Additional History

Expanded History Addendum

We are indebted to David Gaddy, an historian, former vestryman, licensed lay reader, and long-time friend of St. John’s, for the following history of the “Date and origin of St. John’s Church Tappahannock,” and the “Stained glass memorial windows of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Tappahannock.” Mr. Gaddy’s account reflects his always careful and thorough research. The current and future generations alike should be grateful for the many hours he spent “to get the record straight.”


1. A vestry book (VB) entry of 5 June 1849 states that, “Whereas Divine Providence has opened a way for the erection of a church in this place . . .,” a committee was set up to collect funds and “increase” subscriptions. A resolution was passed, setting up a building committee for the project, and directing that it “correspond with the skillful workmen in Baltimore or elsewhere as they may deem best, to ascertain the cost of building said Church, furnishing a distinct specification of the dimentions [sic], materials and style of architecture according to a plan submitted [not found] ;. . .” and to report to the vestry on “the 4th Saturday of this month” at St. Paul’s church “in said parish.”

The ascribed date of 1849* for the building of St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church, South Farnham Parish, Tappahannock, Essex County, Virginia, should be viewed as the initiation of a process, not its culmination: the actual completion date of construction (and probably occupancy) is the following year, 1850.

Acquisition of the property on which St. John’s was built and still stands (Lot 5 in the 1706 plat of Tappahannock) took place on 30 October 1849. (Essex Deed Book 49, pp. 675, 676.)

According to an 1864 note in the vestry book by Arthur Temple (who was the second named of the grantees of the 1849 sale, after John P. McGuire), a 500# bell was placed in the tower of the church in 1850. (In 1861 it was sent to Richmond to be melted down for cannon.)

Vestry book entries for 8 April 1849 (“in St. John’s church in the town of Tappahannock”) may represent early use of the name prior to moving from the “Town Chapel” (see below); entry for 1 April 1850 (“in the church in the town of Tappahannock,” which was the usual styling of the Town Chapel) could be understood to mean that the new building had not yet been occupied.

2. With roots in a church of the 1660s, known as Piscataway, the established colonial (Anglican) church presence in South Farnham Parish/Essex County (1683) comprised two sites, Upper and Lower Piscataway. At the time of the Revolution, the rector, Rev. Alexander Cruden, a Scotsman true to his oath of loyalty to the Crown, returned to England in 1776, leaving the parish “without benefit of clergy.” In 1785, with the organization of the successor Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the parish sent two delegates as its representatives. In 1791, Andrew Syme, tutor to the Brockenbroughs, a local family, was persuaded to be ordained; he served as rector for two years, followed by a hiatus of twenty years or more, climaxing in 1802 with the seizure by Virginia of glebes and other church properties of the former established church. Revival seems to date from the coming from Maryland of the dynamic leader, Richard Channing Moore, as second bishop of Virginia. In 1817, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Henley deeded a lot on the edge of Tappahannock to be used as an interdenominational house of worship, to be known as Tappahannock Chapel (referred to variously over the years as the Town Chapel, the Free Chapel, etc.). Grantees of the deed were the Protestant Episcopal Church and Episcopalians were given the lead role and use, but not to the exclusion of other denominations: it was to be open also, in order, to “Baptist, Methodist & then to the Presbyterians” in that order. (Essex Deed Book – DB 40, pp. 51-52).

To take advantage of this opportunity, parish Episcopalians organized themselves late in 1819 and, in 1820, called as rector Rev. John Reynolds, an English Wesleyan, who served until 1825/26.

Work on the chapel proceeded slowly between 1819 and 1826, when it was completed. (The building, of brick in Flemish bond with glazed headers, now painted over, still stands at the western end of Duke Street, a few blocks from present St. John’s. It has served various uses since its original purpose – a dwelling, town hall in the 1920s, and, since 1953, a dry-cleaning establishment.

3. In 1825 a young seminary graduate, John P. McGuire, was called to the county by the combined parishes of St. Anne’s (upper Essex and lower Caroline) and South Farnham. Upon his arrival and assumption of duties in 1826, the Town Chapel had not yet been completed. Twenty-six years later, when he departed to head Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, he left a vibrant church presence, with two permanent churches in South Farnham, St. Paul’s, Millers Tavern, on the border with King and Queen County, built 1838-’39, and St. John’s in the county seat. (Mr. McGuire married into county gentry in 1827, taking as his wife Maria Garnett of Elmwood, and building their home, “The Old Rectory,” as it is styled today, not far from her home in St. Anne’s Parish. With his second wife, Judith Brockenbrough White, he opened a school at Loretto, in northern Essex county in the 1840s. Forced from a new post in Alexandria by war in the 1860s, the McGuires were refugees in Richmond. After the war ended, they returned to Tappahannock, to shelter offered by his wife’s relatives, and opened a school in the Brockenbrough House, now part of St. Margaret’s School where it is referred to as “B” House. Her highly successful Diary of a Southern Refugee brought a modest supplemental income and has just recently been brought back into print by the University of Nebraska Press. (Both McGuires are buried at St. John’s.)

