1607 - Jamestown, the first permanent English-speaking colony in the New World.
1634 - Virginia colony had 5000 persons. General Assembly created eight shires, including Charles River Shire, which included Chiskiack and Yorke Parishes. Yorke village was named after Charles Stuart, Duke of York, who became Charles I. In 1642/3, the Charles River and the shire were renamed York after Charles’ second son James, the new Duke of York,. (later King James).
1632 - First wooden church.
1635 - French Huguenot Nicholas Martiau granted 1600 acres in Yorktown.
1642 - First York Parish Church - brick, built on land which is now the Coast Guard Station.
1649 - Communion silver, London “Hampton Parish in Yorke County in Virginia” Silversmith Thomas Garrett.
1662 - House of Burgesses established towns, including one at York.
1667 - second York Parish church built over the site of the first. Surrounded by a brick wall. 42 feet by 24 feet brick foundation. In use for 32 years.
Time and the archeological site of Yorke Village placed on the registers of Virginia (October 16, 1973) and National Historic Places (January 18, 1974).
1707 - Chiskiack Parish (Hampton Parish) combined with York to form York-Hampton Parish.
1725 - bell, recast in Philadelphia 1882 by Hooks Smelting Company, restored to duty 1889.
1691 - Act of Ports authorizes port town on the York River for the collection of tariffs. Fifty acres of Martiau's son-in-law George Read's property was purchased for the town. 85 lots laid out.
1697- York-Hampton Parish church built on lot #35 out of marl from the York Riverbank.
28 x 55
1758 - Two Penny Act - Ministers led by York-Hampton Parish minister, John Camm, petitioned the King to overturn a law passed by the General Assembly limiting their salaries. First challenge to the role of the king in governing the colonies.
1814 - Fire burned the town and the church leaving only the marl walls standing.
1845 - Effort to bring the church back to service.
1847 - Rec. C. J. Minnegerode worked to rebuild the old church using the original marl walls.
1848 - Fall, Bishop Meade consecrated the new church in York.
1849 - Listed as Grace Church, Yorktown.
1862 - April to 1865 - Union occupation of Yorktown.
1870 - Church restored for worship, Virginia reenters the Union.
1927 - October 23, formal reopening and rededication service, Bishop Beverly D. Tucker.
1960 - New parish hall dedicated.
1996 - The church breaks ground for expansion of the parish hall.
1997 - Grace celebrates the 300th anniversary of its building on the present site.
2013 - Grace participates in the Middle Passage Ceremony, honoring the Africans to who survived the Middle Passage and arrived through the port of Yorktown in the 1700's.
2016 - Rededication of the Historic Sanctuary after its latest restoration.
2018 - Retirement party for the Rev. Carleton Bakkum after 30 years at Grace.
2020 - to present - Reverend Seldon M. Walker
Imagine the thriving port of York in the 18th century, chief port for the Virginia Colony. The Port of York was created on July 15, 1691, when the Virginia Burgesses passed the Act for Ports. At peak prosperity (1740-1770). Yorktown became an important tobacco port, exporting crops from area plantations. Later in the 1700s, more diversified cargoes went out of the town's warehouses. Incoming freight included clothing, wines and liquor, furniture, jewelry and silver plate, riding gear and coaches, swords, firearms, books, and slaves. Yorktown had several hundred buildings and almost 2,000 residents, making it a substantial 18th century community and rivaling the size of the nearby colonial capital, Williamsburg. There were men of all types and classes along the streets and on the wharves - merchants, planters, prosperous yeomen, shopkeepers, indentured servants and slaves, travelers and seamen. Prominent families were united by birth and marriage with the wealthy gentry of the region.
In 1736, an English visitor to the town wrote:
“You perceive a great Air of Opulence amongst the Inhabitants, who have some of them built themselves Houses, equal in Magnificence to many of our superb ones at St. James's ... Almost every considerable Man keeps an Equipage ... The Taverns are many here and much frequented ... The Courthouse is the only considerable public building, and is no unhandsome structure ... The most considerable Houses are of Brick; some handsome ones of Wood, all built in the modern Taste; and the lesser Sort, of Plaister. There are some very pretty Garden spots in the Town.”
Grace Church’s ancient and beautiful communion service is worthy of considerable note. It is one of the oldest Anglican-Episcopal communion service in the commonwealth of Virginia.
