Photos and History

This photo of Crete dates from 1874 or 1875. Trinity Memorial is believed to be the church near the left of the picture. The parsonage is directly north (left) of the church. This home has since been moved one lot to the north.

Count the trees in Crete in 1875!

Crete’s Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church is one of four 1870’s wooden board and batten Gothic churches extant in Nebraska, and is significant as one of the oldest church buildings in the state.

The first Episcopalian services were held in Crete in 1871, just a few months after the town’s founding.A parish was formally organized in 1872, and the Episcopalians resolved that same year to build a church.  Nebraska’s first Episcopal bishop, the Right Reverend R. H. Clarkson, had at his disposal $2,000 donated by two sisters, Kate and Helen Dater of New York City, for the building of a frontier church.  The money was to be given to a parish that would raise $1,000 to build a rectory.Bishop Clarkson selected the fledgling Crete parish as recipient of the donation, and Trinity Memorial Church was built in 1872.  The building received additions in 1889 and 1896.An examination of the floor plan and elevations following the 1896 additions reveals that Trinity Church’s appendages, and perhaps the initial construction, were most probably based on Plates 1, 2 and 3 “Wooden Church” in Richard Upjohn’s important 1852 publication, Upjohn’s Rural Architecture.  The book contained drawings for inexpensive, practical modern wooden church buildings which could be economically built on the frontier.  Upjohn’s work spawned a significant group of quality 19th Century American churches reflecting vernacular versions of the Gothic style imported from England, coupled with the board and batten siding made popular by Upjohn and others.  Trinity Memorial Church features lancet, or pointed-arch windows, two-tiered ornamental buttresses, and a quatrefoil window in the vestibule gable.  The earliest portion of the church is comprised of the first four bays of the nave.To increase seating, a fifth bay was added in 1889, and in 1896 the vestibule, chancel and sacristy were adjoined.  The bays are defined on the side walls by the non-functional buttresses that were not part of the original 1872 construction.

The interior of the church is virtually unaltered; however the walls, floor and ceiling are covered with non-original materials.A photograph, published in an 1889 church newsletter, shows that the ceiling was originally covered with narrow boards laid horizontally, and the walls were covered with thin strips of wood placed diagonally within simulated half-timbered sections.The wide-beaded wainscot, installed in 1896, is still intact along the lower wall under the windows.  An ogee arch – created of reversed curves – was built in 1896 and separates the nave and the chancel.  A rood beam inscribed with a scriptural verse was placed above the choir crossing in 1905.

Trinity Memorial was attended by several of Crete’s early founders, including miller and banker J.R. Johnston, Judge William Morris and hotel owner Henry Code.  Peak membership and substantial parish activity took place in the 1880s and 1890s.*

Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.The National Register is the nation’s list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation.A division of the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, the program is administered in Nebraska by the State Historical Society.

Author of this history, minus the asterisk at the end of the penultimate paragraph, is Janet Jeffries Beauvais, Archivist at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska.


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