4. The origin of the Gothic revival style of architecture of St. John’s is uncertain. St. Paul’s displays Gothic windows. The Baltimore reference above might suggest Glen Ellen (Alexander Jackson Davis, 1832). Bishop Meade’s statement that Rev. McGuire liked to visit King William County (Meade, Vol. I, 391) might lead us in that direction. In an odd slip of the pen, Bsp. Meade’s alllusion to the South Farnham Parish churches, at least one of which, St. Paul’s, he consecrated in 1840, comes in a sentence describing St. Anne’s Parish (Meade, I, 403). He refers obviously to St. John’s (writing c. 1856) as “a very handsome frame building in Tappahannock,” another testament to its age. There seems no reason to doubt that the St. John’s of today—apart from its expansion and renovation in the early 1970s and recently—would be identifiable to Bishop Meade. Removal of chimneys (reminders of the old pot-bellied stoves of some past period), installation of stained glass windows replacing some of the (original?) diamond, clear windows, and the removal and sealing of a doorway to the right of the main entrance.

5. The church is oriented true north-south, with the entrance and narthex/bell tower at the north end (fronting Duke Street, which runs east-west). It is/was a simple rectangle in design, four windows in depth, the nave and chancel (at the south end) 51’2” in length and 26’4” in width, according to contractor blue prints of the 1970s. At the back (south end) was an extension or shed that served as vestry and robing room. (At some stage, perhaps early 20th century date undetermined as yet, but prior to the 1970s renovations this “shed” had been replaced by an addition that placed the sacristry directly behind the chancel area, with a choir room in a west extension and an office on the east counterpart, extending beyond the line of the original building by about 7 1/2’ in a slight Latin cross. This addition probably dates from c.1911, when a door was cut “in the choir section of this church” per VB entry 10 July 1911.)

6. The earliest interior picture readily available shows a split chancel, with what appears to be the pulpit on the right and a lectern on the left. This may represent a post-1895 arrangement, subsequent to the placement of the McGuire memorial stained glass window in what had earlier (and originally?) been a doorway from the center of the chancel into the vestry/robing room at the rear. Here it might not be out of place to quote from a sketch of St. Paul’s, Millers Tavern (and Rev. McGuire’s other structure): “At this [early] period in the church’s history the only door into the church from the small [pre-1924] vestry room opened into the pulpit. The rector had to ascend from the vestry room to the pulpit, descend into the chancel for the service, ascend to the pulpit for the sermon, descend to the chancel for the offering, ascend once again to the pulpit and descend into the vestry room to the strains of the closing hymn,” causing one amused parishioner to liken the rector’s appearances to that of a Jack-in-the-box. (Haile, 9). The historical sketch of St. Paul’s carried on their bulletin states that “the architecture of the church reflected the Bishop’s [i.e., Meade’s] emphasis on preaching and personal conversion rather than the sacraments and services of the church. St. Paul’s is one of two Virginia churches which still retain the center pulpit characteristic of the evangelical movement.” Significantly, it continues, “[in 1924] the door from the pulpit to the vestry room was closed and doors cut on either side of the pulpit.” The same thing was done at St. John’s in 1895, when the McGuire memorial Tiffany window replaced the door centered in the chancel. On the other hand, both the vestry book minutes and the carpenter’s contract clearly state that St. John’s had three pulpits [sic] at that date (VB, 9 June, 1895). The presence of the doorway prior to 1895 and the analogy with St. Paul’s suggest that architect Milton Grigg was correct in designing a central pulpit in the 1970s renovation, elevating the McGuire window to an even more prominent location over the pulpit (but at a loss of the indirect sunlight admitted through the vestry room’s external door and glass transom 5’ in height above it per the 1895 design).

7. In the 1920s, an effort was underway to raze the old structure and replace it with a brick church. This effort resulted in the construction of a two-story parish hall/Sunday school structure at right angles to the west rear of the church as phase one. Phase two never took place. The depression; the departure in 1931 of the rector, who was the principal proponent; and congregational disagreement on that course of action evidently combined to kill the idea, and to lead instead to the expansion and renovation commenced in 1970. The hall was later given open connection to the church.

8. In Mr. Grigg’s design, modified through interaction with the church, the nave was extended to accommodate several more rows of pews, with false trusses placed overhead to match the “working trusses” of the original construction. A new chancel was designed for the extension, with centered and elevated pulpit; transepts were added; and a second floor choir robing room was centered behind the chancel with the relocated McGuire window—now at the second floor level. Behind the (true) east transept is the present office of the rector, followed (in order to the west) by a storage closet, restrooms—women and men—stairs to the choir room, and church office, with a small sacristy at right angles and doorway into a hall connecting the parish hall with the west side entrance into the church. This hall is now entirely enclosed, with an external door to the west rear of the church and another exit to the west rear of the parish hall. (Among other extra uses over the years, the parish hall once served the Tappahannock branch of William and Mary in the early 1930s.) While renovation was under way in the 1972-’73 period, the congregation worshipped in the chapel at St. Margaret’s School nearby. “The” pulpit (evidently by this time there was only one) had come from defunct St. Luke’s in lower Essex County: it was a handsome walnut “portable” pulpit. Made redundant by Mr. Grigg’s design of a new central pulpit, it now resides at the school.

9. As early as 1853, St. John’s (like St. Paul’s, per Haile, p. 14) had a melodeon, a small reed organ. Haile (ibid.) states that, in their case, it was “the first musical instrument allowed in the church, [and] was placed in the balcony, facing the pulpit.” Over the years St. John’s has had several, most recently (1997) a new Rogers electronic organ placed in the west transept area previously occupied by the choir, which now occupies the east transept.

