1854 – Trinity Collinsville’s Origin Story
Trinity Church, Collinsville, began with a small nucleus of people who held their first Episcopal Service here in a storeroom on January 29, 1854. These first services were conducted by the Rev. J. H. Betts, of St. John’s Church, Pine Meadow, and his friend, the Rev. Samuel Benedict, then a tutor at Trinity College in Hartford. Rev. Benedict continued the services in Collins Hall (now the Canton Historical Museum) through 1855, after which services were held on a sporadic basis for some time.
In 1869 Rev. E. R. Brown of Christ Church, Unionville, organized a small mission. The Trinity Episcopal Society was formed in 1870 with 9 members. The Rev. Geo F. Breed successfully organized the group and on May 3, 1875, Trinity Collinsville was incorporated under state law with 34 families. It was received into the diocese a month later. (Source: Tribou, Bill (2001). Trinity Episcopal Church, Collinsville, Connecticut. Research paper in Trinity’s records)
1876 – It’s Official
Construction commenced on the Trinity Collinsville church building on Maple Avenue. The first service in the new church was held on May 14, 1876.
The wooden church building is best described as Carpenter Gothic Revival and was designed by architect Robert W. Hill. It has a number of stained glass windows – including a beautiful rose window – and a bell tower. Additions to the church have been made over time, and for much of its history it was painted white. The sanctuary can seat 175 people.
1885 – The Rose Window
In 1885, Susan C. Garrett gave this window in memory of her husband, Rodney S. Garrett, who was born in 1840 and died in 1874. A farmer from New Hartford, Garrett died of small pox at the age of 34.
This window expresses a central theology of the Christian Church. In vibrant reds and blues we see the double triangle of the Trinity. An uninterrupted flow emanating from the central “Deus” invites us to read, “God is the Father is the Son is the Holy Spirit.” The outer sides of the triangle remind us that each person of the Trinity is distinct: “Pater non est Filius, Filius non est Spiritus Sanctus, Spiritus Sactus non est Pater,” providing a visual expression of the triune nature of God.
Undated – But What a Hat!
While this photo is undated, the bowler hat was invented in 1849 in England and was popular among many sorts of people for a long stretch of time. It was worn by earls, politicians, bankers, and working class folks alike all the way through the 1920’s. In the U.S., the bowler (here called the derby) became ubiquitous all along the East Coast, as well as in the Wild West, where it proved to be quite wind-resistant. (Source: The Hat House)
Given the horse and cart and history of the bowler, this might have been taken in the range of 1886-1900.
1882 – The Virgin Mary Window
This window was given in memory of Mary A. Blair by her father, Charles H. Blair. She was born in Canton in 1859 and passed away in 1883 at the age of 23 from “hysteric convulsions,” which was an unfortunate euphemism used by doctors for centuries to explain away a panoply of womens’ ailments and symptoms.
The window represents the Virgin Mary, who is surrounded by flowers. Her head is illuminated by a halo, but more important is the crown, which signifies her as Queen of Heaven.
Undated – Lead a Horse to Water
While undated, this photo includes some clues to its timeframe. The streets are unpaved; paving roads didn’t become commonplace until the early 1900’s. With the advent of paved roads came the demise of the horsedrawn carriage and watering trough. Also, there’s a utility pole in the background. Those came into use in the mid-late 1800’s and were first used for telegraph transmission. The telephone was invented in 1876 and use expanded greatly in the next 30 years. However, as popularity grew, lines often looked more like this image of lines in Pratt, Kansas.
Click here to read about New Haven’s place in telephone history.
1886 – Saint Paul Window
This window is in memory of the Rev. Samuel Hall, the ninth Rector of Trinity Church. He served the parish from 1885-1886 and the records of the church indicate he dedicated the Font and used it for the first time on Easter Day of 1886.
