Holy Trinity is said to be the oldest church in Lancaster, although First Reformed Church is approximately the same age, so we won’t quibble. We do know that Trinity was organized in 1730, and thus was a functioning congregation 46 years before this was an independent nation, and two years before George Washington was born.
The earliest evidence of a worshiping Lutheran group in Lancaster includes records to indicate that the congregation used, as a place of burial, land on the southeast corner of Duke of Cumberland Street, and a fourteen foot wide alley now named Mifflin Street. The first recorded burial is that of a child born in 1729, who died in 1730. The land so used, actually two lots, was allocated to the Lutherans by James Hamilton who planned the town of Lancaster.
The congregation was without a church building and worshiped in homes until a small stone church with a steeple and bell was consecrated in 1738. Unfortunately, we have no drawing of that church, and photography wasn’t a usable process until more than 80 years later. But we know that the building was located on the south side of Mifflin Street on the site of the present parish house.
In 1762, one session of an Indian treaty was held in this little stone church. The minutes of this session were obtained and printed by Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia. Unfortunately the warm words of mutual respect and peace did not prevail, as war broke out again the following year.
When the growing congregation outgrew that small stone sanctuary, an addition was built. When another addition became necessary, it was decided to purchase two lots on the north side of that alley and build a larger church. At that time, the congregation numbered 700, which was nearly one third of the residents of the city.
The new church was constructed in 1761 – 1766. With the completion of the steeple in 1794 and the placing of Trinity’s bells therein, there appeared to be no further use for the original stone church, whereupon it was sold for 50 pounds 5 shillings, or $147.22. Some years ago an architectural researcher concluded that the stone used to build the attractive house at 130 East Vine Street, which is right around the corner, was the stone from our original church. There is a plaque on the building indicating circa 1798, so the timing would be about right.
Lloyd E. Bull, Property Committee Chairperson