FOUNDED IN 1841 AND STILL MAKING HISTORY
A storied past
Trinity Episcopal Church was founded by the Rev. Benjamin Eaton in 1841. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Mr. Eaton was a missionary for the Episcopal Church sent to the most important city in the Republic of Texas to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. While Mr. Eaton preached and led services in both Houston and Galveston, the parish of Trinity Church, Galveston was officially established in February of that year. The property was purchased by Mr. Eaton himself and was held by him until he donated the entire plot of land to the parish of Trinity in 1856. The first church building was finished in 1842 on the property but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1843. The current worship space was completed in 1857.
Trinity Episcopal Church survived the Civil War Battle of Galveston of January 1, 1863, though being struck by a cannonball during the fighting. The cannonball remains embedded in the bricks of the church. Lieutenant Commander Edward Lea of the Union Navy, who famously saw his father, a Confederate naval office, as he was dying during the battle is buried in Trinity's cemetery along Broadway in Galveston.
During the yellow fever epidemics of the 19th century, two priests serving Trinity Church succumbed to the disease and died. A monument in the sacristy of the church remembers their sacrificial ministry.
On March 19, 1871, Mr. Eaton collapsed in the pulpit of the church and died. He had served faithfully as the founding and first rector of Trinity Church for 30 years. The grieving parishioners lovingly buried him in a crypt below the altar of the church that can still be visited today. Eaton Hall, originally Eaton Memorial Chapel, was built in 1882 as a memorial to our beloved first rector. Eaton Hall was designed and built by the famous Galveston architect, Nicholas Clayton. Today Eaton Hall is used for parish activities and fellowship. It has also been used by other congregations as a place of worship. Both the church and Eaton Hall are National Historic Landmarks. A major restoration of Eaton Hall was completed in 2018.
During the Great Storm of 1900, the entire south wall of the church was swept away by the storm surge. Fifteen parishioners died during the storm. Eventually, the entire structure was raised four and a half feet in 1925 to protect it against future storms. The brick line of this engineering feat is visible all around the church.
In the twentieth century, like so many parishes across the United States, members of Trinity Church served in the military in both world wars. Monuments to their service are stationed in the Narthex (entrance) to the church. Between the wars, a set of bells was given by the Sealy family in the late 1920s. These bells are still manually played during our worship services and throughout the week at 12:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal School was started in the early 1950s to provide the children of Galveston Island with an excellent academic and religious education. This current iteration of the school is the third school to be associated with Trinity Church. The rector of Trinity Church serves as the Chair of the School Board.
The current organ was installed after a successful capital campaign in 1985. The antiphonal organ was given by the estate of Mary Moody Northen following her death and burial at Trinity Church.
The church was damaged again during Hurricane Ike. A major restoration took place to repair the damage. The broken shards of glass were remade into jewelry which was then sold. The proceeds from that endeavor created the Phoenix Fund that assists other disaster affected areas around the world. Disbursements have made in the aftermath of other hurricanes and for Ukrainian refugees.
The William Temple Center is a ministry for students of higher education in Galveston. Originally housed in a separate building near UTMB, the William Temple Center moved to the Trinity campus following Hurricane Ike.
In 2022, Trinity Episcopal Church received the gift of a Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible, a hand-written, calligraphy Bible. Of these 299 Bibles in the world, only eight are on public display in Texas.
Trinity Episcopal Church has been served by twelve rectors (head priest). The first rector, Mr. Eaton, is buried under the altar. Three other rectors are buried in Trinity's cemetery along Broadway, and another is buried in Trinity's columbarium adjacent to Eaton Hall.