« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
of the Constitution. On these principles do we earnestly desire to see harmony and a good understanding restored between Great Britain and America.
6. Many of us and our forefathers left our native land and explored this once-savage
wilderness to enjoy the free exercise of the rights of conscience and of human nature. These rights we are fully resolved, with our lives and fortunes, inviolably to preserve; nor will we surrender such inestimable blessings, the purchase of toil and danger, to any Ministry, to any Parliament, or any body of men upon earth, by whom we are not represented, and in whose decisions, therefore, we have no voice.
We desire you to tender, in the most respectful terms, our grateful acknowledgments to the late worthy delegates of this Colony for their wise, spirited, and patriotic exertions in the General Congress, and to assure them that we will uniformly and religiously adhere to their resolutions providently and graciously formed for their country's good.
“Fully convinced that the safety and happiness of America depend, next to the blessing of Almighty God, on the unanimity and wisdom of her country, we doubt not you will on your parts comply with the recommendations of the late Continental Congress, by appointing delegates from this Colony to meet in Philadelphia on the 10th of May next, unless American grievances be redressed before that time. And so we are determined to maintain unimpaired that liberty which is the gift of Heaven to the subjects of Britain's empire, and will most cordially join our countrymen in such measures as may be deemed wise and necessary to secure and per. petuate the ancient, just, and legal rights of this Colony and all British America.
" Placing our ultimate trust in the Supreme Disposer of every event, without whose gracious interposition the wisest schemes may fail of success, we desire you to move the Convention that some day, which may appear tá them most convenient, be set apart for imploring the blessing of Almighty God ou such plans as human wisdom and integrity may think necessary to adopt for preserving America happy, virtuous, and free.'
“In obedience to these instructions, the following letter was addressed :
“To the Hon. Peyton Randolph, Esq., President, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Randolph, Esqrs., Delegates from this Colony to the General Congress.
66. GENTLEMEN :- We have it in command from the freeholders of Augusta county, by their committee, held on the 22d February, to present you with the grateful acknowledgments of thanks for the prudent, virtuous, and noble exertions of the faculties with which Heaven has endowed you in the cause of liberty and of every thing that man ought to hold sacred, at the late General Congress,-a conduct so nobly interesting that it must command the applause not only from this but succeeding ages. May that sacred Hame that has illuminated your minds and influenced your conduct in projecting and concurring in so many salutary determinations for the preservation of American liberty ever continue to direct your conduct to the latest period of your lives! May the bright example be fairly transcribed on the hearts and reduced into practice by every Virginian, by every American! May our hearts be open to receive, and our arms strong to defend, that liberty and freedom, the gift of Heaven, now being banished from its latest retreat in Europe! Here let it be hospitably eatertained in
every breast, here let it take deep root and flourish in everlasting bloom, that under its benign influence the virtuously free may enjoy secure repose and stand forth the scourge and terror of tyranny and tyrants of every order and denomination, till time shall be no more.
“Be pleased, gentlemen, to accept of their grateful sense of your important services and of their ardent prayers for the best interests of this once happy country. And vouchsafe, gentlemen, to accept of the same from your most humble servants,
Delegates.' « "To Thomas Lewis and Samuel McDowell, Esqrs. :
“GENTLEMEN :-Be pleased to transmit to the respectable freeholders of Augusta county our sincere thanks for their affectionate address approving our conduct in the late Continental Congress. It gives us the greatest
pleasure to find that our honest endeavours to serve our country on this · arduous and important occasion have met their approbation,-a reward fully adequate to our warmest wishes; and the assurances from the brave and spirited people of Augusta that their hearts and hands shall be devoted to the support of the measures adopted, or hereafter to be taken, by the Con. gress for the preservation of American liberty, give us the highest satis. faction, and must afford pleasure to every friend of the just rights of man. kind. We cannot conclude without acknowledgments to you, gentlemen, for the polite manner in which you have communicated to us the sentiments of your worthy constituents, and are their and your obedient, humble servants,
“ The letter of instruction which called forth this correspondence between the delegates from Augusta and these distinguished statesmen and patriots is drawn up in a style so free and easy that we cannot doubt it wa written by one accustomed to the pen of composition. It breathes so much of the spirit of true piety, and of humble dependence on the God of nations, that we cannot doubt it was the production of a pious man and a minister of God. This man must have been Mr. Balmaine. In this we are still further sustained by the fact that Mr. Balmaine was the chairman of the committee appointed to draw it up, and that, while the other members were prominent and influential men in the county, they were yet plain farmers and by no means accustomed to that diplomatic style which characterizes the letter.
