William Stevens Perry

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Right Reverend
William Stevens Perry, D.D., LL.D. D.C.L.
II Bishop of Iowa
William Stevens Perry.jpg
Church Episcopal Church
See Iowa
In office September 10, 1876 - May 13, 1898
Predecessor Henry Washington Lee
Successor Theodore Nevin Morrison
Ordination 1858
Consecration September, 1876
by Rt. Rev. William Bacon Stevens
Personal details
Born (1832-01-22)January 22, 1832
Providence, Rhode Island
Died May 13, 1898(1898-05-13) (aged 66)
Dubuque, Iowa
Signature Right ReverendWilliam Stevens Perry, D.D., LL.D. D.C.L.'s signature

William Stevens Perry (January 22, 1832 – May 13, 1898) was a 19th-century bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and an educator. He served as the second bishop of the Diocese of Iowa from 1876 - 1898.


Early life & Ministry

He was born at Providence, Rhode Island, studied at Brown University, but took his degree from Harvard in 1854. He studied theology at Virginia Theological Seminary before finishing his studies privately. He was ordained a deacon at Grace Church in Newton, Massachusetts and a priest (1858) at St. Paul's, Boston, where he spent the first year of his ministry. His succeeding charges were in St. Luke’s Church Nashua, New Hampshire, St. Stephen’s Church Portland, Maine, St. Michael’s Church Litchfield, Connecticut, and Trinity Church Geneva, New York.[1]

He taught history at Hobart College for several years and served the institution as president from April to September, 1876, when he was consecrated Bishop of Iowa.

Bishop of Iowa

He did much for the cause of education in his diocese—reopened Griswold College, founded St. Katharine's Hall for girls, Kemper Hall for boys, and Lee Hall for training candidates for orders. Several other schools were founded throughout the diocese. Some of the schools were parish based while others were sponsored by the diocese.

Bishop Perry reformed the vestries in the diocese, and reduced the number parishes by removing the ones that did not function on a regular basis, if at all. Grace Cathedral had been completed by his predecessor, Bishop Henry Washington Lee, but it was up to Perry to establish the administration. He named the Very Rev. Willis H. Barris as Dean and a Chapter based on the English model. He gave a report on the model at the Anglican Congress in London while he attended the Lambeth Conference.[2]

In the 1884 Diocesan Convention Bishop Perry proposed goals that embraced the Social Gospel Movement that was popular at the time.[3] As a result, three hospitals were founded during his episcopate: Cottage Hospital in Des Moines, St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids and St. Luke's Hospital in Davenport. A Home for the Friendless, supported by J.M. Griffith, was begun in Dubuque and a Home for the Friendless was also begun in Davenport by Clarissa C. Cook.

In 1862 he became the Assistant Secretary of the General Convention and became Secretary in 1868. He attended the Third Lambeth Conference in 1888 and the Fourth in 1897.

He was a member of the Massachusetts Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States.

Later life & Death

Bishop Perry was in poor health the latter part of his life and took several trips to Europe to recuperate. While he was on visitation to Northeast Iowa, Bishop Perry suffered a paralytic stroke on May 12, 1898 and died the following day. His funeral was held in St. John’s Church in Dubuque and he was buried in the churchyard of the Church of St. James the Less in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[4]


Perry received several honorary degrees. In 1869 he received a Doctor of Sacred Theology from Trinity College in Dublin, and the College of William and Mary awarded him a Doctor of Laws in 1876. Oxford University awarded him a Doctor of Divinity in 1888 when he was in England for the Lambeth Conference.[5] He was made an Honorary Chaplain of the Venerable Order of St John in England on 9 May 1898.[6]


Among his writings are:

  • Documentary History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (1863–1864), with Dr. F. L. Hawks
  • Historical Collections of the American Colonial Church (five volumes, 1871–1878)
  • Historical Notes and Documents Illustrating the Organization of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America (1874)
  • Historical Sketch of the Protestant Episcopal Church. 1784–1884 (1884)


  • William Stevens Perry, Episcopate in America (1895), sketch and bibliography


  1. Horton, Loren N. (2003). The Beautiful Heritage: A History of the Diocese of Iowa. Des Moines: Diocese of Iowa. p. 47.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Horton, 50
  3. Horton, 56
  4. Horton, 61
  5. Horton, 47-48
  6. The London Gazette: no. 26965. pp. 2888–2889. 10 May 1898.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links