HISTORY OF HOLY TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
FOUNDED IN 1863
Work on creating a comprehensive and accurate history of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal began in earnest several years ago. We are fortunate to have the -first book of vestry minutes, dating from July 23, 1863 to 1895, service books, and all church registers to date, a book of annual meeting and special meeting minutes, from 1931 to February, 1969. Vestry minutes and Annual Meeting minutes are available from 1957 to the present. We have found no vestry minutes between 1895 and 1957. The information in the early records is sketchy, with few details. We are hopeful that there is more information available from Diocesan and Archdeaconry sources, old newspaper archives and descendants of early families. We have found a great deal of information which we hope you will find interesting.
There is still important work to be done: try to fill in the gaps, read and store properly many years of vestry minutes, transcribe and preserve the oldest records, sort and arrange photographs, We hope this narrative will inspire you to join us in these efforts.
We begin with a quote from a series of historical vignettes written by Carolyn Flanagan, an active member of Holy Trinity, - in 1978. She obviously did extensive research on conditions at the time as well as in church records and beautifully set the scene for Holy Trinity's beginning.
"The weather is sticky and hot; summer visitors have increased our population by some 400; our mail takes 5 days from Southold; the blacksmith shop is the busiest spot in town; draft riots in New York City are causing concern; and the Emancipation Proclamation has just been signed by President Lincoln, further dividing opinion here in Greenport. It was in this atmosphere that the Church of the Holy Trinity was organized on July 23, 1863, by the Rev. Gurdon Hunttington , Rector of Christ Church , Sag Harbor. On that same date, the Suffolk Weekly Times announced ' We are requested to state that there will be services in the Episcopal form on Sunday July 26, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the house at the rear of the WyandankHotel'.
At the first meeting nominations were made for wardens and vestry. It was voted that the church should be known as the Church of the Holy Trinity and that Tuesday in Easter Week should be the day for the election of Warden and Vestrymen. The Rev. Hunttington was called to the Chair. G. W. Smith was appointed clerk of the vestry.”
On October 19, at a meeting of "all male persons of the congregation", Articles of Incorporation were certified, and Alexander M. C. Smith and Joel Stevens, M.D. were elected Church Wardens. David G. Floyd, John O. Ireland, Henry D. Stratton, Lewis Hanimond, William I. King, Thomas B. Shurrack and William Litchard were elected Vestrymen. Services were held in the upper room of the Stirling Academy from November 1863 to October 1864, when it was sold.
In 1865 a, parcel of land was deeded to the Church by Alexander and Martha Smith, and on Easter Monday the cornerstone was laid. by ' Joel Stevens, M.D., At the request of Bishop Horatio Potter, the Rev. Gurdon Hunttington directed the ceremony. The first service in the unfinished church was held on July 16, 1865 by the Rev. George G. Hepburn. Early records are sketchy, but it seems that Holy Trinity often functioned as a" summer parish" with only occasional services. The rest of the year.
The Rev. George Hepburn served from December, 1867 to November, 1869. During his tenure Holy Trinity purchased its first rectory, a house which stood where the parish hall is now. Trinity Circle, a women' organization which was formed in 1870, raised funds for parish work, improvement church property and contributed greatly to Holy Trinity's growth and development.
For, 37 years Holy Trinity was a mission, first of the Diocese of New York, then of the Diocese of Long Island. With great sacrifice and resourcefulness on the part of priests, vestry and parishioners, and the dedicated s upport of the Rev. Robert Weeks, head of the Suffolk County Associate Mission, and priest in charge from 1884-1899, in 1901, under the Rev. Charles A. Jessup, Holy Trinity became a self-supporting parish. During Fr. Jessup'snine year tenure, the number of families grew from 56 to 161, there were 300 baptisms, 126 confirmations, over 1,000 celebrations of Holy Communion and 3,000 services. Several more pieces of property were purchased, adding up to an acre, which extended to Sterling Basin. At that time the current rectory was purchased and the former one was renovated by Trinity circle, named Trinity House and used as a parish hall.
