St. Andrew's Episcopal ChurchAyer, Massachusetts

Parish History:John Crocker

JOHN CROCKER, son of Alvah and Charlotte F. (Bartow) Crocker, was born 16 Jan 1900 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. His father was president of Crocker, Burbank & Co., which operated 10 paper mills along the Nashua River in Fitchburg. He prepared for college at Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts and Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard College, where he became famous in the annals of Harvard football as a defensive end, graduating in 1922 with a B.A. degree. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, for two years, then returned in 1924 to take a teaching position at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts for two years. He began his studies for the ministry at Yale Theological School in New Haven, Connecticut, where he spent two years, graduating from Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1930 with a B.D. (Bachelor of Divinity) degree. He was ordained a deacon in June 1929 by the Rt. Rev. Charles Lewis Slattery, Bishop of Massachusetts. After graduation in June 1930, he was ordained to the priesthood at Christ Church in Fitchburg, his boyhood parish, by the Rt. Rev. James De Wolf Perry, Bishop of Rhode Island, acting of behalf of the Bishop of Western Massachusetts. He was married to Mary Bowditch Hallowell, daughter of N. Penrose and Margaret (Bowditch) Hallowell of Readville, Massachusetts 7 September 1922 in Milton, Massachusetts. They had six children.

In May 1930, Rev. Crocker was appointed chaplain for Episcopal students at Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey. At the Catholic Congress, held in Philadelphia in October 1933 by conservative Episcopalians to commemorate the centenary of the Oxford Movement, he was a featured speaker. By 1935, he was canon of Trinity Cathedral in Trenton, New Jersey, the cathedral church of the Diocese of New Jersey. In 1936, he was nominated to be Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of New Jersey, although he later requested that his name be withdrawn so that he could continue on with his work at Princeton. On 14 June 1939, he was elected by the Trustees of Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts to succeed the Rev. Dr. Endicott Peabody as headmaster. He had many longstanding ties to the School--he himself was a 1918 graduate and altogether 15 members of his family were alumni. "Time" magazine wrote about him at the time, "Princetonians know Jack Crocker, now 39, as a big, dark-haired, broad-browed man who looks like Napolean in his youth, likes his excercise (squash and tennis), loves to argue, [and] has a laugh like a small thunderclap.... An earnest student, a disciple of Humanist Paul Elmer Moore, Crocker is a practitioner of 'muscular Christianity.' In this he resembles old Dr. Peabody, who used to play games with his students."

On Sunday, 7 September 1940, our founding rector, the Rev. Dr. Endicott Peabody, gave a brief summary of the history of the churches in both Ayer and Forge Village, after which he introduced his successor, the Rev. John Crocker. For the first time in nearly four decades, a new rector stood in the pulpit of St. Andrew's Church in Ayer. The Rev. Dr. Hugh L. Willson continued to serve as vicar.

During his tenure as headmaster at Groton School, the Rev. John Crocker was known for his courageous viewpoints. He was an early advocate of the United States' entry into the war in Europe to aid Great Britain. In November 1940, he said in a sermon, "A majority of Christians are forced to see that the choice of war is infinitely better than slavery.... Our living standards and our democratic rights can never stand before a Nazi tyranny that has power over all the resources of a unified Europe, and has as slave labor the populations of subjected peoples." In September 1951, three years before the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools, Groton School accepted its first African-American student. It was not a token gesture; Rev. Crocker endured bitter opposition from alumni after convincing trustees of the Christian justice of his decision. In April 1965, he and his wife, accompanied by 75 Groton School students, marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during a civil rights demonstration in Boston.

Princeton University awarded him an honorary D.D. (Doctory of Divinity) degree in June 1958. The citation read, in part, "he stands forth as a sturdy champion raised up by a wise Providence for the advancement of Christian learning [and] he has turned his training to the instruction of young men, admirably exemplifying, among us and abroad, that faith in education and that education in faith without which youth and age must be infinitely the poorer." Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut also awarded him an honorary D.D. degree in 1962. After 25 years as headmaster at Groton School, he retired in June 1965.

The Rev. John Crocker died 22 July 1984 at his home in North Haven, Maine. His funeral service was held in St. John's Chapel at Groton School. He is buried with his wife in the Groton Cemetery, Groton, Massachusetts.
1. Asbury, Edith Evans "952 at Princeton Receive Degrees," New York Times, 18 June 1958, 30.
2. The Clerical Directory of the Episcopal Church 1968 (New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1968), 105.
3. "Crocker Elected to Head Groton School," New York Times, 15 June 1939, 17.
4. Fenton, John H. "Groton Headmaster Ends 25-Year Tenure," New York Times, 13 June 1965, 80.
5. Hamill, Sarah 100th Anniversary: St. Andrew's Church Ayer, Massachusetts (Ayer, Massachusetts: St. Andrew's Church, 1992), 7-9.
6. "Jack for Peabo," Time Magazine, 26 June 1939, 16.
7. "Urges We Enter the War," New York Times, 19 November 1940, 10.
Original author: Richard C. Dabrowski. This text is released under GFDL.
Photograph courtesy of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Westford, Massachusetts.


Physical address
7 Faulkner Street
Ayer, Massachusetts 01432

Mailing address
St. Andrew's Church
PO Box 298
Ayer, MA 01432

Disability services

St. Andrew's is handicap accessible. We also have large print bibles and Book of Common Prayer available upon request

BSA Pack 32

St. Andrew's is a proud sponsor of Cub Scout Pack 32. Contact them at ObscureBSA for more information.