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Debunking a Few Commonly Told Parish Myths

Step outside the gates of Trinity and into the bustle of Broadway and you'll likely to hear tour guides repeating some common myths about the parish.

The Archivist Mailbag has a favorite tour guide myth: Trinity Church was built by Captain Hook and his pirates. (And yet, there is no mention of Tinkerbell in the vestry minutes….) But Trinity Church does have a connection to a famous privateer: in 1696, Captain William Kidd was on the pew list and lent equipment for the constructing of the church. Kidd was famously hanged for murder and piracy in London in 1701.

This week, the Archivist's Mailbag uncovers the truth behind some other common myths about Trinity Church.

Myth #1: Trinity is the oldest church in Manhattan.

While Trinity parish, founded in 1696, is ancient by American standards, it was actually chartered sixty-four years after the construction of Manhattan’s first church.

On March 22, 1639, Gillis Pietersen van der Guow, the “master housecarpenter on the Island Manhatans” testified in an inquest about the work he had done during the year of 1633. He testified that he had built a “church with a house and stable behind it” on the north side of Pearl Street between Whitehall and Broad Streets.

Thirty years later, in 1678, New York’s colonial Governor Edmond Andros sent a letter to the Board of Trade in London answering their questions about the colony--and advertising for ministers.

“There are about 20 churches or meeting places [in the province] which above halfe vacant their allowance like to be from 40 pound to 70 pound a year and a house and garden. Noe beggars but all poore care ffor, If good ministers could be had to goe theither might doe well and gaine much upon those people.”

Check back tomorrow for Myth #2.