In 1902, Maria Lang Wood and Mary Evelina Wood established a Trust Fund of $3000 for Holy Trinity, with stipulations' as to how it should be invested. The income was to be applied to the maintenance of the Wood's burial plots in Sterling Cemetery, not less than $15.00 annually,' with excess going to parish 'work. The Misses Wood purchased the Holbrook Mansion in 1905 and offered it as a hospital. A Hospital Association was formed with the Hon. Harry A. Reeves, editor of the Watchman as chairman and Dr. Charles Jessup as secretary. They made a $43,000 donation to endow a hospital bed in perpetuity to be known as the Holy Trinity Parish bed.
Since. the early records are frustratingly lacking in detail, we are indebted to the Suffolk Times for a complete account on July 22, 1905, of the Rev. Robert Weeks' sermon on the occasion of the 40''' anniversary of the building of the church. It covered in depth the first 42 years of our history.
Trinity House was sold in 1917 and moved to Broad Street, where it still stands. M. L. Schluensen of Riverhead was given the contract to build a new parish house for $8,000. We also have a promotional bookletprinted in 1921, which contains photographs and information about Holy Trinity.
The Watchman printed thisnews article "November 4 th, 1928 was a red. Letter day in the history of Holy Trinity Parish, Greenport. The Sunday services resumed after many weeks waiting for the builders and decoratorsto carry out their plans. The entire interior was covered in Homasote and painted, the woodwork a dark brown; the ceiling a cream white; and the walls a light buff. New lights of a pleasing design were placed in the Nave and the wire modernized. An electric organ blower was installed and the church foundations have been strengthened by retaining walls on three sides of the cellar. Improvements and repairs have also been made to the heating plant. It is most satisfactory that these great and needed improvements have been carried on without debt to the Parish. Trinity Circle donated the lights, Trinity Choir Club gave the organ blower, and the rest, was a generous contribution of Miss Grace Floyd.”
In 1933 there was a fire in the chancel. We found an article in the Suffolk County News for Friday, March 10 stating " basement and interior of Holy Trinity EpiscopalChurch on Main Street, Greenport, were badly damaged by a fire which broke out in the church basement during the service on Sunday evening. The fire, which started near the hot air heating plant, hadevidently been burning for some time before it was discovered, as the interior of the basement was aroaring mass of flames when the Greenport fire department arrived. Members of the congregation who were attending the service, were not aware that the building was on fire until William Kolb, who was taking up the collection, noticed flames shooting up through the floor around the hot air register in the center aisle. The Rev. C. M. Budlong, rector of the church, dismissed the service, and the' congregation walked in 9ooo4an orderly manner from the building. The loss is estimated at over $3,000, which is covered by insurance."
The Rev. Kenneth M. Sowers was ordained to the priesthood at Holy Trinity, the first ordination in the diocese to be held in a parish church, on Saturday, December 9, 1939. The Watchman reported that every creed in Greenport was represented, as well as many clergymen fromLong Island Episcopal churches. Dinner was served in the Parish House and members of the Young People' Fellowship were commended on their appearance and efficiency. In 1941, the Rev. Sowers sent a letter of resignation from Fort Dix, N.J., stating that he felt called to serve as a chaplain.
During World War II migrant farm workers were brought in from Jamaica and Holy Trinity's rector conducted services for them at two labor camps.
For quite a few years, Holy Trinity was used for Greek Orthodox services. In 1948, Telly Aristotle Savalas, 24, of Garden City and Katherine Meolaides, 23, of Astoria were married at Holy Trinity by a Greek priest. Later the Rev. Monsignor John Psillas of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Life-Giving –Fountain gave us a Byzantine style icon which still enhances our chancel.
The Rev. T.J. Haldeman served as rector for 19 years (1943-62) and the congregation grew, buildings were renovated and activities expanded. In 1944, Mrs. F. Delaney Robinson, a granddaughter of David Floyd, donated a chapel to Holy Trinity, built east of the chancel, and equipped it with an altar and all appointments. The wood is from walnut trees blown down at Brecknock Hall by the 1938 hurricane. The woodwork was processed, polished and carved by woodworkers in Patchogue. Some property was sold in 1945 to create an endowment fund. Holy Trinity's rector held services at Redeemer in Mattituck until the middle 50s and at St. Mary's Shelter Island until 1964.
In 1966, the Rev. Sheraton established a parochial chapel, St. Edmund the Martyr, in Southold. Although it served the community well for 10 years, it became evident that it would not be possible to establish an independent parish, so Holy Trinity's chapel became St. Edmund the Martyr. The medallion over the altar was a gift from visitors from Southwold, England. It was made with pieces of glass from windows which were damaged during WW II bombing of the church of that name there. Mrs. Sheraton founded a Pre-Kindergarten which served local children for many years.
