PARISH, PRINCESS ANNE
BY THE REV. C. B. BRYAN, D. D., PETERSBURG, VA.
The Eastern Shore Chapel, built in 1754, is the last of
three brick Colonial churches, which once stood in Princess Anne County. The old parish of Lynnhaven
takes its name from the Lynnhaven river, famous for its oysters; which, in turn,
probably took its name from the town of Lynn, near the mouth of the river Ouse,
in the county of Norfolk, in
England. Lynnhaven Parish was set off from Elizabeth River Parish in 1643, and
its bounds covered the area now represented by the county of Princess Anne; but it was at that time a
parish in Lower Norfolk County.
Princess Anne county,
with its parish of Lynnhaven, was set off from Lower Norfolk county in 1691. The bounds of this
old parish remained unchanged for 252 years, but in 1895 East Lynnhaven Parish,
in which the Eastern Shore chapel lies, was set off from Lynnhaven Parish, for
reasons which appear scarcely necessary. This paper will take account of old
Lynnhaven Parish, covering Princess Anne County.
To one who loves the lower country and the salt water, and to whom the earliest traditions of Virginia life are dear, there are few more interesting localities in the State. It is pre-eminently a Tidewater county; washed by the broad Atlantic on the east, with a long range of sand dunes from north to south on its shore; penetrated by the waters of Currituck Sound on the south, with the best duck shooting in the country; cut up by branches of the Elizabeth river on the west, with charming old homes scattered along its banks, and by Lynnhaven river on the north; and with Chesapeake Bay lying on its whole northern side, it is a land rich in all the scenes, and life, and products of our sea and rivers, and it soon attracted the early settlers in Virginia. The soil is a deep loam, covered, where not cleared, with forests of pine and oak and holly on the higher parts, and in the extensive swamps with huge gum trees, cypress and junipers, and with a tangle of many kinds of vines and climbers. The red cedars love the banks of the river shores, and here and there great live-oaks, ages old, are landmarks in the neighborhoods. The long gray moss swings from the forest trees, and the undergrowth is fragrant with its green myrtle and with many rare plants, not often found in Virginia north of Lynnhaven Parish; conspicuous among these are the yellow jessamine, wreathing the fence rows in spring, and in the summer the gorgeous yellow flowers of the great lotus, or water chinquapin (wanquapin, the Indians called it), with its cone-shaped seed vessels and its hard nuts, standing in the fresh water ponds near the seashore.
On the northeast point of the Parish of Lynnhaven, at Cape Henry, our English ancestors first touched and claimed our land. And from the settlements on the northern side of James River they began at an early period to settle the southern shore opposite Old Point. In 1620 one John Wood, a shipwright, received a patent of land on Elizabeth River because of the excellent ship timber and good shores for launching there. The earliest settlements on the southern shore of the Day were at first included in the corporation of Elizabeth City, now Elizabeth City County, from which direction the settlers came; and in 1629 Adam Thoroughgood (a progenitor of our bishop-coadjutor, Dr. Tucker) lived in what is now Lynnhaven Parish, but was a representative of the Borough of Elizabeth City in the House of Burgesses. His quaint house, still standing, is, perhaps, the oldest residence in the State.
The.Church followed these early settlers before any separate county organization was effected. And here, as in many cases, the parish is older than the county. Elizabeth River Parish, whose earliest recorded church was in existence as early as 1635, is older than Lower Norfolk county, which was set off from Nansemond in 1649; while Lynnhaven Parish, which was set off from Elizabeth River Parish in 1643, is forty-eight years older than Princess Anne county, the oldest records of which are of 1637.
The early days of the Church in Lower Norfolk county were troubled by a Puritan element, which had come into Virginia in 1641, during that political and ecclesiastical upheaval which was convulsing the mother country.
A prominent clergyman, the Reverend Thomas Harrison, who had been chaplain to Governor Berkeley, turned Puritan in 1644, was obliged to leave Jamestown, and went, first to Nansemond, where the Puritans were strong, and then into Lower Norfolk county.
Whether he had charge of both parishes in the county, I cannot state, but certain it is that the vestry of Elizabeth River Parish presented him before the Governor and Council "for not reading the booke of Common Prayer and for not adminstring the sacrament of Baptisme according to the Cannons and for not catechising on Sunnedayes in the afternoone according to the act of Assembly," with the result that he was obliged to leave the Colony, which he did, going to Maryland. Such was the loyalty of the people of Lower Norfolk County to the Church in 1645.
The vestries were no less careful of the morals of the people, and the same year which records the presentment of Mr. Harrison for nonconformity records the presentment by Edward Hill and John Martin, church wardens of Lynnhaven, of parties for immorality; and in 1674, another party guilty of slander was condemned to be flogged, "and shall stand three Saboath dayes in the parish church of Lynnhaven, the congragacon there being present, with a paper on his head written with these words following with Capitall letters, (vizt) I ________________ als yeoman doe Stand here to acknowledge the great wrong I have done in the slandering Mrs. Hall with my tongue. And the said __________als yeoman shall pay the Court charges als execucon, and the church wardens of Lynhaven parish or eyther of them are to see the due performance of this order as they will answer the contrary to theire perrills."
