A Proud Deaf History

St. Thomas Deaf Church can trace its ancestry back to Reverend Thomas Gallaudet (1787-1851), son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a renowned  pioneer of deaf education in the United States.

In 1817, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, along with Laurent Clerc and Mason Cogswell, founded the American School for the Deaf (ASD) and became the first principal.

In 1821, Gallaudet married one of his former ASD students, Sophia Fowler.
They had two sons, Thomas (1822-1902) and Edward Miner (1837-1917).

The younger son, Edward Miner Gallaudet, was the first superintendent of a school for deaf and blind children in Washington DC. In 1864, this became the first college for the Deaf: the National Deaf-Mute College. Over the years, it changed names and in 1986 achieved the status of university: 
Gallaudet University.  He served as president for 46 years.

In 1851, Thomas Gallaudet, the older son, became an Episcopal priest. He founded St. Ann's Church for the Deaf in New York City in 1852, which still exists to this day. He traveled to different cities where he would gather Deaf people for worship in Sign Language.  He also advocated for the Deaf to become deacons and priests in the Episcopal Church to carry Deaf ministry even further.  

In 1876, one of Thomas Gallaudet's students, Henry Winter Syle (1846-1890), became the first Deaf man to be ordained as deacon by the Episcopal Church in the United States. A few months later, another Deaf man, Austin Ward Mann, was ordained as deacon. (Both were ordained to the priesthood in 1883.)

In 1876, the Rev. Austin Mann traveled to St. Louis and assembled the Deaf for worship in sign language at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) downtown.  

In 1891, this group of Deaf people officially became St. Thomas Deaf Church, named in honor of Thomas Gallaudet, our Episcopal "Apostle to the Deaf"
--the older son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.  

Now located in Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood, MO, St. Thomas Deaf Church worships Deaf Culture style in ASL and continues under Deaf lay leadership with the Reverend Dr. Emily Hillquist Davis serving as Vicar.


A Missionary Chronicle: Being a History of the Ministry to the Deaf in the Episcopal Church

(1860-1980) by Otto B. Berg 1984







Photo Credits

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet  


Thomas H. Gallaudet              

  Episcopal Conference of the Deaf

Edward Miner Gallaudet         

  Gallaudet University Archives

Henry Winter Syle                     

  Episcopal Conference of the Deaf

Austin Ward Mann                    

  St. Thomas Church for the Deaf

1881 ECD Conference            

  Episcopal Conference of the Deaf

2014 ECD Conference            

  St. Thomas Church for the Deaf