The flagon and chalice inscribed with “Hampton parish in Yorke County in Virginia” has adorned the altar table almost consistently from the earliest days to the present in York County. Hampton parish was one of the very early Anglican churches in York County dating back to 1634 and was originally called Chischiak (sometimes “Cheescake”), a place first noted on John Smith’s 1624 map. The parish was later termed the Hampton Parish in 1643 (not to be confused with the city of Hampton). According to nineteenth century Virginia Episcopal Bishop William Meade, the silver was the gift of Col. Nathaniel Bacon, Sr. (1620-1692), whose plantation was at Kings Creek, York County, and who served as a colonial government official including acting Governor of the colony. He is not to be confused with his relative of Bacon’s Rebellion fame. Bishop Meade’s account, unfortunately, cannot be substantiated.
Soon after the establishment of Yorktown in 1691 as a major port town, the parishes of Hampton and Yorke (present day Coast Guard Training Center) were combined to form the York-Hampton Parish ca 1704. In 1848 the name of the church was changed to Grace Church. We will never know the complete story of how the communion service survived the American Revolution, the dissolution of the Anglican Church, and the Yorktown fire of 1814. The communion service’s survival is a testament to the strong faith of the people of York County.
The initials T.G. engraved on the service stand for Thomas Garrett, a London silversmith, whose first recorded silver work is 1618. The maker’s date of 1649/50 is engraved on the silver. The minister at Hampton Parish at that time was Oxford University-trained Rev. Thomas Hampton, who is recorded as coming to Virginia in 1637.
Today the ancient communion service is used for communion at Grace Church monthly and for other special occasions as a Christian link between the small, frontier church of the 1st century and the populous, ever-growing suburban church of today.
Margaret Cook and Jean Kirkham
The first Thomas Nelson to arrive in the colony was born in Penrith, England on February 20, 1677, and immigrated to Virginia in the late 1600s. Since Penrith is on the border near Scotland, he is often referred to as “Scotch Tom” Nelson. Scotch Tom’s forte was trade, and his mind focused on making money. As a former sea captain, he had accumulated some capital, and an adequate purse opened many doors. The enterprising immigrant tried out his versatile talents and became a merchant, operator of a ferry and a mill, a farmer, gentleman jurist, and trustee of the port landing. In 1710, Scotch Tom married into the first family of York when Margaret Read, daughter of Elizabeth Martiau and George Reade became his bride. In about 1730, he built the impressive Nelson House on lot 52 where he raised his 3 children; William, Thomas, and Mary. Believing that his boys would benefit from studies offered in the schools overseas, Scotch Tom sent his sons to study in England. After receiving their educations, William and Thomas Nelson returned in 1732, and became active in the political and civic activities of the colony. Scotch Tom lived in the Nelson House until his death in 1745 at the age of 68.
The circa 1730 Nelson House was built by "Scotch Tom" Nelson in Yorktown, Virginia. The house is now designated as a National Historical Landmark and is maintained by the Colonial National Historical Park of the U.S. National Park Service.
The Nelson House
501 Main Street
William joined his father on the York County Court and entered actively into his father’s mercantile business, which included a store, a waterfront warehouse, and wharf, several lots in Yorktown as well as great acreage in York County, mills on a nearby river, and a ship called the Nelson.
William and his wife, Elizabeth Burwell Nelson, lived in their home in Yorktown, across the street from Williams’s father, Scotch Tom. Entertainment and social activities played an important part in the Nelson’s lives. Like most Virginia families of their standing, they were most hospitable. A contemporary commenting on this laudable characteristic stated: “all you had to do was to ride in were two chimneys showed there would be a spare bed, lodging and welcome.” The main meal was generally around 2:00 in the afternoon and included five courses: usually pork and greens, chicken of oner tame fowl, beef, mutton, veal and lamb, pudding, and wildfowl or fish, all accompanied by Medeira wine, English beer, or cider. Virginia ham, fattened on chestnuts, chinquapins and corn was even then famous and exceeded any in England.
In 1742, William Nelson was elected to the House of Burgesses, beginning his long career of service to the Colony under the Crown. He served on the Committees Trade and of Propositions and Grievances. October 7 1745, Thomas Nelson Senior died, leaving William a vast estate including his business, homes, land, and cash. Eight days later, William was sworn in as a member of the Council, joining eleven of the most distinguished men in the colony as an advisor to the governor, a member of the upper house of the General Assembly, and a judge of the General Court. Nelson served many years as president of the Council, thus earning the title ‘’President Nelson.”
October 15, 1770 - Governor his Excellency the right Honorable Baron de Botetourt died. John Blair, the representative of the Bishop of London, was 83 years old at the time and decided to give up his influential position in the colony. It was at this point that William Nelson stepped in to serve as Governor.
William died on Thursday, November 19, 1772.
The eldest of five sons, Nelson was born in Yorktown, Va., in 1738. At the age of 14, he sailed to England to supplement his initial tutorial education. In 1761, after graduating from Hackney School and Cambridge University, he returned to Virginia to help his father manage his Splantation and mercantile business. The next year, young Nelson married Lucy Grimes. He and his wife were to have 11 children. Thomas and his family moved into the house across the street from his father’s, the Nelson House built by his grandfather Scotch Tom.