During the 1970s, Fr. Renzulli made several changes in the parish house. Again we will quote Carolyn Flanagan. "At the time of the refinishing of the Upper Room, Fr. Renzulli decided to explore the unfinished space under the eaves before the paneling was installed on the east wall. He was aware that there was no flooring in the area, so he stepped gingerly from floor joist to joist, but not carefully enough. He fell forward, landed with outstretched
arms and touched a bulky package. When Father and the package were brought to light, it was discovered that he had broken two ribs and the package contained a Communion Service, including a tankard, two chalices engraved 1865 and a paten. There was also a smallchalice inscribed
"ISAAC McLELLEN. From his friends of the Press." We know that Isaac McLellen was a poet who helped form the Greenport Literary Society in 1877. We assume it was given to Holy Trinity in his memory. Father Renzulli also enlarged Holy Trinity's outreach to the community and started the Ecumenical Good Friday Service. Membership increased and the Sunday School expanded.
Fr. Walker continued to build on this foundation through the 80s, strengthening our presence in the area and encouraging members' participation in meaningful worship, especially during Holy Week. He also arranged a lovely 125th Anniversary celebration. We have many wonderful photographs of the activities then.
In recent years, Holy Trinity, along with many churches, has faced the problems of changing lifestyles, demographics and economics. The fewer and mostly older members continue a ministry of worship, study, stewardship, fellowship and outreach, dedicated to the needs of the parishioners and the community. Although we have not had a rector for a few years, we have been fortunate to be served by several retired priests. The Rev. Canon John R. Edler, a member of our church and AssociatePriest, was extremely generous as a supply, when needed, and always available for information and consultation. The Rev. Canon Robert F. Capon served us for about six years and the Rev. Canon Paul F. Wancura was with us for ten years. Each of them, in his own way, has given generously of his time, his experience and knowledge as well as love, enabling us to continue the work God has for to do. September 1, 2013-14, Rev. Patrick McNamara was our priest-in-charge. After he left, we have been well served by retired priests Fr. Wancura, Fr. Madden, and by Fr. Godfrey. Fr.Walker served as priest-in-charge from January 2016 to August 2017. The Rev. Roger Joslinwas welcomed as priest-in-charge on April 23, 2017. We are dedicated to making the future of Holy Trinity as productive as it’s past.
PRIESTS WHO HAVE SERVED HOLY TRINITY
1863-64 Charles H. Gardiner
1865 George Hepburn (May) Canfield (rest of summer
1866 Townsend (May-November)
1867 Robert Weeks (May-October)
1868 George Hepburn
1870 Buckmaster (August for 4 weeks)
1871 Buckmaster (March 71 to May )
1875 Henry Bedinger (June 75 to May 75)
1879 E. W. Saunders (May to September)
1879 Thomas 0. Tongue (September - 3 years)
Two years with no entries in registers - occasional
summer services. In 1884 Robert Weeks, Head of the
Associate Mission of Suffolk County, became Priest-
in-charge and served Holy Trinity with assistants
1884-85 Robert Weeks with Charles Jessup
1885-99 Robert Weeks with assistants
1900-01 G.V. Gilreath
1901-10 Charles Jessup
1910-12 I. D. Waugh
1912-14 T. McKim
1914-18 H. L. Rice
191.9-26 J. H. Heady
1926-31 G. D. Ashley
1931-35 C. M. Budlong
1935-38 J. H. Dixon
1931-41 K. M. Sowers
1942-43 G. TiIley
1943-62 T. J. Haldeman
1962-64 R. T. Tobey
1964-69 Wm.. M. Sheraton
1966-68 D. Carlow -Curate at St. Edmonds & Ass't at Holy Trinity
1969-79 P.M. Renzulli - Deacon William Vast Sandt, 70 -78
1970 Conway - Ass't at Holy Trinity & St. Edmonds
Interim Armando Cuellar
1980-91 J. E. Walker
Interim Armando Cuellar
1993-96 Charles Smith
1996-2003Robert R. Capon
2003 –2013Paul F. Wancura - locum tenens
2016 – 2017John E. Walker
2017 –Roger Joslin