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Rummage through Tombstone's past at Saturday church sale

Tucked on the corner of Third and Safford streets in Tombstone, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is one of the town’s more hidden, historic treasures.

On Saturday, parishioners and clergy members will host a rummage sale, auction and tours of the church from 8 a.m. until noon. The money will be used for restoration projects of the historic church building and to purchase backpacks for students enrolled at Walter J. Meyer School, along with other community projects, said Heather Rose, a St. Paul’s deacon.

“This is the first time the church has attempted a rummage sale,” Rose said. “From knick-knacks to artwork, clothing, books, electronics and general household items, we have a nice selection of donated items that we’re going to be selling and auctioning off.”

While attendees brouse the sale, tours of the church property will be offered so people can learn about its colorful history.

“St. Paul’s was founded by Endicott Peabody, who arrived in Tombstone from Boston in the early 1880s as a 25-year-old seminarian,” said Jon Donahue, a Tombstone resident who conducts tours of the historic church.

In less than six months after his arrival, Peabody had attracted about 200 members to the church through his sermons and unwavering determination to bring a place of worship to the rough mining camp known as Helldorado. His followers met in various locations around town until Peabody was able to raise enough money to start construction of a church. Funding for the project came through donations from business owners, gamblers, saloons and brothels. In fact, one of the town’s original prostitution cribs was salvaged and relocated to St. Paul’s property, where it sits today as a reminder of the church’s history during Tombstone’s wild and raucous years.

Some of St. Paul’s notable features include a pump organ that made the journey around Cape Horn to San Francisco, stained glass windows imported from Belgium and an altar rail donated by the Earp family.

Peabody held St. Paul’s first service on June 18, 1882, and left Tombstone shortly after the church was completed. He returned to his eastern roots to finish school, became an Episcopal priest and, in 1884, founded Groton School in Massachusetts where he served as headmaster for 54 years. He returned to Tombstone in February 1941 to preach once more in the little church he founded 59 years earlier. After his death on March 17, 1944, the Rev. Peabody was recognized as a patron saint by the Arizona diocese.

“When you come to our rummage sale Saturday morning, you will see the oldest Protestant church building in Arizona — just as alive and exciting as it was back in Wyatt Earp’s time,” Donahue said. “Be sure to take advantage of the tours of the church and Augustine’s crib behind the building. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the church’s history while supporting the rummage sale.”

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