In April 1783, a band of loyalists sailed from New York aboard the ship Union with Capt. Wilson bound for a new life in the colony of New Brunswick. A site for these settlers had been chosen up the St. John River near the Belleisle. One loyalist, Sarah Frost, lamented in her journal upon her arrival at what would become Kingston how there was “nothing but wilderness before our eyes; the women and children did not refrain from crying.” In those early days the loyalists were saved from starvation by the local indigenous people who provided them with moose meat. By November of that year all of the families had been furnished with log homes to brave the coming winter.
With the basic necessities of survival accounted for, on 10 May 1784 the inhabitants of Kingston met “for the purpose of appointing wardens and vestry to act as officers in the church, and propagate the Church of England in the Parish of Kingston, and to make application to government for grants of land for glebe land, and to obtain as soon as possible a clergyman to officiate in said church Parish.” The first clergyman in the parish was Rev. John Beardsley, who on 7 October 1784 married Walter Bates and Abigail Lyon, the first couple to be married in Kingston. Without a church building in the 1780s, the community met for prayers led by Walter Dibblee at the Scribner home.
In the summer of 1787 the Rev. James Scovil of Waterbury, CT, a missionary for the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel, arrived in Kingston. It was agreed by the community that Rev. Scovil should be the first minister of the parish in exchange for land that had been set aside for a parsonage. The parsonage would be built it 1788 and is still home to the Parish of Kingston’s clergyman today. It was also agreed that Silas Raymond, Elias Scribner, and John London would give one acre from their adjoining lots for a church to be built. Funds were raised by subscription from the community in order to pay for the construction of the church. In spring 1789 work began on the church, with 18-year-old Samuel Raymond felling the first tree that would be used in construction. By June the frame of the church had been erected and by November the building had been closed in. On November 5th, consecration day, the unfinished structure was “dedicated to the service and worship of Almighty God by the Reverend James Scovil in the name of Trinity Church.” At this time the church was Georgian in appearance, with rounded windows and a rounded chancel. By 1790 Trinity Church had been furnished with seats and high box pews, which were then sold to the congregation; a common practice that would persist in the parish until 1890.
In 1808 Rev. James Scovil died and was succeeded by his son, Rev. Elias Scovil, who in turn would pass on the role of clergyman in the Parish of Kingston to his son, Rev. William Elias Scovil. The Scovil family, along with Rev. John Beardsley, rest beneath the chancel of Trinity Church. The year 1810 saw a pulpit at long last placed in the chancel of Trinity Church, although the following year this would be moved to the back of the church in order to increase seating. 1810 also saw a stove purchased to heat the church. Prior to this the congregation had brought foot stoves, heated bricks, and even lined their pews with furs to keep warm. Preceding the rounded chancel being rebuilt square with a venetian window in 1811, a steeple had been added to the church in 1808, as well as a gallery for the interior. Trinity would undergo many small renovations during the first half century of its existence.
A bell weighing 129lbs. was given to the church in 1813 by some gentleman from Saint John and placed in the spire. The bell is alleged to have been the ship’s bell of the US warship Chesapeake, which had been captured by the British during the War of 1812 and towed into Halifax. Although the bell itself bears no identifying inscription, it is of the same small size expected of a ship’s bell.
In 1852 an organ was placed in the gallery of the church. Thought to be the oldest organ in Canada, this formidable instrument was built in 1785 in London, England and later refurbished by William M. Hedgeland of 7 Charles St, Manchester Square, London. This instrument originally came with a barrel attachment that could play popular hymns in case an organist could not be found. It now holds pride of place in the church and is used occasionally for services and special celebrations.
Major renovations were undertaken on Trinity Church in 1857 in order to not only enlarge the church to support a growing community, but to change the style from Georgian to gothic at the insistence of Bishop John Medley. In all, the foundation was secured with proper drainage, a new roof was added, the nave lengthened by 13 feet by cutting the church in half and moving the chancel back, the windows modernized, the floor re-laid, the walls plastered anew, the seats refitted, and the tower and spire remodeled. The newly renovated church was reopened for Christmas services in 1857 and has remained in the gothic style with few alterations since that time. The large painted glass window that now graces the chancel of Trinity Church was a personal gift from Bishop Medley to Rev. W. E. Scovil in recognition of his tireless work to grow the church in the Parish of Kingston.
Report to the AGM 2020
Written by Connor DeMerchant
In the year 2019 the Anglican Parish of Kingston celebrated 235 years since its establishment in 1784. Additionally, the 230th anniversary of Trinity Church, erected in 1789, was marked. These milestones were celebrated simultaneously over the course of the year, with a community concert, an illustrated historical talk, and graveyard tour being the main celebratory events to take place over the summer months.
The celebrations for this special year began on June 1st when a concert was held in Trinity Church to celebrate the 230th anniversary of that venerable place of worship. With a large congregation in attendance, that included Bishop David Edwards, former Bishops, past rectors of the parish, and much of the local community, current rector Rev. Douglas Painter presided over the evening’s proceedings. The concert featured musical performances by Macdonald Consolidated School Students, the church choir, and a number of local individuals with musical talent. Historical readings were given by Doris Calder, who told the story of Trinity’s bell, and Connor DeMerchant, who read a description of the 100th anniversary celebrations in 1889. For this auspicious occasion Trinity’s organ, dating from 1785, and alleged to be the oldest working pipe organ in Canada, was played by renowned organists Barry Snodgrass and Richard Kidd. Proceeds of this event’s freewill offering were presented to Outflow and the Rev’ds Terrance and Jasmine Chandra’s ministry in Saint John. The event inaugurated Bishop David Edwards’s annual pilgrimage around the deanery.
To highlight the parish’s rich history that has spanned over two centuries, an illustrated talk was given by history student Connor DeMerchant on the evening of July 28th. Titled “From the Scovils to the Present Day: An Illustrated Presentation to Celebrate 235 Years of History in the Parish of Kingston,” this talk presented the story of the parish from the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists, who established the parish in 1784, and explored the first 150 years of the parish in depth. The histories of St. James’s, St. Paul’s, and All Saints Churches, were also detailed. Trinity’s historic organ was played for the benefit of those in the audience who had not been present at the June 1st concert. The talk made use of the rich archival material available, with many historical accounts being read to the audience. The entire presentation was illustrated by documents and photographs which were distributed to those in attendance. Artifacts and documents from the parish’s history, with material being loaned from the John Fisher Memorial Museum, were displayed at the front of the church for the audience to see. The freewill offering garnered by this event was for the Trinity Cemetery Fund.
On the evening of August 14th, a graveyard tour titled “Spirits and Symbolism” was led by parishioner Connor DeMerchant in Trinity Churchyard. This event was jointly organized with the John Fisher Memorial Museum, with whom the parish has had a long-standing relationship that was significantly strengthened over the course of the anniversary year. The walk lasted a little over an hour and attracted church members and local community members alike. The 40 or so people in attendance were guided around the churchyard and heard the stories of many of the historically significant individuals interred in the shadow of historic Trinity Church. In addition to hearing about those who played significant roles in early Kingston history, tour participants were given explanations about many of the motifs commonly found on the churchyard’s historic grave markers. The proceeds of this event, collected in the form of a freewill offering, were divided between Peninsula Heritage and the Anglican Parish of Kingston.