Trinity Episcopal has a rich history
I had the great pleasure of being the guest speaker recently before the men’s club of Trinity Episcopal Church, 409 N. Liberty St. in Independence. It was not a huge crowd, but I was pleased to see my longtime friend Norman Humphrey in the audience. Norman and I go back a long way.
I believe the gentlemen enjoyed my company; I know I sure enjoyed theirs. Following refreshments and the program that I presented to them on the earlier days of Independence, Gary Leabo gave us a guided tour through the sanctuary of the historic church. If I was to say it was a real treat, that would be an understatement. We have a very uncommon jewel in our community with this ornate little church.
Trinity Episcopal Church has been around for a long time. Its congregation was organized in 1844, making it the earliest Episcopal parish in the area, thus becoming the “mother church” for the outlying areas, including Kansas City. Its first building was a wooden structure built in 1878 on the northwest corner of Main Street and Kansas Avenue, one block south of the Square. Less than two years later, it was destroyed by a tornado, so over the following year, the contractors began the present-day church in 1881.
The Victorian Gothic architecture of the building was designed by John Sturgis, an architect from Boston. John Adams of Independence did the exceptional carpentry work, and the brick was laid in place by the William Randall Company. The Randall Company was the largest brick-laying outfit in the area at that time and was also responsible for building the nearby St. Mary’s Catholic Church. William Randall was the grandfather of former Congressman Bill Randall.
Trinity is not only ornate but was famous at one time and has a history of its own to tell. What put Trinity on the map was the fact that Harry S. Truman and Bess Wallace were married there on June 28, 1919. Three generations of the Wallace family were members of the church – Madge Gates Wallace, Bess Wallace Truman and Margaret Truman Daniels. Madge Wallace was Bess Truman’s mother and Margaret’s grandmother. Madge was originally a member of the First Presbyterian Church, which is where Harry and Bess met when they were but mere children.
Mrs. Wallace had her favorite minister at the church, who switched from Presbyterian to Episcopalian and became a rector of Trinity. Madge followed him over there and switched her membership. That’s the kind of woman she was. When she found something she loved, she stuck with it. Harry Truman was always supportive of his family at Trinity, but always maintained his own church membership in the Grandview Baptist Church.
When Truman became president in 1945, Trinity Episcopal Church was suddenly trust into the national spotlight. CBS broadcast the church choir singing in 1945, and Margaret Truman was part of that choir. As you probably know, Margaret went on to enjoy an opera singing career in the years to follow.
When Margaret married Clifton Daniels in 1956, their wedding ceremony was held at the Trinity Episcopal. Seating capacity was limited because of the size of the ornate chapel, so a crowd of well-wishers and the media stood outside to cheer for the newlyweds as they emerged from the church.
In 1959, Harry Truman helped lay the ceremonial cornerstone for an addition to the church, and Bess Truman’s funeral services were held there on October 21, 1982.
Reference: The Truman Neighborhood, by Bill Curtis