Trinity Episcopal Church, Lime Rock, CTOffering Companionship Along the Way
Trinity Episcopal Church
484 Lime Rock Road
Lakeville, CT  06039
(860)435-2627
The Rev. Heidi Truax, Rector



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Some Historical Material about our Parish and our Community....             

 

We're a parish with a fascinating history, even though we're only a little over 135 years old.  We invite you to read about it!

 

The Church that Iron Built: as it began...Trinity  is the oldest known structure built as part of the historic Upper Housatonic Valley iron industry that is still standing, still substantially unchanged, still owned by the original owners, and still in active use for the identical purpose for which it was  constructed. 

The Church that Iron Built in 1874

ABOVE:  A very early "portrait" of Trinity Lime Rock, scanned from the Church bulletin for the service for the centenary of the laying of the corner stone.  Note particularly the Trinity Crosses along the main roofline and atop the porte-cochere, and the magnificent foundation.  The cornerstone is visible  in the corner of the main church structure closest to the photographer.  Note also that ground had not yet been broken for the Rectory, dating this photograph between 1874 and 1881.   Additional photographs of historic Trinity Lime Rock can be viewed and/or downloaded.  

Trinity History Links:

CLICK HERE to view some recent material from Trudy Washburn about the historic role of women at Trinity.

CLICK HERE for assistance with genealogical information and information about the Lime Rock Cemetery.

CLICK HERE to see a listing of memorials at Trinity and their donors

CLICK HERE to view photographic archives of Trinity

CLICK HERE to see historical information about Lime Rock Park's relationship with Trinity in the early years

CLICK HERE to read about Trinity's original organ and its replacement

CLICK HERE to see the past clergy of Trinity and Trinity's incorporators

CLICK HERE to download our self-guided tour of Trinity

CLICK HERE to see a timeline of Trinity's history

Christ Church in nearby North Canaan recently closed.  Many of the parishioners have come to Trinity, and we are delighted to welcome them.  Since their history is now part of our history, we've begun a section of this website about it.  It is still very much a work in progress, but please CLICK HERE to view it.

The Falls Village - Canaan Historical Society has always taken an interest in Trinity Lime Rock, and their archival collection contains considerable Trinity material found nowhere else.  CLICK HERE to visit their new website.

A BRIEF PARISH AND COMMUNITY HISTORY

The village of Lime Rock, founded in 1734, and called, at that time "The Hollow", was the first place in the Colony of Connecticut to produce iron from the newly discovered Taconic Mountain (or Salisbury) iron ores.  Thomas Lamb, an early entrepreneur, obtained the water rights to all the streams flowing down from Mount Riga to the Housatonic River and established the first forge and foundry in Lime Rock.  Here, the iron was smelted and made into bars to be delivered to blacksmiths all over Connecticut. 

As the iron industry expanded through the 19th century, Lime Rock became the headquarters of the Barnum Richardson Company, and thus the capital of the iron industry in the area.  Although the Lime Rock furnace was little used after 1890, and the Barnum Richardson Company closed its eastern works in 1919, many traces of Lime Rock's past as a company town remain.  Trinity Church, the church founded by the Barnum and Richardson families for themselves and their workers, as well as other Lime Rock residents, is notably one such trace.  

The newest version of the "Iron Heritage Trail" brochure, produced by the Upper Housatonic Valley Heritage Area and funded by the National Parks Service, includes historic Trinity Church, of course.  In fact, we at Trinity are proud to be the starting point of Tour V:  Lime Rock to Sharon.  The brochure is a great introduction to the history of the iron industry in our area. 

You can pick up a copy of the new brochure at any area library, at most area inns, at any area historical society -- or, if it's more convenient, pick up at copy at Trinity!  Copies are usually available in the "tract rack" at the back of the sanctuary (and, if you do pick up your copy at Trinity, be sure to take a copy of our newly revised "Self-guided tour of Trinity" brochure as well!). If you might find a timeline helpful, we're happy to provide one here.

