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Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne
For photographs, see:
Trinity Episcopal Church Archives website
For parish registers, see the following links from Familysearch. A free registration and login is required for access.
Parish Register, Christ Church (1839), Trinity, 1844-1853
Parish Register, 1839-1888
Parish Register, 1889-1923
Parish Register, 1923-1947
Marriage Register, 1924-1941
Marriage Register, 1941-1961
Register of Communicants, 1948-1964
Baptismal Register, 1948-1974
Vestry Minutes, 1839 (Christ Church); 1844-1878
Vestry Minutes, 1879-1912
Vestry Minutes, 1913-1931
Vestry Minutes, 1932-1947
Vestry Minutes, 1947-1952
Vestry Minutes, 1953-1959
Vestry Minutes, 1960-1970
The Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne can trace its origin to the tireless efforts of Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, Missionary Bishop of the Northwest, who arrived in town in 1837 to assess the feasibility of establishing a church. Fort Wayne was then a remote frontier outpost, and the Episcopal Church found itself a weak competitor at that time in the mission field. Two years later Kemper sent a missionary, the Rev. Benjamin Hutchins of Philadelphia, and established Christ Church, but the parish folded in less than a year for lack of support. Most parishes in the new Diocese of Indiana were located in central and southern part of the state.
A few years passed until the spark for a establishing a church reignited. Peter P. Bailey, a merchant from New York City, settled in town and missed the services of his former church. Together with several other lay leaders, he persuaded Kemper to send another missionary, the Rev. Benjamin Halsted of New York and previously of New Harmony, Indiana. Together they organized Trinity Episcopal Church on May 25, 1844. The church faced many initial financial and recruiting challenges and met initially in the county courthouse until it could raise funds for building a small, wood-frame chapel at the corner of Berry and Harrison streets. They bought an organ with four stops – the first documented church organ in town.
Trinity’s earliest members came from several groups, including area residents who had been Episcopalians in the East, English and Canadian immigrants, and newcomers to the faith, many of them community leaders, who found the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer intriguing, its sermons intellectual, and the atmosphere of the church not overly judgmental.
During the Civil War under the second rectorate of the Rev. Joseph Large, who returned at the vestry's request, the vestry and lay women together raised funds to construct a new Gothic Revival edifice in an acclaimed design by Charles Crosby Miller of Toledo, Ohio. The building included split-faced sandstone walls with limestone trim and painted glass windows of English design, most of which still survive in the church. The edifice was completed in 1866 and consecrated two years later by Bishop Joseph Cruikshank Talbot after the parish had raised additional funds for a new organ. The church was nestled in what came to be known at the West Central Neighborhood and was surrounded by large Victorian-style houses.
The parish grew steadily through the late nineteenth century. Several rectors, including the Rev. Colin Campbell Tate, William Naylor Webbe, and Alexander Seabrease, preached a strong Social Gospel message, advocating for outreach to the poor, temperance, and women’s suffrage. Many members of the congregation were well-educated and supported a variety of reform efforts, including advocacy for a city parks and boulevard system. In 1892 Seabrease and the vestry redecorated the church with a new pulpit (intricately inlaid with brass cartouches), a marble baptismal font with a brass eagle cover, an eagle-shaped lectern, marble altar, and a silver communion service, all of which are still in use. A vested choir of men and boys made its first appearance and became popular.
The Diocese of Michigan City was created in 1898 in the top third of Indiana. Trinity, as the largest parish, exercised much influence. The Rev. Edward Wilson Averill, the first to be called “Father,” arrived in 1904 and built the church into a program-sized parish. His successor, the Rev. Louis Rocca, redecorated the nave in the 1920s with a décor that many considered ornate and garish with deep reds, blues, and gold. He also added a rood screen. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the Rev. James McNeal Wheatley, the most Anglo-Catholic rector in the church's history, led the parish successfully in paying off its mortgage through a period of austerity and brought the congregation through World War II.
During Wood’s tenure the neighborhood around the church began to evolve. Though the owners of some of the old houses, especially to the west of the church, restored them to their original finery, they divided others into apartments for lower-income housing or converted them to offices. Many others were demolished to make room to parking lots. Since then, a strong preservation movement has involved in the city to protect the remaining historic homes, and Trinity stands inside a local historic district with covenants surrounding the protection of its external appearance.
