Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Episcopal Church »  |  The Diocese of Virginia

Early Rectors

Alexander Moray

1st rector ca. 1655 - 1672

The first rector of Ware Parish, earlier a Scottish clergyman, escaped from England to the Virginia Colony after supporting the failed attempt of Charles II to regain the English throne in 1651. He resided on the Ware River, likely on the Ware Glebe lands near the site of the original church building. His letters show him to have wide-ranging interests and he acquired a significant amount of land in the area.

His reputation was such that he was among the nominees in 1672 to be the first Bishop in America; however no bishop was named at that time.

Mr. Moray's wife returned to England in 1665, and he may have returned himself in 1672. There is no information about him after that time.

John Gwynn

supplied? 1672 - 1674

The Rev. John Gwynn, was the first known rector of Abingdon Parish, where he served from 1674 to 1688.  He may have preached at Ware prior to the arrival of Mr. Wadding in 1674.

The Rev. William Byrd Lee, in an article for the book Colonial Churches, reports: "In an old Root family paper it is said of Rev. John Gwynn: 'He was a cavalier parson, turned out of his parish in England by Parliamentary authorities during the Civil War.' He doubtless came to this country prior to 1660."

James Wadding

2nd rector ca. 1674 - ca. 1679

The Rev. James Wadding was rector of Ware Parish when Nathaniel Bacon visited Gloucester Court House in September, 1676. Mr. Wadding refused to swear an oath of loyalty to Bacon, prompting his arrest by Bacon. But when Bacon shortly afterwards became fatally ill Wadding was called and was with him when he died Oct 26, 1676.

James Clack

1655 - 1723, 3rd rector 1679 - 1723

Born in Marden, England, to William and Mary Clack, and of Viking descent, Rev. James Clack was one of the most important of Ware Parish's early rectors. During his rectorate, a petition was submitted to build a new church and construction was started on the present Ware Church building. Dendrochronological examination of the ceiling beams date them to about 1718, so construction was probably completed about the time of Mr. Clack's death, and his tomb is found a few feet outside of the east wall of the church, the first known burial at the site.

After attending Magdalen College, Oxford University, starting at the age of 16, and seminary he was ordained and then married Mary Rivers.  His wife died childless and, in August, 1678, he emigrated to Virginia.  He arrived on New Year's Day, 1679, and came to Gloucester on Easter of that year. He married his second wife, Jane, while rector at Ware and they had five children who survived to adulthood.

The Clack family genealogy is described in The Family Tree Searcher, Vol. 16, No. 1.

Rev. James Clack 1655 - 1723 
Here lyeth the body of
James Clack, son of William and Mary Clack
who was born in the parish of Marden -
- miles from the Devises
in the county of Wilts.
He came out of England in August, 1678 arrived
in Virginia upon New Year's Day following, came into
the Parish of Ware on Easter. Where he continued
minister near forty five years till he dyed. He
departed this life on the 20th day of December, in
the year of Our Lord God 1723 in hopes of a
joyful resurrection to eternal life which God grant
him for his Blessed Redeemer's sake. Amen.

John Richards

ca. 1689 - 1735, 4th rector 1725 - 1735

After the death of Mr. Clack, Rev. Emmanuel Jones of Petsworth and Rev. Thomas Hughes of Abingdon supplied Ware Parish, holding services on alternate Sunday afternoons at Ware, until the arrival from England of the next rector.

W. G. Stanard reports the emigration of Rev. John Richards to Gloucester County from Kent, England.  Mr. Lee says Mr. Richards emigrated May 14, 1724. This trip was probably to accept the call to Ware Parish, where he served until his death at age 46. He is buried under the chancel in the church.

His first wife Amy and their servant Mary Ades were buried under the chancel in 1725. The next year he married Isabel Booth, daughter of Thomas and Mary (Cooke) Booth, granddaughter of Mordecai Cooke II (thought to have given the lands for the "new" church). He and Isabel had no children.