The Barnum and Richardson families, who ran their Lime Rock foundry from 1840 to 1919, as well as other iron furnaces and fabricating facilities in the area (the Beckley Furnace, in East Canaan, Connecticut's only official Industrial Monument, is the best preserved) and beyond were also responsible for the construction of Trinity Church in 1872.  Originally parishioners of St. John's Episcopal Church in Salisbury village, both families tired of the (then) long carriage ride into Salisbury for church,  particularly in the winters, and, as one story has it, broke the monotony by racing back to Lime Rock from Salisbury.  

A Church of their own

William H. Barnum, founder of Trinity Lime Rock

William H. Barnum (later United States Senator Barnum) had excellent horses, which he raced at a long-vanished track in the Falls Village area -- as well as one across the street from the site of the church (where there is another race track, with higher horsepower, today) -- so he was quite accustomed to winning these Sunday competitions.  As tradition has it, one muddy Sunday he finished second, and, covered in mud, told his competitor that an Episcopal church in Lime Rock was really needed.  He is said to have resolved on the spot that they would have a church of their own. 

There are other traditions as well that purport to define "the" reason for the creation of Trinity.  Our experience is that rarely do families start entirely new congregations for a single reason, so likely there is a grain of truth in all of them.  Surely that Barnum was a Democrat in politics (indeed, as well as being a US Senator from Connecticut, he was for 13 years Chairman of the Democratic National Committee that nominated Grover Cleveland for the Presidency), and at that time many residents of Salisbury (including much of the Vestry of St. John's) were of Republican persuasion, could not help but have contributed to the decision.  It is noteworthy that even though St. John's Church was losing its largest donor, the mother church continued to support Trinity in its creation and subsequently, in the "bad times".

Mrs. Barnum had noted that many of the workers in the Barnum Richardson Company facility seemed to be "at loose ends spiritually." Under those circumstances, her husband's business acumen perceiving that a church might help keep the workers away from unattractive distractions may have been the single most important justification for Trinity's creation.  (Recent scholarship reveals the likely source of this insight:  the Ames family and the Ames Iron Works in Amesville had recognized this more than a decade before Trinity was built.) 

Further evidence supporting this hypothesis is that William H. Barnum donated $500, no small sum in those days, for the construction of St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church in Cornwall Bridge ten years after he sponsored and provided most of the funding for the construction of Trinity.  (It may not have been coincidental that Barnum &  Richardson also had a furnace in Cornwall Bridge.) Later, Senator Barnum was to assist St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in nearby Lakeville to the tune of "$6,000 - $8,000" according to the New York Times.  (Many of Barnum Richardson's workers at the Lime Rock foundry and at the Ore Hill mine attended services at St. Mary's.)

It was not only money that the Barnums offered to the local Catholic churches and their members at a time when anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant prejudice ran high in rural New England.  A decade after Trinity's founding, in 1883, again according to the New York Times, many of the leading citizens of Salisbury were pressing Barnum to fire all his Roman Catholic workmen because the priest at St. Mary's had been so bold as to erect a crucifix on the church lawn.  Barnum, to his lasting credit, not only declined to fire his people, but he also interceded with the railroad companies serving the area to provide excursion trains from the cities of Connecticut so that Roman Catholics could attend the dedication of a new convent at St. Mary's. 

Perhaps the effects of Trinity Lime Rock's (and of Barnum's) more than even-handed treatment of Roman Catholic congregations in the area upon his workers were salutary.  We do know that Barnum Richardson Company had a baseball field on company property for the use of the employees, sponsored a baseball team and a company brass band, and built a "casino" (the word had a different meaning at that time -- it was then a recreational facility where educational and cultural programs could be held), so a "company church" fit logically into this pattern.

Building Trinity Lime Rock:

At any rate, Trinity's founders obtained plans and undertook construction.  Today there is a question regarding the identity of Trinity's architect.

A tradition that began at Trinity during the "bad times" (the earliest published evidence of this tradition so far located appeared during Fr. Griffin's tenure as Priest in Charge) was that plans for the church were obtained from the Upjohn architectural firm in New York City.  The English gothic architectural style that Upjohn had been important in popularizing in the United States was highly thought of and the Upjohn firm had operated an office at the General Theological Seminary expressly to provide advice to small congregations about to build a new structure, so it is plausible that Upjohn plans could have been obtained via that route with no record having been made of the transaction. 

