Holy History

 “ . . . While our brothers were away on the field of strife and the battle . . . raging, we trusted that the God of Washington would come and save us and that we should . . . build this house for worship and praise,” said Rev. Albion Fellows on June 19, 1864, during the cornerstone-laying ceremony of what we know as Trinity United Methodist Church. How amazing that despite the Civil War, the bloodiest and most traumatic period in American history, a congregation insisted on proceeding with Trinity.

Trinity’s congregation dates from 1825 when Robert Parrett and 11 other Evansville residents formed a Methodist class. By 1839 this Methodist group had grown sufficiently to construct their first church building Downtown between Second and Third streets: Locust Street Methodist Episcopal Church. Then in 1860, members resolved to build a larger, more impressive structure.

Although they purchased a lot at Third and Chestnut streets, the start of the Civil War in 1861 delayed plans for the new building. Finally, on Nov. 30, 1863, when Rev. Fellows asked, “Shall we have a new church?” officials of the congregation answered affirmatively and began plans.

The local architectural firm Mursinna & Boyd prepared drawings for a 150-by-76-foot, Gothic-style building patterned after St. Paul’s M. E. Church in Newark, New Jersey. In 1864 the Evansville Daily Journal asserted the building would prove “one of the very handsomest church edifices in the whole western country.”

Work began in early 1864, with the first of 400,000 bricks set in place on May 16, 1864. A little over a month later, on June 19, the congregation laid the cornerstone — at this event Rev. Fellows praised the congregation’s faith in undertaking such a project during the Civil War. Unfortunately, Rev. Fellows died in 1865, at age 37, before the church’s completion. But his wife Mary soon gave birth to a daughter, named for her father, who grew to become the famous housing reformer Albion Fellows Bacon.

A portion of the new building (today called Craig Hall) first opened in June 1865. On March 25, 1866, the congregation celebrated both its grand achievement and its faith in the future with a day of dedication for the entire edifice. With a 1920s Tudor-style addition, containing classrooms, offices, a kitchen, and full gymnasium, the building assumed its current appearance.

Although the name of this grand structure changed through the years — from Trinity Methodist Episcopal, to Trinity Methodist, to Trinity United Methodist — it remains one of few 150-year-old Evansville buildings still owned by the original organization and used for its original purpose. On May 22, Trinity will conduct a rededication service at 9:30 a.m. for this historic structure.

For more information about Trinity United Methodist Church, call 812-423-4495 or visit trinityevansville.org.

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