When William died in 1772, Thomas Nelson Jr. was prepared to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle. Early in 1773, at age 34, Thomas Nelson Jr. was chosen vestryman for the York Town Church. In May, the Court of directors of the Eastern State hospital elected Thomas president. Tom’s interest in the hospital along with his uncle, Secretary Nelson, never flagged, and they were to serve as trustees all their lives. That year and the next, Nelson attended three of the Virginia provincial assemblies, where he worked closely with Patrick Henry. The last assembly elected Nelson to the Continental Congress. In Congress, Nelson was outspoken in his desire to sever the bonds with England. He spoke at St. John’s Church in Richmond in 1775, the same meeting in which Patrick Henry delivered his famous message. In July 1776, Nelson cast his affirmative vote on the issue of independence and to become included with the immortal fifty six signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson’s term as governor expired at the beginning of June 1781 and he did not intend to serve again. At such a crucial moment, he insisted, it was best for Virginia that he be replaced by someone with military qualifications. He suggested that militia leader Thomas Nelson be appointed governor. General Nelson succeeded Jefferson and served as both Civil Governor and Commander in chief of the Virginia Militia.
In September-October 1781, while taking part in the Yorktown siege, according to family tradition, he ordered troops to shell his own mansion when he learned it was a British headquarters. Nelson’s home was hit but survived, unlike the nearby residence of his uncle.
Although bothered by bad health, Thomas Nelson kept the government intact and strengthened defenses. Soon after the victory at Yorktown, overwhelmed by the burdens of office and still in poor physical condition, he resigned the governorship. In financial distress from his wartime sacrifices, Nelson lacked the money to renovate his Yorktown home where he had lived since 1767. He died in 1789 at the age of 50.
Inspired by the famous needlework of the National Cathedral and a particularly beautiful Church in Connecticut, our dream of people’s kneelers, done in needlepoint for Grace church, took form.
The work was started under the guidance of Mrs. Otto G. Ptiz, who consulted with the best of local experts on techniques. Among our parishioners at the time was Mrs. Forest M. Clingan. Helen is an artist and teacher, and it was she who created our designs based on ancient Christian symbolism, using natural motifs – preferable ones that would be found in our locality.
The project was dependent upon gifts from those who were interested. Gifts of time, work, and money from ladies such as Tiny Cole and Helga Mattson, who insisted that their enthusiasm was willing, but their eyes were weak – all this with a lot of faith to back it up.
At that time, Mrs. Pitz’ needleworkers were herself, Bertha Crockett, Eleanor Shelel, Marie Glaser; and eleven kneelers were completed.
Talk of “restoration” of Grace church again entered our church life, and the needlework came to an end.
During this same period, Jeanie Cook designed, executed, and installed kneelers for the choir as a separate and independent project. She was assisted by Bertha Crockett and Priscilla Jenkins.
In 1972, Mem Lemay revived the project for the people’s kneelers, and faith and interest again bloomed. This time the project was made financially secure by a most generous gift from Susie Shield. So, in spite of the tremendous cost rise in the cost of materials, we were off and stitching again.
Then on August 1, 1976, more than three years later and several million stitches later, the project is completed. Thanks to Junior Warden, Jack Burcher, and his crew of Waldo Harrison, Warner Robins, Birdie Burcher, and Mem Lemay, they were installed to the glory of God, the beautification of Grace Church, and the joy and comfort of our church family. May we enjoy and cherish them in the years to come!
The following ladies worked constantly and met on Tuesday afternoons for instruction and fellowship during the three years: Susie Shield, Margaret Burns, Betty Richie, Bonnie Kiermaier, Annie Laurie Crawford, Louise Gallagher, Ann Elksnin, Sara O’Hara, Margaret Garrison, J.B. Vogeley, and Mem Lemay. They produced twenty-fice more kneelers bringing the total to thirty-six.
The cushion on the Bishop’s chair was made and given by Lila German in memory of her husband, the late Captain Jack German, who died while serving as Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Base.
Because so many people have asked the same question, here are some vital statistics. Each kneeler has about 57,000 stitches, took an average of 150-160 hours to do, has a minimum replacement value of $250, and with care should last for many years.
FISH One of the earliest and most universal of Christian symbols: 'Christ, the fisher of men."
STRAWBERRY Symbolic of Righteousness--"The fruit of good deeds."
POMEGRANATE Symbolic of Immortality.
BURSTING POMEGRANATE Symbolic of the Resurrection.
