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Trinity Parish, Maryland
TRINITY PARISH, CHARLES COUNTY, MARYLAND.
Trinity Parish, Charles County, Maryland, was created by the
Assembly in 1744. It consisted of those parts of
King and Queen Parish, and of All Faith Parish, which were in
Charles Co., the boundaries being Zachiah Swamp, the Wicomico
River, the St. Mary County line, the Patuxent River, and the
Prince George County line, containing about 100 square miles.
The old " Newport Church" was then standing on Gilbert
Swamp about three miles from Newport, and half a mile from the
site of the present Parish Church. It is said to have been the
original Parish Church of King and Queen, but became a chapel
after the Church at Chaptico was built.
The Vestry appears not to have been organized until 1750, and
the first rector, Rev. Isaac Campbell, presented his letter of induction
from Governor Ogle, dated June 11, 1751, on the 16th
of July in that year. He took " the prescribed oaths " before the
"Worshipful John Winter," one of the Vestry, and on the 28th
read publicly the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England,
and "thereunto declared his unfeigned assent and conviction."
That same year the Parish purchased for 3,600 pounds of tobacco
the Communion Plate, and a Surplice, also "a large gilt and
Turkey leather folio Prayer Book" for £1, 11, 6, and a little
later " a large marble basin " (font) for £5, 5 shillings and paid
2 shillings 2 pence for cutting 13 letters on improbably "Trinity
Parish." This is still used in the Church, but the other articles
There was some difficulty in the selection of a site for the new
Church, but at a general meeting Oct. 14, 1751, the site of the
present Church was selected, being in " the old field near Justinian
Barren Junior's place," two acres being laid off and purchased
for £3,15 shillings. A copy of the deed, dated Aug. 13,1753, is
recorded in Book A, No. 1J in the records of Charles Co.
The contract for the building was made Oct. 14,1752,with John
Ariss of Westmoreland Co., Virginia, for 54,250 pounds of
tobacco and £200 in Virginia currency. The Church to be of
brick, 55 x 30 feet, with a wing on the north, 22i x 30 feet. The
aisles to be of flagstones or tile, the pulpit canopy, reading desk,
communion table, etc., to be of black walnut, and a pedestal 2^
feet high for the font, which is the only part of this Church now
in existence except some of the old large bricks in the foundation
of the present Church.
At the same time a brick vestry house was built 16 x 16, with
" tyle " or flagstone floor, and a chimney, which continued standing
for many years and was at one time used as a school house.
It is said that William Wirt, afterwards Attorney General of the
United States, who took part in the Aaron Burr trial, attended
The question of how the pews were to be selected was one
which caused much trouble, the old aristocracy claiming that since
the English custom of recognizing rank had " in the providence
of God" been recognized in this country, that the proposal to
select pews by lot was not fitting; but at a meeting of the Protestant
Freeholders, Oct. 23, 1765, it was decided that the selection
should be by lot.
In 1756 the Church was completed, and the old Church on the
Swamp torn down ; the site can still be seen from the broken
A well was dug the next year for £25 Virginia currency, but
paid for with 4000 pounds of tobacco.
The records of this period contain each year a list of the
Bachelors of the Parish, with an estimation of the value of their
Nov. 25, 1765, the Vestry decided to petition the Lower House
of Assembly to levy 50,000 pounds of tobacco upon the taxable
inhabitants of Trinity Parish, for the purpose of building a Chapel
of Ease in Benedict Hundred. July 25, 1767, a contract was
made with George Ross to build a brick Chapel 50 x 27 feet, the
altar to be of pine 3 x 5|, with walnut balusters, the pulpit and
reading desk to be of pine, and the canopy of black
walnut. Some of the present parishioners remember seeing this
canopy lying about the yard after the Church had been remodeled.
The Vestry accepted the Chapel May 6, 1769, and it is still as
good a building as then, in spite of the many years.