In 1648 the Reverend Robert Powis, who had been minister of the churches in Lower Norfolk ever since Parson Harrison deserted the ministry of the church, was inducted minister of both Elizabeth River and Lynnhaven Parishes.
In 1649, on the petition
of Parson Powis, it was ordered by the court that the parish of Lynnhaven shall
call a vestry on Easter Monday next and choose church wardens. Lancaster Lovett
was one of the church wardens chosen, and, in 1650, it was recorded that he
presented ______ unto the court "for a common blasphemer and swearer, both at
home and abroad, and for a most impudent and shameful carriage towards a widow
woman, being her servant. It is therefore ordered that a warrant issue forth for
the _______________ ________________ for his personal appearance at the next
court to make answer for his presentment."
In 1649 Parson Powis was minister of Lynnhaven alone, another minister being now in charge of Elizabeth River Parish, and it is most notable as illustrating the unflinching discipline administered by the wardens and courts of the county, that when this minister of Elizabeth River Parish was himself found guilty of immorality, the court promptly took his case in hand, and on November 10th, 1649, ordered that "whereas Mr. _____________ _______ , minister of Elizabeth River Parish, hath acknowledged to have committed the grievous sin of ________; now upon ye hearty contrition of the said Mr. ________ concerning his said foul offense, presented to the Cort in writing under his own hand, it is therefore ordered, that he do make the same confession in both churches by reading the said writing to the people two several Sundayes Vizt Sunday next Come Senight at ye parish Church & ye Sabboath day following at ye Chappell."
It must not be imagined from these presentments that this section was notoriously immoral, although the case of the clergyman was certainly exceptional. The records of the mother country and of the Colonies north and south of Virginia show that this period was marked by a general laxity of morals. But what the records of these courts and parishes indicate is a conscientious and unflinching discharge of their duty on the part of the church wardens and county courts.
The Reverend Robert Powis died between the 2d of December, 1651, and the 21st of December, 1652, when an inventory of his estate was reported. It is most interesting to notice what this old parson died possessed of. It was as follows, and the values are given in pounds of tobacco:
Seaven Milch Cowes
Itm six Calves of a yere ould apeece & ye advantage at....................................................1100
Itm Two Steeres of fower yeres ould apeece or thereabouts at...........................................0900
Itm Three steeres of two yeres ould apiece.....................................................................1050
Itm two younge Sowes & and one barrowe shott at...........................................................0200
Itm two Barrowes & two Sowes at..................................................................................0800
Itm: one feather bedd, one boulster, & one ould blanket...................................................0400
Itm two paire ot ould Canvas sheetes & one holland sheete..............................................0160
Itm two ould pillow beeres, five towells, two palre fustain drawers one
ould shirte five ould bands, two paire of Cuffes................................................................0060
Itm three Coates, three Cassukes, two suits of cloathes two paire of
stockings all ould at.....................................................................................................0250
Itm two & thirtye bookes at...........................................................................................0500
Itm one chest, one box 2: cases & two ould tables, one couch,
& one Chaire??????......................................................................................................0350
Itm 3: ould
Iron potts, 3 old skilletts one fryinge pann one drippinge
pan one fire shovell, two paire of tonges, one chaffing dish...............................................0200
Itm Six pewter dishes, one pewter salt, one pewter Candlesticks one
drinkinge Cupp, one dram cupp, one hatchett, one hammer all at.......................................0070
Itm Six barrells of Corne...............................................................................................0480
Itm one boate, fower oares, & two skulls........................................................................0600
Itm one pestle, one brasse kettle & five ould trays..........................................................0080
five bills amountinge to ye Some of......................320
Received of Coll: Yeardley with Caske...................600
Totall some is?.................................11620 1 tob
Appraisers Owen Hayes their markes :/"
an inventory like this throws upon the life of the country parson in Virginia in
the early Colonial period! After the death of Parson Powis, there appears to
have been no minister in Lower Norfolk county until December, 1654, when the
grand jury made presentment of "the general breach of the Sabbath throughout the
whole county, which we conceive is most chiefly occasioned through want of a
godly minister among us in the county, wherefore we humbly pray and desire yt
some speedy course may be taken to secure an able minister, and some employed
for yt purpose, lett the charge be what it will. We for our parts (and hope all
ye rest of ye county) shall be verry willing and ready to undergo."
Vestries were accordingly ordered to be held in the several parishes, and a committee composed of Colonel Francis Yeardley, Major Thomas Lambert and others were authorized to appoint a minister of God's word for the parishes of Lower Norfolk. The committee made Captain Thomas Willoughby their special agent in this matter.
The next minister mentioned in Lower Norfolk is Mr. Mallory, who, we conclude, was employed by the committee empowered to procure a minister. He received a bill of tobacco in 1657. Next Mr. George Alford Is mentioned as minister in 1658, and Symon Barrowes received a thousand pounds of tobacco for dieting the minister for half a year.
