Rich in Church and Texas History
The Diocese of Texas dates back to 1850, with six organized Congregations listed:
Matagorda, Christ Church, 1839
Houston, Christ Church, 1839
Galveston, Trinity Church, 1841
Brazoria County, St. John's Church, 1847
San Augustine, Christ Church,1848
Nacogdoches, Christ Church, 1848
Even with the establishment of the Diocese of Texas, it was a rough road for the Church in Texas through the next few years. In 1861 the State of Texas seceded from the United States and took up arms in the American Civil War. Upon the surrender of Robert E. Lee in 1865, Texas remained in a state of limbo untill she was once again admitted to the Union in 1870. Reconstruction continued for four more years, until 1874. The Diocese of Texas, relieved to join the spiritual unity of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, became a force for reconciliation between the North and the South.
The huge size of the Texas territory and the difficulty of traversing it led to the sub-divison of the Diocese of Texas in 1874, The Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, presiding. After the separation, the Diocese of Texas comprised 57 counties east of a line stretching roughly from the Victoria area through Austin and Waco and on to Tyler. This was the size of the Diocese when Trinity Church in Jacksonville was established in 1907.
TRINITY CHURCH, JACKSONVILLE
On March 20, 1907 a small group of women met and drafted their vision of an Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, Texas:
Anxious to see an Episcopal Church established in Jacksonville, we band ourselves together into an organization to be known as the Church Guild & promise to work with untiring zeal and ask God's blessing on our efforts.
Miss Margaret Armstrong
Mrs. R.A. Gillespie
Mrs. James Holland
Mrs. C.C. Jacques
Mrs. W.W. Blake
Mrs. J.S. Frampton
Mrs. N.B. Thompson
Mrs. G.G. McKnight
According to a newspaper article (no date) clipped and pasted into the Parish Register, Isaac Gillespie, appointed lay reader by Bishop Gregg in San Augustine in 1878 was the first lay reader of the congregation. An article in The Texas Churchman in January 1909 announced that the Reverend Dr. D.G. Gunn, rector of Trinity Church in Longview, had agreed to assist the people of Jacksonville in their efforts to establish this church. The congregation had accumulated about $600.00 toward building a church with a promise from Bishop Kinsolving for the last $300.00 to be paid when all other monies had been raised.
The effort to build a church and rectory took little more than five months, although the remainder of the money was not raised until the next year. Trinity Church in Jacksonville could seat 100 people; the rectory comprised five rooms and a hall and occupied a lot 100 x 90 feet.
May 1, 1909 marks the first mention of Trinity Mission in Jacksonville in the Bishops' official accounts of the Diocese of Texas. The Reverend D.G. Gunn reported to the Bishop three baptisms: two infant and one adult, bringing the total of baptized persons to 26. Likewise, there were three confirmations during 1909 and an average of 14 communicants during the year. Trinity Church held 28 regular Sunday services and four additional services on special days such as Good Friday.
On January 14, Bishop Kinsolving preached twice in the new church. It was standing room only for ". . .One of the most eloquent discourses ever delivered in Jacksonville", according to The Texas Churchman.
The Churchman, quoting from the Jacksonville Reformer, offered the following description of Bishop Kinsolving:
Both physically and intellectually Bishop Kinsolving is a giant, in height towering above the heads of ordinary men a foot or more, commanding in presence, yet emotional as a woman and sympathetic as a child. At times his deep rotund voice would quiver emotion which thrilled every listener. No wonder that the church has honored him with her highest gift.
The church building and rectory having been completed the year before, Trinity Church's budget for 1910 was much smaller than before: a mere $269.00. For the first time, a salary for ther rector appeared in the report to the Bishop. The Rev. Dr. Gunn received $120.00; Trinity Church spent $129 on church improvements, $10 on altar cloths and $10 on missions. At the end of the report the rector said "the work is progressing slowly and surely. All clear from debt."
By 1912 the Rev. J.B. Finn was listed as thr Priest in Charge at Trinity Church. The number of communicants held steady at 18 and the number of baptized persons reached 30. It is interesting to note that Trinity's donation of $2,00 to the University of the South continued.
On June 19, 1923 the Rev. Dr. Gunn was laid to rest, the Rt. Rev. Clinton Quin officiating. In his journal Bishop Kinsolving wrote of Dr. Gunn, "Few men have enjoyed the privilege of erecting so many new buildings in the mission field." Credited with more than thirty church buildings or hospitals, Dr. Gunn, a Civil War veteran, had lived a long life of service, not the least of which was dedicated to Jacksonville and Trinity Church. Dr. Gunn is buried in Hollywood Cemetary in Houston.
By the mid 1900s the Trinity building is presumed to have burned, although no record of that has yet been found. A November 1945 notice in The Jacksonville Daily Progress announces that a 7:00 am Communion Service would be held on South Bonner, the Rev. Dr. Edwin Weed, pastor and another the following February places the service on Sundy evening at 7:30 .
According to Ben Laurie by 1947 services were being held in the Graggard, Spraggins, Swofford Funeral Home with the Rev. Robert Gibson from Henderson presiding. Ben Laurie provided an interesting note on Rev. Gibson, his father, Edmond Gibson, was rector of a parish in Galveston and resided in what is known today as "The Bishop's Palace."
The Rt. Rev. Clinton Quin was Bishop of the Dioicese of Texas in 1947 and the Rt. Rev. John E. Hines served as his Coadjutor. In Jacksonville the Rev. Robert Gibson was then Deacon in Charge. After his ordination he served as Priest in Charge until January 25, 1950. Following a period of six months the Rev. John Marshall Holt was appointed Deacon in Charge. Ben Laurie remarks that Holt, "a brilliant man" trained him during his service as acolyte. Holt lived in the small apartment on the north side of Trinity Church (the area now known as Trinity House).
According to The Daily Progress, the Rev. Robert Gibson held a Sunday evening prayer service with sermon on New Years Day 1950 at 7:30 pm in the chapel at Radio Station KEBE. By February 4 1950 B.A. Laurie was listed as lay reader in charge for morning prayer and sermon. That service was still in the KEBE chapel. On April 1, 1950 Trinity Episcopal services were announced with B.A. Laurie and W.E. Cook, lay readers in charge. The service was to be held at KEBE but "the new church will be completed in time for Easter."
Easter Sunday was April 8, 1950 and the first Sunday services were held in the present building. Services set for that day were an 11:00 am Holy Communion, 6:00 pm Holy Baptism and 6:30 pm Confirmation with the Right Reverend John Hines, Coadjutor, Bishop of the Diocese of Texas presiding. Bishop Hines also preached at an Easter Sunrise Service at Love's Lookout.
In June 1969 The Rev. James Morgan became Deacon in Charge and was ordained priest the following year. All three men were ordained to the priesthood at Trinity Church.
In a message to the Rev. Robert Godwin, current Priest in Charge of Trinity Church in Jacksonville, Ben Laurie mentioned several people besides his father who were instrumental in the establishment and growth of our church: Doc Fields, Frank Spearey, Judge Garrett, Frank Loper and Dean Forrest.
Today that list is added to day by day and year by year, as our members so faithfully continue to serve our Lord in this community and the world.