* It should be noted that there has been long-standing confusion regarding the historical date of St. John’s church, which is reflected in writings by various authors included in this Expanded History Addendum to St. John’s Web Site. Mr. Gaddy’s research clarifies this question.


1. The first and oldest window, installed in the chancel area in 1895, is a memorial to John P. McGuire, rector of South Farnham Parish from 1826 to 1852, during whose tenure St. John’s was built. It is a Tiffany window, although no identification can be found. Vestry minutes indicate that it resulted from a memorial fund for the purpose, and the carpentry contract for installation is dated 17 June 1895. In the c. 1972 renovation, the window was elevated from its original location above the now-central pulpit. It is of predominantly gold and amber colors, with extensive areas of a pale greenish-yellow. The principal object is a Latin cross in a wreath. Inscription is “To the glory of God and in memory of Reverend John P. McGuire. Born September 4, 1800 – Died March 26, 1869. Faithful rector of this parish from 1825 [sic] to 1852. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.” The window has an inward-opening hopper sash, now sealed in place.

2. In the third window of the nave on the (true) east side is a romantic rendering of two men in armor [David and Jonathan?]. The inscription is “We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Ps. 95, v. 7. To the glory of God and sacred to the memory Benjamin Blake Brockenbrough and Austin Brockenbrough.” Sons of Dr. Austin Brockenbrough and his second wife, Frances Blake, Austin was killed at Gettysburg 2 July 1863, a 21-year old company commander. Benjamin, a younger brother, joined the famous 9th Virginia Cavalry in January 1863. The family members were among the early supporters of the Anglican/Episcopal church in the county. Benjamin (d. 1921) remained prominent until his death, and his wife, Anne Mason, continued that tradition of active support. Inward-opening hopper sash, now sealed. (All of those named are buried in the Blake-Brockenbrough family cemetery, adjacent to the Essex County Museum and Historical Society on Water Lane.)

3. In the fourth window on the east side is a depiction of Madonna with child and the inscription “To the glory of God and in loving memory Ann Leslie Thornton/Born July 24, 1873 – Died Febry. 22, 1897.” Inward-opening sash, now sealed.

4. In the east transept is the most recent of the five windows, c. 1973 depicting “St. Margaret of Scotland” (namesake of St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for girls, nearby) “In memory of the Anderton, Cauthorne and Latane Familes.” (No sash).

5. In the third window on the (true) west side of the nave, (opposite that of the Brockenbroughs) is a depiction of St. Luke and symbols of the medical profession—caduceus, “beloved physician,” an ox, etc. “In memory of William Roane Aylett and Sallie Clarke Aylett.” Dr. Aylett (of King and Queen roots) died 1942, and his wife, 1949. She had approached the vestry (VB, 19 Mar 1950 refers) with a proposal for separate windows; they cited the small size of the church and few windows to persuade her to consolidate into one. Installed c. September 1951. No sash. Horizontal support rods. Dark, rich colors; blue predominant.

6. In the fourth window on the west side, Jesus with children. “Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not. St. Luke xviii. To the glory of God and in loving memory of Rev. Henry Waring Latane Temple.” (Rector Temple died 1871.) No sash. This is the only window with a maker or source clearly identified: “Mayer & Co., Munich.”

FROM AN UNKNOWN AUTHOR: [It has been suggested that the author might be Ms. Viola Woolfolk, former headmistress of St. Margaret’s School.]


St. John’s is second of the two churches erected to replace the lost Colonial buildings of South Farnham Parish, Upper and Lower Piscataway, which rectorless, vacant and vandalized during and after the Revolution, were totally gone by 1814 when revival of the stricken Virginia Church was initiated. South Farnham began its recovery in 1820 with erection of a community chapel in Tappahannock, for which the Reverend John Reynolds, a Methodist minister from England, was secured. In 1826, the young Episcopal priest John Peyton McGuire arrived in Essex to begin a remarkable 26-year mission as “Apostle to the Rappahannock.” Under him, St. Paul’s, Miller’s Tavern, laid its cornerstone in 1838; and in 1849, St. John’s succeeded the Tappahannock Chapel. Mr. McGuire, resident in Tappahannock when he died in 1869, is memorialized by a Tiffany window above St. John’s pulpit and his grave in the churchyard.

About 1940, St. John’s acquired a parish house, and about 1970, enlarged the church building by extension of the pulpit end and addition of transepts to the new chancel. About then also the two churches, which like their predecessors had shared rector and rectory, found themselves financially able to operate independently; and diocesan reorganization absorbed the parish’s identity into an anonymous numerical “Region”. Historical continuity, however, is still evident in the church membership, which still includes representatives of long-affiliated neighborhood families, among them descendants of Parson Lewis Latane, Rector of South Farnham 1701-1733. Both Piscataway churches were built before 1709, and he spoke from those vanished pulpits.