During the latter half of the seventeenth century several accusations of witchcraft were made against unfortunate persons in Lower Norfolk and Princess Anne county. In May, 1655, at a court held at the house of Mr. Edward Hill, in Lynnhaven, commissioners were appointed to investigate "divers dangerous and scandalous speeches raised by some persons conserning several women in this county, terming them to be witches, whereby their reputations have been much impaired and their lives brought in question." The result of this investigation we do not know. Later, in 1675, Captain William Carver, who afterwards lost his life in Bacon's Rebellion, gave information "against lone the wife of Lazarus Jenking, concerning her being familiar with evil spirits and using witchcraft," etc. Her case was also ordered to be investigated, with what result does not appear. Again, in 1699, in Princess Anne county, John Byrd and his wife, Anne, brought suit against Charles Kinsey for defamation of Anne's character, declaring that she was a witch, and that she had ridden him along the seaside and home to his house, and that they, John and Anne, were in league with the devil; in which suit the defendant professed that in his thought and apprehensions, and to the best of his knowledge, they did serve him so. The whole matter being put to a jury, they brought in a verdict as follows: "We the jury do find for the defendant. Hugh Campbell, foreman." So John Byrd and Anne, his wife, had no remedy, but remained suspected of witchcraft.
But the unique trial for witchcraft in Lynnhaven Parish was that of Grace Sherwood. James Sherwood and Grace, his wife, were very poor and ignorant people, as the pitiful inventory of their goods plainly shows. But in spite of her pleasant name, Grace got the reputation of being a witch. In 1698 one of her neighbors said she had bewitched their cotton; another said she had come into her at night and rid her, and went out of the keyhole or crack of the door like a black cat; and on these accusations poor Grace was brought before the justices of the county, which cost her heavily, not only in reputation and distress of mind, but in heavy expenses. The family became poorer than ever. Seven years passed, during which James Sherwood died, and Grace became a widow. And now she was again accused by one Luke Hill, and again brought into court; and after suffering the law's delay, her house and every suspicious place about it was ordered to be searched carefully for all images and such like things, which might in any way strengthen the suspicion. And further, "a jury of Anciente and knowing women" was summoned to search Grace herself bodily for suspicious indications, and their findings were not favorable to Grace. This time she narrowly escaped ducking, the weather being bad. The case and the evidence was laid before the Council Board of the Colony; but Mr. Attorney General said the charges were too vague; and the matter was referred back to the county. After more delay and costs, Grace was ordered to be tried in the water. Now, the approved way of trying a witch in the water required that she should be "stripped naked and cross bound, the right thumb to the left toe, and the left thumb to the right toe," and so cast into deep waters. Whether these requirements were complied with in Grace's case we do not know.
The spot on Lynnhaven river whither she was carried, and where she was bound and put in above man's depth, that they might "try her how she swims," is still called Witch Duck. It is a very pretty spot. If Grace was a witch, she must have been a water witch. For when thus tried, she was seen to be "swimming when therein and bound, contrary to custom and the judgment of the spectators." So she was taken out and again searched by more Anciente and knowing women, who brought in the condemning report that "she was not like them, nor like any other women that they knew."
It is gratifying to note, in connection with this one witch ducking in Virginia, that the sheriff was instructed "therein always to have a care of her life to preserve her from drowning." What was to be done with such a woman? The good people of Princess Anne were not prepared to kill her. So she was again put in jail to be brought to future trial. As there is no record of a further trial, it is likely she was released. She lived a good many years. Her will is dated 1733, and was recorded in 1740, in which year it is probable that she died. The common tradition is that Grace Sherwood brought rosemary across the sea in an egg-shell to Princess Anne, where the fragrant shrub still abounds.
It must be remembered that at that period only a few people were brave enough to declare their disbelief in witchcraft. As late as 1758 John Wesley wrote: "The English in general, and indeed most of the men of learning in Europe, have given up all accounts of witches 'as mere old wives' fables. I am sorry for It, and I willingly take the opportunity of entering my solemn protest against this violent complement which so many that believe the Bible pay to those who do not believe it." The last trial for witchcraft in New England was in 1692.
As in the case of Elizabeth River Parish, the earliest church was situated on the northern shores of the parish, which were the first to be settled. It was doubtless, at first, a wooden church, but in 1723 a brick church had been built. This brick church lay within about a mile of the Chesapeake, on the west side of Lynnhaven river, and just where that river ran into a long estuary, which extended east and west, connecting Linkhorn Bay, Broad Bay, Lynnhaven River, and at that time emptying into the Chesapeake at Liittle Creek, the dividing line between Lynnhaven and Elizabeth River Parishes. This topography has been strangely altered by a circumstance which will be mentioned later.
In 1723 the Reverend James Tennant was minister of the parish, Mr. Maxmillian Boush was church warden and Colonel Edward Mosley, Capt. John Mosley, Capt. Henry Chapman, Charles Sayer, Mr. William Elgood and Capt. Francis Land were vestrymen. Charles Sayer was clerk of the vestry, Mr. James Nimmo was clerk of the church and of one chapel, there being at that time two chapels in the parish besides the church. The roof of this brick church was found in 1724 to be too rotten to be repaired, which, considering the quality of shingles used in those days, indicates a very considerable age. A new roof was ordered to be put on, and the roof was ordered to be tarred, a practice still sometimes resorted to in old Princess Anne. It does not produce a thing of beauty, but comes near lasting forever.
At the same time Captain Hillary Mosley was given leave to gratify himself by the erection, at his own cost, of a pew for his family over the chancel door, taking up as little room as possible. These family gallery pews were a highly esteemed feature of our Colonial churches.
