Trinity Episcopal Church carries with it many memories and associations dating back to pre-Civil War days. It was the first non-Catholic church in Natchitoches and the third Episcopal Church in Louisiana.
The building itself is of Gothic-Norman architecture; the exterior walls, of masonry, vary in thickness from 22 to 28 inches. The interior is spanned by large laminated wood arches, which resemble a wagon vault. All beams are tied directly into the brickwork. The wood flooring is of hand-cut timber. A sturdy, buttressed bell tower gives added dignity to the main structure. The bell, said to be of one-third silver, was cast especially for this church at the Troy Bell Foundry of Troy, New York.
Work on the building was begun in 1857. The life of the congregation, however, antedates the building. The first Episcopal service in Natchitoches was held in the Court House on Sunday, March 31, 1839, with the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of the Southwest, as the officiant. Parish Register entries date back to May 23, 1841.
On March 22, 1843, the Church was formally incorporated by act of the Louisiana legislature, largely through the efforts of Bishop Polk, who would become the Civil War’s famed “Fighting Bishop.” The first permanent place of worship for the congregation was a converted store building on the corner of Front and Trudeau streets, which was used from 1843 to 1857. In 1855, the congregation purchased land on the corner of Trudeau and Second, just one block behind the first church. Bishop Polk laid the cornerstone in April 1857. Regular services began in the building on Ash Wednesday, 1858, although, at the time, only the walls, floor and ceiling were completed.
A large percentage of funds for the building were given by Major General J. Watts de Peyster of Tivoli, New York, in memory of his daughter Maria, who died in 1857. General de Peyster also gave the church an organ, the tower bell (which is inscribed “West Troy Bell Foundry, NY 1857. Presented to Trinity Church, Natchitoches by J. Watts de Peyster as a token of respect and regard for Thomas Scott Bacon, its first rector and his friend”). The beautiful communion vessels, still in use today, were another of General de Peyster’s gifts to our church.
From a history of the church found in our original parish register: ”On Thursday morning at 11 o’clock, ‘Trinity Church’ Natchitoches, Louisiana was Consecrated to the service of Almighty God, according to the rites, doctrine, and discipline of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of North America, by the Rt. Rev. G. P. B. Wilmer, assisted by the Rev. A. J. Tardy of New Orleans, La. This occurred on the seventh day of November, in the year of our Lord 1878.” In 1900 General de Peyster again gave generously toward Trinity’s renovation, which was celebrated with a special service on May 27, 1900.
Trinity’s baptismal font was donated by the women of the church in 1898. It is still used regularly today, with only the inside bowl having been replaced. The rest of Trinity’s furnishings date from 1878 to 1900, although the original pipe organ was replaced many years ago. The altar windows are original, diamond panes with the popular fleur de lis design. In 1958 the current memorial side windows of stained glass replaced previous decorations.
In 1917, the 60th anniversary of the present church building was celebrated with a special service on June 3. The service included a history of the congregation prepared by the contemporary rector, The Reverend J. Orson Miller.
The parish hall and classroom wing was added in 1962. It was designed to blend effectively with the architecture of the original building. The 1960’s also brought the establishment of the Trinity Episcopal Preschool, located in the new wing. The Preschool, which has become an important social/educational force in the Natchitoches community, at first operated on a half-day basis. More recently, it has become an all day facility.
In 2003, the front porch was extended and a ramp was added to provide easier access to the church. This design also sought to remain true to the style of the original building, while accommodating the needs of all who wish to worship here.
In May 2008, the ramp was dedicated in memory of Charlie Harrington and in honor of the ministry of The Reverend Richard M. Flynn, our rector from 1998 until 2004.
More recently, in 2011, Trinity acquired land adjacent to our new wing, as well as a newly renovated administrative structure on Touline Street. This expansion of facilities has improved the accessibility and quality of office services, as well as providing additional counseling and meeting spaces. It also includes a new venue for the Rector’s Office.
Also in 2011, a Columbarium was installed in Trinity’s Bell Tower. This is a permanent structure made up of niches, which contain the ashes of loved ones. This installation is a natural extension of the church’s role as home for the sacraments, which members experience at different stages of their spiritual journeys. It is a holy space designed to bring peace to all those who enter.
We salute all of Trinity’s Rectors in its long history, who have contributed so much to the spiritual growth and traditions of our church. Recent Trinity Rectors include:
- 2015-Present— The Rev Suzanne Wolfenbarger
- 2006-2014—The Rev. Catherine M. Thompson
- 2004-2006—The Rev. Elizabeth R. Ratcliff (Interim)
- 1998-2004—The Rev. Richard M. Flynn
- 1982-1998—The Rev. Richard Taylor