St. Thomas' Church in Amenia Union and Christ Church in Canaan are both examples of Upjohn churches and clearly reflect that architect's perception of what small parish churches ought to look like, but Trinity does not resemble either edifice. Trinity's hammerbeam roof, slightly flattened but otherwise very similar to that of Upjohn's very early St. Mary's Church in Burlington, NJ, is similar to at least few commissioned Upjohn churches but certainly not unique to that architect.  Conversely, Trinity's wide chancel is highly unusual in Upjohn churches, the narrower Morning Prayer-style chancel being far more representative of his work.

Additional research has provided documentary evidence identifying a different architect for Trinity.  

The Western Connecticut News named Henry Martyn Congdon as the "architect of record" of Trinity Church, and this is supported by a note in the first Parish Register in the hand of Trinity's first Rector.  (click the thumbnail below to see that document). 

Henry Martyn Congdon as architect of Trinity Lime Rock

In addition, the Congdon archives list Trinity as a Congdon design, although the plans for Trinity are missing both from Trinity and from the Congdon archives, and they, of course, would represent conclusive evidence.

Congdon, who apprenticed under and took over the J. W. Priest architectural firm, moving it to New York City, designed more than 80 Episcopal churches during his career, including in Connecticut: Trinity Church in Torrington, Christ Church and Calvary Church in Ansonia, St. Stephen's Church in Ridgefield, St. Thomas' Church (now Union Baptist Church) in Hartford, St. Philip's Church in Putnam, St. Mark's Church in Terryville, Trinity Church in Waterbury, and Christ Church in West Haven.  Congdon also designed the baptismal font for neighboring Christ Church in Sharon.

So, is Trinity really an "Upjohn church"  as the tradition has it --  or is Trinity the work of Henry Martyn Congdon as the documentary evidence states?  Well, we will continue to investigate the matter, but based on evidence in hand, it appears that Trinity is the work of Congdon.

Interestingly, one architect named Upjohn did have a documented connection with Trinity -- in the 1960s, the Rector's office was added to our Walker Hall complex, and the plans were signed by one "William Upjohn, Architect".  We do not know who William Upjohn was, or if there was a family connection to the famed Upjohn firm, but we can now claim to be, in some small way, an "Upjohn building" with no fear of contradiction.

James and Julia Goodwin Ensign donated more or less an acre of the Goodwin farm, located at the corner of the Dugway and Lime Rock Road, across the Dugway from the cemetery, for the church and a rectory.  The Goodwin family, who farmed the area along Dugway Road for more than a century before the construction of Trinity,  figured heavily in the church throughout its history, as did the Ensigns, and descendents continue to be active parishioners today. 

Trinity Field, the eight acre backyard of the parish, was likewise a part of the Ensign/Goodwin farm, with an interlude during the 1890s as a bicycle racing track.  The Ensign family were involved in the iron fabricating business in the Amesville area, and were closely linked to the Barnums in industrial ventures in West Virginia (specifically the Ensign Manufacturing Company, a predecessor of American Car and Foundry, Inc, now ACF, Inc.), Chicago (where Barnum Richardson had a major car wheel foundry), Rochester, NY, (where Barnum and Richardson took over a bankrupt car wheel manufacturer) and in the Minnesota iron range. 

The cornerstone for this Gothic Revival style church, constructed of light brown sandstone quarried from nearby Sharon Mountain, was laid on July 10, 1873.  The Western Connecticut News of October 31, 1873 reported the "new stone church" to be "progressing finely under the able superintendence of Mr. Chas. Squires and Carpenter Levi."  Isaac Newton Bartram, of Sharon, the builder of several of the major blast furnaces in the area, is said to have been responsible for the stonework at Trinity, and it is believed that the stone came from Bartram's quarry.

Bishop John Williams consecrated Trinity Church on November 5, 1874 and a Canadian, the Reverend Millidge P. Walker, served as the parish’s first Rector, beginning in 1876. The Rev. Heidi Truax is the current Rector, Trinity's 14th Rector, and the most recent in a line of clergy  in charge  of our church

Trinity Lime Rock original gaslight fixture, refitted for electricity

The brass lighting fixtures in the nave remind us today of their nineteenth century gaslight origin.  They were installed in 1900, replacing the original chandeliers.  Acetylene gas, produced in Lime Rock, behind the present Trinity Church structure, lit the streets and homes of Lime Rock more than 50 years before the streets of our neighbors, Lakeville and Salisbury villages, were illuminated.