The Reverend James Tennant continued minister until 1726, but after November, 1726, when his salary of 16,000 pounds of tobacco was recorded in the year's accounts, nothing more was heard of him; perhaps he had died. On November 2d, 1726, Mr. Nicholas Jones, minister, was employed temporarily to preach at the Brick church, and at each of the chapels once every month, and for each sermon he preached he was to receive 400 pounds of tobacco in cask, to be levied for him in the next parish levy, which might be something like a year later. One of the embarrassing difficulties which Colonial parsons had to contend with, was pay long deferred. This paucity of sermons was to be supplemented by Mr. James Nimmo reading every Sunday in the Brick church, and John Dawley reading in the Eastern Shore chapel, Mr. Peacock reading in the Upper chapel, sometimes called Pungo or Machipungo. This continued through the years 1727-'28.
In 1728, while trying to secure a minister, the vestry had a curious difficulty with the Reverend Thomas Baly, "who contrary to the desire of this vestry insisted on being our minister." The vestry sent Mr. James Nimmo as their representative to the Governor to secure his assistance in this awkward case, and as might be expected, the Reverend Thomas Baly was removed.
In 1729 the Reverend John Marsden was employed on the same terms that Mr. Jones had been, and on November 14, 1729, the Reverend Henry Barlow was regularly employed as minister of the parish at a salary of 16,000 pounds of tobacco in cask.
There were in the parish at this time, a church and two chapels, that is, the old Brick church on the bay shore, an old wooden chapel, standing where the Eastern Shore chapel now stands, about three miles from the sea, which old chapel was replaced by a new frame building not long afterwards, and the Pungo chapel, already referred to, about four miles southeast of Princess Anne courthouse. There were also two reading places, one on Knot's Island, in the southeast part of the parish, and one in the Black Water District. The old Brick church on the bay shore was found insufficient and badly located. It was given up as a church in March, 1736, and turned into a schoolhouse. How long it was used as a schoolhouse is not known, but it came to the following curious end: some of the parishioners were engaged in the fishing business, and had their fishing shores on the bay shore north of the estuary running east and west, on the southern shore of which the church was situated. This made it necessary for them to cross this estuary, or else follow it westward several miles and so reach the bay shore, and then come back to the fishing points, opposite their homes. To avoid this detour they determined to cut a short and narrow waterway from a point opposite where the Lynnhaven river ran into the estuary, out to the Chesapeake. It was a considerable undertaking, but they accomplished it with consequences far greater than any one at first imagined. The winter storms from the northeast opened the new inlet more and more until it became a broad, deep current; the sands encroached upon the old outlet and practically filled it up; but most serious of all the waters of the new inlet cut closer and closer to the church grounds until most of the graveyard was submerged, and the tombs and bones of many of the dead found their last resting place in the bottom of Lynnhaven river, at a point still called Church Point.
Bishop Meade reports a communication to the above effect, and the present writer heard it repeated and substantiated about 1879, by the venerable Mr. Solomon Keeling, whose family had owned land for generations on Lynnhaven river, and who said that some of his ancestors had assisted in cutting the ditch which is now represented by the deep, strong mouth of Lynnhaven river. The Bishop's informant added as a finishing touch, that "in 1819 Commodore Decatur and another eminent person still living (i. e., when the Bishop wrote) were bathing there, and in the middle of the river were enabled, by feeling with their toes, to decipher the names of those they (the tombstones) had covered before the waters of the bay had carried away the churchyard."
In 1736, when the old church was turned into a schoolhouse, a new church, larger and more centrally located, was built on one acre of ground at the Ferry Farm. This came later to be known as the Donation church, from its being near a donation of land given by a subsequent rector, of whom we shall hear. It was ordered to be sixty-five feet long, thirty feet wide on the inside, the walls to be fifteen feet high and three bricks thick from the ground to the water table, and two bricks thick above the water table to the top. This church was received by the vestry from Peter Malbone, the builder, on June 25, 1736. In the same year the glebe house was repaired and added to. The new church was evidently a matter of pride in the parish, and the wardens had to take extra care to get the congregations properiy located and settled in the church. Therefore it was ordered by the vestry, July 10, 1736, that "For preserving order and decency, peace and harmony in the new church 'tis resolved and the vestry do hereby assign and appoint the two opposite great pews for the Magistrates and their wives; the next adjoining pew on the north side of ye Church for the family of the Thoroughgoods as their privilege in consideration of the gift of our glebe by that family; the third great pew on ye north side for ye Vestrymen and their wives; and ye pew on ye north side of ye Communion table is consigned to the family and name of the Walkes as a benefit formerly granted them in consideration of gifts and services made and done by Col. Tho. Walke dec'd, and Col. Antho. Walke, Sen'r; the next great pew on the south side for the elder women of good repute and magistrates' daughters; the other great pew on ye same side for such women as ye church wardens with the approbation of the Vestry shall think fit to place there."
"Resolved, That Mr. Patrick Hackett Is a fit person to sit up in the gallery to keep everybody in order, and if the boys or any other person will be not restrained but do any indecency, he is hereby required to report the same to the church wardens, who are desired to take proper measures to punish such disorderly person: Likewise Mr. Francis Mosely is appointed to look out of doors and if any person or persons are sitting and talking or committing any indecency during divine service he is hereby empowered to commit them to the care of the constable, and inform the church wardens thereof, to be dealt with as the law requires?Char. Sayer, CI. Vestry."
