Past Treasure of the Month – October 2020
This month, on display was a ca. 1912 painting of Trinity Episcopal Church by Galveston artist Boyer Gonzales, Sr. (1864 – 1934).
One of Galveston’s oldest congregations, Trinity Episcopal Church was established on February 6, 1841 under the direction of Reverend Benjamin Eaton, an Irish-born clergyman.
Construction of a simple, frame church building at the southeast corner of 23rd and Winnie Street began in 1841. The site was donated by the Galveston City Company. The building was completed in June 1842, only to be nearly destroyed by a powerful hurricane just a few months later. Repairs were made, and the church re-opened the following April.
By the mid-1850s, Trinity’s congregation had outgrown the original church and plans were made to build a larger, more substantial structure at the opposite end of the block. Galveston architect John De Young was hired to design the Gothic-style brick edifice, and the cornerstone was laid on November 29, 1855. Two years later, the new Trinity Church opened its doors at the southwest corner of 22nd Street and Winnie.
After leading Trinity Episcopal Church for three decades, Rev. Eaton collapsed at the pulpit while giving a sermon on March 19, 1871. The beloved minister died shortly after and was buried in a tomb beneath the floor of the chancel, a site he had personally selected during the building’s construction years earlier.
In recognition of Eaton’s thirty years of service to the congregation, plans were made to erect a memorial chapel in his honor. Eaton had desired to construct a chapel adjacent to the main church to accommodate Sunday school classes, but these plans did not come to fruition until after his death. Through the efforts of the Ladies Parochial Society as well philanthropist Henry Rosenberg, Eaton’s dream became a reality. Located next to Trinity Church, the Eaton Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1882. The structure was designed by respected Galveston architect, Nicholas Clayton.
On September 8, 1900, a devastating hurricane destroyed much of Galveston Island. Trinity Church sustained severe damage, including a collapsed wall and a compromised roof. The interior of the church was also badly damaged by wind and water. Under the direction of Nicholas Clayton, renovation of the battered church began, and Trinity held its first post-storm service on Easter Sunday of 1901.
Just fifteen years later, another hurricane struck Galveston. Fortunately, a seawall had been constructed to protect the island and many structures had been raised during the re-grading of the island. Unfortunately, the Trinity Church had not been raised and the interior was damaged once again by flood waters.
In 1925, architects Stowe and Stowe supervised the raising of the church four and a half feet above its existing floor level. Contractor John Egert was hired to complete the project. Since its 1841 founding, Trinity Episcopal Church has withstood storms, floods, and the test of time to continuously serve its congregants and members of the Galveston community.