History of Trinity Episcopal Church
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1806, Benjamin Eaton came to Galveston in February of 1841. He had energy, ability, and personality and through much effort and sacrifice on his part, he founded our church. He was a hardy and interesting man and survived death many times in his life. He escaped the first rectory as it collapsed during a hurricane, he was gored by a wild stage near the main artery in his leg, he was thrown down underneath a train, and was in a knife fight with Mexican soldiers during the war. The congregation adored him and when he passed away on March 19, 1871, in the pulpit of this church, his death was written about as far away as New York City. He was a great man who lived for the glory of God and this church is a living testament to his dedication.
This building was designed by renowned Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton and built in 1882. It stands today not only as a memorial to the beloved founder of Trinity Parish but also as a monument to the love and generosity of Trinity vestryman and philanthropist Henry Rosenberg and the devoted women of the Ladies’ Parochial Society by whom it was given.
THE GREAT STORM OF 1900
On September 8, 1900, her greatest disaster befell Trinity parish. The city of Galveston endured the severest hurricane in its history. Fifteen communicants of Trinity Church were drowned, among them H.A. Hausinger, a vestryman and superintendent of St. Michael’s Mission Sunday School. “The whole south wall of the church was blown down, the roof badly damaged, the interior of the church very much injured by wind and water, the entire church being rendered unsafe and unfit for public services.” Saint Michael’s and Saint Andrew’s missions were totally destroyed.
Bishop G. H. Kinsolving and the standing committee of the Diocese of Texas with the consent of the vestry of Trinity Church sent the rector, The Rev. Charles M. Beckwith, whose reputation as a preacher was national, to the East to raise funds to restore the churches and missions of the diocese which had been damaged or destroyed. Beckwith was absent from his parish until April 1901.
Bishop Kinsolving served as acting rector for the remainder of 1900 and until February 1, 1901. The services of Nicholas Clayton, the noted architect who had designed Eaton Memorial Chapel, were enlisted. In November 1900, the contract was let for the rehabilitation of the church edifice including “the rebuilding of the south wall with sound Cedar Bayou bricks,” to J.M. Brown & Co. Bishop Kinsolving allotted $12,000 to Trinity Church for repairs out of the sixty-odd thousand dollars contributed by the generous people of other dioceses of the Episcopal Church.
With the exception of the decoration of the interior of the church and the rebuilding of the tower, the work of the restoration of Trinity Church was completed by the end of May. On Easter, April 7, 1901, for the first time since the storm, services were held in Trinity Church.
RAISING OF TRINITY
Although Galveston Island was raised following the Great 1900 Storm and the building of the seawall, Trinity Church was not raised. Rising water from subsequent storms flooded the nave. A capital funds campaign was launched late in 1924 and in 1925. The vestry engaged Stowe and Stowe as architects for the raising of the church. On July 31, 1925, a contract with John Egert was signed by the senior and junior wardens to raise the church edifice “4.5 feet above the present floor level” at a cost of $17,225. This elevation placed the church floor“1.3 feet above the 12 feet grade”, or high water mark of the 1915 storm.
On Easter morning, Marach 31, 1929, at the 11:00 a.m. service, The Right Reverend Clinton S. Quin, D.D., Bishop of Texas, assisted by the rector, The Reverend Edmund H. Gibson, dedicated the chime of bells and the windows in the tower of Trinity Church. These memorials to the glory of God and in loving memory of John Sealy (1870-1926) were given by his sister, Mrs. R. Waverly Smith (Jennie Sealy) (1868-1938).
John Sealy “was a born leader of men, but always charitable and kindly towards all with whom he came in contact and richly deserved the love and respect universally accorded him, not only by reason of his outstanding achievements but on account of his constant and unflagging devotion to the city of his birth (Galveston), which was exemplified throughout his life and in his death.” “By his will his entire estate was left ultimately to charity through The Sealy and Smith Foundation for the John Sealy Hospital.
The chime consists of ten bronze bells which were cast in Troy, New York, by the Meneely Bell Company. The series is described as follows: “3,000-pound pattern, E flat; 2,000-pound pattern, F; 1,550-pound pattern, G; 1,200-pound pattern, A flat; 550-pound pattern, C; 450-pound pattern, D flat; 400-pound pattern, D; 375-pound pattern, E flat; and 325-pound pattern, F. The large bell is in the key of F, with the other nine scaled so as to make possible the rendition of music in either of two keys. The chime is operated from a small keyboard placed near the organ console.
The bells are rung prior to the principal Sunday service and on the other days of the week at noon and five p.m. The bells are also rung on special days: John Sealy’s birthday on September 15, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Washington’s birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July, Navy Day, and Armistice Day.