But it was easier for the vestry to pass these resolutions than to get them accepted and complied with. Some of the congregation seem to have resented the manner in which they were disposed of, and Mr. Hackett in the gallery, Mr. Walke the church warden, and Mr. Mosely, who was "appointed to look out of doors," found their offices no sinecures when they undertook to arrange and settle the congregation; and at their next meeting on October 16th the vestry had to resolve further that "Whereas several of the inhabitants of this parish has not thought fit to accept off, and others to keep to the seats the church wardens have assigned to and placed them in the new church lately built to the great disturbance and disorder of ye congregation; to prevent which disorder in ye said church for the future, we, the vestry of ye said church, have met at ye parish church, and after due consideration have assigned and Registered the adjacent persons and familys according to their several stations, ye most proper seats or pews; do hereby publish and declare that who or whatsoever person or persons shall assume to themselves a power or take the liberty to place themselves or others in any other seats or pews in ye said church, shall be esteemed a disorderly person, and may expect to be dealt with according to law; and we do further impower and appoint ye church wardens for the future to place all persons in the church of ye said parish. Teste, Char. Sayer, CI. Vestry."
Evidently the parish was in a ferment, and the vestry was exerting its utmost authority. But with what results we are not told. But now one visiting the spot sees the walls of the old Donation church standing in their plaintive dilapidation in the lonely woods, with the big trees growing up within its walls, where the coveted "great pews" used to be, and the disputants of former days lie about it in unmarked graves. Let us hope that in another world their spirits are at peace.
The accounts kept by these old vestries of their many and various duties are most interesting, and often they were beautifully kept. The salary of the rector was generally 16,000 pounds of tobacco. In Lynnhaven, Mr. Ezra Brook, clerk of the church, received 1,000 pounds for his services; Mr. William Keeling, clerk of the Eastern Shore chapel, also 1,000 pounds; and Mr. Andrew Peacock, clerk of the Upper chapel, a like 1,000 pounds.
The care of the poor was especially the vestry's charge. They seem not to have been kept in a poorhouse but scattered in households here and there in the parish, the householder receiving from 250 to 600 pounds of tobacco a year, according to the age and condition of the child or person. Every four years the parish had to be processioned under the direction of the vestry. For this purpose it was divided into precincts, Princess Anne being divided into ten. The precinct represented a neighborhood. The processioners at the time appointed went around the metes and bounds of every farm in the precinct, and settled all disputes about boundaries upon the spot. This having been twice done in any case by the processioners without an appeal being taken from their decision, gave a title from which there was no further appeal.
The doctor of the parish frequently appears in the church accounts, and in Princess Anne he not infrequently brought in bills for salivating some poor patient, which cost the parish 1,000 pounds of tobacco, and perhaps cost the patient his teeth.
The tobacco with which these various expenses were defrayed was raised by a yearly levy laid by the vestry upon the "tithables" in the parish; a "tithable" being a person from whom tithes or levies might be collected. At this period in Virginia, the tithables consisted of all male servants (white servants being intended), all negro servants, male or female, above the age of sixteen, and all Indian servants, male or female, above the age of sixteen. The levy varied according to the requirements of the year. Sometimes it was as much as 50 pounds of tobacco from each tithable, sometimes much less.
In 1739 a new chapel was ordered to be built to take the place of the old Puugo chapel. It was to be of brick, but it does not appear to have been done; at least, it is not recorded as having been received.
The Reverend Henry Barlow, who became minister in October, 1729, continued in charge of the parish until sometime in 1747?eighteen years. During his ministry many improvements were made; the Donation church was built and various additions were made to the glebe house and property.
In 1748 Mr. Barlow was succeeded by the Reverend Robert Dickson, who first appeared as minister of the parish in July of that year. He continued in charge until 1776, nearly twenty-eight years. During Mr. Dickson's ministry, in 1754, the present Eastern Shore chapel was built, the third church to be built at that spot. The second wooden chapel was still standing when the present brick chapel was built in 1754. In the order for its construction it is described as 35 feet long, 25 feet wide in the clear, with a convenient large gallery at the west end; the walls to be 18 feet high, with three windows on each side, two at the east end, and one in the gallery. "The Communion to be railed and ballusttred"; the walls to be two bricks and a half thick from the foundation to the water table, and two bricks thick upward; the windows to be of good crown glass, eight by ten inches, six lights by three beside the arch. The middle aisle to be five feet wide, with four wainscot pews, with two on the north and two on the south side thereof. The whole church to be completely painted, where it is requisite, a sky color. It was to be covered with heart cypress shingles.
In October, 1753, Mr. Joseph Mitchell, of Norfolk, contracted to build the chapel and undertook to finish it by Christmas, 1754, for 324 pounds, 10 shillings sterling. It was actually finished and received by the vestry March 12, 1755.
In 1772, 23,000 pounds of tobacco were raised for the purpose of building Pungo Chapel.
