Setting the boundaries
There was no question just what the law was intended to do.
Although initially settled by a combination of Protestants and Catholics under the control of a Catholic lord,1 the Province of Maryland was headed in a very different direction in 1692, and its statute reflected the change:
Forasmuch as in a well Governed Commonwealth Matters of Religion and the Honour of God ought in the first place to be taken in serious consideration, and nothing being more acceptable to Almighty God, then the true and Sincere worship and Service of him according to his Holy Word Bee it therefore Enacted by the King and Queens most Excellent Majestys by and wth the advice & consent of this present Generall Assembly and the Authority of the same That the Church of England within this Province shall have and Enjoy all her Rights Liberties and Franchises wholly inviolable as is now or shall be hereafter Established by Law…2
The law called on the commissioners and justices of all Maryland counties to “divide and lay out their severall and respective Counties into severall districts and Parishes so many as the conveniency of each respective county and the scituation of the same will afford and allow of, as in the discretion of the said Justices with the advice aforesaid shall be thought convenient And the same districts and Parishes the said Justices shall cause to be laid out by meets and Bounds…”3
And, as a result, some 30 parishes were established in Maryland, 13 in the counties of the Eastern Shore, and 17 in the counties of the Western Shore.4
One of which became known as William & Mary Parish, in Charles County.
And the church established in that parish became known as Christ Church.
It was, as you can see from this highway marker, originally known as Piccawaxen Parish, but was renamed under the Establishment Act of 1692. The church has existed since 1690, was enlarged in 1750, but — get this — is “otherwise unchanged except for post Civil War repairs.”5
And it’s that 1750 date that just tickles The Legal Genealogist, whose Day of Genealogy with the St. Mary’s County Genealogical Society this past weekend finally gave me the chance to go to Christ Church and walk around its grounds.
Because there is a tax list of people resident in William & Mary Parish in 1758. One of whom was Isabella (Wilson) Buchanan, widowed in 1752 and left with six children at home ranging in age from 18 down to one year old, including a 10-year-old boy named Arthur.
People on that tax list are people who likely would have attended that church.
People who would have walked on its lush grasses.
People who would have stood under the trees around it.
People who may well have buried loved ones in its graveyard.
People who were my people.
Isabella was my sixth great grandmother; her son Arthur my fifth great grandfather.
And this is where they likely worshipped.
Genealogy road trips can be sheer bliss.
Images: Christ Church, 13050 Rock Point Rd., Newburg, MD; photos ©2014, Judy G. Russell.
- See “The settlement of Maryland,” History.com (http://www.history.com/ : accessed 10 Aug 2014). ↩
- “An Act for the Service of Almighty God and the Establishment of the Protestant Religion within this Province,” 2 June 1692, Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, April 1684-June 1692, Volume 13, Archives of Maryland Online (http://aomol.msa.maryland.gov/html/volumes.html : accessed 10 Aug 2014). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- James Walter Thomas, Chronicles of Colonial Maryland, with Illustrations (Cumberland, Md.: Eddy Press, 1913), 188; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 10 August 2014). ↩
- Christ Church highway marker, 13050 Rock Point Rd., Newburg, MD. ↩