Trinity Episcopal Church

Brief History

Trinity Episcopal Church carries with it many memories and associations dating back to pre-Civil War days. It was the first non-Roman Catholic church in Natchitoches and the third Episcopal church in Louisiana.

Bishop Leonidas Polk, c.1861-1865Work on the building began in 1857. However, the life of the congregation predates 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; and old Parish Register entries date back to May 23, 1841.

On March 22, 1843, the Church was formally incorporated by act of the legislature, largely through the efforts of the “Fighting Bishop.” The first permanent place of worship for the congregation was a converted store building on the corner of Front and Trudeau streets; this was used from 1843 to 1857. In 1855 the congregation purchased land on the corner of Trudeau and Second, just one block back of the first church; Bishop Polk laid the cornerstone during the month of April, 1857. Regular services began in the building on Ash Wednesday, 1858, at a time when only the walls, floor, and ceiling were completed.

The building itself is of Gothic-Norman architecture. The exterior walls of masonry vary in thickness from 22 to 28 inches. Large laminated wood arches that resemble a wagon vault span the interior. 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.

General J. Watts de Peyster of Tivoli, New York, gave a large percentage of the money for the building in memory of his daughter Maria, who died in 1857 of yellow fever. Prior to the Civil War, General de Peyster was Commander of Federal Troops at Grand Ecore on the Red River. Additional gifts of General de Peyster’s to the church, which are still in use, were an organ, the tower bell, and beautiful communion vessels. Again, in 1900 General de Peyster gave generously toward renovation of the building. Among the first officers of the church, appointed in 1841, were Victor, Ambrose, and Adolphe Sompayrac; Lewis G. DeRussey; E.O. Blanchard; William Hunter; Thomas H. Airey; Thomas P. Jones; S.M. Tibbitts; and F. Williams.

The parish house and classroom wing, designed by architect A. Hays Town of Baton Rouge, was added in 1962. It blends well with the architecture of the original building.

Maria de PeysterThe lovely rose window above the archway of the main entrance was given as a memorial to Louise Gallion Aaron. Beside the guest register in the entry is a portrait of Maria L. de Peyster; and a tablet to her memory is mounted on the north wall. The Women of the Church gave the baptismal font in 1898, and it is still used regularly, only the inside bowl replaced. The remainder of furnishings date between 1878 and 1900. The original organ was replaced many years ago.

The windows behind the altar are the original ones; their diamond panes with the fleur de lis design, a popular design of the time, are the same kind as those of the Grace church, St. Francisville. Originally there were leaded stained-glass windows in the sidewalls; when these deteriorated, they were replaced with colored Florentine glass and then, in 1958, with the present stained-glass windows. These windows are memorials to persons whose names are shown on the tablets on the windowsills. Windows on the north side depict Christ’s miracles; those on the south, the parables.

The carved plaque on the south wall, a head of Christ, is a gift of a former rector in memory of his father; it is the work of the famous Lang family of Oberammergau.

Photos of Trinity Episcopal Church

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