The long and uninterrupted ministry of the Reverend Thomas Dickson or Dixon, as his name was sometimes spelled, came to an end some time between the 25th of February and the 26th of November, 1776. The Register of the parish was then lodged with Mr. Edward Mosley, clerk of the Brick church (afterwards called Donation), that he might register all the births of the parish until further orders. The will of Mr. Dickson was admitted to record February 14, 1777. By it he made provision for the support of his widow, and then left his land and slaves in trust to the vestry for the purpose of establishing a free school for the education of orphan boys.
The vestry undertook to carry out the will, and after several attempts to secure a teacher, on December 8, 1780, they employed Mr. George Stephenson to keep the Dickson Free School, giving him the use of the plantation on easy conditions; among them that he should teach six poor children assigned him, and seventeen children on his own account, who would pay for their schooling.
The Church was now in troublous and revolutionary times, and Lynnhaven suffered accordingly. The Reverend Mr. Dickson had died in the great year 1776, when the full force of the spirit of the Revolution was abroad in the land, and nothing felt that force more disastrously than the Church. Not that the Church was opposed to the Revolution, for the Revolution was begun, sustained and consummated by the most prominent Churchmen in Virginia. In Princess Anne county, as in all the other counties, the vestrymen and officers of the church are found upon the county committees, who guided and sustained the Revolution throughout the country. Fourteen of the twentyfive names of that committee in Princess Anne in 1774-'75 are found among the vestry and officers of the church.
But not only was the whole country distracted and absorbed by the disturbances of the Revolution, but the men who were its avowed promoters, felt that there was much growing out of the connection between the Church and the State, which must needs be modified by the Revolution which they were advocating. It was at this period also that the Church was violently attacked by the Dissenters in Virginia, who were Revolutionists, not only as concerned civil questions, but still more violently in their hatred and opposition to the Church. They very naturally took advantage of the disturbances incident to the Revolution and of the difficulties growing out of the connection between the Church and the State, which difficulties the leaders of the Revolution, who were themselves Churchmen, were contending with and seeking to solve in the way which would involve least disturbance and loss to the religious interests of the country.
The Dissenters, however, were not at all concerned to avoid disturbance, but rather courted it; not to prevent any loss that might befall the Church, but did all in their power to destroy it; and by agitation and opposition in the parishes, as well as by appeals with which they flooded the Convention of the patriots, the large majority of whom were Churchmen, they hampered and weakened the influence of the Church in all directions, little regarding the invaluable work that the Church had done for the moral and religious civilization of the land, under unspeakable difficulties, from the very foundations of the country.
The weak point in the Church system in Virginia from the first, consisted in the fact that, while it was an Episcopal Church, it was at once without a Bishop and dependent upon an uncertain and scant supply of clergy. Naturally it fell into the hands of the vestries, and the records of the work of the vestries show what in the circumstances must be regarded as admirable faithfulness and efficiency on the part of these laymen. Especially do the records show devotion to the Church of their fathers, and a genuine effort to advance the moral and spiritual welfare of the country; but they worked as laymen, and their work was rarely balanced or sustained by sufficient clerical force. Their duties were manifold, covering the work of a number of salaried officials in our present county system, and this work they did without other compensation than the honor and satisfaction of serving the community. But the most marked characteristic of a Virginia vestry was the jealousy with which these men regarded their rights and liberties. They resented, and generally successfully, everything that they regarded as an encroachment upon their rights, whether made by the local parson, whom they generally managed to keep quite at their mercy, or by the Bishop's commissary, or by the Governor, or even if it was a decision fortified by the Attorney-General of the English Crown.
This spirit of independence which they had cultivated for many a year, was now bringing fruit in the Revolution; and they were more absorbed in the question of civil liberty than in any other. It is not surprising, therefore, that the set of men in Virginia, who composed, at once, the vestries in their several parishes, and who were also the magistrates, justices, burgesses, and from whom the Council Board of the Commonwealth was taken, were found in those days of political upheaval to be somewhat neglectful of what they regarded as the minor matters of the parish. Thus it was that for two full years after 1780 there was no vestry meeting in Princess Anne. This was complained of to the General Assembly, and in May, 1783, an act was passed dissolving the vestry of Lynnhaven, and ordering the election of another vestry. The sheriff acted as directed by the Assembly, and on November 7, 1783, made return of the new vestry, which consisted of twelve men, all but two or three of them vestrymen of the past, so that the affairs of the parish were still committed by the freeholders to the old hands.
The same Assembly which dissolved the vestry of Lynnhaven parish in 1783 established Kempsville, in Princess Anne County, to be a town.
In October, 1784, the General Assembly passed an act by which the minister and vestry of any parish became a corporation, or in the absence of a minister the vestry became incorporate. This act was to go into effect on Monday in Easter Week, being March 28, 1785, on which day all existing vestries were declared dissolved, and new vestries ordered to be elected on that Easter Monday, 1785, or else on the next fair day, in case that proved a foul day.
It may be noted that the same General Assembly of 1784 made it lawful for an ordained minister of any Christian society whatever to celebrate lawful marriages in Virginia, provided such minister received the license of the county so to do. And for even the Quakers and Menonites to solemnize their own marriages, either with or without a ceremony, only provided it was done publicly. This Assembly also declared certain marriages to be legal, which had been performed by laymen in the absence of any minister, or by others who had no legal right to perform marriages. So the Church parson was not nearly so essential after 1784 as he had been.
