BLANDFORD CHURCH, BRISTOL PARISH, VIRGINIA
By Churchill Gibson Chamberlayne, PHD
THE General Assembly of Virginia at the session of March, 1642-43, enacted that "for the conveniency of the inhabitants on both sides of Appomattock River being farr remote from the parish church of the said plantation upon Appomattock be bounded into a parish by themselves as followeth, to begin at Causon's ffeild within the mouth of Appomattock River on the eastward side, and at Powell's Creek on the westward side of the river, and so to extend up the river to the falls on both sides, and the said parish to be called by the name of Bristol. (Hening's "Statutes at Large," Vol. I., p. 251). This was the genesis of Bristol Parish.
At the same session of the General Assembly a Church-government's Act was passed, one of whose provisions was "That there be a true & perfect register kept in a booke . . . . of all weddings, christenings & burialls and that the clerke of every parish shall present to the commander of every monethly court a list of all weddings, christenings & burialls within their parish the present moneth." If, in compliance with this enactment, Bristol Parish did from the beginning possess such a "booke," it must have disappeared a long time ago; absolutely no trace of it remains today. With it, and the companion Vestry Book — if any such ever existed —were lost the records of the first seventy-seven years of the parish's history. But for the period beginning with the year 1720 and coming down to the present time the contemporary sources for a history of the parish are ample. To these original sources, and to one or two works, like Slaughter's "History of Bristol Parish" and Bishop Meade's "Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia," based in part upon them, reference will be made from time to time during the course of this article.
In the year 1720 Bristol Parish contained about a thousand square miles. It lay along the Appomattox river on both sides, extending westward forty miles from the junction of the Appomattox with the James. There were 848 tithables in the parish, and two places of worship, a church and a chapel. (See Perry's "Papers Relating to the History of the Church in Virginia, A. D. 1650-1776," pp. 266-268. Queries of the Lord Bishop of London, answered by George Robertson., Minister of Bristol Parish; also "The Vestry Book and Register of Bristol Parish, Virginia, 1720-1789," pp. 3-4.)
In regard to the situation of the Church, there has been some diversity of opinion. Bishop Meade says ("Old Churches," etc., Vol. I., p. 439): "Within the bounds of this parish," i. e., Bristol, "was the old settlement of Sir Thomas Dale, in 1611, called Bermuda Hundred, at the junction of James River and Appomattox. Settlements were from time to time, formed along the river up to the Falls, where is now the town of Petersburg. The mother or parish church was at Bermuda Hundred opposite to City Point, and it was desirable to organize a parish and provide for those who were settling higher up the Appomattox or Bristol River. That the mother church was at this place is evident from an early entry in the vestry book, where, for the first and only time, the mother church is mentioned; and there in connection with the ferry at the Point (City Point) which is directed to be kept in good order for persons, on Sunday, going over to the 'mother-church' called, in the Act of Assembly, the Parish Church."
According to Bishop Meade, then, the mother church of Bristol Parish was at Bermuda Hundred. Was this the case? Let us examine first his own testimony. That examination discovers errors of fact in his account. Bermuda Hundred was never within the bounds of Bristol Parish. The parish church referred to in the Act of Assembly was not the "mother church" of which occasional mention is made in the Bristol Parish Vestry Book dating from 1720. At the time that Act was passed (i.e., March, 1642-43), Bristol Parish was not in existence, and the parish church therein referred to was of course the church of that older parish of which the territory on Appomattox river, to be cut off and made into the new parish of Bristol, was the outlying portion. Whether the parish church mentioned in the Act of Assembly of 1642-43 was situated at Bermuda Hundred or not is a matter which does not concern us. That it was not the "mother-church" of Bristol Parish referred to in the vestry book, is certain. In his endeavor to confirm his argument by an appeal to the vestry book Bishop Meade falls into numerous errors. The mother church is mentioned in the Vestry Book not once only, but several times, though not always, under that name — never, however, in connection with the ferry at City Point, "which is directed to be kept in good order."
