Robert Edward Lee Strider, a native of Leetown, Va., became rector of St. Matthew's Church of Wheeling in the fall of 1915.
He was to remain a resident of the city for some 40 years as he rose to the highest office in the Episcopal Church in West Virginia and became respected and beloved leader of the diocese of the state.
Rev. Strider, who prepared for the ministry at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville and the Virginia Theological Seminary at Alexandria, was ordained to the priesthood at Keyser, W. Va., which was his first charge.
Strider stepped from the parish ministry into the office of Bishop Coadjutor under Bishop William L Gravatt in 1923 and the two men worked diligently together for progress of the Episcopalian Church in this state. Consecration ceremonies were held at St. Matthew's.
A man of modesty, dignity and rectitude who nevertheless was a powerful, inspiring speaker and an engaging personality, Rev. Strider was immensely popular, not only in his church but in the community around the state.
The affection held for Robert E. Lee Strider was demonstrated in 1937 when he was called to become the Dean of Virginia Seminary at Alexandria. Many people over the state came forward to ask Bishop Strider to stay here and, moved by their loyalty and appreciation, he declined the post in Virginia.
Bishop Strider became diocesan head on January 10, 1939, and moved the diocesan headquarters from Charleston to Wheeling.
Third Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, Bishop Strider was known as a man of practical and fiscal acumen, endowed with much energy and devotion to his work. He moved tirelessly over thousands of miles by train and automobile. His first automobile was given to him by the people of St. Matthew's.
In the '40s, the diocese had been having summer conferences at various locations around the state but there was considerable sentiment for finding a place the Episcopalians could call their own.
Finally, after considering many sites, it was decided to purchase the Hampshire Hunt Club near Romney on the South Branch of the Potomac River, this property having 50 acres, with the ability of lease of about 1,000 acres more.
Thus, during Bishop Strider's tenure came Peterkin Conference Center. This first annual layman's conference was held at Peterkin in September of 1945.
One of the other great blessings of the Episcopal Church in West Virginia is Sandscrest, a beautiful 286-acre estate on the outskirts of Wheeling, which was the home of Harry S. and Helen Turner Sands, ardent Episcopalians belonging to St. Luke's Church on the Island. The Sands property came to the use of the Diocese as a retreat and conference center.
Robert E. Lee Strider was born April 9, 1887, at Leetown at his ancestral home, called "Rose Hill." It was to Rose Hill that he retired in 1955 , at the age of 68, and he resided there until his demise in 1969.
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