Acting in accord with this direction of the Assembly, an election for vestry to take place on Monday in Easter Week, 1785, was advertised. When this meeting was approaching, the vestry, which had been elected in Lynnhaven, in 1783, employed the Reverend Charles Pettigrew to be minister of the parish and teacher of the Dickson Free School, telling him of the election of a new vestry, which was to take place on the 28th of March on this same month. Mr. Pettigrew accepted, but did not come in time to fulfil his engagement, and was not accepted as minister.
The new vestry, under the act of its corporation, was elected on April 14, 1785, and subscribed to be conformable to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church. All of them were old vestrymen. As the property now became incorporated in their own hands, the following account of the parish was recorded and a copy ordered to be sent to the next County Court.
An Account Of Property Belonging To Lynnhaven Parish, April 14, 1785:
About 200 acres of
land as a glebe, with an old dwelling-house and a few outhouses, all in bad
order; about 50 acres of land, with an old house built for the reception of the
poor and a kitchen, both wanting repair.
Belonging to the Mother Church: A large silver tankard and a silver salver; a cup washed with gold; three pewter plates; one pulpit cloth and broadcloth covering for the Communion Table; three sets of Seeker's sermons, seven volumes each; volume of Tillotson's sermons; three good Bibles and two old ditto; three Common Prayer books, large.
Belonging to the Eastern Shore Chapel: A silver tankard; a silver cup and a small silver salver; three pewter plates and one pewter basin; one draper table-cloth and one napkin for the Communion Table.
Belonging to Pungo Chapel:
A pewter tankard, two glass tumblers, two pewter plates, one table-cloth and two
napkins for the Communion Table, a few old cushions at the mother church and the
Eastern Shore chapel.
Revenue: Rent of glebe land in 1785, ?8; rent of parish land in 1785, ?7, 5.
Edwd. Hack Moseley,
On May 6th, 1785, the Reverend James Simpson was inducted minister of the parish and appointed master of the Dickson Free School.
The Rev. Mr. Simpson and Mr. Anthony Walke were appointed delegates to the First Episcopal Convention, which met that same month in Richmond. Mr. Simpson attended, but Mr. Walke's name does not appear among the delegates in attendance.
This same year?1785?is notable because in October the General Assembly passed its great act for establishing religious freedom. After a noble preamble, that act which was drawn up by Churchmen reads as follows:
"II. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, that the same shall in no wise deminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
The large majority of the House which passed this action were vestrymen of the Church. And in the Episcopal Convention which met in Richmond in May, 1785, appeared the names of many distinguished patriots of the Revolution, the Convention being presided over in its first meeting by Carter Braxton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Returning to Lynnhaven Parish: although the connection between the Church and the State was now almost wholly broken, the vestry are still found charged by the County Court with the important duty of processioning the lands in the precincts of the county, and many entries in their records indicate their active interest in the affairs of the Church in this year, 1785.
Among other steps, they ordered account to be made of the members of the Episcopal Church in the parish above the age of sixteen, with a view to providing, through subscriptions, a due financial support of the parish.
In closing the connection between the Church and the Stare, the vestry ordered their wardens to make a statement of their accounts to the overseers of the poor, which was done in 1786; and the transition period is noted in the form in which the vestrymen signed their next act qualifying as vestrymen, which was as follows: "At a meeting held at Kempsville the 27 December, 1787, we, the underwritten, having been fairly elected vestrymen and trustees according to an act of assembly, as well as an ordinance of the Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, held in Richmond on the 16 day of May, 1787, do agree to be for ever conformable to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the said Episcopal Church, and to use all rational and just means in our power to advance the true interest thereof." Then follow the names of the vestrymen.
On December 27, 1787, the Reverend J. Simpson "agreed to resign his office of Lynnhaven Parish on the sixth day of May, 1788, when an election of minister shall be held."
Mr. Simpson, being an inducted minister, could not be forced to resign without due process; he therefore "agreed to resign," and in doing so, he said that three years of experience had proven to him that the emoluments of the said parish were not adequate to the trouble. It appears, however, that one of the gentlemen of the parish, Mr. Anthony Walke, was looking forward to the ministry and to being called to the parish, which may well have influenced the action of Mr. Simpson. Accordingly, on the 29th of March, 1788, Mr. Anthony Walke was formally recommended to the Right Reverend William White, Bishop of Pennsylvania, to receive orders, and on July the 3d, 1788, Mr. Walke, having been in the meantime ordained (the record does not say whether he was ordained both deacon and priest, but only that he had returned to the parish and desired to be inducted), was inducted minister of the parish.
Four years later, while Mr. Walke was still minister of the parish, the following interesting declaration was made by one John McClennan, a Romanist, who desired to enter the Episcopal Church.
DECLARATION OF JOHN M'CLENNAN, FKOM IRELAND.
"I John McClennan having been educated in the Principles of the Roman Church and having been convinced that, since the Rise of the Pope's temporal Power, the members of the said Church have been cruelly imposed upon by their Priests, who vainly pretended that they could grant Absolution for Sin, and Dispensations for Sums of money, thus usurping an Authority over the Consciences of Men, and who have supported the Doctrine of the real Presence at the Administration of the Eucharist, do now solemnly abjure the Supremacy of the Pope, and hereby renounce all the superstitions of the Church of Rome and declare that I will be a member of the reformed Church, holding the Faith of a Protestant from this Day, being the 22 of July 1792."