The following entry in the Vestry Book (printed volume, page 59, manuscript volume p. 42), under date of October 21st, 1731, is the one to which Bishop Meade refers: "Order'd that a Ferry be Keept at the Point and that it be attended when the sermon is at the Mother Church and that the Min'r pass when he hath Occation." It is to be noted that this entry was made eighty-eight years after the establishment of Bristol Parish, and eleven years after the first entry in the book, that there is nothing said in it about the Ferry being kept in good order; but merely that a Ferry be kept — proof positive that at this place no ferry had previously been operated — and that the place itself is referred to as the Point simply, not as City Point. Bishop Meade's theory in regard to the location of the mother church of Bristol Parish is untenable.
Where, then, was the Mother Church situated? First, let the records speak for themselves. In the Vestry Book under date of November 10th, 1726, there is the following entry: "It is ord'red that Henry Tatam be Clerk for the ferry Church and Chapell and y't he be Allow'd two thousand pounds of tob'co by the parrish P'r annum." Again under date of November 16th, 1727, the following: "To Henry Tatam Clerk of the Mother Church and ferry Chapple." These two entries taken in connection with the following, under date of October 21st, 1731: "Ordier'd that a Ferry be Keept at the Point and that it be attended when the sermon is at the Mother Church and that the Min'r pass when he hath Occation," make so much at least plain, that the Mother Church and the Ferry Chapel were on opposite sides of the river, and that the two places of worship were not so far apart as to prevent one man's acting in the capacity of clerk at both of them.
The question now is, Where was "the Point" where, in the year 1731., a ferry was ordered to be kept? That it was not at the place now known as City Point has been already shown. There must have been ferries at City Point as far back as a hundred years before 1731, and we know from the Vestry Book that as early as 1720 there was a ferry still higher up the river, at Conjurer's Neck, between City Point and the falls, kept by Mrs. Elizabeth Kennon. With every year the population moved farther and farther toward the west, and keeping pace with the movement in the population, ferries were continually being established higher and higher up the rivers. Everything, then, tends to confirm the supposition that "the Point" referred to in the minutes of the vestry meeting held Oct. 21, 1731, was Peter's Point, afterwards Petersburg, at the falls of the Appomattox. If any doubt remained as to its truth, it would seem to be set at rest by the following independent witness, taken from Col. Wm. Byrd's diary of his "Journey to the Land of Eden," in the year 1733: "When we got home, we laid the foundation of two large Citys. One at Shaco's, to be called Richmond, and the other at the point of Appomattuck River, to be nam'd Petersburg." ("The Writings of Col. William Byrd, of Westover in Virginia, Esqr. Edited by John Spencer Bassett, New York, 1901.)
The records, finally, do not leave one in doubt as to which church was on the north, and which on the south side of the river. By act of the Assembly, Bristol Parish lost, in the year 1735, all that part of its territory lying north of the Appomattox. After that year the Vestry Book makes no further mention of the mother church, while references to the Ferry Chapel are as frequent as ever. A thorough knowledge of the existing records, then, tends to confirm Dr. Slaughter's opinion, held in opposition to Bishop Meade, that the indications that point to old "Wood's Church," five miles from Petersburg, in Chesterfiedd county, built in 1707, as the mother church referred to in the Vestry Book of Bristol Parish.
The site of the Chapel, or Ferry Chaple, as it is frequently called in the Vestry Book, has never been a matter of serious investigation. Bishop Meade erroneously supposed that it "stood near the falls, and not far from the old Blandford church, which took its place in the year 1737 or 1738." (Bishop Meade's "Old Churches," etc., Vol. I., p. 439). But, as has been shown, the ferry at "the Point," that is at what is now Petersburg, was not established until 1731, while the Ferry Chapel was being used as a place of worship in 1720, and doubtless it had been in existence for some time when the first entries in the Vestry Book were written. The ferry from which the Chapel took its name, and hence at, or near which it was situated, was without the least shadow of a doubt that kept by Mrs. Elizabeth Kennon, who lived at Conjurer's Neck (the Brick House) in what was then Henrico, now Chesterfield, county, on the Appomattox River, between City Point and the falls. The Chapel was located on the south side of the river in Prince George County. During the fourteen years between 1720 and 1734 the number of tithables in Bristol Parish more than doubled. In the latter year there were returned 2084. The places of worship too had increased from two to five. Besides the mother church and the Ferry Chapel there were now chapels on Namozine, Sapponey, and Flat Creeks, all south of the Appomattox.
