Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Old Brick Church, Isle of Wight County, Virginia

VirginiaColonial Churches by Richard S. Thomas

The Indian name for the county of Isle of Wight was Warrosquyoake, spelled some sixteen and seventeen different ways. The first English settlement of this county was made by Captain Christopher LAWNE and his party in April, 1619. He landed at Jamestown, on the 27th of that month. They settled at the point of land in Isle of Wight, then and ever since known as “Lawne’s Point” (eleven miles from Jamestown), which is separated from the county of Surry by a creek still called “Lawne’s Creek,” and the Point is bounded on the north and west by Lawne’s Creek, and on the east and south by James River.

“Sir Richard WORSLEEP, Knight Baronet, Nathaniel BASSE, gentlemen, John HOBSON, gentleman, Antho: OLEUAN, Richard WISEMAN, Robert NEWLAN, Robert GYNER and William WELLS” were Associates and fellow Adventurers with Captain Christopher LAWNE.” Captain Christopher LAWNE and Ensign WASHER represented “Captain LAWNE’s Plantations” in the first General Assembly of Virginia, held on the 30th day of July, 1619. They had, in human probability, gained their military reputation in the war in the Netherlands, when and where the Protestant forces of Elizabeth aided those of Netherlands in repelling the Catholic forces of Spain...

Christopher LAWNE did not live long enough to make any decided impression on the Colony. He died in less than a year, probably, after his arrival; for at a General Quarterly Court held in London on the 28th day of June, 1620, there was a petition from his executors to be relieved of some freight “on 800 weight of tobacco,” because of “the great charge and loss the said Mr. LAWNE hath been putt unto and susteyned in his private Plantation.”

Upon the petition of Sir Richard WORSLEEP, Knight Baronet, Nathaniel BASSE and others presented to the Court at London on the 4th day of November, 1620, permission was given them to call the plantation The Isle of Wight Plantation, provided that the heirs of the said Christopher LAWNE be in no way prejudiced thereby.” Notwithstanding this petition, the county retained its Indian name until it was changed to Isle of Wight by the General Assembly in 1637.

Anyone who has sailed up Southampton river and has seen the high chalk cliffs of the Isle of Wight, England, and has sailed up the James and has seen the high cliffs of Isle of Wight at Day’s Neck, will see a very striking resemblance between the two, and will see a strong physical reason for the name. Besides this, the WORSLEY family just above mentioned lived in the Isle of Wight, England. Sir Richard WORSLEY was knighted at White Hall on the 8th of February, 1611.

Upon the 24th of October, 1621, a patent was granted to Edward BENNETT, “a gentleman who had deserved singularly well of the company before he was a member thereof,” who now joins with Robert BENNETT, his brother, Richard BENNETT, his nephew, Mr. WISEMAN, Mr. AYERS, and divers other associates, and they engage to transport one hundred persons to Virginia. They came over in the Sea Flower, in February, 1622, with one hundred and twenty settlers, among whom were the Rev. William BENNETT and George HARRISON, relatives of Edward BENNETT, and Ralph HAMOR, one of the Council.

The plantation of Christopher LAWNE and his successors extended from Lawn’s Point along the shore of James river for six miles to Burwell’s Bay; thence along the same shore for four miles to “The Rocks.” The Plantation of Edward BENNETT extended from “The Rocks” along the shore of the same river for two miles including all of the land now known as Day’s Neck. In this Neck, made by the waters of the James river on one side and Pagan creek on the other, and on that portion of Pagan creek called now Tormentor’s Bay, was “Basse’s Choice,” then and the choice portion of that Neck of some twenty-five hundred acres. Population increased in the county so rapidly between May, 1619, and March the 22d, 1622, that it extended from “Lawne’s Point” to and inclusive of “Day’s Neck,” a distance of twelve miles. On that day there was killed in the Indian massacre of March, 1622, on Edward BENNETT’s Plantation alone, fifty-four people, among whom where Ensigne HARRISON and Mistress HARRISON....

The Massacre checked but it did not stop emigration. By 1632 it had flowed on across Pagan creek, Jones’ creek, down to Checkatuck creek which divides the county of Isle of Wight from Nansemond on the south; up that creek by Brewer’s creek to the Nansemond line on the west. In the last section of the county, most probably, lived on Joseph BRIDGER. His son, General Joseph BRIDGER, died on his White Marsh farm, on the 15th day of April, 1686, aged 58 years. This farm is located on Brewer’s creek...

It was Joseph BRIDGER, the father of General Joseph BRIDGER, who superintended the building of the Old Brick Church, distant only some four or five miles from Smithfield, and right on the main county road to Suffolk.