Early parish records indicate that the church building was paid for by William H. Barnum, while most of the more expensive furnishings, such as some of the stained glass and the elaborate brass pulpit, were largely donated by the Richardson family.  Some of their contributions are identified on our donor page

Senator Barnum, as well as the rest of the Barnum and Richardson families, remained active in the church, of which Senator Barnum was the first listed incorporator.  Interestingly, he never held parish office following its incorporation.  The Senator  died in 1889, and his funeral at Trinity Lime Rock was attended by President Grover Cleveland (during his interregnum).  While tradition has it that President Cleveland delivered Senator Barnum's eulogy, contemporary accounts reveal that, in accordance with Barnum's wishes, there was no eulogy; the service was short and simple.  President Cleveland left immediately afterwards via private railroad car from Lime Rock Station on the Housatonic Railroad, of which Barnum had also been President.   

It is believed that Senator Barnum's funeral drew the largest crowd ever drawn to Trinity Church.  The second largest crowd was recorded in 1999 when parishioner and network news anchor Tom Brokaw spoke about his book about World War II and held a benefit book signing.  While the Brokaw speech packed more people into the church than ever before, the Barnum funeral is recorded to have been attended by an additional thousand people who could not fit into the building, and who thus waited outside in the rain.  They must have been grateful indeed that the service was short and modest.

Our photographic archives, on this website, begin in the Barnum & Richardson period and continue until our more recent photo albums take over.  We invite you to view them.

After the Barnum Richardson Company

The iron industry began its decline in the Upper Housatonic Valley not many years after Trinity was founded.  One by one, the blast furnaces fell silent as the economics of the Bessemer process and better metallurgical engineering made the old fashioned iron smelting processes obsolete.  The industry in this area had difficulty modernizing its facilities and methods to keep pace.  

The Rector called to Trinity in 1915, Fr. Bigelow, probably had now idea how short his tenure at Trinity would be.  In 1917, likely seeing the handwriting on the wall, Fr. Bigelow left Trinity to accept a call to Pomfret, CT, where he founded The Rectory School.

The iron industry's decline and eventual demise permitted the landscape to began to reclaim itself from its industrial past, and artists and writers discovered the area -- somewhat improbably, given that the iron industry in earlier decades had removed virtually every tree larger than four inches in diameter to make charcoal -- as a place to paint landscapes!  The Lime Rock Artists Association ultimately had several members who served on the Vestry of Trinity Church beginning in this period and continuing until the demise of the Artists Association.  As well, Lime Rock was the base of operation for several prominent figures in the "Arts and Crafts" movement in the United States.  We at Trinity maintain an active interest and participation in the arts today.

While the wheel foundry in Lime Rock was one of the last parts of the eastern end of the Barnum Richardson empire to close,  it shrank gradually before the closing in 1919.  The loss of so many jobs after the 1919 closing of the ironworks, and the sale of this component of the Barnum Richardson Company in 1920 to the Salisbury Iron Company (which went out of business in 1923), followed by the 1929 Crash and Great Depression, left both Lime Rock and Trinity Church struggling for many years. 

The extent to which Trinity Lime Rock was dependent upon the Iron industry is illustrated by the following paragraph, quoted in its entirety, from A History of Trinity Church, by Julia Emmons Goodwin (1949):

"From the beginning Trinity Church has been largely supported by the local iron industry, its treasurer caring for the funds that came in, and making up any deficits.  The Parish owed its very existence to Salisbury iron with its tensile strength, and when the invention of Bessemer steel ruined the market for it, one by one the lights of Lime Rock went out, and with them the financial security of Trinity Church." (page 8)

Eventually a number of young families (many of whom were drawn by Trinity's across-the-street neighbor, Lime Rock Park, the world-famous auto road racing facility), as well as retirees and weekenders from New York City, began moving to the area.  All did not proceed smoothly in the beginning, but in time this addition to our neighborhood was gratefully accepted as a good neighbor and a good friend of Trinity. 