Some time during the session of 1734 the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act creating the parish of Raleigh, and another creating the parish of Dale. The former act was to go into effect on March 2 5th, 1735, the latter, on May 31st of the same year. The creation of these new parishes very much reduced the area of Bristol. The number of tithables, too, which in the meantime had increased to 2,305, was cut down to 1,349. Of the five places of worship formerly in the parish only two were left, the Ferry Chapel, and the chapel on Sapponey Creek, both frame buildings, the former being in a half-ruinous condition.
The passage of the acts in regard to Raleigh and Dale parishes placed the vestry of Bristol in an embarrassing situation. Before that time, namely, at a vestry meeting held March 11th, 1733, it was "Ordred that a new Church be built of Brick on Wellses Hill for the Conveniency of this Parish Sixty foot long and twenty-five foot Wide in the Clear Eighteen foot Pitch with Compass Sealing and Compass windows the Isle Eight foot wide Laid with portland stone or Bristol marble Sash Glass Covered first with Inch Plank Ciphir'd and a Coat of hart Cipruss or pine Shingles 3/4 of an inch thick at the lower End nailed on foalding Shuttors of windscut for the windows"
In November of the next year (i. e., 1734,) in spite of the fact that in the meantime the creation of the two new parishes had been determined upon by the General Assembly, it was ordered "that Colo Robert Bolling, Capt William Stark and Majr William Poythres agree with workmen for Building a new Church according to the former Order made March ye 11th 1 733." At the laying of the levies for that year 25,000 pounds of tobacco was levied toward building the new church. This caused trouble, for those tithables whose affiliation with Bristol parish was to come to an end in March and May, 1735, objected to being made to contribute toward the building of a church with which they would never have any official connection. An echo of the protest they made is heard from Williamsburg. At a vestry meeting held on August 12th, 1735, it was ordered "In Obedience to the Governors order that the Church warden do desire the workmen to delay going forward with the building the Church on Well's Hill till the Governors pleasure is further known."
Evidently the Governor's prohibition was soon removed, for at the next vestry meeting, held at the Ferry Chapel September 15th, 1735, it was ordered "That the Church wardens pay the remaining part of the Parish Money in their hands to Colo Thomas Ravens-croft upon his giving bond to compleat the Church upon Well's Hill pursuant to agreemt made May 4th 1735 Between himself and members of this Vestry appointed for that purpose." The agreement referred to in this order appears in the Vestry Book, pages 72 & 73, as follows:
"Order'd that a Church be built of Brick on Wellses Hill to be 60 foot by 25 foot in the Clear and 15 foot to the spring of the Arch from the floor which is to be at least 18 Inches above the highest part of the ground 3 Bricks thick to the water table and 2% after wards to the plate, the roof to be fram'd according to a Scheme now before us, the Isle to be 6 foot wide Lay'd with white Bristol Stone, galerey at the west end as long as the peer will admitt a window in the same as big as the pitch will admit. 7 windows in the body of the Church of Suitable dimensions glaz'd with sash glass the floors to be well lay'd with good Inch & 1/4 plank the Pews to be fram'd the fronts rais'd pannil & 1/4 round with a decent pulpit and type a decent rail and Ballistor round the altar place and a table suitable thereto as usual, the roof to be first cover'd with plank and shingled on that with good Cypress Hart Shingles Cornice Eves large board eves and Suitable doors as usual the whole to be done strong and workmanlike in the best plain manner to be finished by the last of July 1737. Stone Steps to each door Suitable.
Colo Thomas Ravenscroft has agreed to build the above Churcn for £485 Curr't Money to be paid at three Several payments." Col. Ravenscroft must have kept his agreement to the letter for it appears from the parish records that a meeting of the Vestry took place at the "Brick Church on Well's Hill" August 13th, 1737. This is the building locally known to-day as Old Blandford Church. Upon the completion of the new church, the Ferry Chapel was abandoned. No further reference to it is to be found in the Vestry Book. The parish still had but two places of worship, the Brick Church on Well's Hill, and Sapponey Chapel. But the number of tithables in the parish continuing to increase, it was found necessary to put up too more chapels, the one, for the convenience of the inhabitants in the lower part of the parish, on Jones' Hole Creek, the other on Hatcher's Run.