Trinity’s strong Anglo-Catholic liturgical model began to evolve in the 1970s during the rectorate of Wood’s successor, the Rev. Dr. C. Corydon Randall. A Broad Church model with strong lay leadership and a new sense of openness replaced the older style. Randall instituted the commission system of parish administration, increasing both lay participation and outreach. He also opened the communion rail to all baptized Christians and invited women to preach, serve on the vestry, and brought girls into the acolyte corps. Together with several church leaders in 1977, he helped found Canterbury School, a private, independent school for grades kindergarten through six that used the church classrooms for several years until moving to its own quarters in 1980. It has become an acclaimed educational institution in the state. Randall also spent much of his rectorate renovating the parish buildings, spearheading a capital campaign, creating endowments, and having the church entered on the National Register of Historic Places. After leaving Trinity in 1988, he served parishes in San Diego, California, and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Now retired as Rector Emeritus, he and his wife returned to Fort Wayne and are members of the congregation. He often leads the Friday Morning Study Group and occasionally the Adult Forum, teaching on Old Testament topics.
Randall’s successor, the Rev. Frank H. Moss III, built upon Randall’s legacy of reform and openness. In 1992, he brought the first woman priest to the diocese, the Rev. Robin Thomas, to serve as Trinity’s curate. He also continued to build the endowments. Under the leadership of its precentor, Wayne Peterson, the church’s musical offerings continued to enjoy local acclaim. Trinity became with the Royal School of Church Music that has as its motto, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” Many in the congregation recognize and appreciate Peterson’s spiritual, as well as musical, gifts. Moss left in 1999 and later served churches in Massachusetts and Oregon before eventually retiring to Oregon.
Trinity’s eighteenth rector, the Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Hansen, arrived in 2006 from Nebraska. Hansen inaugurated a labyrinth ministry, initially using a canvas inside the Great Hall and later constructing a permanent labyrinth of stone on the western side of the parish grounds. Through local press coverage it has sparked interest from Christians of other denominations. In 2010 the parish led a successful capital campaign to replace its aging boiler and heating system. It later received several large bequests to refurbish and replace its organ and build a new handicap-accessible entrance and carport on its western side. As a downtown parish the church has become involved in a variety of outreach ministries, including Wellspring Social Services, the Associated Churches Food Bank, the West Central Neighborhood Ministry (led by five parishes including Trinity), and Habitat for Humanity. Its clergy participate regularly in an annual interfaith Thanksgiving service. Traditional liturgical music and hymns, expertly presented by its choir, remain a strong part of the parish DNA, and Peterson, who has served more than 30 years as precentor, regularly leads the parish in a variety of special concerts and events in addition to Sunday morning worship. As retired Bishop Edward S. Little has commented, “Trinity is very Cathedralesque.” Hansen announced that he would retire at the end of 2016, though he plans to remain in Fort Wayne and stay active in the diocese. He has said that leaves the parish in a strong position for new growth and vision. In 2017, the parish called the Rev. T. J. Freeman to be its 19th rector.
Benjamin Hutchins, 1839
Benjamin Halsted, 1844-1846
Joseph S. Large, 1848-1854
Caleb Alexander Bruce, 1854-1855
Eugene Charles Pattison, 1856-1858
Stephen Henry Battin, 1858-1863
Joseph S. Large, 1863-1872
Colin Campbell Tate, 1872-1879
William Naylor Webbe, 1879-1888
Alexander Washington Seabrease, 1888-1904
John Newton Rippey, (interim) 1904
Edward Wilson Averill, 1904-1923
Louis Niccola Rocca, 1923-1930
Joseph William Gubbins (interim), 1931
Charles Noyes Tyndell, 1931-1932
James McNeal Wheatley, 1932-1947
Peter Langendorff (interim), 1947
George Bartlett Wood, 1947-1971
Chandler Corydon Randall, 1971-1988
David Gurniak (interim), 1988-1990
Frank Hazlett Moss III, 1990-1999
Henrietta Brandt Lavengood (interim), 2000
Rebecca Ferrell Nickel, 2001-2004
Robert Askren (interim), 2004-2006
Thomas Parker Hansen, 2006-2016
T. J. Freeman, 2017-
John D. Beatty, Beyond These Stones: A History of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Fort Wayne: Trinity Episcopal Church, 1994.
Rev. Joseph S. Large
The Rev. Joseph S. Large was Trinity's second and sixth rector. He was born on 20 February 1811 in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Matthews) Large. His father was a prosperous landowner and country gentleman in an area where fox hunting was a pastime. In his early life he became a teacher at Tyro Hall, a local boys' academy, but left his teaching position in 1840 to pursue ordination. He attended General Theological Seminary in New York City, where he became favorably disposed to many of the innovations of the Oxford Movement. He was ordained a deacon in 1841 and a priest soon afterward. He seems to have spent time in Rochester, New York, and eventually moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he met and married Caroline H. Cuming, the daughter of the Rev. Francis H. Cuming, rector of St. Mark's, Grand Rapids.