Anglican clergy (many of them Britishers) took the oath of allegiance to the Revolutionary government, vacancies caused by subsequent retirement or death could not be filled, for ordained priest could no longer be imported, nor locally trained men be sent overseas for ordination. In 1784, when the state’s former Anglican Church was legally incorporated as the Virginia Episcopal Church, only 56 of the 105 pre-war clergy were still active, and many more churches had been closed. In South Farnham, a young Englishman visiting the McCall family wrote in his diary entry for Sunday, December 11, 1875: “Miss McCall read one of Blair’s sermons in the morning and I another in the afternoon.” On Christmas Day he added: “I lament more and more every Sunday that we have no place of public worship to go to. There is a church to be sure about 3 miles off, but unfortunately there happens to be no preacher.”

Matters were to grow worse. Except for a brief interval in the early 1790’s, South Farnham was without a rector until the 1820’s, and by then it had lost both of its church buildings. The cause was a combination of vandalism, legalism and impoverishment. Vandals found easy targets in empty churches without near neighbors, and inactive churches had no source of revenue for upkeep or repair. After the war, legal foot-dragging delayed the incorporation proceedings, and thereafter hampered organization of the new corporation that would have enabled it to raise adequate revenue. The final blow came at the end of the century when the General Assembly, vacillating over the question of who had legal right to the tangible assets of the former state church, the new state or the new church, after having in 1784 awarded the title to the church and confirmed this ruling in 1786, fifteen years later reversed itself and declared that all property, including glebes and communion silver belonged to the State.

After this, most of the rural Colonial church buildings came into the hands of other denominations or fell into ruins or both; and ruins were soon quarried out of existence. In South Farnman, the lower church vanished first; the partial ruins of Upper Piscataway were for a time used by a black Baptist congregation before their total disappearance. Of the Virginia Episcopal Church as an institution, her 20th century historian, Dr. E. M. Bryden, says: “There was a very real danger of her total destruction,” the clergy’s sense of defeatism being so great that her only hope for the future “lay in the numberless scattered homes where the open Prayer Book refused to let the Church die.” The spark needed to ignite this ready tinder finally came in 1814 with the election of her second bishop, the dynamic Reverend Richard Channing Moore of Maryland, where the Episcopal Church was well established. South Farnham’s revival was initiated five years later when a group of its loyal users of the Prayer Book and contibutors to the Diocese met in Tappahannock to reorganize the parish. A vestry was duly elected, and made plans to build, on land donated by Thomas and Elizabeth Henley, a Tappahannock Chapel for use by the four local denominations, each to have one Sunday a month. The vestry was made trustee of the property, and Episcopalians have to have the extra Sundays added to their regular ones. From 1820 to 1826, they sat under the Reverend John Reynolds, a Wesleyan Methodist minister from England. South Farnham then combined with St. Anne’s, the other Essex parish, to bring to the county the Reverend John Peyton McGuire, a young graduate of the new Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria. The chapel still stands at the upper end of Duke Street, a brick building (now occupied by the Modern Cleaners) which hides beneath white paint Colonial glazed headers salvaged from Upper Piscataway’s ruins.

Mr. McGuire’s 26 years of zealous work building churches and congregations in his own Parishes and aiding the efforts of neighboring ones led to his being known as “Missionary to the Rappahannock.” In St. Anne’s Parish the derelict Colonial building called Vawter’s, which had been saved from state confiscation by Mrs. Muscoe Garnett’s proof that it stood on her land, was restored to use. In South Farnham, the cornerstone for the brick building to become St. Paul’s was laid in 1838 at a crossroads near Miller’s Tavern and not far from the site of Upper Piscataway. St. John’s followed in 1849, erected on a Duke Street lot midway between the outgrown chapel and the river. It has been called a gem of American wooden gothic.

Although the McGuires left Essex in 1852, when he was made head of the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, and spent the war years as refugees in Richmond, they returned in 1865 to open a small school for girls in Tappahannock. Here he died in 1869 and was fittingly buried in St. John’s churchyard and memorialized in a Tiffany window above the Altar. His wife was later laid beside him, and McGuire descendants recently marked their graves with handsome table tombstones. His most telling memorials, however, are the living South Farnham Churches themselves, active and growing 150 years after the first cornerstone was laid.

The histories of these two churches are inextricably intertwined. Until 1972, when growth had made financial independence appear feasible, they shared a minister as their forerunners had one; and they owned together the rectory adjoining St. John’s churchyard. Its occupant held services in the churches on alternate Sundays until automobiles and good roads made possible an every-Sunday schedule; St. Paul’s 10-11, St. John’s 11:30 – 12:30. The congregations joined for the Christmas Eve celebration at St. John’s and the annual homecoming summer gathering on St. Paul’s ample grounds. A list of rectors from 1838 through 1988 is appended below. As can be seen, a number of them moved on after two or three years; small rural churches are natural launching pads for newly ordained clergy. Mr. McGuire’s immediate successor, however, the Reverend Henry Temple, remained until his death in 1871 and one of St. John’s side-wall stained-glass windows is dedicated to him. Of those men on the list for whom notable professional accomplishments might be mentioned, space permits naming only the two who became bishops: The Reverend John Newton and Arthur Thomson.

An early event of the present century of great and continuing importance to the parish was the choice of Tappahannock as site of one of the six new church schools being established by the Diocese of Virginia. St. Margaret’s, a boarding and day school for girls, opened in 1921 with Miss Bertha Latane as headmistress; and Miss Edith Latane occupied the post from 1927 to 1943. This beginning under guidance of the parish’s first church builder’s descendants is a historical coincidence appropriate to the relationship between school and the present churches. Another and more tangible historical link is the Brockenbrough House, one of three former private homes on the campus. It is by coincidence where the McGuires had their school, having been lent the homeless couple by Mrs. Austin Brockenbrough, Mrs. McGuire’s aunt. Built before the Revolution by the McCalls and still their home in 1785, it is by another coincidence where their English visitor penned his lament that the nearby church (Upper Piscataway) had no preacher.