“ March 20, 1775, just one month after these letters were drawn up, the Convention met in the Old Church in Richmond. There it will be seen, by reference to Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry, pp. 132–136, that all the objects desired to be attained by them were adopted, and there the great speech of Patrick Henry, which seemed to set in motion the great ball of the Revolution, was made.
“ From this time Mr. Balmaine laid aside his peaceful vestments as a minister of God, and went into the army as chaplain in defence of his country.”
The foregoing documents, it is believed, have never been published in any history or newspaper, and are therefore, as well as on account of their intrinsic merits, here inserted. Nor are they inconsistent with the character of these notices, since a minister and laymen of the Episcopal Church are so prominent in them.
“ From the commencement of the Revolution onward, until the year 1781, the doors of the venerable old church in Staunton remained closed. We have no information that its solemn silence was ever broken by the voice of any public speaker. In that year, however, a portion of the British army, under the command of Tarleton, drove the Legislature from its place of meeting in Richmond, first to Charlottesville, and thence to this place. And here they held their counsels in the old church, and here the proposition was made to create a “dictator.” Here they remained in session undisturbed for about sixteen days, and adjourned to meet in Richmond in October following.
“About the year 1788 the rectorship of the old church was in the hands of a Mr. Chambers. Who he was, or how long he remained in the parish, we are nowhere informed. Tradition says that, after a short residence in this place, he removed to Kentucky.
“ Years rolled on, in which a long interval occurred in the rectorship of the parish. At length the few friends who had been left from the desilations of the Revolution, and from the withering odium which had fallen on the Church because of its connection with the British Crown, began to lift their heads and to look round with a cautious and timid eye
for some one to minister to them in holy things. At length a good old man, moving in the humbler spheres of life, remarkable for nothing but his consistent and inoffensive piety, presented himself as willing to serve them in the capacity of God's minister. He had long been a member of the Methodist Church, and had there imbibed that spirit of feeling and ardent religion which seemed so peculiarly to characterize that body of Christians in those dreary days of our Church. Notwithstanding Mr. King's (for that was his name) roughness of manners, his meagre education, his simplicity of intellect, and his humble profession as a steam-doctor, he was taken in hand by a few friends of the Church, and pushed forward in his laudable efforts. He was sent off, with letters of commendation from Judge Archibald Stuart and the Hon. John II. Peyton, to Bishop Madison, who ordained him Deacon and sent him back to read the services and sermons to the little desolate flock in Staunton. His ministry began in the year 1811 and closed with his death in 1819. That was a long and cheerless day for the Church here. No evidence can be found that she then had a single communicant besides the simple-hearted old Deacon to kneel at her altar. So unpopular was her cause that none but those whose principles were as true and unbending as steel would venture openly to avow themselves her friends. An eye-witness of the scene told me that on the occasion of the first service after Mr. King's return from Williamsburg, the small congregation, the feeble and disjointed response, the dampening dreariness of the church, with its old high-back pews, and the long, singsong, drawling tones in which the new deacon attempted to read the service and one of Blair's Sermons, presented a solemn ludicrousness he never before or since witnessed. The congregation, numbering not a dozen, left the church dis. spirited and ashamed, almost resolved never to repeat the experiment. Mr. King died here, esteemed by all who knew him for his humble zeal and simple-hearted piety.
"On the 1st of January, 1820, the Rev. Daniel Stephens, D.D., visited the parish, and remained until the following Easter. On Easter Monday, the congregation assembled, and elected Vincent Tapp, Chapman Johnson, John H. Peyton, Briscoe G. Baldwin, Dabney Cosby, William Young, Erasmus Stribling, Levi L. Stevenson, Jacob Fackler, Alexander McCausland, Armstead M. Mosby, and Nicholas C. Kinney. This vestry immediately assembled, and passed resolutions highly commendatory of the preaching and living of Dr. Stephens, unanimously electing him as their rector. These were the props and the pillars of the Church in its darkest and most trying day. Dr. Stephens laboured and preached with a zeal and devotion which secured for himn the confidence and love of the great mass of his congregation. Under his ministry, the Church was somewhat revived, and the hearts of its friends cheered. At a Convention held in Staunton in May, 1824, the number of communicants reported was fifteen.
