Parish History

Since its founding in 1652, the history of St. George’s Parish mirrors that of the colonial church in the Virginia colony. Besides providing a venue for religious services, it was also closely related to the secular community, with its role in political government defined by law. Court sessions and other important events were often held in churches, the only buildings large enough to accommodate big gatherings.

St. George’s Church

st george's church

Services at St. George’s began about 1636. The first building was not completed until 1676, when it was known as “Pungoteague Church”. The original frame building was replaced in 1738 by a cruciform structure floored in square brick tiles, with high-backed pews, an elevated circular pulpit, and twenty-two-inch-thick brick walls set in a Flemish bond pattern. Because of its unusual design and gambrel roof it came to be known as the “Ace of Clubs” church.  It was the only one of that design in Virginia.

St. George’s was damaged during the Civil War when it was used as a stable by Federal troops. By war’s end, little remained of the original church but a roof and bare walls. It was without a minister until the late 1870s. In 1880, bricks from the damaged wings were used to convert the remaining structure into the church that stands today. Fortunately, the silver communion service given by Queen Anne has survived through the years and is still in use. The separate Parish House dates from 1962.

St. George’s was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1970. It is the third oldest church in the United States and the oldest house of worship standing on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. 

 

St James Church

St James Church

The new church in St George’s Parish, completed in 1767, was located near a crossroads southwest of the present church site some twenty years before the town of Accomac, originally Drummondtowne and founded in 1664, was built around Accomack County courthouse, the county seat. It took the name of St. James Church in 1800.  The present edifice was built in 1838 and was placed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 1969.

On the interior, the walls and ceiling are painted in a distinctive trompe l'oeil style.  It is said to be the only surviving example of the work of Jean G. Potts, a noted artist of the period.  Pews are boxed in and numbered to be rented, but never were.  A balcony extends across the back of the nave.  The congregation still receives communion from a silver set given by Queen Elizabeth I. The bronze steeple bell was cast in Spain in 1816. In the church archives is a large rare first edition of the Prayer Book of the United States.