The close relationship between St. Margaret’s and today’s South Farnham churches can be illustrated by numerous examples. In the early years, the parish rector was also the school chaplain, and the later full-time chaplains have frequently served St. John’s pulpit. Except for one interval, St. Margaret’s boarding students have attended the parish churches on Sunday, alternating between them until the every-Sunday schedule was introduced, and then coming regularly to St. John’s. For much of this latter period, St. Margaret’s music teacher was St. John’s organist and her glee club her choir. After the interval of Sunday services in the school chapel, the practice of alternating church attendance was resumed. While St. John’s was undergoing structural changes, it was given use of the chapel; and the chapel now holds the St. John’s portable pulpit removed in that operation.**

The work at St. John’s which took place not long before separation of the two churches, has the culmination of much building in the church block of Duke Street during mid-century. About 1940, the brick gothic parish house was erected beside the church. About 1950, the old weatherboard rectory was razed and the present brick one built on its site. The operations on the church were for enlargement; since the addition is at the back, it does not affect the building’s appearance outside and inside the only noticeable change is in the chancel. The nave was extended to the rear wall and a new chancel added with transept (one of which accomodates organ and choir) and a stationary pulpit. The Tiffany window is now over pulpit instead of altar, which was moved to center. Further addition behind the chancel gives space for office and utilities. The altar and the portable pulpit both have some pieces have a history that should be preserved. They were given to St. John’s in the 1930’s when a small church in lower Essex called St. Luke’s was closed. Since the pulpit had originally been dedicated to St. Luke’s founder, the Reverend James Hervey Hundley, who preached there until his death about 1900, St. John’s after its removal gave it to the Hundley family, who placed it in St. Margaret’s chapel.

Another kind of constructive activity and a very valuable one took place in the years just after completion of the new rectory: the research in South Farnham’s early history pursued by the Reverend Joseph Ewing. A westerner and before he entered the ministry a history teacher, he found Tidewater Virginia a happy hunting ground and spent his spare time delving in old records with intent to write a history of the parish after he retired. Meanwhile in 1957, as part of the local participation in Jamestown’s 350th Anniversary Celebration, he put together in a printed pamphlet his findings to date.* He died in 1965 after a brief illness, two years before his retirement was due, and is buried at St. Paul’s. This pamphlet has been indespensable to the present sketch; and it and the files he left attest the historical continuity of South Farnham’s Church Membership as well as of its church buildings. Many the names he mentions could provide family history for members of Mr. McGuire’s churches past and present other than descendants of Parson Latane; this is a region where many of the same families have lived for generations and some are still represented. Several of such descendants rest in St. John’s churchyard. (See below)

St. John’s has weathered well the first sixteen years of going it alone. In the 1972 reorganization, it bought St. Paul’s share of the rectory. In 1975, the Reverend Theodore H. Bailey came with his family to occupy it and devote full time to St. John’s and its congregation; and Tappahannock’s dramatic growth during the last two decades has added many valuable new members, hard workers and good friends. Personal ties are still strong with St. Paul’s which has just completed a year-long celebration of its l50th anniversary. St. John’s will have much to celebrate when its turn comes ten years hence.

*NOTE: Where Mr. Ewing’s dates differ from others recorded, I have used his.

**In 1961 the music director at Saint Margaret’s School also assisted with the music at Saint John’s Church.  At this time, students were required to attend church every Sunday (Either at St. John’s or at St. Paul’s).  Six SMS students volunteered to serve as a choir at St. John’s.  The group was different than the SMS glee club.  Mrs. Wanda Musselman was that music director at SMS and is a member of St. John’s.  Mrs. Musselman often assists with music.  11/2020


1. The Reverend John Peyton McGuire 1826-1852
2. The Reverend Henry Waring Latane Temple 1852-1871
3. The Reverend John B. Newton 1871 – 1876
4. The Reverend Everard Meade 1876 – 1888
5. The Reverend W. T. Roberts 1888 – 1890
6. The Reverend Berryman Greene 1890 – 1892
7. The Reverend Arthur Thomson 1893 – 1896
8. The Reverend William J. Morton 1896 – 1900
9. The Reverend John H. Dickinson 1900 – 1901
10. The Reverend William Nelson Meade 1903 – 1921
11. The Reverend Herbert S. Osburn 1921 – 1931
12. The Reverend J. Haller Gibboney 1931 – 1934
13. The Reverend Edward B. Guerry 1935 – 1938
14. The Reverend Wi11im G. Pendleton 1939 – 1949
15. The Reverend E. A. DeBordenave 1951 – 1953
16. The Reverend Joseph Ewing 1953 – 1965
17. The Reverend Lorraine Bosch 1966 – 1968
18. The Reverend Daniel Montague 1968- 1972
19. The Reverend Theodore H. Bailey 1975 –1988
20. The Reverend James E. Petersen 1990 – 1993
21. The Reverend William M. Krulak 1993 – 1998
22. The Reverend Pamela C. Webb 2000 – 2006
23. The Reverend William T. Pickering, Priest-in-Charge 2006 – 2013
24. The Reverend Candine E. Johnson, Ph.D. 2015 – Present

