News from the Archives

Since Trinty+St. Peter’s is located at the corner of Bush and Gough Streets in San Francisco, we thought you might be interested to know that…

Bush Street was named after J.P. Bush, a young man who came to the small town of Yerba Buena (not named San Francisco until 1847) in 1845 while working as a cabin boy on a whaling vessel. The following year (in which Yerba Buena was claimed as U. S. territory by Commander John B. Montgomery), Bush assisted Jasper O’Farrell, a civil engineer (formerly employed by John A. Sutter of Sutter’s Mill, where gold will be discovered in January of the next year), to survey, designate lots for, map and name the streets of Yerba Buena. Their survey encompassed lots between Taylor and Post and the bay. (O’Farrell Street is named after Jasper O’Farrell.)

Gough Street was named after Charles Hays Gough, a pioneer from Maryland and a contractor, who became a member of the San Francisco Board of Aldermen in 1854-1855. He was one of three men authorized to lay out the streets in the “Western Addition,” a large tract which encompassed some 500 blocks running west from Larkin (the city’s previous western boundary) to Divisadero. Charles Gough, with his identical twin brother and their crew, also carried out the planking and paving of many San Francisco streets. Charles Gough named Octavia Street after their sister, Octavia Gough.

Following the invention of the cable car during the 1870s, the Western Addition developed as a Victorian streetcar suburb and, beginning in 1892 boasted the construction of a grand new stone church designed by Arthur Page Brown, Jr.

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Past Archive articles:

Following up on the Rev. Izabella Sempari’s sermon last Sunday, and her enlightening discussion of The Book of Common Prayer and its Lectionary, did you know…

that the first known use of the prayer book in a service held in our country was very nearby? It was celebrated by the Rev. Francis Fletcher, priest of the Church of England, and chaplain of Sir Francis Drake in the place now known as Drake’s Bay, in Marin County.

Between June 17 and July 23, 1579, their ship, the Golden Hinde, was in the cove for “patching up and watering.” Services were held during that time on land, and St. John Baptist’s Day (now June 24th) is the date on which the historic first event is celebrated.  

To commemorate this “Prayer Book Service,” a massive blue sandstone Celtic “Prayer Book Cross” was erected in Golden Gate Park, to coincide with the San Francisco Midwinter Fair of 1894. It stands 57 feet tall and is made of 68 pieces of stone weighing 600,000 pounds. Its inscription states “First Christian Service in the English Tongue On Our Coast, First Use of the Book of Common Prayer in Our Country, One of the First Recorded Missionary Prayers On Our Continent.”

For driving directions, search with “Prayer Book Cross” on your cell phone.

Kelley, The Rev. D.O. History of the Diocese of California. Forgotten Books. London. 2018. Paperback. 471 pp. P. 2.

The Feast of Pentecost, just past, marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus, and is celebrated as the beginning of the Church in the Christian world.

Our own beginning here at Trinity+St. Peter’s, originally “Trinity Church,” harkens back to the California Gold Rush. On the morning of Jan. 24, 1848, James Marshall was inspecting the saw mill that he and his crew were erecting for John Sutter. The night before, they had diverted water through the mill to wash away loose dirt and gravel. On that fateful morning, Marshall noticed shining flecks of metal left by the running water. He showed the flecks to his crew. Soon news of their discovery spread and set off a “rush to the mines” of unprecedented magnitude. In 1848 approximately 14,000 non-Indigenous people lived in California. By the end of 1849 that population had risen to nearly 100,000 and by 1852 had increased to 250,000.

Late in the year of 1848, six influential San Franciscan men appealed to the Episcopal Church’s General Board of Missions in New York for a missionary priest to come to San Francisco. The Board appointed the Rev. Dr. John Ver Mehr, whose departure was delayed by a bout of smallpox. Ver Mehr and his family did not depart until Feb. 1949, and traveled by ship around Cape Horn.

A second group of San Franciscans, concerned about the delay, petitioned friends in New York. They sent the Rev. Flavel S. Mines, who had been the Board’s second choice. He sailed to the Isthmus of Panama, traveled overland, and then caught a ship north to San Francisco. He arrived on July 4, 1949, 2 months before Ver Mehr. On Sunday July 8th, the Rev. Flavel Mines held the first services in the dining room of the American House on Stockton Street. Services were held again on July 15 and 22nd. On July 22nd a meeting was held to organize the first Episcopal Church west of the Rocky Mountains, called Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and known colloquially as “the Mother Protestant Episcopal Church of the Pacific Coast.”

Soon after the Rev. Dr. Ver Mehr and his family arrived in August, the two clergymen became warm friends. Subsequently, Grace Church was organized and opened for services on July 20, 1850 with the Rev. Dr. Ver Mehr as its rector. The Pacific Coast Diocese was organized soon thereafter.

To be continued….

Bonnell, Nick. “Trinity, San Francisco ‘Mother Church’ of the Pacific Coast,” Pacific Church News, June/July 1999, Vol. 137, No. 3. Pp. 6-8.

(Please note: Nick Bonnell served as a past archivist for Trinity Episcopal Church.)

Kelley, the Rev. Douglas Ottinger. History of the Diocese of California. Forgotten Books, FB & c Ltd. London. 2018. Paperback. 471 pp. at pp. 4-10.

