HISTORY OF HOLY TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH

ROCKWALL-HEATH-FORNEY

W.C. Venner Sr. and family emigrated to Forney, Texas from England in 1877. This family consisted of a father, mother, five sons and four daughters. Three sons never married, two others did and had families. Three daughters married and had families, thus providing the nucleus for a church of their choice. The need was present and the request made for an Episcopal priest to conduct services. The Rev. Edwin Wickens conducted the funeral of W.C. Venner Sr. on Oct. 21, 1893 which was the first time an Anglican Clergyman ever conducted services of any kind in Forney, Texas (the service was held in the southern Presbyterian Church). During the next year Miss Francis Venner and John Venner were confirmed at the Church of the incarnation in Dallas, being presented by the Rev. Mr. Wickens. Walter D. Adams of Forney, had been baptized as a child and was confirmed also.

On Feb. 19, 1896, an application signed by W.D. Adams, H.H. Rogers, Mrs. E. Venner, Miss Francis Venner, John Venner and Henry Venner was submitted to ask the Bishop’s consent to the organization of a mission in Forney, Texas. The name was to be Holy Trinity, named after a church in England attended by Mrs. Venner in her youth. On Feb. 20, 1896, the request was granted and the following officers were appointed: W.D. Adams, Warden; John Venner, Treasurer; and H.H. Rogers, Clerk. It was one of the first missions established in the new Diocese of Dallas and was received at the first Convention of the new Diocese.

Mr. Adams advertised in an Episcopal publication, The Churchman, for someone who might be interested in drawing the plans for a small church in Texas. Mr. Robert H. Slack of New Bedford, Mass., a noted American architect in the early 1900’s, answered the notice. After much correspondence between the two men covering a period of several years, the plans came and the building was started on three lots totaling 75 foot frontage. Two of the lots were donated by E.C. Lewis and a third lot was donated by T. & P. Railway Co.

During the time between 1896 and 1902, services were held occasionally at the different denominational buildings of the town by the Rev. Hudson Stuck, Dean of St. Mathews Cathedral in Dallas and the Rev. Edwin Wickens, General Missionary of the Diocese. The services of Clergy were determined by the weather as most traveled by horseback. An excerpt from a letter to Mr. Adams from Bishop Alexander C. Garrett dated April 21, 1896: “Write to Mr. Stuck and urge upon him your desire and hope that he will make an appointment to visit you, if not on a Sunday, on some bright week night.”

Letters were sent to Mrs. Nellie A.P. Smith of the Massachusetts Altar Society, Boston, to arrange for Attar hangings. Donations were received from various sources for the building fund plus a grant from the American Church Building Fund Commission. Subscriptions, ranging from 25 cents to 5.00 dollars, were taken to buy a bell from the C.S. Bell Co. of Hillsboro, Ohio. The price of the bell was $125.00 but Mr. Bell donated half of the cost. When the bell arrived it was found to be too large to swing in the bell tower so the tower had to be remodeled to accommodate the bell and building progressed. The Altar rail was a gift from S. Paul’s Church of Riverside, Conn. with this inscription carved under the rail,”‘ Thank offering M. Louise Lockwood, Easter 1879.” The organ was purchased by the church for about $60.00. Dean Hudson Stuck gave a set of Altar brasses, in the name of his recent confirmation class. The entire church building, fixtures and furnishings were completed at a cost of about $2800.00. It is interesting to note the New England style of architecture with a very steep roof to shed the snow.

Bishop Garrett appointed Ascension Day, May 8, 1902, as the day of Consecration for Holy Trinity, A letter written by Mrs. Hannah Cowart, niece of Walter Adams, describes the events of that day. “On the morning of May 8, 1902 there was to be an event of note in Forney, Texas. The mission of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church was to be dedicated to the greater Glory of God in the worship of its people.

“The mission was especially impressive, the architecture was ecclesiastical in design, the appointments were donated by local citizens and by people as far away as Connecticut. One object of the moment was the organ. Music being one of the foremost means of worship, the congregation had been able to purchase an organ from a music store in Dallas at a price commensurate with the limited funds of church membership. This was possible by getting an organ which had seen service in another church, and the final arrangements were late in materializing. The organ was to arrive on the very morning of the dedication. “Great enthusiasm ran throughout the congregation at the little Forney Church whose membership was limited to a small number. Mr. Walter Adams, Senior Warden, along with the Venner family and others, had played an active part in the building program. Mr. Adams, on this particular morning, was following through on his efforts to have, the organ in the church by service time. The instrument was to arrive by local freight over the Texas and Pacific Railroad–the very lifeline of all towns along its route.”

“In accord with the customs of the day, everyone in town knew everyone’s business, The T & P station agent, Mr. L.J. Mantius, was as interested in the fact that the organ would be delivered through his department as was the church to which it went. Friends were on notice that if the church was to have its organ by dedication time would be necessary to have several men at the station to uncrate and deliver the organ.”

    “Running true to form the train was a little late that morning; this fact never worried us because we were so pleased to have it run at all, but on this occasion it was important that the train not be too late, it was due about half past eight, and when half past ten showed on the various time pieces being watched the Senior Warden began to demonstrate his ability to appear calm but to look with an eagle eye. On this morning, the eye was turned to the T & P station only a few blocks from the church.

“Just as people were assembling, some came a bit early to look over the new church; anxiety grew in the hearts of the members of Holy Trinity. What about the organ? Would it get here? Perturbation was rampant. Just then the train whistle blew! The T & P lifeline was working, Holy Trinity would get its organ, and in time. However, the two miles of upgrade from where the railroad crosses East Fork of the Trinity River to the front door of Holy Trinity Church was not a simple accomplishment. The congregation heaved with the freight train as it made that two mile journey. But make it, it did, and suddenly every¬≠one was calmed by the appearance at the door of the organ in the final stage of being uncrated as it was moved from the train to ‘he church by the friends who had stood by and made delivery possible. The dedication service had its opening hymn.”