From its inception Trinity has been known as "the friendly church" -- one where everyone was welcome, regardless of station in life, at a time when such egalitarian attitudes were unusual, particularly among Episcopalians. 

The Barnum family and the Richardson family made it abundantly clear from the very onset that Trinity was to be a church for all the people, regardless of background, personal fortune, or social or business or political position.  The membership of Trinity's incorporators, including as it did both the owners of the local industry and farm laborers, foundrymen and clerks, three of whom were of foreign birth, stands as evidence of just how fundamental this tradition is to Trinity.  It's been said that even today, well over a century after Trinity was founded, the grossest social error one can make at Trinity is snobbery in any form.

Through their own personal involvement in all aspects of Trinity's life the Barnum and Richardson families demonstrated that they meant that this tradition of egalitarianism continue for as long as Trinity did.  Today we do our best to remember and honor their wishes.  When we say "You are welcome at Trinity Lime Rock" we mean it no matter who you are or where you come from -- and furthermore, we've been that way for more than 135 years now!!   

The parish histories reveal that the parish was always as accepting of the common worker from the Barnum Richardson forges and foundries as it was of the Barnum and Richardson families themselves.  We take pride in having continued to be a church for the whole community ever since our beginnings, in being totally inclusive and diverse, never being hesitant to extend a hand to a stranger, and in warmly welcoming all who enter our doors.

The future

With the creation of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area in 2006, there is little question that greater national attention will be directed to the history of our area, and to, as one historian of the parish perceptively styled it,  "The Church that Iron Built." 

Under these circumstances, Trinity's real historic distinction lies not in the name of her architect -- but in this parish's historic place at the very center of the area's historic iron industry during its greatest days.   The recent closing of Christ Church in Canaan (a parish that geographically covered significant portions of our area's iron heritage as well) consolidates more of the iron history here at Trinity.

When you have an opportunity, please visit the website of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area (UHVNHA).  Because of Trinity's role in the historic iron industry, Trinity's ongoing leadership in the artistic and cultural community of the area, and Trinity's mission of welcoming all who come to us, Trinity Lime Rock is an important part of that heritage.  In October 2004 Trinity demonstrated that leadership by hosting a History Walk for the UHVNHA.  Sales of a CD-ROM of that walk financially benefit Trinity through a contribution for every copy sold.  A second Heritage Walk, under the auspices of the same Heritage Area organization and likewise hosted and sponsored by Trinity took place in  September 2008.  More will no doubt occur in the future.  During the winter months, Trinity welcomes the board of the Friends of Beckley Furnace, the organization that restored and maintains Connecticut's only industrial monument, formerly a part of the Barnum and Richardson empire, located in East Canaan.

The links in this article will show you aspects of Trinity both in the past and today.  We invite you to explore them, and to explore our website directory as well. 

 

Additional Historical Resources:

(special thanks to our Parish Archivist, Alexis Dorf)

Three historic photographs of Trinity Lime Rock at various stages of its life as a parish.

Two letters from Fr. Putnam, a Rector of Trinity in the 1880s, to a parishioner on such subjects as women's suffrage, temperance, and economic bounty.

About June 15, 2003.  This particular Trinity Sunday was a particularly memorable day for Trinity Lime Rock.

A page about our home town, and about a Heritage Tour we sponsored in 2004.  Some of Trinity's archives are at that location, too.

Past Clergy of Trinity Church.

Learn about the Lime Rock Cemetery and see photographs.

Visit the history page of our Lime Rock neighbor, the Inn at White Hollow Farm.

 

Trinity's 125th Anniversary Celebration, 1998

Inside Trinity Church - 125th Anniversary Celebration

The service of celebration in October, 1998, for the beginning of the 125th Anniversary year

 

Interesting Trinity Lime Rock facts....

Trinity's Church Bell:

People do keep careful track of church bells. Who made them, where they came from, and so forth.  Trinity's church bell is said to have been raised by two teams of oxen in 1874.  Other sources are in error when they cited the manufacturer as the VanBergen Bell Company.  Physical examination of the bell, conducted in November 2010, revealed that the bell has the following inscription:

The Meneely Bell Founders

West Troy, NY

Presented to Trinity Church Lime Rock Conn

by James L. and Caroline B. Richardson

November 1874

The actual inscription is reproduced on a framed paper in the public space below the bell, except that the framed paper incorrectly refers to the maker as  "McNeely" rather than the correct "Meneely".  The paper adds a patent date of 1854, not detected in the November 2010 examination of the bell.

