Was Nannie Jackson Trinity UMC’s unofficial founder?


Nannie Rider Jackson’s inner teenager must have been beaming at the May 21, 1905, dedication of the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church South in Salisbury.

Over 111 years after that dedication, the same edifice of Trinity United Methodist Church celebrates 150 years of the church’s existence.

And she was there for those early beginnings.

The church history describes her presence at the 1866 meeting organizing the church that would become Trinity.

“A serious-minded young teen-aged girl, Miss Nannie Rider, heard of the meeting and attended the discussions. Her intense interest and dedication to the formation of the new church won her the distinction of being the only woman present at that historic occasion, which brought Southern Methodism to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.”

Annie Frances “Nannie” Rider, born in 1849, was 17 when she attended the first meeting.

The founding fathers of the church back in 1866 were James Cannon, Hugh Jackson, William B. Tilghman, Isaac Jackson, Henry Brewington, Levin J. Dashiell, William W. Gordy and Levin Dorman.

Nearly 40 years later, Nannie attended the dedication of the newest and grandest church structure. On that dedication day, the pastor, the Rev. Thomas N. Potts, could be seen wearing “broad fatherly smiles” as described by the Salisbury Advertiser.

No doubt Nannie wore the same broad smiles, as chief benefactor along with her husband, Maryland Governor Elihu Everett Jackson, with the donation of the church property.

The 1905 dedication was a family affair, for the afternoon service of the daylong celebration included the baptisms of two grandchildren, William Wirt Leonard Jr. and Elihu Everett Jackson III.

And the magnificent stained glass windows were part of the Rider and Jackson tributes.

The Division Street windows included “Ascension” dedicated in memory of her father Dr. William H. Rider. The dual windows called “Angels in Adoration” included one dedicated to the memory of Letitia L. Rider and Alice B. Rider, the other dedicated to her grandparents Noah and Elizabeth Rider.

The windows on the High Street side included two placed by Mrs. William Wirt Leonard dedicated to both her grandparents Hugh and Sarah Jackson and her other grandparents John and Eleanor Rider.

One window was given by William B. Tilghman. Two others were presented by James Cannon, one of which was in memory of his wife, Lydia. In total there were eight sanctuary windows and two mosaic panels attributed to Louis Comfort Tiffany.

The Division Street church structure was built on property affected by the 1886 fire that destroyed much of Salisbury, the residence and blacksmith shop of George E. Sirman, spelled different ways.

The first church structure was wooden, built at the corner of Water and Bond Streets, approximately where today the rear of the courthouse is located. The church burned in 1885 and was rebuilt, only to suffer in the 1886 fire.

A third building was erected at that site, one that later became home to the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church after Trinity relocated.

So one can only imagine the thoughts of Nannie Rider Jackson as she attended the 1905 dedication of the stately permanent church structure.

Was she remembering the early years as she witnessed the formation of the church? She may have been considered only an onlooker of the early church, but was she thinking of herself as an unofficial founder?

She must have smiled broadly as she looked at the stained glass windows illuminating the structure she donated, reflecting on 40 years of her intense interest in the church since the early years as that serious minded teenager.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury. Contact her at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com

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