A surprised community read The Intelligencer on Monday morning, January 19, 1874. The entire front page was devoted to a letter from Rev. James Latane to Bishop J. Johns explaining why he was leaving the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church for the new created Reformed Episcopal Church. Thus, St. Matthew's was confronted with issues that were rampant in 19th century America.
Dr. Latane was particularly concerned about the church's belief on the effects of baptism, the nature of the Lord's Supper and reference in the prayer book to clergy as priests. Simply put, he argued for a more Protestant Episcopal Church. There is no suggestion in the record that he did anything to persuade parishioners to espouse his cause. His decision was obviously well considered, and his letter to Bishop Johns and later to the Vestry was cordial and forthright. The Vestry resolution in response to the rector's resignation:
"Resolved, that Mr. Latane having renounced the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church, we are most reluctantly constrained hereby to accept his resignation of the Rectorship of St. Matthew's Parish. In this severing (of) our relations to the late beloved pastor, we bear our testimony to his fidelity and ability in the discharge of all his duties and pray that God's richest blessings may attend him and his family to the end of life."
Some years later, Dr. Latane was consecrated a bishop in the Reformed Episcopal Church and is proudly counted among the eight former clergy of St. Matthew's raised to the office of bishop.
On June 6, 1874, The Reverend J. G. Armstrong, of Hannibal, Mo., was called to the rectorship of the parish. Rev. Mr. Armstrong, who was said to have been both handsome and popular, was plagued with a rumor that he was in fact John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln. According to his barber, Armstrong wore his hair long to conceal a scar on the back of his neck where Booth, too, was said to be scarred. Rumors were so rampant in the community that the senior warden, Dr. E. A. Hildreth, found it necessary to question the rector on the matter. "Has that story followed me here?" Rev. Mr. Armstrong responded. He produced proof of his presence at college in Toronto, Ontario, at the time of the assassination. Nonetheless, that story haunted him even to his next parish, Monumental Church in Richmond, Virginia. It is reported he eventually left the rectorship for college teaching. Before leaving for Richmond, Rev. Armstrong was accorded the high privilege of hosting the consecration of the first W. Virginia bishop at St. Matthew's Church.