Trinity United Methodist Church is one of Durham’s very oldest churches, founded in 1832, before Durham was even a town. Trinity members have become pastors and bishops. One lay member of Trinity became the governor of North Carolina. Throughout its history, Trinity has been part of Durham through its service and worship.
The year 1832 marks the beginning of Methodist church history in this area. The first Methodist church organized with some thirty members had for its first home a small school house on the Raleigh road about one mile east of Durham. For many years this little building served as both church and school and some of its congregation formed the nucleus of the initial Methodist church organized in the little hamlet of Durham.
In 1861, the land where Trinity now sits was purchased and a small pine church was built that seated two hundred people. Original members included Washington Duke and his family. During the Civil War, the building was damaged by Sherman’s army. It was used as a temporary hospital for the wounded soldiers. For a time after the war a women’s seminary was conducted in the church building.
Trinity was originally known as the Orange Grove Church and then Durham Methodist Church (1866) as the town of Durham grew around it during the reconstruction period. In 1870, it had a membership of 200. In 1881, a new building (pictured) was built and the membership grew to 550.
In 1886, the church was renamed Trinity Methodist and a West End Church was established on the other end of Main St. for workers of Durham’s growing manufacturing business. Trinity would be part of the launch of many additional United Methodist congregations throughout Durham.
By 1923, Trinity’s membership had reached 1031, exactly 1,000 more than the original congregation that formed in 1832. On January 21, 1923 the church was completely destroyed by fire. Trinity’s current building was built in 1924. The steeple was added in 1985.
Historical information was drawn from Benjamin Guy Childs, Centennial History of Trinity Methodist Church, (1961) , Jean Bradley Anderson, Durham County (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990) , and Hand-Book of Durham, The Educator Co., 1895.