The Colonial Background of South Farnham Parish Essex County, Virginia
Set Apart in 1683 from Old Farnham Parish

From Material Collected for the History of the Parish, for the Jamestown 350th Anniversary 1957

By Joseph S. Ewing

There are two churches in South Farnham Parish, St. John’s in Tappahannock which was built in 1849 and St Paul’s near Miller’s Tavern which was built in 1838. They replaced the two colonial brick churches, Upper and Lower Piscataway, which were built before 1709. Old Rappahannock County was formed in 1656 from the upper part of Old Lancaster County and extended along both sides of the river. By 1662 Old Rappahannock County was divided into two parishes. The lower parish was named Farnham and the upper parish Sittingbourne. In 1683 that part of Old Farnham Parish on the south side of the river was set apart to form South Farnham Parish and is now a part of Essex County, while”that part on the north side was called North Farnham Parish and is now a part of Richmond County, in the Northern Neck.

The pioneers started to settle the Rappahannock Valley about 1650 and by 1652 they were organized as Lancaster County. That year the County Court in the name of the settlers called the Rev. Alexander Cooke from the James River to be their parson and to visit by boat at least six congregations in the upper and lower parts of the river. The only evidence left of Mr. Cooke’s labors is the fact that by 1665 or soon after six church buildings had been built in the upper and lower parts of the river. Four of these churches were in Old Rappahannock County. The upper church in Old Sittingbourne was on the north side of the river near the site of what later became the colonial port of Leedstown and the lower church of that parish was built ten miles down the river on the south side below the mouth of Occupacia Creek. In Old Farnham Parish, the upper church was on the south side of the river near Piscataway Creek and the lower church was about ten miles down on the north side of the river near Farnham Creek. The planters on the opposite shore from their parish church had to cross the river to worship at this time.

Old Sittingbourne and Old Farnham Parishes secured the Rev. Francis Doughty to be their minister in 1665. He was an interesting character having started his ministry near New York City. He lived on his plantation in the vicinity of Old Leedstown and visited the churches in his “good barque The Returne”.

Four of the eight vestrymen of Farnham Parish were members of Old Piscataway Church which became the first church of South Farnham Parish. They were Lt. Col. Thomas Goodrich of “Pigeon Hill” who was the leader of the northern forces in Bacon’s Rebellion; John Gregory, part of whose plantation became known as “Mt. Clement” and Croxton’s Mill; Thomas Button, whose plantation is now “Windsor Hill” and Anthony North, whose plantation joined Button’s. This church is first mentioned in local records in the will of Thomas Cooper written in 1675 when he requests that “he be buried with his .wife in Piscataway Churchyard.” Nathaniel Pendleton, a minister and a brother of Edmund Pendleton’s grandfather, arrived in 1674 and preached in this church.

Thomas Gordon became the minister of Old Piscataway Church before 1672 and soon became involved in Bacon’s Rebellion. He married the widow Button and lived at “Windsor Hill”. When Governor Berkeley returned to power, Gordon and his neighboring vestryman, Thomas Goodrich were ordered to appear before the County Court on their knees with a rope around their necks and ask its pardon. Thomas Goodrich kept his lands, but Thomas Gordon was no longer allowed to serve as a minister in the colony. He and his wife sold “Windsor Hill” to Robert Tomlin and were heard of no more. When Old Farnham Parish was divided in 1683, the Rev. Samuel Dudley was the minister of both Old Sittingbourne and Old Farnham. He continued to be the minister of the new South Farnham Parish with its Old Piscataway Church. He died two years later and Duell Pead, the popular minister of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, added South Farnham Parish as a part of his work. However he went back to England in 1690.

The. vestry of the new parish had to secure not only a glebe for the parson but also a second church. They decided to abandon the site of Old Piscataway Church near the river and in 1692 purchased land near Hoskins Creek close to where the King’s Highway crossed it for their upper church. There, sometime before 1728, the stately colonial brick church described by Bishop Meade was erected. The site can be seen on county road #671 about 4 miles west of Tappahannock. The site for the lower church was a part of the “Mary Gold” plantation of Nicholas Smith on the road between Ozeana and Upright. Here Lower Piscataway was built before 1706.

Since 1663 the planters down the county had been trying to establish a glebe on the river front near what became known as Glebe Landing. In 1699, a vestryman, Capt. Edward Thomas left the land upon which he was living to the parish for a glebe. This beautiful site was the first home of Parson Latane and was for over a hundred years a familiar land mark in possession of the parish. It is now the site of Markhaven Beach with a few bricks on the top of the hill to mark the place of the house.

Louis Latane a French Huguenot minister and his family arrived in South Farnham Parish about 1701 to become its much loved and respected parson until his death in 1733. During his ministry the parish moved into its “‘golden age” and built the beautiful colonial churches and the brick glebe house. His education and character as well as his long life among the people of the parish and the ministry of the two parsons who followed him show conclusively that most of the colonial clergy served their parishes with honor and courage.