Here are some photos of the bell -- please overlook the bird decorations and the fact that it's impossible to get back far enough from the bell to get a good overall photo.  Click any photo to see a larger image:

Trinity Lime Rock bell

This view shows the bell as mounted in the frame driven by the rope over the wheel

Tolling hammer for bell

Interesting!  Not in current use, but a stationary hammer used to toll the bell.  The clapper used for normal ringing is where you would expect to find it: inside the bell.

Trinity Lime Rock church bell inscription

One view of the inscription on the bell

Trinity Lime Rock bell - another view

Another view of the bell as it is located in the belfrey

Trinity's Johnson Organ:

In 2001, after nearly 127 years of service, the Parish retired the Johnson organ (opus 429, for organ fanciers) that had been purchased by the ladies of the Parish around the time of the building's consecration. While the Barnum and Richardson families were certainly supporters of this project, for the most part the funds for it were raised by a series of chicken dinners.  Even then, music was central to Trinity Lime Rock!  (Click on the photos below to see them full-sized).      

oldorgan01.jpg (197936 bytes) - Electric console oldorgan02.jpg (186862 bytes) - Diapason rank oldorgan03.jpg (115141 bytes) - Lehman plaque oldorgan04.jpg (90434 bytes)
a b c d

While the instrument's history had not been particularly kind to it (more about that below), the ultimate reason it was retired had little to do with music.  Unfortunately, the organ was constructed in such a way that egress next to it (on the right side of photo b above) was a mere 22 inches wide -- far from the state-mandated 48 inches.  The Parish was under a time limit to come into compliance with the state fire regulations, and it was not possible to do so without rebuilding the organ to the point where its historic integrity would have been destroyed. Doing so would also have imposed a financial burden on the Parish that would have exceeded the cost of an excellent new custom-built pipe organ.  With regret, the Vestry concluded that sale of this instrument as an entire historic organ where it would retain this integrity was the correct course of action.  

About the pictures:

Photo "a" shows the electronic console installed by Mr. Robert Lehman during his ownership of the organ.  The original tracker console had been stored, and was sold with the remainder of the organ, permitting restoration to its original state.  

Photo "b" shows the beloved "blue pipes" in a chestnut screen.  The Parish had intended to keep the screen -- but learned that the blue pipes were an integral part of the historic organ, and not purely decorative in nature.  To keep the historic instrument together, the blue pipes needed to accompany the remainder of the organ to its new home. As well as the diapason rank of pipes the blue pipes represent, behind the screen were the original sound chests and pipes of a near-perfect example of a Johnson organ of the period.  The end of the local iron industry, and the consequent economic misfortunes of Trinity Lime Rock may, paradoxically, have contributed to the survival of the organ in original form.  For many years there was no money to properly maintain the organ, much less add new embellishments to it or modify its tone or functioning to conform to passing trends in church music.  While Mr. Lehman converted it to electronic operation, restoration to precisely the state of 1874 is expected to be accomplished with little guesswork about how things might have been back then.  Few organs of the period are such perfect examples of exactly what was being installed in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Photo "c" recounts some of the history of the organ.  The Parish appreciates the generosity of the late Robert Lehman, who willed the organ back to the church after his passing -- and in much better condition than it was when he purchased it from the Church. 

Photo "d" recalls the honorees associated with the organ screen.  

If, as this magnificent historic instrument may, it finds itself rebuilt in the sanctuary of the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill, Maine, we wish that fortunate congregation as many years of inspiration as it has brought to Trinity Lime Rock -- and more!!

Click on the photo below to see a large picture of the interior of Trinity Lime Rock during a two week period after delivery of the new Rodgers organ and while the "blue pipes" were still in place.

Last photo with the Blue Pipes still in place

 

Replacing the Johnson organ with a new Rodgers organ Read more about the history of this organ and more about its replacement at Trinity.