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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Rev. Thomas Theodore Butler

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 407-408 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Rev. Thomas Theodore Butler has been rector of Trinity Episcopal church of Utica since November, 1920. Two years later it was merged with St. Andrew's, which had been conducted as a mission of Old Trinity for five years following its opening in September, 1886, and it was on December 31, 1922, that the congregations of Trinity and St. Andrew's assembled in the church in Faxton street for their first reunion service. The following is an excerpt from a history of the church which was published in the Utica Daily Press under date of December 16, 1922:

"Its society created from the members of a few scattered families more than one hundred and twenty-four years ago, and its house of worship erected nearly one hundred and twenty years ago, only a short distance east of the site of Old Fort Schuyler, when the stumps of forest giants were yet dotting the landscape and jutting out of the 'city streets', Old Trinity is rightfully accorded the title, 'Mother Church of Utica'. Trinity church saw Utica cradled, but while the city and its people have yielded to the changes wrought by time, the old shrine remains practically unchanged through the whirl of years, except that the towering, majestic spire that once added a touch of beauty to a fine old aristocratic residential section, now looms skyward in a gleaming rupture of the monotonous skyline of a district of teeming tenements and busy factories. The old bell, hung in 1817, in the tower that seemingly reached unto the heavens for a message from Him the people of the old church worship, still tolls its call to prayer in tones as clear as those pealed forth more than a century ago. For the birthplace of Trinity parish the pleasant shaded precincts of Broad street must be left behind and an old wooden building on the south side of Main street, between First and Second streets, sought out. This ancient structure, the scene of the inauguration of both church and educational life in Utica, originally erected for a schoolhouse, served as a shrine in the old days for both the Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Old Trinity stands today as the only original specimen of perfect colonial church architecture in central New York. Originally it was located in what was merely a wilderness, surrounded by waving stalks of a field of Indian corn, through which a lane led to the church door. Later Old Trinity became the central structure of a locality occupied by the culture, refinement and wealth of the early settlers. But Father Time, ever demanding new pictures, with his ever busy brush, painted a new scene. And when it was finished the aristocracy of pioneers had migrated up the hill and the old shrine cast its shadow in a district that had become the home of the roaring wheels of industry.

"One must go back to the October, 1796, convention of the diocese of New York for the spark which started the movement that resulted in the creation of Trinity parish. At this convention a canon was passed which directed the formation of a committee of three clergymen and three laymen, of which the bishop should be chairman, this body to be called 'The Committee of the Protestant Episcopal Church for the Propagation of the Gospel in the State of New York'. In accordance with the provisions of this canon a committee was formed and funds collected from the congregations of the church throughout the state. Under this committee an itinerant missionary was appointed. The first was Rev. Robert G. Wetmore, who spent portions of 1797 and 1798 visiting remote and unsettled parts of the state and in supplying services for vacant parishes. In the discharge of his duties he came in contact with Philander C. Chase, a candidate for holy orders who was pursuing his studies under the direction of the rector of St. Peter's church of Albany. Failing health forced Rev. Mr. Wetmore to give up his exacting and arduous work and Rev. Mr. Chase was appointed his successor. Rev. Mr. Wetmore spent considerable time in the last year of his mission work in the vicinity of Utica, officiating for several months at Paris, and he was strongly impressed with the advisability of beginning stated services in Utica. He evidently imparted this conviction to the new missionary, for in the reminiscences of Rev. Mr. Chase is found the following record of a visit he paid to Rev. Mr. Wetmore at Schenectady,

'returning to Albany and taking sweet counsel with the worthy Mr. Wetmore at Schenectady, the writer set his face toward Utica'…

He found a few scattered families who knew the prayer book and the Apostles' Creed and he drew them together in the old wooden schoolhouse in Main street. After his departure for other fields there were lay readers who read the service. Thus it continued for five years, services being imperfectly maintained by lay reading. Then came Rev. Gamaliel Thatcher, another missionary, who attended a meeting of laymen on May 24, 1803, at which the decision to build a church was made. In the convention journal of the diocese of New York of 1804 it is recorded that

'Rev. Gamaliel Thatcher organized a church at Utica on August 14th by the name of Trinity church. Rev. Mr. Thatcher was then ministering to the small congregations scattered through the state from Schenectady westward.'

"The first clergyman regularly in charge of the parish was Rev. Jonathan Judd, who officiated alternately here and at Paris Hill from the fall of 1804 to the fall of 1806. Immediately after the departure of Rev. Judd came Rev. Amos Glover Baldwin. His acceptance of the rectorship began on September 22, 1807, and culminated in May, 1818. Trinity parish was without a rector for more than a year until August 23, 1819, when Rev. Henry M. Shaw accepted the call. He served until May 22, 1821, and his successor was Rev. Henry Anthon, who labored here until January 19, 1829. Succeeding Dr. Anthon, Rev. Benjamin Dorr came to Trinity in May, 1829, and remained here until October 6, 1835. On January 25, 1836, Rev. Pierre Alexis Proal accepted the charge of the parish and served until May 5, 1857, when feeble health forced him to resign. His rectorship of twenty-one years and three months is the longest in the history of Old Trinity. The old chapel which formerly stood on the east side of the church facing Broad street was built in 1836 and in 1851 the entire building was repaired and repainted and the present windows installed. Following Dr. Proal, came Rev. Samuel Hanson Coxe, S. T. D., who preached here for more than twenty years, the second longest pastorate in the history of the old church. He continued to labor here until November 1877, during which time there were three hundred and sixty-five baptisms, two hundred and fifty confirmations and two hundred and twenty-five communicants at his departure."

Rev. Charles H. Gardner, successor of Rev. S. H. Coxe, occupied the pulpit of Old Trinity church from 1877 until 1886 and during the following eight years Rev. William D. Maxon was its pastor. Rev. John R. Harding was preacher from 1894 until 1910, Rev. George C. Groves, Jr., from 1911 until 1913, Rev. William H. Hutchinson from 1914 until 1915, Rev. Ernest J. Hopper from 1916 until 1918 and Rev. Romeo C. Gould from 1919 until 1920, when the present rectorship of Rev. T. T. Butler began. The merging of St. Andrew's church with Old Trinity in December, 1922, was in the nature of the parent coming home to live with the child, for St. Andrew's was for five years conducted as a mission of Old Trinity, which is now occupied by the Italian Mission of St. Peter and St. Paul.

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