There is little left in the records about the Rev. Wm. Phillips who became the parson after Louis Latane until 1744. The Rev. Wm. Stuart became the minister of the parish from 1747-1749 when he left for St. Paul’s, King George County at the death of his father the Rev. David Stuart.

The coming of the merchants from Scotland to live in the parish seems to coincide with the coming of the Rev. Alexander Cruden from Aberdeen, Scotland to be the parson in 1752. He came from a scholarly family and was particularly close to the families of Dr. John Brockenbrough and Archibald Ritchie and was interested in the education of their children. He went back to Scotland in 1776.

Here and there the records give some of the names of the wardens and vestrymen during this period. It is well to preserve them for their descendents have been a part of the backbone of the nation as it spread across the continent. Hon. John Robinson, father of the Speaker, member of the Council and acting governor; Meriwether Smith, revolutionary leader and a U. S. congressman; William Johnson, John Waters, Anthony Smith, William Young, Edward Thomas, Edmund Pagett, William Covington, Francis Meriwether, James Fullerton, Robert Coleman, Francis Brown, Joseph Smith, Jonathan Fisher, Nicholas Smith, James Boughan, Thomas Sthreshly, William Roane, John Vass, Henry Robinson, Alexander Parker, James Rennolds, Abraham Montague, William Daingerfield, Francis Smith, William Tomlin, Daniel Dobyns, Henry Young, James Webb, John Clements, Thomas Waring, John Upshaw, Leonard Hill, James Mills, William Montague, Thomas Roane, Isaac Scandreth, Dr. Charles, Mortimer, Samuel Peachey, Archibald Ritchie, James Campbell, Newman Brockenbrough, John Edmundson, William Smith, John Beale and Joshua Fry.

The people could not get a minister during the American Revolution and the churches were closed until 1791. The convention met in 1785 to organize the Diocese of Virginia to which the parish sent Spencer Roane and Newman Brockenbrough as delegates. Dr. John Brockenbrough of Tappahannock secured a teacher from Scotland to come in 1791 to instruct his children and those of Archibald Ritchie. His name was Andrew Syme. When Bishop Madison, the first Bishop of Virginia, was visiting in Dr. Brockenbrough’s home he convinced Mr. Syme that he should become an Episcopal minister. He was the first person to be ordained by a Bishop in Virginia and became the minister of South Farnham Parish. The people of all churches came to hear him. He went to Bristol Parish at the end of two years. The parish was without a minister for another twenty years. The final blow was struck in 1802 when the Virginia Assembly passed an act seizing the glebes, churches and other properties of the Episcopal Church.

But faith lives on in human hearts and minds not in temples built of stone. The tragedy of the Richmond theater fire, in which Gov. Geo. Wm. Smith, one of the sons of the parish, was killed, seemed to re-light the fire of faith. Monumental Church was built in Richmond and Richard Channing Moore was elected the second bishop of Virginia and rector of the church.

The people of South Farnham Parish gathered together in 1820 and elected a vestry and called a minister, the Rev. John Reynolds, a Wesleyan Methodist from England. The members of the vestry were John Daingerfield and George W. Banks. Wardens; Wm. B. Mathews, Secretary; Robert Weir, Lawrence Muse, Henry Young, John Belfield, Hubbard T. Minor and Dr Austin Brockenbrough. They were to act as trustees for a Town Chapel to be used by all churches. Thomas M. Henley deeded them a lot to be used for this purpose at the head of Duke Street in Tappahannock. The church was finished in 1826 in Flemish Bond with colonial bricks and glazed headers such as are found in Vawter’s Church. The building is now occupied by the Modern Cleaners.

The Rev. John Peyton McGuire, “the Apostle to the Rappahannock” succeeded Mr. Reynolds in 1826 as parson of the two parishes of St. Anne and South Farnham. During the 26 years of his ministry St. Paul’s Church was built in 1838. The Town Chapel was outgrown and St. John’s was built in 1849 at Tappahannock. When he left to become Headmaster of Episcopal High School the life of the parish had been restored and the Rev. H. W. L. Temple became its rector. Mr. McGuire came back to retire in Tappahannock after the Civil War and is buried with his second wife, Judith Brockenbrough, in St. John’s churchyard.

The church buildings he left behind were new but the life of the church on Piscataway Creek goes back three hundred years.

The Rappahannock Times Print [Printers?], Tappahannock, Va.


Additional Historical Notes:

South Farnham Parish c. 1683— In (Old) Rappahanock County c. 1683-1692 In Essex County 1692—

On August 7, 1654, at a court of Lancaster County held at Mr. David Fox’s house, it was ordered that “the County . . . be divided into two parishes called upper and lower each extending on both sides of the river and divided on the north side by Morattico Creek and on the south side by the lower line of Rice Jones’ land” (cp. Lancaster County Deeds 1652-57 I page 152). It is generally assumed that this action represented a division of the single parish of the probable date of creation of 1651 although it is entirely possible that the original and possibly coterminous parish was never officially organized or was, indeed, composed merely of plantation parishes or even groups of plantations.

The Upper Parish of Lancaster County that was created in 1654 included the present Richmond and Essex Counties and their indefinite extensions westward. The eastern boundary of Upper Parish was later defined by an Act of December 1656, which created (Old) Rappahannock County out of this Upper (later Farnham) Parish of Lancaster County (cp. Hening’s Statutes I page 427):

The upper part of Mr. Bennett’s land known by the name of Naemhock on the south side . . . the eastern branch of Moratticock Creek on the north side of the river.

