This quiet, hallowed spot on Maryland's Eastern Shore has been a place of prayer and meditation for over 300 years.
Great names, common neighbors, and honored veterans of every American War lie buried in its active cemetery.
The church building is a tiny architectural gem perfectly restored to its colonial form but in active use every Sunday.
The grounds of Old Trinity Church and Cemetery are open daily from dawn to dusk. Tours are by appointment.
This perfectly restored colonial church is the central focus of an 85 acre Glebe (church lands) on Church Creek, a
tributary of the Little Choptank River. The Church was constructed by English settlers on private land patented
in 1671 before the Vestry Act created thirty-two Church of England parishes in Maryland. At that time (1692)
Land West and South of the Little Choptank and Blackwater Rivers became “Dorchester Parish,” and the church
became the “Dorchester Parish Church.”
In 1853 the building had been remodeled to conform to the then popular Gothic style. The windows were made
smaller and given pointed arches, while the windows behind the altar and over the West entrance were closed off.
"The old church" as it was called was consecrated “Trinity Church” and locally called “Old Trinity” ever since
“Old Trinity” has had a worshipping congregation through three and a half centuries of political and ecclesiastical
change. At times the site was all but abandoned, but a small group of folk have kept alive the church and the
graveyard as a regional burial ground. The cemetery contains the graves of veterans of every American war,
Governor Thomas Carroll of Maryland, his daughter Anna Ella Carroll, and several bishops of the Episcopal
Diocese of Easton. Behind the apse is buried Bishop William McClelland, who as Rector in 1927, established the
first of several endowments to provide for the care and maintenance of the Church and graveyard. Framed by
ancient trees, the cemetery is meticulously kept and continues to be in active use.
Through the good offices of U.S. Senator George Radcliffe, Col. Edgar W. Garbish and his wife Bernice Chrysler
Garbish became interested in Old Trinity. From 1953 to 1960 they restored the building to a 17th Century ideal
as a memorial to Mrs. Garbish’s parents. The wooden flooring and other 19th Century furniture were removed.
The original floor tiles were discovered under the floor and reset. Because the walls were in very bad repair a steel
frame was put in place but the original bricks were replaced with traditional burnt oystershell mortar. The closed
off windows were discovered and all were replaced with double casements and handmade green-hued leaded-
glass panes in a diamond shape that were contemporary with the 17th Century. Fifteen 17th Century style boxed
pews and the High pulpit on the North side of the church were built from 17th and 18th heart of pine wood
discovered in old barns in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The hinges and all the iron work is hand made. The three-
tiered pulpit contains the clerk’s reading desk where originally items of local interest were announced to the
congregation. A leather-bound "Authorized Version" of 1611 (the King James Bible) lies open on the desk.
The main body of the church is 38 feet long and 20 feet wide. The half-circle apse where the altar table sits has a
radius of six feet is of particularly fine craftsmanship. The black walnut altar is the original. The church has
excellent acoustics which enhance congregational singing. The west gallery, common in English rural churches of
the period contains a single manual, English-built Walker organ that was added in 1990. On the center of the
gallery are the royal arms of Queen Anne, a major benefactor of the church in the colony of Maryland.
The building was built by the English settlers to match the then new style which emphasised both the preached
word and the sacraments simply celebrated. A "Protestant Episcopal" Church since the American Revolution,
current services follow the Episcopal use in a way consistent with its restoration. (see "Services")
All rights reserved.
A more complete history Old Trinity can be found at An American Church.