The very first services of Trinity, San Francisco – “the Mother Episcopal Church of the Pacific Coast” – were held by the Rev. Flavel S. Mines in July, 1849 in the dining room of the American Hotel on Stockton St. The Rev. Mines formally opened Trinity Church to the 200 generous congregants gathered there, and who had “tossed more than $6,000” in gold dust, nuggets and coins (equivalent to $227,763 today) into the collection plates before the sermon began.  It was an auspicious welcome from these true Forty-niners.

At the first vestry meeting held that same month, a committee was formed to acquire or oversee the construction of the first church building. They purchased a lot at the southwest corner of Powell and Jackson streets, and hired a contractor to erect the first Episcopal Church (later described as “a rough wooden hall”) in the city. In total, the cost was $7,950.45.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Dr. J. L. Ver Mehr was traveling by ship with his family around Cape Horn. They were bound for San Francisco, also in answer to the original 1848 request from “six influential men” of San Francisco for an Episcopal priest to lead a flock of parishioners, and they knew nothing of the Rev. Mines. The Ver Mehr family arrived in September, 1850 only to find Trinity Church already organized and its first building nearing completion.

Very soon thereafter, the Rev. Mines invited the Rev. Dr. Ver Mehr to give a guest sermon to the Trinity congregation at the American Hotel, their temporary quarters. “From that day Flavel Mines was to me a brother,” Ver Mehr wrote in his 1877 memoir. “Together we worked, together we suffered tribulation, during the three years he remained among us, for on the 8th of August, 1852, I assisted at his burial.”

On Oct. 29, 1850 the first service was held in the new Trinity Church building, located on the southwest corner of Powell and Jackson streets. The Rev. Dr. J.L. Ver Mehr, wasting no time after his first Pacific Coast sermon, organized Grace Church, and in the next month, November 1850, Grace opened its doors on Powell Street, just half a block north of the new Trinity building, near the corner of John Street. He explained, “[f]rom my parsonage, looking up to the south I could see Trinity chapel with its cross, standing on a higher hill. It was accidental that the two chapels were so near. Our lot was given when the location of Trinity was not known…” To be continued…

Bonnell, Nick. “Trinity, San Francisco ‘Mother Church’ of the Pacific Coast,” Pacific Church News, June/July 1999, Vol. 137, No. 3. Pp. 6-8.

O’Brien, Robert, “The Story of Trinity Church,” San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 26, 1949, quoting Checkered Life In the Old and New World, by the Rev. J. L. Ver Mehr (A.L. Bancroft and Co., San Francisco, 1877) Westphalia Press, An Imprint of Policy Studies Organization, Washington D.C. 2018.

The first church built by Trinity’s congregation was a boxy wooden affair erected in a few short months at the corner of Powell and Jackson Streets in San Francisco. During its first year, 1850, the vestry graciously voted to give the Rev. Mines an annual stipend of $6,000, and encouraged him to return to New York to gather his family and bring them out to San Francisco to make their permanent home.

This was no easy turnaround jaunt, as the transcontinental railroad had yet to be constructed. (Construction did not begin until 1863.) Such a journey, for all but the most rugged, entailed traveling by ship either south to Panama, crossing the isthmus overland, and completing another voyage up the east coast to New York, or south and all the way around Cape Horn, and then up the entire east coast of South and North America to New York. Many arduous months of planning and travel were required in both directions, whichever route one chose.

However, the Rev. Mines was an inveterate traveler, having previously been a Presbyterian missionary to the West Indies. He set about his journey and returned to San Francisco in the following year, with his wife, son, and mother-in-law, only to discover that a devastating fire had wiped out much of San Francisco’s business district. It had also been constructed primarily of wood and there was, as yet, no Fire Department. Furthermore, the incomes of several Trinity parishioners had also gone up in smoke, making the $6,000 stipend no longer feasible. The Mines family income was reduced to “the drippings of the Sunday plate.” [The current value of $1 USD from 1850 is $37.47. The $6,000 salary would be worth $224,820 today.]

Undeterred, Mines proposed to the vestry that the wooden church be replaced with a larger building, constructed better to resist fire and to accommodate the burgeoning congregation. Notes from 1850 explain that “Since the opening of the Church of the Holy Trinity, every seat had been occupied each Sunday, and often many persons were turned away, not being able to obtain standing room.” The proposed structure was to be built of English corrugated iron and located closer to Market Street where the business community was beginning to relocate. And, also at the Rev. Mines’s suggestion, it was the women of the parish, rather than the vestry, who raised the funds needed for the new building, variously reported as $50,000 to $65,000 [or $1,873,500 – $2,435,550 in current dollars].

On Jan. 25, 1852, the Rev. Mines preached his first sermon in the new church, renamed Trinity Church and Parish, located at the corner of Pine and Kearney Streets. Unfortunately, by this time he had contracted tuberculosis and did not live to see his new church beyond its first year. Mines died on August 5, 1852 at the age of 41, and was buried beneath the chancel of the church building. His good friend, the Rev. Dr. J. L. Ver Mehr, rector of Grace Church, officiated at the funeral service. He was greatly loved and respected during his tenure, and upon his death Trinity’s parishioners wore black armbands. Our founding rector’s remains have been relocated twice, and presently rest be                neath the chancel in our current building.

The text of the Rev. Mines’s sermon of Jan. 25, 1852 as well as many of his other publications, are still in print.

To be continued….

Bonnell, Nick. “Trinity, San Francisco ‘Mother Church’ of the Pacific Coast,” Pacific Church News, June/July 1999, Vol. 137, No. 3. Pp. 6-8.,and%20the%20U.S.%20Atlantic%20coast.

“Trinity Episcopal Church”, article about our history, author unknown, available upon request.