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Parish History Notes 28: The Rev. Sewell Stavely Hepburn

A native of Missouri, Reverend S. S. Hepburn began his career at parishes in Loudoun County, Virginia, and Kent County, Maryland, where he met and married Nina Powell. He was residing in Hanover County by 1879, when his son Thomas Norval Hepburn, was born. In 1881 he was rector of St. Paul’s Parish, and concurrently ministered at Immanuel Church in Old Church, St. Peter’s in New Kent County, and St. David’s in King William County, as well as St. Paul’s Church in Hanover Court House. According to Immanuel Church documents, he held the longest tenure of a Rector of St. Paul’s Parish.

 Rev. Hepburn, or “Brother Hep” as he came to be known, accepted a call to St. Martin’s Parish in 1893 and moved his family to Hanover Academy, which had recently closed as a boys’ preparatory school. In 1903 he retired and returned to Kent County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

 Brother Hep made many friends while rector at Fork Church, and long after his departure he continued to visit and conduct special services for members of the congregation. On these visits he would accept quarters at Oakland, Airwell, Janeway and Hickory Hill. As late as 1929 he assisted Mr. Mason at a Fork Church wedding.

 In spite of his life-long dedication to the Episcopal Church, Rev. S. S. Hepburn will be remembered because of his famous granddaughter, Katharine Hepburn, who was born in Hartford, Connecticut, soon after his departure from St. Martin’s Parish.