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.
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
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
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
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
story has it, broke the monotony by racing back to Lime Rock from
A Church of their own
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
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
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"
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
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
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 his very early St. Mary's Church in Burlington, NJ,
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 more representative of his work.
Additional research has provided documentary
evidence identifying a different architect for Trinity, however.
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.
thumbnail below to see that document).
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
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
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
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
charge of our church.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!!
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.
creation of the
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
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
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
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
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
invite you to explore them, and to explore our
website directory as well.