“In 1827, Dr. Stephens removed to the Far West, where he died but a few years since. His ministry was followed in 1831 by the Rev. Ebenezer Boyden. In the early part of Mr. Boyden's ministry, the venerable old church was torn down, and a new one erected near its site. The latter was ready for use on the 23d of July, 1831. Mr. Boyden continued in the parish, with high credit and universal acceptability to his congregation, until January, 1833, when he resigned for another field in the West.
“Next came the Rev. Wm. G. Jackson, who preached with success and acceptability in the parish for several years. He was succeeded by the Rev. Frederick D. Goodwin, who conticued until 1813, and removed to Nelson county, leaving sixty-two communicants.”
The present rector entered on his duties in August, 1843. For some years past, the desirableness of a new church had been felt, and various plans proposed and efforts made in its behalf, the minister being very anxious for it.
At length, about three years ago, an interesting little boy, on whose head scarce five summer suns had shone, stood at the window of his mother's chamber, just as the sun was going down, holding something thoughtfully in his hand. Observing his seriousness, his mother said to him, “What are you thinking about, my son? What are you looking at so earnestly? It was a new gold dollar, which his father had given him. His answer was, “Mother, I am thinking of giving my gold dollar to Mr. Castleman, to build a new church I have heard him say he would like to have.' The mother encouraged the thought, and said, 'Well, my son, do give it. God will bless you for it.' Accordingly, that dollar was wrapped in a small paper, with the written request that I would receive it for that object. This little event cheered my heart, and caused me to resolve at once to move forward with the enterprise. The result is a beautiful church, seventy-three feet six inches by forty-six feet six inches in the clear, thirty feet high, with a tower of eighty feet, and capable of accommodating com. fortably six huudred and fifty persons.”
The following communication from General Samuel Lewis, of Port Republic, Rockingham county, is a suitable sequel to the foregoing:
“Rockingham parish, Rockingham county, was formed from a part of Augusta in the year 1776. In that portion of Augusta now constituting the county and parish of Rockingham, there were two chapels of the Established Church. One was situated about four miles west of Harrisonburg. near the present village of Dayton. The families of Smith and Harrison, with others of the early settlers in that neighbourhood, were of the Church of England. The other chapel was situated about five miles north of Purt Republic, on the road from that place to Harrisonburg. The early settlers on the Shenandoah River near Port Republic were generally of English descent, and belonged to the Established Church. John Madison, (Clerk of Augusta county, the father of Bishop Madison,) Gabriel Jones, (the most distinguished lawyer of his day in the valley,) and Thomas Lewis, (who for many years represented Augusta county in the House of Burgesses, and was one of the earliest advocates of American independence,) had married sisters, (Misses Strother, of Stafford county,) and were among the earliest settlers in that neighbourhood. Peachy R. Gilmer, John Mackall, of Maryland, and others, soon after settled among them. These families were all of the Church of England. The Rev. Alexander Bal. maine for several years officiated at these two chapels, and spent much of his time with his parishioners on the Shenandoah.
“ The old chapel near Dayton (a framed wooden building) remained standing until within the last twenty or thirty years. During and after the war of the Revolution, the services of the Church were discontinued; and, after the rise of Methodism in this county, most of the families who had formerly worshipped there became Methodists, and this chapel was used for many years as a Methodist meeting house. The property on which it stood, after a lapse of years, fell into the hands of a Tunker* family: its use as a place of worship had been abandoned by the Methodists, and it was finally used as a barn by its Tunker proprietor. But few of the descendants of the original worshippers at this chapel now reside in its neighbourhood, and but one of them, within the knowledge of the writer of this sketch, retains any attachment to the Church of their ancestors.
The descendants of the Church-of-England settlers in the neighbourhood of Port Republic are many of them now members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, but very few of them remain in the neighbourhood. One of the sons of Thomas Lewis—the late Charles Lewis, Esq.-inherited, and lived, and died upon, the paternal estate. He ever retained his attachment to the Church, and several of his descendants are now communicants in the church at Port Republic.”
Among those descendants is the author of the foregoing communication, General Samuel Lewis, so often the delegate, not only to our Diocesan but to our General Conventions. I knew his ex
* A sect of German Christians.