The easternmost branch of Morattico (now Lancaster) Creek is now the dividing line between Christ Church Parish (Lancaster County) on the north side of the Rappahannock River. On the south side of the Rappahannock River the dividing line was at the present Christ Church (Middlesex)-South Farnham and Middlesex-Essex county line. This southern line is know through research by the late Rev’d Joseph S. Ewing. Richard Bennett patented 2,000 acres of land on the south side of the Rappahannock River in 1642 (cp. Nugent’s Cavaliers and Pioneers page 139). In 1652 Mr Bennett sold his “Naemcocke land” and the lower 600-700 acres of this land he sold to Rice Jones (cp. Sweeny’s Wills of Old Rappahannock (Rice Jones 1677/8)). Mr. Jones speaks of “land where I now live called Nimcock Point, which I purchased of Richard Bennett”. Reference is also made to Rice Jones and Nimcocke elsewhere: “and on the south side from the lower end of the land of Richard Bennett Esq., known by the name of Nimcocke, now in the possession of Riche Jones” (cp. Lancaster County Deeds 1652-57 page 152). Jones’s Point on certain modern maps was formerly known as “Naemcocke Point”.

It has been said that the Upper Parish of the original Lancaster County soon came to be known by the name of Farnham Parish. Farnham Creek seems to have had that name in 1650, but the first mention of the parish as Farnham Parish occurs in 1663 (cp. Mason in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography LIII page 16). The parish probably got its name from the fact that the putative first church in Upper Parish Lancaster County was built on Farnham Creek and was named for the creek. Thus the name goes from creek to church to parish.

North Farnham and South Farnham Parishes were created by 1683 through a division of Upper (Farnham) Parish and the Rappahannock River.

The date “by 1683” is derived from the research of the late Rev’d Joseph S. Ewing in which he cites this probable date. The first citation (cp. Rappahannock County Deeds, Orders Part I 1683-86 page 76—court for November 7, 1684) orders the election of the vestry “for the Parish of North Farnham”. The second citation (cp. Rappahannock County Deeds, Orders Part I page 56—court for September 4, 1684) orders the late churchwardens of “the parish of South Farnham” to pay the rector his back salary. As the Rev’d Mr Ewing stated, this “indicates that the late churchwardens were the wardens elected in the previous year” and “this means that the parish [in each case] was organized with vestry and rector at least by 1683”

The boundaries of South Farnham Parish were at its creation the Rappahannock River on the north, Christ Church Parish and Middlesex County on the south, and the King and Queen county line and the Caroline-Essex (the ridge between the Rappahannock and Mattaponi Rivers) on the south. The line between South Farnham and Sittingbourne Parishes was taken by the late Rev’d Mr Ewing as running along Mount Landing creek (formerly Gilson’s Creek). South Farnham Parish fell into Essex County in 1692 when that county was created out of the southside portion of (Old) Rappahannock County (cp. Hening’s Statutes III page 104).

South Farnham Parish has sustained but one change in its boundaries since its creation and that change occurred in 1770 when a portion of its upper (western-most) territory was ceded to St Anne’s Parish in the same (Essex) County (cp. Hening’s Statutes VIII page 406):

. . . the upper end of South Farnham Parish in the county of Essex, which lies above the following line, to wit, from Colonel Francis Waring’s mill run, at the mouth of the Road Branch, thence up the said branch to a marked black oak, at the head thereof, from thence south 60 degrees west to the main road, thence south 47 degrees west to a small persimmon and maple tree at the head of a branch of Hoskin’s Run.

This addition, it was further stated, would be a great ease and advantage to the inhabitants. . . It was, therefore, to be enacted That from and after the first day of May next all that part of the said parish of South Farnham that lies above the line aforementioned, shall be united to and made part of the said parish of St Anne’s in the county aforesaid.

This addition 1ay principally the Fork of Gi1son’s (now Mount Landing) Swamp (west of the hamlet of Caret on U. S. 17) between Bull Neck Creek and Croxton Stream. The Rev’d Mr Ewing pointed out that there had been a debate about this Fork of Gilson’s Swamp since at least 1706 (cp. Essex County Ordes Part 3 page 249—at the court for June 10, 1706). Therefore, after 1770 the western boundary of South Farnham Parish has run along Mount Landing Creek and Croxton Stream to a point south of the hamlet of Beazley (on the watershed between Croxton Stream and Hoskins Run) on the Essex-King and Queen county line. The Rev’d Mr. Ewing also noted that the “Road Branch” south of Waring’s Mill Run is thought to be Croxton Stream, that the “main road” may be the present route 627, and that Waring’s Mill was located on Mount Landing Creek where it is now crossed by route 624.

The Rev’d Mr Ewing, a very careful historian, further noted that, “when a line leaves the tidal head of a creek mentioned and goes into the woods, I have always used the modern magisterial district lines where there is nothing else recorded” and with marked trees of the 17th and 18th centuries no-one would be likely to argue with this practice. As to marked trees there is this from Hening’s Statutes (cp. II page 18) also:

and when natural bounds are wanting to supply that defect by marked trees which are to be viewed and renewed every three years by the nearest bordering inhabitants of each county and parish in Easter week.