In the meanwhile, during the year 1739, or early in 1740, the Rev. George Robertson, who had been minister of the parish since 1694, died, and the Vestry proceeded to take steps to secure another minister. Their first choice was an unfortunate one, as the records sufficiently show. We will let them speak for themselves.
"At a Vestry held at the Brick Church on Wells's Hill May 26th, 1740. Present. Colo Robert Bolling, Capt Wm. Stark, Capt Peter Jones, Mr. John Banister, Majr Wm. Poythress, Capt Willm Hamlin, Mr. Theo. Feild, Mr Theok Bland, Capt Charles Fisher. Order'd That Mr. Richard Heartswel be received Minister of this Parish dureing the approbation of the Vestry he haveing agreed to accept thereof on these terms."
"At a Vestry held at the Brick Church on Wells's Hill May 27th 1740. Present. Colo Robert Bolling, Capt Wm Stark, Mr. Theo. Feild, Capt. Charles Fisher, Majr Wm. Poythress, Mr. Theok Bland, Capt Peter Jones. Mr. Richard Heartswel haveing in company with Several of the Vestry yesterday Evening declared that he did not understand the order of Vestry that day made for receiving him as Minister of this Parish on the Terms therein mentioned altho entered in his presence & with his approbation & now insisting on Twenty Pounds p Ann in lieu of a Glebe which he with some warmth, said he thought he merrited; & without such Allowance would not stay, thereupon the Church wardens conviend this Vestry who upon the representation of the matter by several of their own Members, Orders that the said Richard Heartswel be discharged as Minister of this Parish on the Terms by him & the Vestry agreed to on the 26th Instant or on any other whatsoever. Test. John Woobank Clk Vestry"
In this connection the following extract from a letter of the Rev. James Blair, Commissary, at Williamsburg, to the Bishop of London, dated May 29, 1740, will be of interest: "There is a clergyman, one Mr. Richard Hartwol came into this country from Liverpool about a year ago, only in Deacon's orders. He was ordained by Joseph, Bishop of Rochester, Sept. 21, 1735. He brought no letters recommendation, and came very unprovided of books or of any thing else. The Governor befriending him, he preached in several churches, & has a taking way of delivery, but no parish seems desirous to have him for a minister chiefly because he is not capable of administering the sacrament of the Lord's supper, which they are very pressing for, especially on their death-beds. The Governor has very lately recommended him to some gentlemen of that parish which was Mr. Robertson's, and he is gone thither, but as I hear, meets with great opposition. I want your Lordship's directions about him for I am somewhat diffident of his character in England, by reason of his coming away so suddenly and abruptly, and that he has been so long since he was Deacon without receiving Priest's orders, and seems averse to repairing to England for compleat orders." (Perry's "Papers Relating to the History of the Church in Virginia 1650-1776" pp. 362-3.)
That is the last word that history has to say of the Rev. Richard Heartswel in connection with Bristol Parish. The Vestry finally secured the services of the Rev. Robert. Fergusson, who remained minister of the parish until his death in 1749.
In the year 1742 Bristol Parish was divided (Henings "Statutes at Large," Vol. V., p. 212). At the time of the division there were 1,668 tithables in the parish. With the formation of the new parish (Bath) Bristol parish lost 897 tithables and two out of the four churches. The Brick Church and the chapel on Jones Hole Creek remained to Bristol. Sapponey and Hatcher's Run Chapels went to Bath parish. Out of this division and the expenses incident thereto arose a dispute between the two parishes which lasted until 1745.
In March, 1750, Rev. Eleazer Robertson was appointed minister of the parish "for Twelve Months on Tryal" as the Vestry Book expresses it. Evidently his "Tryal" proved satisfactory to all parties, for at the Vestry meeting in March, 1751, he was regularly received as minister of the parish.
