begin, Ralston met a tragic end. Following a visit back east, Ralston was returning to Wisconsin by steamboat on the Ohio River. On the night of May 24, 1851 he fell overboard and apparently drown.  No trace of his body was ever found. His two sisters, Sarah Cox and Maria Cox Markoe, and his brother-in-law, the Rev. William Markoe, carried on Ralston's dream and established the church as a memorial to him.

Founded in 1851, St. John Chrysostom is considered one of the finest examples of "Carpenter Gothic" architecture in America.  See our
Church Tour Section.

The "Little Red Church on the Hill" was consecrated on May 20, 1856 by the  Rt. Rev'd Jackson Kemper (1789-1870).  Jackson Kemper was named Missionary Bishop of the Northwest in 1835.  In 1859 he was installed as the first Bishop of Wisconsin.  He maintained his base of operation at nearby Nashotah House Seminary and often presided at St. John Chrysostom services over several years. 


In 1855, newly ordained priest, James De Koven (1831-1879) was appointed Tutor of Ecclesiastical History at
Nashotah House Seminary.  In the same year he became rector of our parish.  He continued to serve as rector until 1859 when he accepted the position as Warden of Racine College.  Dr. De Koven became one of the most eminent leaders of the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Episcopal Church. An interesting side note - if you look at a current Delafield city map, you will find a Kemper and De Koven Street.  A lasting memory to two fine men who helped our church and our city prosper.  

The founders of St. John Chrysostom wanted their church building to witness, both by its architecture and its services, the teachings of the historic Church. The stone altar and Rood Screen are said to be among the first of their kind erected in an Episcopal church in this country.

On February 23,1972 the church was entered on the National Register of Historic Places. A plaque outside the church commemorates this event.

A Proud Heritage

Over the years the parish has been strengthened by the devotion of many hearts who have sought to establish a place of worship in the beauty of holiness.  It is a place where, in the words of T.S. Eliot, "
prayer has been valid."

You Are Invited St. John Chrysostom is more than an architectural jewel.  It is the center of an active, vital, Christian community of all ages, worshiping together week-by-week. Today, as in the past, we offer what people need most:  spiritual awakening, hope, peace of mind, and a loving community.  
Please join us in being a part of tomorrow's history.  Use our
Contact Us page if you would like more information about the Church of St. John Chrysostom.