19th Century Changes
After the Revolutionary War, the Anglican Church was disestablished. An act of the legislature in 1802 required all glebe lands to be sold and the proceeds turned over to the poor. The overseers of the poor in Suffolk Parish claimed the lands, but the Reverend Jacob Keeling, rector of Bennett's Creek Church, carried a case through the courts in 1817 and won an exemption of the glebe lands of Bennett's Creek Church. He argued that the lands were the gift of a private individual and not a grant from the King of England. These lands are still in the possession of the church and from which the church gets its name. Glebe Church, Suffolk is believed to be the only colonial church still in possession of its glebe. The church building suffered from neglect and deterioration during the Civil War years. Interior finishes and a Norfolk tile roof were installed at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The silver used for many years was willed to the church by John Yeats in 1731. He was a gentleman of means and very interested in public education. His will provided the means to support two free schools in the parish (which continued until the Civil War) and "the pulpit cloth, the silver flagon, and silver chalice, and silver placy..." for the church. The silver, during the last part of the 19th century, was kept at the house of Richard H. Beamond. The house burned to the ground in 1895 and the silver was destroyed. The remnants are on display in the church. Mr. Beamond had the ill fortune to have another set of communion silver in his house in 1920 and again this house and church silver was destroyed by fire.
20th Century Events
On Sunday, November 27, 1932, six oak trees at the edge of the property were planted and registered by the American Tree Association as trees planted for the George Washington Bicentennial Tree Planting, 1732-1932. There are two trees of the original six remaining; and one has been named the Champion Water Oak Tree- the largest in Virginia! Refer to this link for more information: http://bigtree.cnre.vt.edu/
In 1958 it was decided that a parish hall was needed. Money for the hall was raised through church suppers and bazaars for a parish hall and it was built. The parish hall enabled the congregation to host more events, provide more services to the community and to grow in numbers.
The original building was added to the National Registry of Historic Properties in 1973. This status recognizes the role our building has played in the history of our Nation, and the importance of maintaining and preserving the structure.
Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mills E. Godwin Jr., dedicated a commemorative plaque in 1974, during a special service recognizing and honoring the patriotism of Major Cowper (See our Revolutionary War tab). The plaque is still displayed in the church today. Thirty of Major Cowper's descendants from all parts of the country were present.
In February 1998, at the Council of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, the Suffolk Parish was dissolved and The Glebe Church, Bennett's Creek Parish was formed.
In 2003 the Parish again experienced growing pains. It was decided that the parish hall was too small to accommodate the congregation. A new parish hall was planned and built, providing a nursery, classrooms, commercial kitchen, and a large meeting hall. Keener Hall has become a cornerstone of our parish's community outreach. We share Christ's love by sharing this facility with Scouts, neighborhood groups, families and organizations helping those in need.
Looking Ahead Into The 21st Century
Time and the elements have begun to take a toll on our historic building. Through tireless fundraising and generous contributions, we just completed a major roof and woodwork replacement project. The new roof is Buckingham Slate, quarried in Buckingham County, Virginia. Our completed renovations make the building historically accurate and will protect our precious gem for at least another century.
Future projects include the clearing and restoration of grave sites in the church yard leading towards Bennett's Creek. Additionally we hope to link our land to the new Suffolk Seabord Coastline Trail which parallels our property.