Trinity Church History
At the end of the Civil War in 1865, divided loyalties healed slowly. A year later in Salisbury, eight men, along with a serious minded teen-aged girl, withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church to form a new congregation. They sent a petition to the Virginia Conference, asking the presiding elder of the Norfolk District, the Reverend Dr. M. Lecato, to visit them for that purpose. That meeting resulted in the framework to establish Trinity Church, thereby becoming the northernmost congregation in the old Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
Those founding fathers, Henry Brewington, James Cannon, Levin J. Dashiell, Levin Dorman, William W. Gordy, Hugh Jackson, Isaac Jackson, and William B. Tilghman, along with Miss Nannie Rider, had plans drawn up for the first Southern Methodist Chapel, a modest wooden structure built on the northwest corner of Bond and Water Streets. The Rev. Dr. Lecato became the first pastor, regular worship began, and the congregation grew to 33 within a year.
By 1884 there were 77 members, when the Chapel burned. Trinity members worshiped for a time in the Court House. Then through the kindness of a neighboring congregation, they met at Wicomico Presbyterian. A new building was finished in the summer of 1886, only to be threatened by the Great Salisbury Fire of 1886. Miraculously, Trinity survived this fire, which destroyed much of the City of Salisbury.
In the early 20th century, the former Miss Nannie Rider and her husband, then Governor Elihu E. Jackson, became Trinity’s benefactors, donating the present Church, which was begun and completed under the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Thomas N. Potts, and dedicated on May 21, 1905. Twenty-five years later, Mrs. Jackson presented the Jackson Memorial Building to the Church as a memorial to her husband.
Trinity’s last ordeal by fire occurred in 1940 and left a badly damaged interior, which thankfully was restored to its former beauty. The exquisite stained glass windows and mosaics were miraculously spared for future congregations and visitors to enjoy. The mosaics are rare examples of the artistry of Louis C. Tiffany and are described in the History of Tiffany Windows.
Among the many gifts to Trinity Church are the organ, piano, tower bells, Memorial Parlor and Christ Chapel. The Altar Guild donated needlepoint chancel rail kneelers in 1992. The former Art Institute and parking lot adjacent to the Church property were purchased and given to Trinity Church in 1994 by Mrs. Mildred Palmer in memory of her husband, Harry L. Palmer. The Church offices are in the Palmer Building. Recently, the Parker Building, a gift from the late Henry and Nellie Parker, houses the nursery.
Trinity’s congregation has assisted in the formation of mission churches. During the pastorate of Dr. Potts, St. Andrews Church on Vine Street was organized in 1903. In 1960 Trinity pledged $25,000 to build Christ Church on Phillip Morris Drive, on land donated by the Peninsula Conference.
Our founders would be proud to know their dream is still alive in Salisbury. The 111-year-old sanctuary warmly embraces the congregation with its timeless elegance and beauty. But Trinity’s strength is its members. The membership has grown from 33 in 1866 to over 1,700 in 2016, making Trinity Church one of the largest worshiping congregations on the Eastern Shore today.
Only our God knows how many people have come to know Jesus Christ at Trinity, and have experienced His love and grace. As we celebrate 150 years of ministry, we acknowledge the rich heritage of our past. We humbly pray for God’s continued blessings, as we anticipate even greater accomplishments in the future.