Wicomico Parish Church - Parish History


The first Wicomico Episcopal Church was in reality the Church of England in Virginia as were the next two Wicomico Parish churches.

When the Colony was only eight Shires, each parish was required by law to have a court and a church. With formation of the Counties, each county required the same, with the records to be kept and copies senton to Jmestown. Two parishes, Chicawane and Wiccocomoco, were created in or before 1645. [Overholt]

In 1646 during the government of Sir William Berkeley, an Act of the Assembly: . . "Whereas, the inhabitants of Chicawane, alias Northumberland, being members of this Colony," etc. The following year an Act . . ."That the ninth Act of Assembly of 1647, for reducing the inhabitants of Chickoun and other parts of the neck of land Rappahannock and Potomacke Rivers, be repealed, and that the said tract of land be hereafter called and known by the name of the county of Northumberland."

A combination of sources tell us that the Wicomico church building was constructed in 1647/8 by one John Rogers. It follows that in order to agree to have a church built, how much to spend, and where to locate would have taken a congregation two or three years. The medium of exchange being tobacco, those crops to pay for the work would have to have been raised over at least two growing seasons.

In Virginia Colonial Abstracts by Fleet, Vol. 19, a brief biography is found of Capt. John Rogers detailing that he was 45 years old in 1665. Four years later, 1669, he was 49. And 21 or 22 years before, he built the first church when he was about 27 years old.

It was a well-appointed church with red silk plush hangings on pulpit and altar. Three prominent families donated the church silver, In 1734 a church bell was given by Major W. Lee. Would that have been the first bell for Wicomico parish church?


Thirty-one years after the first church, a second, larger church was contracted to be built. However, seven more years passed with the church not completed. A court order of 15th July, 1685, commanded that William Hartland finish "the sd church by Christmas next or repay the vestry the sum of twenty five thousand pounds of tobacco and cask." A note in the margin says that Hartland was arrested May 6, 1686, for non-compliance. It did not say who finished the church. Or whether the vestry was repaid.


Over sixty years had passed when the vestry agreed, on May 9, 1753, to replace the second church. Work was to be completed in five years. It was to be an explicit copy of Christ Church, Irvington/Weems, only five feet bigger. (A little society thing, what with the LEE family at Wicomico and the CARTERS at Christ Church.) Serious delays and modifications set back the start of the third church until 1766, ten years before the American Revolution began.

Put into service in 1771, just five years before the American Revolution, it was the largest brick church in Virginia. Wicomico Parish Church continued functioning throughout the Revolution, and even ten years more after the Disestablishment. The Vestry minutes of 1703-1795 mention little if anything of the turmoil swirling around them. The Continental Congress passes an Act in 1785 creating the separation of church and state. Just after that Act of 1785, the first Diocese of Virginia was established in convention at Philadelphia. Even then, we were gutsy people. Our vestry continued to meet until 1795. Then the Minutes cease.

All Church of England in Virginia, the Established Church of the State, had been sanctioned as an adjunct. Many had been built on public lands given by the State. In 1802 the General Assembly declared that all the land and churches, with all their possessions, no longer belonged to the Episcopal Church, but were public property. Wicomico parish lands were seized by the Overseers of the Poor, who auctioned them off.

This would appear to have been a mortal blow. Dispersed by the effects of wars, failing tobacco crops, and the disestablishment of the church, many left. Bishop Meade declared that there were nor Episcopalians left in Wicomico Parish. He was mistaken, but barely. The Parish was represented at the Diocesan Council in 1812 and 1813. Then the records are silent.

As the third building was decaying and collapsing from lack of use, a last Vestryman gave Bishop Meade the cherished church silver in 1840, for safe keeping. Other reports of Wicomico Episcopalians attending services at Grace, St. Stephen's, Trinity, and St. Mary's Whitechapel continued to appear during the next two generations.

A real revival began after the mid 1800's when "Aunt Bettie" would read the lessons to a few faithful gathered at "Snowden Park," her home. In 1877 she created the "Ladies Aid Society," a direct ancestor to the ECW. The group of worshipers grew quickly and moved into larger quarters. This fifth meeting place, which that bought, was an abandoned school house, situated just one hundred fifty yards south of the present church. It was enlarged into a chapel of ease.

By 1880, Rev, Henry Derby, Rector of Trinity, reported that he had officiated at Wicomico. Also, the congregation saw Bishop F. M. Whittle preach and confirm three in "Wycomico Church, in Northumberland." The silver was returned that year.

Source - Wicomoco Church web site.