Early History Of Glebe Episcopal Church

Origins

Settlement of the Nansemond River region was established in 1630.  Part of the permanent settlement was the establishment of a Parish of the Anglican Church.  The Anglican Church was the established church in Colonial Virginia and the Vestry (governing board) had civic as well as religious duties.  The religious duties were the usual duties associated with any established church.  Among the civic duties were care of the poor, the establishment of land titles and collection of taxes.

In 1642, the area was divided into three parishes, Upper, Lower and Chuckatuck.  In 1640, Percival Champion donated 450 acres to the Anglican Church.  Since the donated land was in the Lower Parish, a frame church was built on this land, called the glebe, about 1643.  We consider this frame church the beginnings of our congregation.  The only record of this church was a entry in our Vestry book, which stated that the church was in "ruinous condition" and that a new church should be built.

In 1725 the Lower and Chuckatuck Parishes were united to form the Suffolk Parish since they could not independently support a minister.  There was, at the time, a church in the Lower Parish and one in Chuckatuck Parish.  Services continued to be held in both churches.

   

Original Building

As stated in our Vestry book, in 1737 the church on the glebe land was in "ruinous condition" and a new church was ordered to be built.  The land on which the church was to be built was a part of the lands and cash donated in 1676 by Richard Bennett, his grandson Richard, and Thomas Tilly.  The church was begun in 1737 and completed in 1738 and was known as Bennett's Creek Church.  The building still stands today.  Originally the entrance was in the west wall of the building, facing Bennett's Creek, and the altar was at the east end of the building.  The outside measurements of the building were 48 feet 6 inches by 25 feet 4 inches and the walls were 20 inches thick.  The church has been altered several times since then.  It was enlarged in 1759 with the addition of an L-shaped north wing.  The church fell into disrepair by 1812 and the ruined north wing was torn down and the original building was repaired in 1856.  The entrance was changed to the east end when the north wing was demolished, but it was on the south side of the church.  This door was replaced by a window and the door was moved to it's present location around 1898.

Early Legislation

In 1758 the Vestry of the united parish, Suffolk Parish, was temporarily dissolved by an act of the Virginia Assembly at the request of the people of the former Lower Parish.  The Vestry had voted to relocate the poor who lived in the area of the former Chuckatuck Parish to the area of the former Lower Parish.  This was instigated so the these people could be recipients of money held in trust for the poor of Lower Parish, a trust that was established before the union of the Lower and Chuckatuck Parishes.

In 1764 the Virginia Assembly passed an act for the ministers and people to be exempt from tolls when crossing the Nansemond River to attend church services.  The tolls were part of the income of the church.  The Suffolk Vestry sent a committee to Williamsburg and succeeded in having the act repealed, allowing only the minister to cross without paying a toll.