George Washington on the Vestry

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Do you know whose votes are archived in your old Vestry minutes? John Kelly reports for the Washington Post on the return of an archive of Vestry minutes from Pohick Episcopal Church in Lorton, VA, to the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in Mount Vernon. They had been on loan to the Library of Congress since 1924, according to the church’s website, for preservation and research purposes, because of their historical connection to the first president, a member of the Pohick Vestry for 23 years.

First elected to the Vestry in 1762, Washington was apparently instrumental in getting the church built in Pohick, close to his Mount Vernon plantation, when a new building was needed. The church’s history page relates:

Armed with survey maps, Washington was said to have argued for the new site, two miles north of the old church, as being more centrally located. It was also situated on the highest spot in the area, recalling the biblical image of a “city set on a hill” (Matt 5:14).

In order to finance the project, all parishioner families paid larger than usual “tithes” or mandatory annual contributions. In addition, the wealthy plantation owners of the parish—including Washington, Mason and Fairfax—each purchased family pews inside their new house of worship.

The Vestry minutes included in the recent return from the Library of Congress cover the establishment of the parish in 1732 until the disestablishment of the colonial church in 1785, according to the Pohick Church history page. The records also include the proceedings of the “Overseers of the Poor” from 1787 until 1802.

Although the church itself fell into disrepair before and during the Civil War, the same women’s group that restored the estate at Mount Vernon also repaired the church. The Washington Post adds,

Attend a Sunday service today and you can sit where the First Family’s box was.

According to Pohick Church’s second Rector, the Revd Lee Massey, Washington was a constant and faithful fixture on Sundays.

Read more, including commentary from the current Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Lynn P. Ronaldi, at the Washington Post, and delve further through the Pohick Episcopal Church history page.

Image: “Colonial Pohick”, from the webpage of the Colonial Vestry Book at Pohick Episcopal Church 

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