July 7, 1772, a large Prayer Book was purchased for £1, 15
shillings, but it has disappeared. On May 13, 1776, the Vestry
met at the Chapel to inspect the fence erected about the grounds,
after which there is a break in the records until June 17,1779,
when the "Protestant inhabitants of Trinity Parish" met to
choose vestrymen and wardens in accordance with " an act of
the General Assembly made last session."
The former rector, the Reverend Isaac Campbell, was engaged
at a salary of 16,000 pounds of tobacco, a list of 240 persons who
contributed to his support being given in the old register. While
30 pounds of tobacco was the standard from each taxable person,
it was permitted that they should pay in money if that were more
convenient, or in provisions at the market price, the rate Nov. 1,
1779, being 5 shillings a pound for beef or mutton, lambs £7, 10
shillings per piece, old corn £25 per barrel, new £15, wheat £7,
10 a bushel; the market price for tobacco being £20, Continental
money, per hundred weight, or a dollar a pound. Feb. 15,1781,
it required one dollar and forty-six cents in Continental money to
buy a pound of tobacco, while on May 6,1782, it had risen in
value to £50 a hundredweight, or two dollars and a half, a price
which the parishioners at the present time would be glad to obtain.
The treasurer in those days had no easy task, as the English
money still remained a standard, June 3, 1782, tobacco being
quoted at 12 shillings a hundredweight, so that the permission to
pay in tobacco, in Continental, in English money, or in provisions,
made the accounts most confusing. On Aug. 4,1783, tobacco is
quoted at 15 shillings, while on May 11,1784, it was 35 shillings.
July 30,1784, the " late worthy rector. Rev. Isaac Campbell"
had died and closed his rectorship of 33 years, the longest the
parish has ever known.
One of those most prominent in the parish at this time was
Hatch Dent, an officer in the Revolutionary Army, and the first
principal of Charlotte Hall Academy. It is said that, as the war
prevented the starting of the school at the "Cool Spring," he
taught at first at his farm three miles away. An old log building
stood there until 1850 which was known as the "school house."
The farm afterwards became the Parish Glebe and some of the old
parishioners attended a school taught there by the rectors of the
In August, 1784, Mr. Dent began reading the service and a
sermon at the Church, at the request of the Vestry, but he
refused to accept compensation until he could obtain a license.
He was elected delegate to attend the Convention of " the
Episcopal Church of Maryland," to be held at Chester Town,
on the Eastern Shore, in October, 1784. Deo. 7 of that year
he was appointed " Reader," having received his license.
The first Bishop of the American Church having been consecrated,
he wrote to the vestry for a recommendation to "the
Bishop " for his ordination, which the vestry immediately sent,
but it was not until May 1, 1786, that he presented his letters
of orders, and became the second rector of the Parish.
The roof and walls of the Parish Church were torn down in
1787 "for the safety of the inhabitants of Trinity Parish." On
August 14, 1789, in accordance with the ideas that then prevailed,
it was decided to hold a lottery to raise money for the new Parish
Church; the tickets were to be three dollars apiece, one prize of
$200, one of $100, two of $50, six of $25, six of $15, eleven of
$10, thirteen of $6, two hundred and ninety-three of $4, and six
hundred and sixty-seven to be blanks.
On April 5, 1791, it was decided to build the church 30x50
feet, two doors 8x4, five windows on the north and four on the
south, the east, a chancel window to have twenty-four lights,
while the one above the gallery was to have but sixteen. April
21, 1793, the Church was consecrated by Bishop Claggett.
On Dec. 30, 1799, the Reverend Hatch Dent died after a
rectorship of nearly fourteen years. He was succeeded by the
Reverend Henry L. Davis, formerly of All Faith Parish, who
left in 1803.
In 1805 the Rev. Owen F. McGrath was rector for a few
months, after which the services were held at intervals by the
Eev. Benjamin Contee, Rector of William and Mary Parish. In
1813 the principal of Charlotte Hall Academy, the Rev. Wm.
Duke, was rector for the school term, and after he left Mr.
Zaddock W. Beall was engaged as Reader for four years.
In 1817 a Committee was appointed to select a suitable farm to
be used as a glebe, and purchased the old " Good Will" estate
(1668), which had been the residence of the former rector. Rev.