Rev. Hall was born in Portland, CT on October 14, 1834. He graduated from Trinity College, Hartford, in 1854 and began that same year to study medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. From 1855-1856 he was a catechist at St. Columba’s Mission to the Chippewas, after which he attended Berkeley Divinity School in Middletown, CT. He was rather nomadic, serving in 9 different parishes – including Trinity, before his death in 1888.
This window depicts St. Paul, whose dramatic conversion is related in the Acts of the Apostles. In his left hand he holds a sword, symbolizing his role as “Defender of the Faith,” and a scroll, reminding us of the letters Paul wrote to the early Christian churches.
Click on the window to see a surviving copy of one of Rev. Hall’s sermons.
1905 – Rectory
A new rectory was built on Thayer Avenue in 1905. Many improvements were made to the church over the ensuing sixty years and the congregation grew. No photos are available of the rectory, but take a look at Maple Avenue as it was over a century ago, with Trinity in the background and the junction with River Road on the left.
There are indications that debate over whether ownership of the rectory should be continued or released was in play as far back as 1978. While a beautiful house, the vastly different life circumstances of each subsequent rector made it evident that no one building could be the right space for all. It was sold in the fall of 1997.
c. 1910 – Time Capsule
With Trinity Church in the background and in its original Maple Avenue location, this picture serves as a record of transportation developments in the early 20th century. Exactly what those men on the utility pole are doing there is lost to history.
circa 1957 – Trinity Choir
Longtime choir member Phyllis Lowell joined the Trinity Choir when she and Walter Lowell (a lifelong member of Trinity) returned from their honeymoon. Phyllis is directly below Joe Leland (rear left), Choir Director. Rev. Tiffany is to the right of him. Other longtime members are also in here: Don Viering, Linda Viering, and Harry Barnhart – see if you can find them.
1964 – Church on the Move
In 1964, Trinity was faced with a number of challenges regarding its location and space. The church and parish hall were located on a busy street. Additional space was needed for parking, church school rooms, choir vesting, a new kitchen, and other capital improvements. The response was a major fund drive called “On the Move”, which resulted in the relocation of the church building one mile down the road. At the end of the “On the Move” campaign, the parish voted to construct an addition consisting of six classrooms and the parish hall.
Click on the photo at left to view a video of the church moving. This video is a converted home movie created in 1964 by the Penfield family when the church building was physically moved from Maple Avenue to its current location on River Road. Video provided by Walter and Phyllis Lowell.
1971 – New Pipe Organ Arrives
At the heart of much of our worship is our unique tracker-action pipe organ, the Charles B. Fisk Opus 56 (1971). It was a much-needed gift to the parish, as the old organ had stopped working. Former Trinity members Mr. and Mrs. H. Newman Marsh, Jr. and family gifted the organ in memory of their infant daughter Marion Prentice Marsh, who died in 1961 while the Marsh family were parishioners here.
The church’s organ purchasing committee was led by Donald Viering. After visiting several organ builders, Viering and the committee selected the Charles Fisk Co. of Gloucester, MA to build the organ, which boasts more than 650 pipes and required relocation of the original choir platform and rearrangement of some church pews. Parishioners did much of this work. The Fisk organ was formally initiated into service at a Recital and Dedication Service held on October 24, 1971.
Parishioner Kathy Hart remembers the organ was still in pieces the day before her wedding at Trinity – there were pipes still laying on the floor – but she was assured it would be serviceable in time for the ceremony and it was.
1974-1978 – A Flurry of Window Dedications
Four new stained glass windows were dedicated to the church in the 1970’s. The window at left is one of these. It depicts Jesus encircled by many different children, a reminder that no matter where we are from, we are all God’s children and he loves us, every one.
See More Windows
Want to know more? Go on a deeper dive by viewing more of Trinity’s windows below.
1984 – The Music Man
Kenneth “Kenny” Woods was the Minister of Music at Trinity from 1984 – 2016 – that’s 32 years of service to this parish. Kenny was kind and generous to a fault, was a virtuoso on the organ, and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the liturgy and music. He had a special talent for improvisation and a quick wit to go with it.
