Grace Memorial Episcopal Church
Backstory and Context
The Grace Memorial Episcopal Church located in Hammond, Louisiana, was built in the 1800s, completed in 1876. Its architecture consists of a late 19th century Gothic Revival idiom. The church began as a Sunday School started by Melzar Waterman and his daughter Mertie Ann Waterman Cate. The church was the first church in the unsettled section of the Pinewood Wilderness north of Lake Maurepas, northwest of Lake Pontchartrain in southeast Louisiana. The new settlement was connected to New Orleans by the railroad track which ran through the swamps to reach the city.
The church is one of the oldest buildings in Hammond. A fire broke out in downtown Hammond in 1896, damaging most of the town. However, due to its location, the church was unharmed. Its religious congregation is also one of the oldest in the Hammond area. The congregation was started by Mertie Ann Cate in her home during the mid-1860s.
While on a visit to their native New England after the Civil War, the Cates, including Mertie’s husband Charles Emery Cate, found that the war was still discussed in the churches, except for the Episcopal Church. This discovery led to their decision to request a missionary priest from that denomination to come from New Orleans and hold services for the Sunday School with the hope of eventually establishing an Episcopal Church there.
Mertie Cate began the congregation in her home in the mid-1860s, and as it grew, the services were moved to the post office until funds could be received for the building of a church. However, a fire broke out and burned down the building, including the top floor where they held their services.
The church was built through the efforts of the Mission Society and the contributions of Mertie’s husband, Charles Emery Cate, who donated the land for the church and the adjacent cemetery. He also provided the labor and building material, as well as lending money to the church, without any interest. Other men in the congregation donated their labor, while the girls and women sewed and baked for fundraisers. Due to an essay published in the Episcopal Church magazine, others around the nation contributed to the building of the church, with an outstanding contribution of $500 from an anonymous donor from New York.
The church, named Grace Episcopal at the time, was completed in 1876. After Mertie Cate’s death in 1887, the church was renamed Grace Memorial Episcopal Church to pay homage to the Cate family’s contributions to the congregation and town.
The cemetery adjacent to the church includes the graves of Charles E. Cate, Mertie Waterman Cate, former mayors of Hammond, Henry C. Mooney and Charles C. Carter, former church rector Howard Giere, and numerous other persons prominent in the history of Hammond and of the Grace Memorial Episcopal Church. The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in America in 1973.
 “Grace Memorial Church.” Hammond Historic District, www.hammondhistoricdistrict.org/tour-gracememorial/. 18 February 2019.
“Grace Memorial Church.” Hammond Historic District, www.hammondhistoricdistrict.org/tour-gracememorial/.
Howard Nichols. “Grace Memorial Episcopal Church > About Us > Church History.” Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, www.gracemem.org/About-Us/Church-History.