Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

Rev. Benjamin Halsted

Rev. Benjamin Halsted, the first rector of Trinity Church, was born on 31 August 1809 and baptized on 27 October 1809 in Trinity Parish, New York City, the son of John Thomas Halstead and wife Sarah (White). The father was a native of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and the mother of St. John's New Brunswick. Benjamin married Esther Ann Handy on 8 November 1842 in Newark, Delaware. She was born in September 1816 and died on 11 February 1877 in Lexington, Mississippi. Benjamin Halsted attended Bristol College in Pennsylvania and in 1840 was graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained by Bishop Benjamin Moore, who had a reputation as a strong Low Churchman who disliked the Oxford Movement reforms. After ordination, Halsted was sent to New Harmony, Indiana, where he organized St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. While there, he condemned Robert Dale Owen, New Harmony's founder, and the community as an "infidel society" who failed to keep the Sabbath. He was forced out of his pulpit in 1843, which led Bishop Kemper to send him to Fort Wayne.

In Fort Wayne, Halsted led the effort to organize Trinity Parish on 25 May 1844, naming it after Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street, his former parish. The church held worship services in the courthouse in the mornings, sharing it with the New School Presbyterians, who worshiped there in the afternoon. With Peter Bailey, he also helped organize a parish library of books with the goal of circulating "Christian truths gratuitously throughout the Parish and to inculcate sound Church doctrine without money and without price."

Halsted failed to win support of the church because of his strict and at times bombastic demeanor. He resigned his rectorship on 1 December 1845 and departed the parish for good in the spring, eventually becoming rector at St. Paul's Mishawaka. Kemper wrote him a letter of advice: "In your purity, devotedness, and orthodoxy, I have perfect confidence. Perhaps at times you are rather abrupt - perhaps your opposition to little things is sometimes too decided. Perhaps by reflection and care you might improve the severity of your manners. I have often thought if it could be greatly impressed upon my mind that my great duty is to win souls to Chirst, my influence would increase and I would never offend."

Halsted left Mishawaka in 1851, and by 1853 had moved south to Holt County, Mississippi.. He helped to found three missions, including Calvary Church at Tchula and St. Mary's at Lexington, Mississippi. He died at Lexington on 13 September 1888.


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