St John's in the Wilderness



Sunday Worship at 10:30 a.m.

The Holy Eucharist


We know from the autobiography of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau that in the early 1870s the church grew from the vision of guests and guides who held worship services in the parlor of Paul Smiths Hotel on Lower St. Regis Lake. Paul Smith himself gave land and logs for the construction of a small chapel seating about 40 people. The chapel was consecrated on September 13, 1877 by Bishop William Doane, who preached from the text of Psalm 132, “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah and found it in the fields of the wood”. Later the chancel was enlarged and transepts added to each side in order to seat one hundred fifty worshippers. Dr. Trudeau himself served as Warden of the mission for the remainder of his life, and his wife decorated the church and prepared the altar for every Sunday throughout the summer months.


On December 4, 1927, the year of its 50th anniversary, the log chapel was ravished by a fire which completely destroyed the building, as well as its memorial windows and ecclesiastical ornaments. A Building Committee under the leadership of Dr. Ransom S. Hooker and Dr. Francis B. Trudeau immediately met in the home of Mrs. Whitelaw Reid to lay plans for a new structure, which would not only be more nearly fireproof than the old building, but would also retain the simplicity, beauty, and atmosphere of the Adirondacks, for which St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness is noted.

 The present stone structure was completed in 1930. It was designed by Mr. William Distin and preserves, as much as possible, the spirit of the chapel it replaced. The beauty and originality of the new building have been greatly enhanced by stained glass windows, which serve as memorials to persons who have been connected with Paul Smiths and the surrounding community for many generations. 

Today, more than one hundred years after the consecration of the original log cabin, worshippers come to the Episcopal service of the Holy Eucharist and Sermon held during July and August and the first Sunday of September.

Baptisms, marriages, burials, and even commencement services of Paul Smiths College, have been held here, thus honoring the original intention of the congregation to minister to the entire community. The Rev. William B. Lusk was the first rector to serve St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness. Throughout its history, the congregation has been fortunate to receive spiritual leadership from many dedicated clergy. These have included: The Reverends William B. Lusk, Edward M. Parrott, Erville B. Maynard, J. Reginald Butt, George H. Easter, George O. Nagle, and Robert Lawthers. Worship services are enhanced by the music of the Hooker Memorial Organ and by the singing of a volunteer choir. A discussion group, held weekly at a parishioner’s summer home, offers the congregation additional opportunity for spiritual growth. Because of its ties to the surrounding community, the congregation continues to contribute a modest, but most welcome outreach support to a variety of local groups and needy persons.


 St. John’s in the Wilderness

Episcopal Church

Paul Smiths, New York

Contact us:  Rev. William Cooper - priest-in-charge,    Ray Toland - Senior Warden,    Judy Duncan - website editor