Kenny was accepted at age 5 as a student of Dr. Moshe Paranov, the founder of the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. He was a multi-instrumentalist – a performer and private teacher of organ, piano, string instruments (particularly as a cellist), and voice.
Kenny often said, “Singing is like praying twice.”He passed away just one year after his retirement.
1985 – Steeple Gifted
In July 1985 the Finney/Bristol family donated and erected a new steeple for the church to replace the original bell tower, which had deteriorated and fallen off about 50 years before. This rebuilt steeple was a replica of the original, based on historical pictures. It was built in honor of Kenneth Bristol, the builder who engineered the church’s move in 1965.
1988 – Trinity Tomorrow Today
Trinity Tomorrow Today was a capital fund drive that allowed for an expansion of the church begun in 1988. It comprised a new Narthex, a choir vesting room, rooms for the Canton Food Bank and Bethany Pastoral Counseling Services, additional church school rooms, staff offices, and an office machine room.
Bishop Clarence Coleridge dedicated the new addition on January 13, 1991 – click on the picture at right to see him.
1999 – Go-Getter for God
Theresa Bellacosa became Trinity’s Minister of Christian Education in 1999 and stayed for 20 years. She made good things happen through her magnanimous spirit – gently cajoling parents and kids alike – and fostering an understanding and love of God in our young people. Theresa brought the Godly Play curriculum to Trinity as one of the many ways she introduced children to the story of Jesus and the language of the Church.
A teacher of adults as well, Theresa organized Bible study groups and retreats for adults, as well as many outreach projects for all ages.
2004 – New Rector Arrives
The Rev. Linda M. Spiers became Trinity Collinsville’s shepherd in 2004. She fostered a thriving church community during her 14 years with the parish and was known for her integrity, dedication to service, and her kindness. She had a passion for social justice, connection with others from surrounding communities and faiths, and in mentoring youth programs.
Linda also mentored four new clergy while at Trinity, including Rev. Rowena Kemp (pictured with her at right), current priest-in-charge at Grace Episcopal Church in Hartford, and Rev. Alan Murchie, current Associate for Education & Music at St. James Episcopal Church in West Hartford.
In her retirement, Linda now serves as a supply priest and continues to serve on various boards and councils of the CT Episcopal Diocese.
2015 – Capital Campaign
A successful capital campaign raised $300,000 and allowed for many maintenance tasks to preserve Trinity Church for years to come. Improvements included painting of the church inside and out, reroofing, updating the heating system, and adding new computers and equipment for Trinity’s offices.
2020-2022 – Life Interrupted & Revived
In March of 2020, the COVID-19 virus ran rampant worldwide and time seemed to stand still – everything stopped. Rev. Carrie Combs had just arrived as new Priest-in-Charge a few months before COVID’s lockdown, and social distancing measures forced Trinity to move to an all-virtual format. The following spring in-person services resumed – weather permitting – outside.
The pandemic has brought loss to us all. Whether you lost loved ones or not; whether you lost work, became solitary in your work, or worked countless frantic hours; we’ve all been under tremendous stress these past two years. The pandemic forced us to become intimately acquainted with circumstances we’d normally avoid: isolation, unpredictability, fear, and grief. Losing our ability to gather meant losing support we’d normally reach for – hugging became dangerous.
We are hoping with great earnestness that the pandemic will loose its grip this year and that the parishioners of Trinity will do what they’ve done for over 125 years – believe in the goodness of fellow humans, believe in the power of love and kindness, and believe that the life of this parish will thrive again. With indoor worship and a new Director of Music Ministry, we are seeing signs of renewal!
History Buff, by Chance?
The timeline above has just a selection of items from Trinity Collinsville’s past.
To view more pictures from important events in our history, go to our Parish History – Part 2 page.