HOLLY Symbolic of the crown of thorns. The red berries recalling the passion of Christ.
ROSE Symbolic of the Virgin's love and the Nativity.
WHITE DAISY Symbolic of the innocence of the Mother and the Christ Child.
SHAMROCK Used by St. Patrick as a symbol of the Trinity.
FIGS Symbolic of St. Bartholomew who, as Nathaniel, was chosen by Christ as he stood "under the fig tree."
LILY "Consider the lilies of the field, etc." Symbolic of the action of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
From the shield of Sr Lydia, who sponsored St. Paul and his disciples and gave them lodgings in her home when he went to Rome. She was also a "seller of purple dyes" used exclusively for robes of royalty and later by the princes of the Church. The dye was made from the murex snail.
The Grace Church Labyrinth is a 31 foot diameter canvas artwork reproducing the ancient labyrinth laid in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France, circa AD 1220. Labyrinths far predate Christianity and are found in almost every culture around the world. In the Middle Ages, the Christian Church appropriated the labyrinth as a symbol of a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the ultimate act of devotion. The Grace Church Labyrinth allows present-day pilgrims to reclaim a spiritual expression that has been lost for centuries.
Since its dedication in 1995, the Grace Church Labyrinth has been offered in workshops at the church and throughout the Tidewater area. People of all ages and backgrounds have walked, danced, sung, stopped to meditate, and greeted each other in peace. They have expressed the feelings and images arising from the labyrinth walkthrough drumming, creating mandalas, journaling, and prayer.
Throughout the years, local artists and members of the Grace community have been commissioned to create folk art crosses. These are displayed in the church and Parish Hall, and are exhibited in a parade of crosses each year at the Easter Service.
Bee Cross- Carolyn Rhoads, 2012. Inspired by Grace's beehive ministry.
1634/35 George Keith served at Chiskiack, also known as Cheesecake and later known as Hampton Parish.
1638-1640 Anthony Panton served York and Chiskiack Parishes.
1638-1640 John Rosier served York and Chiskiack Parishes.
1644-1647 John Cluvernis/Cluverius served York Parish.
1645-1648 Charles Grimes served Hampton (Chiskiack) Parish.
1647 Thomas Hampton served York Parish.
1654 Rev. Marston served York Parish.
(1657?)-1658 William White served Hampton (Chiskiack) Parish and York Parish.
1661-1671 Justinian Aylmer served Hampton Parish.
1664-1671 Peter Temple served at York Parish.
1665 Morgan Godwin served at York Parish.
1672 Samuel Clark served at Hampton (Chiskiack) Parish.
1680 Edward Folliott served at York Parish.
1680-1684 John Wright served York and Hampton (Chiskiack) Parish.
1680-1684 Thomas Finney served Hampton Parish.
1686- 1701 Stephen Fouace served York Parish.
1686- 1701 James Sclater served York Parish.
1688- 1724 James Sclater also served Charles Parish.
1704-1712 Arthur Tilyard served York (and Hampton from 1701).
ln 1706, York and Hampton Parishes petitioned to be joined because they were "so small and poor as not to be able to maintain minister according to law" and were formally merged to become York-Hampton Parish.
1714 Benjamin Goodwin.
1722-1749 Francis Fontaine served York-Hampton Parish.
1749-1777/9? John Camm served York-Hampton Parish.
1785 Robert Andrews served York-Hampton Parish.
1786-1789/90 Samuel Shield served York-Hampton Parish.
1791-1792 Samuel Shield served Charles Parish.
1792-1794 James Henderson served York-Hampton Parish.
1847 -1849 Charles E. F. Minnigerode
1849- 1852 Edmund Withers
?-? Thomas Ambler
?-? F.M. Burch
1877 -1883 Alexander Hundley
1887-1899 William Byrd Lee
1899-1901 Floyd Kurtz
1913-1923 E. Ruffin Jones
1923-1932 W.A.R. Goodwin
1927-1930 John B. Bentley
1930- 1932 William Laird
1933- 1936 Cot. Atfred A. Pruden
1937-1940 John Letcher Showell
1940-1952 Francis H. Craighill
1942-1946 Alfred L. Alley
1946-1949 Robert S.S. Whitman
1949-1950 George L. Barton III
1951-1956 Cornelius A. Zabriskie
1957-1964 Gordon B. Davis
1964-1971 John D. Alfriend, Jr.
1972-1975 Philip G. Porcher, Jr.
1976-1988 Claude S. Turner, Jr.
1988-1989 D. Donald Dunn
1989- 2019 Carleton B. Bakkum
2019-2020 Tom Crittenden (interim minister)
2020- present Seldon Walker
Copyright © 2020, Grace Historical Church Preservation Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
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