Hatch Dent, but it was not until June 23, 1827, that the congregation
had succeeded in raising the necessary money, $2,300, when
the Committee, who had held the property in their own names,
gave the deed for it to the Vestry.
The Rev. James I. Bowden was rector in 1819 and 1820, and
after a year's vacancy the parish had as rector the Rev. John
Reynolds (1822-1825). It is during his incumbency that we find
the first record of a confirmation which has been preserved, as
Bishop James Kemp made a visitation Nov. 3,1823. The old
Communion plate was altered in order to be " more serviceable "
in 1824, but it has now disappeared. A fruitless effort to find
it was made in 1868.
Mr. Reynolds was succeeded by the Rev. George Mcllheanny
who remained only part of 1826. The next rector remained for
two years, the Rev. Richard H. Barnes (1827—8), after which the
parish was again vacant for a year.
The oldest members of the parish still remember the Rev.
Francis H. Laird (1830—1834) an earnest man, who is said to
have visited every family, and who performed an amazing number
of baptisms. For the first time since the Revolution a complete list
of members is given, and the records show the business-like
methods he pursued. It was during his time that the old Colonial
arrangement of the Church was altered to that of more modern
ideas, the old pulpit being removed from the north side, the old
double pews changed to those now in use, the door in the south
wall bricked up, the main entrance on the west enlarged, and
double doors hung in place of the single old one, and a recess
made in the east wall, which was afterwards enlarged into the
In 1836 the Rev. James D. Nicholson, a deacon, took charge
and was ordained priest July 15, 1837, by Bishop W. M. Stone at
the Chapel, but died the following summer. His grave in the glebe
cemetery is marked by a tombstone erected by the many friends
he made during his brief rectorship; the vestrymen wore crape on
their arms for thirty days, and both Churches were "placed in
appropriate mourning." The bill for his coffin " and for one bushel
of meal" is preserved among the parish papers.
The next two rectors. Rev. Correy Chambers (1839) and the
Rev. F. A. Foxcroft (1840), each remained but a few months.
In 1841 the Rev. James Aberorombie came and remained eight
years ; he taught the slaves in the Churches after the regular services.
The font at the Chapel was obtained at this time, and the
period is remarkable in the parish history for the number of
legacies received. Among the parish papers are a number of
permits for the slaves to marry given by the owners. He removed
to Erie, Pa., in 1848.
The Rev. Meyer Lewin (1849-1850) obtained the present walnut
altar in use at the parish Church ; a number of improvements
and alterations were made at this time at the Church and at the
The Rev. Samuel C. Davis was rector for 1851 and 1852, when
a stove for the Church was purchased in Baltimore ; the first record
of any heating of the building.
The Rev. John Wiley came in 1853 and remained until 1866.
The parish met with a great loss in 1857 when Gen. Wm.
Matthews died; he was one of the leading vestrymen, and with
Dr. Wm. S. Keech and Mr. Thomas O. Bean rendered faithful
service for many years. In 1864 the Chapel interior was remodeled
to conform to more modern ideas.
The vestry in 1867 passed a resolution approving of either an
assistant Bishop, or else a division of the Diocese by uniting the
seven lower counties with the District of Columbia.
The Rev. Enoch Reed was rector from 1868 until 1870, and
the Rev. S. H. S. Gallaudet for part of 1871. He now is at
Highland Park, California.
The next rector, the Rev. L. H. Jackson (1873-1881), now
lives in Philadelphia, and his successor, the Rev. Levin J.
Sothoron, (1882-1892), at Forest Hill, Md., and the Rev. John
London (1893-1902) at Louisburg, N. C. It was during his incumbency
that a parish house was built near each Church, and
the little trunk which contained the old records of the parish was
discovered in the attic of a house belonging to a former vestryman
after they had beeu lost for many years. The twenty-third
rector was the Rev. J. Neilson Barry (1905-06). On Sept. 28,
1905, the parish house near the Church was destroyed by fire,
and a new one is now about to be erected.