Large was married little more than a year and serving a mission at Marne when he received a letter dated October 12 from Peter Bailey, the senior warden of Trinity Fort Wayne. "Our parish is small," wrote Bailey, "but we have the hopes of a Respectable Sized Congregation when we shall be favored with one to administer to us in Holy things. We have a small church finished and paid for. We have just placed inthe church a fine toned Organ with 4 stops, which is also paid for. We have no embarrassments, being out of debt ... We are without services and are most anxious to have the vacancy filled before the close of Navigation [on the canal], may we ask for an immediate reply, or will you at once upon receipt of this come up and see us for a few Sundays before deciding?"
The missionary packed his bags and was in Fort Wayne with his wife and daughter by mid-November. His only complaint was his salary of $200, which was hardly enough to support a family, and he suggested that the parish rent its pews or slips, a time-honored practice in the East, to raise additional revenue. The new policy allowed his salary to be doubled at $400. Large also focused on the little chapel, located on the southeast corner of Berry and Harrison. He fenced the lot and then began to draw up plans for enlarging the structure into the shape of a cross, complete with two transepts, in order to add more pews. The ladies of the church hosted a public supper in 1849, raising $150 for the project. Rockwell Lyon, a vestry member, went East to New York to raise funds, and in November 1849, he and others raised enough in the treasury to proceed. Bailey, Large, and another parishioner, Wilfred Smith, each pledged the cost of a stained glass window.
The improvements added momentum to the growing congregation. By 1850, Large was conducting two services on Sunday as well as weekly services during Passion Week. His salary increased to $500 by the end of the year, and he made a purchase from his own money for a sterling silver communion set. When the new bishop, George Upfold, visited in May 1850, he noted, "I was highly gratified in observing the flourishing condition of this parish under the faithful, acceptable, and efficient ministrations of its respected pastor."
In 1851, the parish turned its attention toward building a rectory for Large, since it was difficult for him to pay rent out of his small salary. It would not be completed, however, until 1852. He also hoped for a small school to be built on a corner of the church lot, from which he could teach classes as a way of supplementing his income.The church had begun to show some apathy by this year, and Joseph Edgerton, who would later join the church, noted in his diary that Large "does not seem to stir up people to a sense of religious duty. His stated congregation seems very indifferent on religious subjects and declines to attend church but when it is convenient." By 1854, he was ready to move on, confiding in a letter a few years before to his brother-in-law, "I am better adapted to building up a new parish than to occupy one already built up."
In 1854, Large resigned his position in Fort Wayne and took a position in a Gold Rush mission in Stockton, California. He remained in contact with friends in Fort Wayne during his years away, and his wife Caroline would write Mary Randall that the family had cut down an evergreen tree and decorated it for Christmas in their new home. Not finding California as rewarding as he had hoped, he returned to Fort Wayne in 1857 to take over summer services in the church and then took a call to St. John's Church in Louisville, Kentucky. In September 1863, when the vestry was developing plans for a new stone church at the corner of Berry and Fulton, they decided to call Large back as rector because of his knowledge in building churches.
Upon arrival Large and the vestry formed a committee to investigate the feasibility of purchasing two lots for $3,000 from S. C. Taber, which they acquired partially on credit. The parish hired Charles Crosby Miller, an architect in Toledo, Ohio, to design a Gothic Revival edifice of stone at a fee of $600. The church was estimated to cost $20,000. As the plans were being studied, Large proposed that the nave be widened to accommodate more seating.
As construction got underway, the builder, David J. Silver, faced continuing cost overruns due to the inflation brought about by the Civil War. The cost of supplies and labor was constantly rising, and at one time the contractor placed a mechanic's lien on the property, threatening to seize and sell the property if he was not paid. The Ladies Sewing Society, a precursor of the Altar Guild, agreed to lend the vestry the necessary money out of its parsonage fund at 20 percent interest. At length the building was completed in September 1866 at a cost that was nearly a third higher than anticipated. An organ built by John Marklove was installed in 1867, and the new building was consecrated by Bishop Joseph Talbot in November 1868.
Large's wife Caroline died the following year, and by the early 1870s, despite many accomplishments, some in the parish came to believe that Large was no longer an effective leader. He had spoken out against women's suffrage in a local club, and that did not win him friends among some members of the congregation. In February 1872, the vestry forced his resignation.
After leaving Fort Wayne, Large moved briefly to St. Paul's, Indianapolis, and also spent time in Michigan, serving parishes in Traverse City and a summer supply at Harbor Springs. He returned to Fort Wayne to supply the parish during the summer of 1888. He died in Galveston, Texas, on 18 April 1890 at the home of his son, Herbert, and his body was returned to Fort Wayne for burial in Lindenwood beside that of his wife. His funeral was held at Trinity, and the vestry as a body met his coffin when it arrived at the railroad station. His children would later donate a brass missal stand, candlesticks, and a reredos with a painting of Jesus as the Good Shepherd as memorials for their parents.