"This is to certify that the above Declaration was publickly, made by John McClennan at the Altar, in the Eastern Shore Chapel, of the Parish of Lynnhaven and County of Princess Anne, on Sunday the 22d of July Anno Domini 1792
Anthony Walke, Minr."
On October 10th, 1800, the Reverend Anthony Walke resigned the parish,
and on the 1st November the Reverend Cornelius Calvert was inducted as minister
of this parish.
Until July, 1797, the vestry held unquestioned right to the Dickson donation. In that year the question to their right was raised, possibly by the dissenting element in the county, who were pressing in many directions to obtain possession of Church property, or it may be by some heirs, relatives of Mr. Dickson. In December, 1800, the vestry took council of John Wickham, Esq., the distinguished lawyer of Richmond, who advised them that, in his opinion, the vestry could, with perfect safety to themselves and with propriety, continue the direction of the charity as hitherto, and no person had any right to disturb in this duty.
That if they were obstructed in the management of the property a court of chancery might interfere and appoint other trustees, and that, in view of the testator's will, he thought that the vestry would be reappointed.
Lastly, he declared that the heirs of Mr. Dickson could certainly not Support a claim to the land whether under the management of the vestry or not.
At this time not only had the right of the church to the Dickson donation been questioned, but in July, 1801, it was found that certain dissenters were seeking to force an entry into and take possession of one of the churches.
The Reverend George Holston was put in charge of the free school in 1803, and in August of the same year he was inducted minister of the parish.
As late as April, 1813, the vestry and trustees of the parish were still in lawful possession of the Dickson Free School property, but had become involved in a troublesome suit with some of Mr. Dickson's relatives in Scotland.
After this date there is a gap in the record of the vestry covering eight years and six months?the next record is of a general meeting of the members of the parish in November, 1821. The parish had suffered much, both by neglect and otherwise, in this interval. At this meeting Mr. Thurmer Hoggard was chairman, a vestry was elected, and the Reverend Mr. Prout was called to be minister of the parish, at a salary of $500, and soon afterwards took charge.
In March, 1822, the vestry ordered the Donation church and the Eastern Shore chapel to be put in repair, which was done at once, at a cost of $386.
In 1824 delegates were elected to the Episcopal Council, and also Pungo chapel was ordered to be repaired. Mr. Prout left the parish in 1824, and the Reverend Mark L. Chevers was employed to give some services.
In 1825 the church was again destitute of services, and the Reverend John H. Wingfleld was employed, and after him the following ministers served the parish on and after the dates given with their names:
The Reverend David M. Fackler, 1838; Rev. B. F. Miller, occasional services, 1841; Rev. John G. Hull, 1842; Rev. Henry C. Lay, 1846; Rev. Edmund Withers, 1847; Rev. Lewis Walke, 1848; Rev. Robert Gatewood, 1865; Rev. A. A. McDonough, 1873; Rev. E. A. Penick, 1877; Rev. C. B. Bryan, 1878; Rev. C. J. McCollough, 1881; Rev. Richard Anderson, 1883; Rev. W. R. Savage, 1884; A. W. Anson, 1891.
In 1895 the eastern half of the parish, containing the Eastern Shore chapel, was set off as a separate parish. The following ministers continued to serve one or both of the parishes: Rev. W. R. Savage, 1895; Rev. W. F. Morrison, 1896; Rev. Henry L. Lancaster, 1898; Rev. J. E. Wales, 1898; Rev. Frank Stringfellow, 1906.
After the final declension of the old Donation church, which suffered much from the isolation of its position, that congregation built a church called Emmanuel church, about 1850, in Kempsville.
Of recent years many members of the Episcopal Church have removed from the county to live in Norfolk. On the other hand, quite a settlement of Church people have gathered at Virginia Beach, where a convenient chapel has been erected. Through the efforts of the Reverend Mr. Savage, a chapel was built for the benefit of the life-saving crew on the shore at and below Virginia Beach, and thus, while weakened at some points, the Church has been strengthened in others, and still has an abiding hold upon the hearts of the people of Princess Anne County. Certainly no one building in the county is so generally revered as is the old Eastern Shore chapel, and it is pleasant to hear from its present minister, the Reverend Mr. Wales, that the church is in an encouraging and growing condition. The western end of the county has suffered more on account of its nearness to Norfolk, but it is blessed in a faithful company of workers and in the devoted service of one who, while not a clergyman, has for years done a minister's work in all things that were within his power, Mr. R. J. Alfriend, of Norfolk.
These parishes still retain their beautiful communion vessels. Those which formerly belonged to the old Donation and the churches which preceded it now belong to Emmanuel church, Kempsville. The cup is marked with the date letter for 1705, the paten, which was the gift of Maximilian Boush, and bears his arms, has the date letter for 1711, and the flagon, the date letter for 1716. These pieces, with the old Vestry Book, dating from 1723, have long been in the keeping of the Hoggard family at Poplar Hall, on Broad Creek. Tha Communion vessels of the Eastern Shore chapel, consisting of a handsome cup, paten and flagon, all bear the date letter of 1759.
[Colonial Churches in the Original Colony of Virginia by Especially Qualified Writers, 1908 ? Transcribed by AFOFG]