Either the eloquence of Mr. Robertson's discourses or the natural growth of the parish — there were now 1081 tythables — was responsible for the following order of the Vestry made June 22nd, 1752: "That an Addition be made on the South Side the Brick Church, Thirty feet by Twenty five in the Clear and fifteen feet from the Spring of the Arch to the Floor which is to be the same height with the present Church three Bricks thick to the Water Table and two and a half thick to the plate, the Roofe to be Framed as the present Roofe, the Isle Six Feet wide laid with white Bristol Stone. Two windows of the Same dimentions as the present on Each Side of the Addition, and Glazed with Sash Glass, the Floor to be laid with Inch and Quarter heart plank, the pews to be Framed as those now in the Church, the Roofe to be first Covered with plank and Shingled on that with Good Cypress heart Shingles, a Cornish. the Same as the present, Square Ceiling, a Door in the South End of the Addition, the present South Door to be shut up, and another Window and a pew Added in its place. The whole to be done Strong, and workmanlike in the Best plain manner, to be finished by the First day of July 1754. Also the Church to 'be walled in with a Brick Wall of one and a half Brick thick Five Foot from the highest part of the Ground to the Top of the Copeing, Length from East to West One hundred and Sixty Feet, from North to South One hundred and Forty Feet in the Clear, One Gate at the West End and One on the South Side the Church and- the Church Wardens are to give publick Notice when it is to be Let." In November of the same year the Vestry ordered "that the Addition to the Church be built on the North side thereof. This day being the day Advertized in the Virginia Gazette for Letting the Addition to the Church, and Walling it in, Collo Richard Bland being the Lowest Bidder agrees to do it for four hundred pounds Current money." Originally the church had been a simple rectangular building, sixty feet by twenty-five facing east and west. The addition above referred to made a radical change in its appearance. Its form was now that of a squat T shaped cross. From the completion of this addition—it was not finished until the year 1764—until the abandonment of the building the Brick Church remained practically unaltered.
The Rev. Eleazer Robertson left Bristol parish in 1753. It was during the incumbency of his successor Rev Thomas Wilkinson, that the matter of a poor-house for the three parishes of Bristol, Martins Brandon, and Bath began to be agitated. The first action in regard to this business was taken at a Vestry meeting held November 27th, 1755. It culminated in December of the year following in the appointment of a committee, consisting of Messrs. Stephen Dewey, Alexander Bolling, Theoderick Bland, and William Eaton, to "meet the persons appointed by the Vestry's of Brandon & Bath Parishes to agree in settleing the Terms of the Poors House." The result of the conference held by the representatives of the three parishes was embodied in the following report taken from the record of the minutes of the vestry meeting held at the Brick Church February 23rd, 1757:
"At a meeting of the members appointed by the Respective Parishes of Bristol, Martins brandon and Bath as a Committee to Consider of the best and most proper method for Building a Poors House at the Joint Expence of the said Parishes —
It is the opinion of this Committee. that a Convenient House ought to be Rented for Entertaining the poor of the said Parishes, if to be had. But if not, that then Land ought to be bought & Convenient Houses to be built for the joint use of the said Parishes in proportion to the number of Tithables in each of the said Parishes. This Committee having taken under their most serious Consideration the unhappy and indeed miserable Circumstances of the many poor Orphans and other poor Children, Inhabitants of the said Parishes whose parents are utterly unable to give them any Education and being desirous to render the said House as Beneficial as possable & that such poor Children should be brought up in a Religious, Virtuous & Industrious Course of Life so as to become useful members of the Community, Have Resolved earnestly to recommend it to their Respective Vestries that they should join in a petition to the General Assembly to procure an Act to enable the said Parishes to erect a FREE SCHOOL for Educating the poor Children of the said Parishes in Reading, Writing and Arithmetic at the joint Expence of the said Parishes, and Uniting the same to the said Poorshouse Under such Rules, Orders and Directions as shall be most just and proper for perfecting so useful and Charitable a Work, And in Order to facilitate the obtaining such Act to propose that the said Vestries should unite in opening Subscriptions that the Rich & Opulent & all other well disposed people may have an opportunity of Contributing towards so pious a design out of that STORE which the FATHER of Bounties hath bestowed on them.
