In April 1783, a band of loyalists sailed from New York aboard the ship Union with Capt. Wilson bound for a new life in the colony of New Brunswick. A site for these settlers had been chosen up the St. John River near the Belleisle. One loyalist, Sarah Frost, lamented in her journal upon her arrival at what would become Kingston how there was “nothing but wilderness before our eyes; the women and children did not refrain from crying.” In those early days the loyalists were saved from starvation by the local indigenous people who provided them with moose meat. By November of that year all of the families had been furnished with log homes to brave the coming winter.
With the basic necessities of survival accounted for, on 10 May 1784 the inhabitants of Kingston met “for the purpose of appointing wardens and vestry to act as officers in the church, and propagate the Church of England in the Parish of Kingston, and to make application to government for grants of land for glebe land, and to obtain as soon as possible a clergyman to officiate in said church Parish.” The first clergyman in the parish was Rev. John Beardsley, who on 7 October 1784 married Walter Bates and Abigail Lyon, the first couple to be married in Kingston. Without a church building in the 1780s, the community met for prayers led by Walter Dibblee at the Scribner home.
In the summer of 1787 the Rev. James Scovil of Waterbury, CT, a missionary for the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel, arrived in Kingston. It was agreed by the community that Rev. Scovil should be the first minister of the parish in exchange for land that had been set aside for a parsonage. The parsonage would be built it 1788 and is still home to the Parish of Kingston’s clergyman today. It was also agreed that Silas Raymond, Elias Scribner, and John London would give one acre from their adjoining lots for a church to be built. Funds were raised by subscription from the community in order to pay for the construction of the church. In spring 1789 work began on the church, with 18-year-old Samuel Raymond felling the first tree that would be used in construction. By June the frame of the church had been erected and by November the building had been closed in. On November 5th, consecration day, the unfinished structure was “dedicated to the service and worship of Almighty God by the Reverend James Scovil in the name of Trinity Church.” At this time the church was Georgian in appearance, with rounded windows and a rounded chancel. By 1790 Trinity Church had been furnished with seats and high box pews, which were then sold to the congregation; a common practice that would persist in the parish until 1890.
In 1808 Rev. James Scovil died and was succeeded by his son, Rev. Elias Scovil, who in turn would pass on the position of clergyman in the Parish of Kingston to his son, Rev. William Elias Scovil. The Scovil family, along with Rev. John Beardsley, rest beneath the chancel of Trinity Church. The year 1810 saw a pulpit at long last placed in the chancel of Trinity Church, although the following year this would be moved to the back of the church in order to increase seating. 1810 also saw a stove purchased to heat the church. Prior to this the congregation had brought foot stoves, heated bricks, and even lined their pews with furs to keep warm. Preceding the rounded chancel being rebuilt square with a venetian window in 1811, a steeple had been added to the church in 1808, as well as a gallery for the interior. Trinity would undergo many small renovations during the first half century of its existence.
A bell weighing 129lbs was given to the church in 1813 by some gentleman from Saint John and placed in the spire. The bell is alleged to have been the ship’s bell of the US warship Chesapeake, which had been captured by the British during the War of 1812 and towed into Halifax. Although the bell itself bears no identifying inscription, it is of the same small size expected of a ship’s bell.
In 1852 an organ was placed in the gallery of the church. Rumoured to be the oldest organ in Canada, this formidable instrument was built in 1785 in London, England and later refurbished by William M. Hedgeland of 7 Charles St, Manchester Square, London. This instrument originally came with a barrel attachment that could play popular hymns in case an organist could not be found. It now holds pride of place in the church and is used occasionally for services and special celebrations.
Major renovations were undertaken on Trinity Church in 1857 in order to not only enlarge the church to support a growing community, but to change the style from Georgian to gothic at the insistence of Bishop John Medley. In all, the foundation was secured with proper drainage, a new roof was added, the nave lengthened by 13 feet by cutting the church in half and moving the chancel back, the windows modernized, the floor re-laid, the walls plastered anew, the seats refitted, and the tower and spire remodeled. The newly renovated church was reopened for Christmas services in 1857 and has remained in the gothic style with few alterations since that time. The large painted glass window that now graces the chancel of Trinity Church was a personal gift from Bishop Medley to Rev. W. E. Scovil in recognition of his tireless work to grow the church in the Parish of Kingston.
Trinity Church and rectory were designated national historical sites in 1977.