In 1781, when the Courthouse of the county was in the town of Smithfield, Nathaniel BURWELL was clerk, and Francis YOUNG was his deputy. As Nathaniel BURWELL was not in the county, and Francis YOUNG was in the regiment of General John Scarsbrook WILLS, his wife, hearing that TARLETON intended to make a raid on Smithfield to destroy the county records, took them and buried a trunk... When these books were exhumed some of them were very damp. One of these was the vestry book, known as Vestry Book No. 1. It finally went all to pieces. Nathaniel BURWELL never returned to the county. Francis YOUNG succeeded him as clerk, and Nathaniel YOUNG, his son, became his deputy. Nathaniel P. YOUNG was his son, and the late Dr. John R. PURDLE was his nephew. They both stated to me time and time again, verbally and in writing, for publication in 1891, that Nathaniel YOUNG, the son of Francis, frequently saw Vestry Book No. 1 before it became illegible and crumbled into dust; and frequently read the statements in it that the Old Brick Church was built in 1632. Vestry Book No. 2 beginning in 1724, in a damaged condition, is still in existence. It has many allusions to the Old Brick Church; and the vestrymen hereinafter mentioned were the vestrymen of that Old Church. Colonel Joseph BRIDGER, a great-grandson of the Joseph BRIDGER, who superintended the construction of the church, was a vestryman of the Old Brick Church from 1757 to 1769. His widow married Colonel Josiah PARKER on the 17th of June 1773. Their daughter, Anne Pierce PARKER married Captain William E. COWPER, of the United States Navy, and died in March, 1894. She was the custodian of the BRIDGER papers and she frequently told the late Dr. John R. PURDLE, her physician, that the Old Brick Church was built in 1632, and Dr. PURDLE frequently published that fact. Her son, Captain Frederick P.P. COWPER, frequently told the same thing to me, and I published it as far back as 1891. It has the corroboration of everyone of her descendants.

The roof on the Old Brick Church fell in in June, 1887, and that brought down nearly the whole of the eastern wall. Mr. Emmet W. MAYNARD, then recently from Surry county, was engaged to clear up and remove all of the debris caused by this fallen roof and these fallen bricks. Whilst engaged in this work he came across a brick that looked like it had something unusual on it. With a sharp-pointed stick he carefully removed the mortar, until at first dimly, and then afterwards clearly, he saw the figures 1632 on it. The...brick with the figures 1632 on it is now firmly embedded in the wood work of the chancel of the church...

Warrosquyoake existed as a county until 1637, when the name of the county was changed by an act of the General Assembly to Isle of Wight. Of course the county was one parish, and the parish was called Warrosquyoake; and so it continued to be called until March, 1642-3, when the county was divided into two parishes, to be called, respectively, The Upper and The Lower Parish. The Upper Parish “was to extend from Lawne’s creek to the creek dividing the plantation of Sam DAVIS and Joseph COBB” (Pagan creek). The Lower Parish “was to extend from Pagan Point to the plantation of Richard HAYES” (Chuckatuck creek).

This division and legal nomenclature continued until 1734, when population had crossed the Black Water and had extended into what is now called Southampton county to, at least, the Nottoway river. It seems from the Act of 1734 that the Upper Parish was sometimes called “Warwicksqueak”; and that the Lower was sometimes called “Newport.” But by the Act of that year, so much of the said parish as was on the north side of Black Water was made one parish and was to be called “Newport Parish”; and so much of it as was on the south side of Black Water “was to be made one parish,” and “was to be called Nottoway Parish.” And thus they have been known ever since.

The roof of the Old Brick Church fell in, in June, 1887, and it dragged down a very large part of the eastern wall. It was restored in 1894, and dedicatory services were held upon the 13th, 14th and 15th days of November, 1894.

The ministers of the Church of England and of the Protestant Episcopal Church officiating in the county of Isle of Wight, as shown by official records are:

Rev. Mr. FALKNER, in 1642; Rev. Mr. OTIS; Rev. Robert DUNSTER, 1651 to 1656 (Will dated May 17, 1656); Rev. Robert BRACEWELL, died in 1667; Rev. William HOUSDEN...

The names of other vestrymen appearing in that old Vestry Book No. 2 are:

Samuel DAVIS, Matthew JONES, Thomas WALTON, William KITCHEN, William CRUMPLER, James DAY, George RIDDICK, Matthew WILLS, Reuben PROCTER, Nathaniel RIDLEY, John GOODRICH, George WILLIAMSON, James INGLES, John PORSON, John DAVIS, James SIMMONS, William WILKINSON, Joseph GODWIN, Henry LIGHTFOOT, John MONROE, Thomas PARKER, Hardy COUNCIL, Henry PITT, Richard WILKINSON, Henry APPLEWHAITE, Thomas DAY, John LAWRENCE, Hugh GILES, Thomas and John APPLEWHAITE, Thomas DAY, John LAWRENCE, Hugh GILES, Thos and John APPLEWHAITE, Thomas TYNES, John ELEY, John DARDEN, Dolphis DREW, John WILLS, William SALTER, Robert BARRY, Charles TILGHMAN, Robert BURWELL, Miles WILLS, Edmund GODWIN, and John Scarsbrook WILLS.