Our History


old sign


     The origin of Trinity Church coincides with the making of our nation.  In the turbulent years just prior to the Revolutionary War, several clergymen were licensed by the Bishop of London to carry on missionary work in the "Haverhill Parish."  It was not until 1855 that services were held with any degree of regularity, and then only in borrowed meeting houses.  The sporadic nature of services from1820 to 1835 was partly due to sectarian jealousy.  In 1835, further efforts at holding services had to be abandoned, "in consequence of the jealousy of the Baptist clergy of the neighboring towns, who cautioned the brethren against inviting any more Episcopal clergymen to preach."
    A landmark in the history of the church was the purchase in 1856 of the White Street lots, and the vote to raise money for the construction of a church building by the sale of pews.  It required two additional dollars in those days to have the luxury of a carpeted pew.      In 1883, the Rev. Charles Rand established the Brotherhood of the Way of the Cross, later renamed the Fellowship of the Way of the Cross. It is an organization of Episcopal priests dedicated to spiritual discipline.

    An indication of how vital the income from pew rentals has been in the life of the church was the appointment in 1904 of an assistant who helped the church treasurer collect delinquent pew rentals on a commission basis.  It was not until 1943 that the practice  of renting pews was abandoned.  The most unique wage earners in the history of Trinity Church must certainly have been the ringer of the chimes (he was voted a salary of $36 p.a. in 1885) and the organ blower whose salary was increased $0.50 a week in 1879 because of extra services.  The chimes were the first bells in Essex County and their cost, considerable for that day, was met by members of the parish, and other citizens of Haverhill, donating $1 each.  

    Historically the church has not known prosperity.  Continued reference is made to the struggle of the communicants to finance their parish.  Financial distress caused by the Great Rebellion and affecting a majority of parish members is given as the reason for the meagerness of the church treasury.  Records of 1870 speak of the inability of the church to raise money.  When the sexton in 1869 mustered the courage to ask for a modest pay increase from this $75 pa, the vestry fired him and assumed the care of the church themselves.  It was not until 1895 that the parish began the year free from debt.
    Perhaps it was this painful austerity that led Trinity in 1907 to make its first overture to neighboring St. John's - an invitation to join with Trinity and together built a new church. The invitation was declined.  St. John's built a new church, and merger between the two parishes was not effected until 1943.  

    Interesting highlights in the workings of the early vestries were the vote in 1895 to secure "knelling crickets," the empowering of Mr. Hussey in 1890 to preserve order at all church services, the votes cast in 1906 instructing the sexton to use cotton cloth in dusting the pews, and finally the suffrage granted to women in 1920 entitling them to vote in annual meetings.

    Sister Cora Fidelis was a legend in the church and official records make special note of a free railroad pass, bestowed on her in 1910, for travel on the Haverhill and Southern N.H. Railway System.  The most publicized sermon in the history of the church must have been that preached by Fr. Malcom-Smith in 1923.  The Boston Sunday Globe printed in full his sermon entitled "The Evils of Prohibition are Worse than the Evils of the Saloon It Banished."

    The most significant event in the history of the Episcopal church in Haverhill was the joining together in 1943 of Trinity Church with St. John's Church to form a parish stronger in every way than either parish had been before.  Since that time five young men have been sent into the priesthood from this parish.   The hundredth anniversary of the parish was celebrated in 1957 with special parish programs culminating in a service and banquet attended by Bishop Nash and Bishop Stokes and many clergy, friends and parishioners.  
    In 1963 a twelve room education building, including lounge and offices, was built at a cost of $110, 000.   Of this amount all but $30, 000 has since been paid.   In January of 1969 the church building was nearly destroyed by fire, but with the loyal assistance of vestry and parishioners, has risen like the phoenix from the ashes and been beautifully rebuilt to the glory of God and for the use of the community.

 By 1856, when Trinity Church was built, instrumental music, sung Psalms and the singing of hymns and various liturgical texts had become common in Episcopal Churches.  It is unclear, parish records being what they are, when the first organ was installed in this building, but it is known that the present instrument is at least the third pipe organ to play here in this century.  In any case, it is clear that members of the parish have long valued fine music, and that today’s recital simply marks a new chapter in a long parish tradition.

