Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Raising Funds in the 1870s to Build a Bigger Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church on City Island

Today's Trinity United Methodist Church located at 331 City Island Avenue on City Island in the Bronx was founded as Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church in 1852.  It was one of the earliest churches built in the Town of Pelham.  I have written about the history of the church before.  See Tue., Sep. 27, 2016:  Brief History of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church Established in Pelham in 1852.  

Post Card View of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church
Postmarked Oct. 22, 1904.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

By 1851, a group of City Islanders had raised sufficient funds to begin building a tiny chapel on donated land located near the present location of today's church.  The group completed construction of the tiny chapel in 1852.  First known as the "Union Chapel," the congregation joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and named their church "The Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church."  

By the 1870s, however, the population of Pelham had more than tripled to nearly 1,800 people with most living on City Island.  The congregation had grown as well and needed a larger church building.  

During 1877 and 1878, the congregation began raising funds and acquired the lot on which the church still stands.  By 1878, the church either owned the lot outright, "or the balance due on it [was] otherwise provided for."  The congregation wanted to build a beautiful, larger church building that, completely furnished, would cost about $6,000 (apparently including the cost of the lot).  

By the summer of 1878, the congregation had received pledges totaling more than $2,000 toward the cost of the new building.  They planned to commence work on the building once $5,000 had been raised.

One of the church-sponsored events to raise building funds that summer was held on July 4, 1878.  As part of the Town of Pelham's grand celebration of the Fourth of July that year (which included fireworks at Belden Point and a grand baseball game between the Vails and the Clam Diggers), the women of The Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church hosted a church social, picnic, and clam bake in the Scofield Orchard that once stood near the church parsonage.  

There is a detailed description of the planned event, though there appears to be no local newspaper write-up regarding how the event went.  Nevertheless, the event most assuredly took place as the weather in Pelham that July 4 was lovely.

The women of the church that Fourth of July offered a picnic and clam bake as well as "ice cream and other refreshments."  Indeed, the event was reminiscent of the sorts of events that the Bolton Family hosted in the early 1840s to help fund construction of Christ Church in Pelham Manor.  

The congregation's fund-raising and the work of the women of the church were successful.  Later in the year (1878), construction of the new church building began.  The new church, in which the congregation continues to worship to this day, opened the following year. 

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"City Island.

On Thursday, July 4th, the ladies of the M. E. Church of City Island propose holding a citizens' picnic and clam-bake, in the Scofield Orchard, near the church parsonage.  Proceeds for the benefit of the new church in contemplation.  Dinner, ice cream and other refreshments can be procured on the grounds.  If the day should prove stormy, the picnic will be held the next fair day.  It is to be hoped that the ladies will reap a large sum from this enterprise, thereby helping to forward the new church movement.  The old church is entirely too small for the congregations that meet in it from time to time.  The people of City Island have done nobly.  Thus far over $2,000 have been pledged, and it only remains for a few of the wealthy men on and near City Island to swell the amount so that the work can go on.  The lot is clear, or the balance due on it otherwise provided for, and when $5,000 has been pledged work will be begun and pushed forward to a rapid completion.  The congregation want to build a church that will cost, furnished comple[te], about $6,000.  The plans have been prepared and from the description given us, the building will be not only sufficiently commodious, but an ornament to the island. . . ."

Source:  City Island, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 28, 1878, Vol. IX, No. 458, p. 2, col. 5

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