Move1 Move2The little mission at Forney struggled for many years but the expected growth of Forney never came and Holy Trinity’s congregation dwindled. With the advent of Lake Ray Hubbard and the resulting population growth a decision was made to move the church building to a more central location. On July 1, 1972, Bishop A. Donald Davies appointed The Rev. Donnell E. White to be Vicar of Holy Trinity, Rockwall-Heath-Forney. Many Episcopal churches gave financial assistance and four acres was purchased on FM 1140 as the new site. Legal requirements and problems were solved. A basement was built and the membership grew in anticipation. In August of 1973, the steeple was removed, along with the bell, from the church building, and both wings were removed. The route chosen for transportation to Rockwall required crossing over Interstate 20 and crossing a number of bridges. The telephone company took down and replaced 96 telephone lines and the electric company did the same for 110 high lines. A great deal of time, money and effort were spent to save a 71 year old church with a seating capacity of 100.

On August 15, 1981, the Rev. James Galbraith came as the sixth Vicar to Holy Trinity, Rockwall-Heath-Forney. The congregation has experienced a steady growth and on Oct. 2, 1982 at the 87th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Dallas, Holy Trinity was granted parish status. The Rev. James Galbraith became its first Rector.

An excerpt taken from the Dallas Morning News Guide magazine, summer of 1982:

 ROCKWALL: A SUMMER PLACE                                 by Nancy Goebel

“Beyond Chandlers Landing, Ridge Road turns into FM 1140. To your left, you’ll see what is probably the prettiest little church in North Texas. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, built in 1901 in Forney and moved to this location recently, has been meticulously restored to its original beauty. Note the intricate fretwork trim.”

We expanded the church in 1998 to hold 200 persons. At the same time we built a parish hall, including offices, meeting rooms, library and seating for 100 people. A new Educational Facility of nearly 8,000 square feet was completed the end of 2004 after a $1.5 million capital campaign. Holy Trinity Episcopal School was housed wholly in that building, with two administrative offices sharing the Parish Hall until 2005 when it had to close temporarily for financial reasons. The church now leases the educational building to The Spanish School, Fulton School and occupies it for Sunday School and other mixed uses. Church offices were relocated to the original educational wing and the old Undercroft has been transformed into a Youth Space .

 The following were priests-in-charge of Holy Trinity, Forney:

1896                   The Very Rev. Hudson Stuck, Dean of St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Dallas

1897-1900            The Rev. Edwin Wickins, General Missionary for the Diocese

1901-1903            The Rev. Charles Henry Kues, rector of church in Terrell

1904                    The Rev. Joseph Sheerin, Rector of Church of the Incarnation, Dallas

1905-1906            The Rev. Herbert W. Robinson, Rector of Terrell

1907                    The Rev. W. S. W. Raymond, also priest-in-charge of Christ Church, Oak Cliff

1908                   The Rev. John T. Foster, General Missionary

1909-1911            The Rev. Francis C. Berry, General Missionary

1912                    The Rev. C.R.D. Crittenton, Curate of St. Matthew’s Cathedral

1913-1918            The Rev. H. J. Ellis, Rector of church in Greenville

1919                   The Rev. E. R. Allman, Rector at Terrell

1920-1926            The Rev. George H. Bennett, Rector at Terrell

1927-1930            The Rev. William Garner, Rector at Terrell

1931-1942           The Rev. Benjamin Bean, Rector of church in McKinney and then rector at Terrell

1943-1947            The Rev. Roy L. Gaskell, Jr., rector of Terrell

1948                    General Missionary

1949-1951            The Rev. W. Frederick Chamberlain, rector of Terrell

1952                    The Rev. Russell G. Flagg, rector of Terrell

1953                    *The Rev. J. P. Austin, the 1st Vicar in residence

1954-1955            *The Rev. Walter Garrett Fields, the 2nd Vicar in residence

1956-1957            The Rev. John Dean Maurer, Rector of church in Kaufman

1958-1961            The Rev. James Gossett Greer, Jr., Vicar of church in Seagoville

1962                    The Rev. George E. Luck, Jr., Vicar of church in Kaufman

1963                    The Rev. Albert C. Rountree, Jr., Vicar of Mesquite church

1964-1965           The Rev. Fred A. Thompson, Vicar of Kaufman church

1966-1972           under the care of Diocesan Layreaders, Mr. Frank Bryan and Mr. James Van Horn

1973                   under the Rev. Donnell E. White, 2nd Vicar, church moved to present location in Heath

 All Saints, Rockwall

Organized in 1967 under the supervision of Diocesan Layreader, Mr. Robert M. Stone, until its merger in 1973 with Holy Trinity, Heath

 The following were priests-in-charge of Holy Trinity, Heath:

1973-1975                    *The Rev. Donnell E. White, Vicar

1976                            *The Rev. Karl Michael Harmuth, Vicar

1977                            General Missionary

1978-1981                    *The Rev. Claude William Behn, Jr., Vicar

1981-1987                    The Rev. James MacAlpine Galbraith, lst Rector

1987-1999                    The Rev. George E. Luck, Jr., Rector

1999 – 2000                 The Rev. Ray Jennison, Interim Priest

2000 – 2004                  The Rev. Douglas E. Neel

                                                The Rev. Gayland Pool, Interim Rector

2007-2012                    The Rev. Peter R. R. Getz, Rector

 

* Vicars of Holy Trinity