The History of our Aeolian-Skinner Organ

      Our organ began its life nearly fifty-one years ago in Denworth Hall at Bradford (then Junior) College on Friday, June 14th, 1940 when Frederick Johnson performed its dedicatory recital.  Mr. Johnson’s lengthy program included works by Bach, de Grigny, Franck, Clerambault, Loeillet, Pachelbel, Lyon, Titcomb, Bingham, Bonnet, Karg-Elert, Lee, Jacob and Widor.

      Known at Bradford as the “Cornelia Warren Memorial Organ," (the memorial plaque remains on the left-hand side of the instrument’s console) after the trustee whose 1926 bequest paid a significant portion of  its purchase price, it was regularly played for many years before gradually falling into disuse and ultimately disrepair. For more Information please click here Aoelian Skinner Organ.

      In 1989 a combination of circumstances brought the organ, and Bradford College’s interest in selling it, to the Parish’s attention.  With the help of Scott Sykes, Trinity’s organist, Mr Mark Peterson of the music faculty at Bradford, and Thad Outerbridge, who ultimately moved the instrument, the organ’s historical significance and enormous potential were recognized, and the Vestry decided to acquire it as the final replacement for the Mary Porter Wardwell Memorial Organ, lost to fire in 1969.

      Of all musical instruments the organ must seem, to the uninitiated, enormously complex, mysterious and incomprehensible.  That apparently similar organs should have such diverse tonal “personalities” is at the same time a source of fascination, and a reason for the instrument’s lack of acceptance among main-stream musicians.

      In recent years considerable interest has emerged in the work of G. Donald Harrison, the Englishman who designed the instrument we are hearing this afternoon.  Much has been written about and recorded on his surviving instruments but Opus 998, perhaps because it had fallen into disuse before the renewal of interest in Harrison’s work, remains obscure.  It is our hope that, like a long lost piece of music by a great composer, this instrument will be freshly heard and receive the acclaim we believe it merits.

      Even though the parish and Mr. Outerbridge decided to make no tonal alterations, other than regulation, the move from Bradford College involved both craftsmanship and high-tech challenges.  Fortunately, even though barely playable in 1989 (one division,badly damaged by rain, cyphered on every note), most of instrument’s leather was in excellent condition, thanks to the college’s remote heating plant which limited the organ’s exposure to damaging furnace gases.  In fact, the chest actions are all playing on their original leather today!

      In the course of the move certain reservoirs were restored, the console re-leathered, and a new blower installed.  A solid-state, digital, multi-level system occupying one cubic foot in the console cabinet, replaced the electro-pneumatic-mechanical memory system for combination pistons that formerly occupied a room of its own, and a second digital system drew into one area the couplers, cut-outs, relays, and switches formerly disposed in five separate locations.

      Local musicians who remember the instrument in its former location recall it as being “gentle” and “lady-like” in character.  Today, in the smaller, acoustically brighter space here at Trinity, the organ, while still capable of great subtlety, has considerably more authority.  In its new location it is unequivocally clear that Aeolian-Skinner did not compromise their reputation for quality in the pipe-work and mechanical portions when building this instrument.

      Among the organs designed by G. Donald Harrison are those in the Church of the Advent, Boston (1935) and the Groton School (1935), both of which include Positiv divisions, then a daring innovation.  The organ at the Advent, along with Harrison’s very well known instrument in the Mormon Tabernacle at Salt Lake City, are undisputed masterpieces of the organ builder’s art.  We believe Opus 998 (which includes a delightful six stop Positiv, visible at the very front of the organ chamber, and is in other ways similar to the larger instrument at the Advent) to be at least a minor masterpiece.

      Trinity Church is proud to have the stewardship of this fine instrument, and we hope there will be many musical events in which it will figure prominently.  Memorial contributions to the preservation and performance of this instrument are gratefully appreciated.

© 2020 Trinity Episcopal Church
Connected Sound - Websites for the Barbershop Community