It is the opinion of this Committee that Four of the Members of each of the said Vestries ought to be appointed as a Committee to Petition the General Assembly in the name and on behalf of the said Vestries in Order to obtain such Act as aforesaid And also to put the said resolutions into Execution.
It is the opinion of this Committee that these Resolutions be Communicated to the respective Vestries as soon as possable for approbation or Descent.
Signed According to the Directions of the Committee By
Jany 19th, 1757. RICHARD BLAND."
In spite of this very excellent report nothing seems to have come of the Poor-house plan. At the Vestry meeting held November 15th, 1757, it was, ordered "That the Churchwardens at the most Convenient place put up the poor of this Parish to the lowest Bidder."
If the Vestry of Bristol Parish proved incompetent to influence legislation in the matter of providing for the poor, they showed a very commendable and fairly successful zeal in the suppression of vice. The credit side of the parish's yearly balance sheet exhibits frequent entries like the. following:
That the vestry was disposed to class non-church going among the vices to be rooted out appears from the following credit entry in the balance-sheet for the year 1754:
As Thomas Whitmour's fine for Profaning the Sabbath Day was 5 shillings, it is probable that the profanation of which he was found guilty was that of absenting himself from divine service.
On November 22d, 1762, the Rev. Thomas Wilkerson resigned the parish. The same day he was succeeded by Rev. William Harrison. The first twelve years or so of Mr. Harrison's incumbency seem to have been uneventful enough; then came the troublous times of the war with England. Under date of October 19th, 1775, occurs the following entry in the vestry book:
"Whereas, The callamitous State of the Country renders it Doubtful whether a Sufficient Sum Can be Collected from the people, for payment of the Parochial Debt, in Money. And by the Restrained Laid on Exports, By publick Consent, The Parishoners are Precluded of the Election which the Law Had Giveing them, in paying their Due's in Tobo or Money. It is Determined by Vestry That the Ministers Salary Shall be Estimated at One Hundred And Forty four Pound's, to be Collected as Nearly as Possible in Money Unless the prohibition on Exports Should be Removed, And in that Case the People to be at Liberty to pay in Tobo at Eighteen Shillings Per Hundred, In Lieu of Money, According to there Own Choice. And it's further to be Understood that the Revd Mr. Harrison shall wait for the Ballance, After the Collection is made, three Years without Interest, unless it should Please HEAVEN to Put an End before that time, To the Troubles of our Country, And then it is understood that the Encumben [t's] Salary shall be Demandable in the usual and 'accustomed way.' "
Poor Mr. Harrison! One is hardly surprised at finding the following entered on the minutes of a vestry meeting held February 4, 1780: "This day the Late Recter, the Revd. Mr. Harrison, wrote in his Resignation of his Cure of this Parish, which is accepted."
After lying vacant four years the parish secured the services of the Rev. John Cameron. He is the last minister of the parish of which the vestry book speaks, as he was still living and serving the parish in the capacity of rector when the closing entry of the volume was written. This was on April 18, 1789. Dr. Cameron resigned his charge in 1793, and was succeeded the next year by the Rev. Andrew Syme, who served Bristol parish faithfully for forty-five years.
He was the last rector of the parish that regularly held services and preached in the Brick church, on Well's Hill. With him, then, the references in this article to the history of the parish, as such, may well end.
What remains of the history of the old church is soon told. After the Revolution the town of Blandford, which lies between Wells's Hill and the river, rapidly declined in importance as a tobacco port, while the new town of Petersburg, to the west, grew steadily. Between the years 1802 and 1808 the new St. Paul's church, Petersburg, was built. This sealed the fate of the old Brick church, on Wells's Hill, though for awhile services were still held within its walls alternately with the church in Petersburg and the outward church. Finally the services at the Brick church were discontinued absolutely, and the old building was left alone in its glory. Thus abandoned, it gradually fell into ruins. Writing in 1879, a short while before the Brick church underwent its first "restoration," Dr. Slaughter says, quoting in part Charles Campbell: " `Blandford is chiefly remarkable for the melancholy charm of a moss-velveted and ivy-embroidered, ante-Revolutionary church, (whose yard is the Petersburg cemetery), at present in the most picturesque place of dilapidation.' And we add that it is the pride of Petersburg, and the most attractive of all her historical surroundings. The pilgrim and the stranger who tarry but a night is sure to wend his way and pay his homage. at this shrine. Time, too, in its revolvings, 'brings in other revenges.' The children, and the children's children, of the scattered worshippers who were baptized at this font or knelt at this shrine, when they have finished their course on earth, are borne back in solemn procession and laid in the bosom of old Mother Church, which invests her with a charm, in the eyes and hearts of the -whole community."
A few years after the above was written it was found necessary, in order to preserve the ruins from utter destruction, to have the building re-roofed. The writer thinks that he is not mistaken in saying that this work was undertaken and paid for by the city of Petersburg. However much to be regretted, inasmuch as the new slate roof has given a rather incongruous air of smartness to the venerable building, these repairs done by the city were unavoidable.
Not so, however, the recent "restoration" of Old Blandford, through the efforts of the Ladies' Memorial Association, aided — one is tempted to say also, and abetted — by the Petersburg chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, by which this relic of the Colonial period has been converted into a Confederate memorial chapel. A monument of the early eighteenth century converted into a memorial of the events of 1861-65 — could no better way than this have been found to honor the Southern cause? It is always so, however. The past is ever being forgotten in the interests of the present, and history shows many such glaring instances of robbing Peter to pay Paul. But the day will come when the intelligent people of Petersburg will regret having allowed this piece of utter vandalism to be perpetrated.
A visit to Blandford church recalls many memories of the historic past. Here preached in days long gone by the ministers whose names have already been given; the Robertsons—George and Eleazar—Robert Fergusson, Thomas Wilkerson, William Harrison, John Cameron and Andrew Syme. Occasionally, too, the walls of the old church rang with the voice of some famous divine like William Stith, the Virginia historian; Devereaux Jarratt, the stirring preacher of Bath parish, or George Whitfield, the great English evangelist. As one wanders about among the tombstones outside, stopping from time to time to decipher some half-obliterated inscription, the ancient glory of the church is brought vividly to the mind. Here worshipped with their families, in that to us dim pre-Revolutionary time, James Munford, William Poythress, Robert Bolling, Peter Jones, William Stark, Theophilus Field, Charles Fisher, Francis Poythress, William Hamlin, Theoderick Bland, David Walker, Thomas Short, Stephen Dewey, William Epes, George Smith, Samuel Gordon, James Murray, Hugh Miller, James Boisseau, Alexander Bolling, Anthony Walke, Thomas Williams, William Eaton, Roger Atkinson, George Nicholas, Sir William Skinwith, John Ruffin, John Bannister, Theoderick Bland, Jr., Nathaniel Raines, Nathaniel Harrison, William Call, Richard Taylor, Thomas and Joseph Jones and many others—truly an array of worthy names of which any Church might well be proud.
From the churchyard one sees about two miles off to the north the hills on the Chesterfield side of the river, from which Lafayette, in 1781, standing by his guns, must have watched the bombardment of the British in Petersburg—that bombardment that is said to have disturbed the last hours of the English General Phillips, as he lay dying in the house on East Hill. Tradition has it that the dead general was laid to rest in the southeast corner of Blandford churchyard.
Less than a mile away to the east and south are the remnants of the earthworks held by the Confederate forces during the memorable siege of Petersburg, which lasted from the 9th of June, 1864, to the 2d of April, 1865. The fighting was at times so near the church that the building itself and the surrounding tombstones did not escape entirely the rain of shot and shell directed against the town and its defenders. To this day bullets are not infrequently found in the cemetery, and, indeed, close up to the old churchyard wall.
It is scarcely necessary to add, in closing, that Blandford church, so rich in associations that appeal to cultivated minds, possesses a literature of its own, the natural outgrowth of the thoughts and emotions which it has itself inspired. One can do no more here than refer the reader to Dr. Slaughter's valuable "History of Bristol Parish," where the greater part of what is best in that literature may be found.
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