Underneath this stone lyeth the Body of
Mr. John Richards
late Rector of Nettlestead, & Vicar of Liston
in the County of Kent in the kingdom of England,
and Minister of Ware Church in the County of Gloucester, 
& Colony of Virginia, who after a troublesome voyage
thro the various changes & chances of this mortal life,
is at last reposed in this silent grave in expectation of
a joyful Resurrection to Eternal life -- he died
the 12th day of Novr. in the year of our Lord MDCCXXXV
[1735] aged 46.

Reid J. Ford

supplied?  ca. 1740

The Rev. Reid J. Ford was reported by Dashiell's Digest of Councils of Virginia to have been in Gloucester in 1740, and he may have been serving as rector of Ware Parish prior to the arrival of the Rev. John Fox.

John Fox

5th rector 1737 - 1758

Rev. John Fox became rector by 1742, maybe as early as 1737. He was the first native Virginian to serve as rector. He attended William & Mary College in 1724 and completed divinity studies there before being sent to England for ordination, the first minister ordained from William & Mary. He returned to the College and later accepted a call to Ware Parish.

Mr. Fox married Isabel Booth Richards, widow of his predecessor. She and two of their daughters are buried under the chancel. A son John (1740-1785) attended William & Mary in 1752, lived at "Greenwich" on York River, and owned land at Gloucester Court House.

James Maury Fontaine

1738 - 1795, 6th rector 1764 - 1795

James Maury Fontaine, descendent of prominent Huguenot immigrants, was born in 1738. His father, the Rev. Francis Fontaine, was a professor at William & Mary College where he was educated and ordained in 1762.

After his ordination he served as rector of Abingdon and Petsworth until moving to Ware in 1764, though he is named as rector of Abingdon in 1784 and seems also to have continued to appear at Petsworth Church.  The Petsworth Parish Vestry Book reports for November 18, 1764: "As the Rev. James Maury Fountaine, who was minister of Petsworth Parish has left to go to Ware, this parish is without a minister."

The Kingston Parish Vestry Book reports that he supplied in that parish in 1783-84, where he was called upon to "preach once a Month until a Minister resides in the Parish".

Mr. Fontaine was a popular clergyman who supplied in all of the county parishes and taught in a school near Ware Church. He was loyal to the American Cause as rector during the American Revolution.

Mr. Fontaine married Alice Burwell (1745-1778) of Middlesex County on December 14, 1771, and then Betty Carter Churchill, daughter of Charles Carter of "Cleve".

A descendent claims that, after his death on March 13, 1795, Mr. Fontaine was "buried under the floor of Ware church, and a brown slab was placed over his grave."  Other church records do not repeat that claim.

A copy of his journal is in the possession of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  His family Bible is in the possession of the Gloucester Museum and inspired a story in The Family Tree Searcher, Vol. 14, No. 1.

Elkanah L. Talley

7th rector 1795 - 1798

The Rev. Elkanah Talley, fomerly of Littleton Parish in Cumberland County, became rector of Ware Parish in 1795. He left in 1798 for St. Paul's Parish in Hanover County, but there is little mention of him in church records after that time.

Apparently Mr. Talley was not well regarded. He had trouble with the Ware Vestry over trying to solidify the parish's claim to the glebe lands. He was expelled from the order of Masons in 1805 for "unworthy conduct". Bishop Meade said "Rev. Mr. Talley became a Universalist, and died a drunkard."

Armistead Smith

1756 - 1817, 8th rector 1799 - 1817

The Rev. Armistead Smith was a native of Kingston Parish, born 1756 to Thomas Smith and Dorothy Armistead. He and brother Thomas were two of the five founding members of Phi Beta Kappa at William & Mary College in 1776.  He was active in Kingston Parish activities prior to his ordination in 1793 at Abingdon Church by Bishop Madison, with Rev. Fontaine in attendance.

On August 19, 1792, Armistead Smith, who had previously appeared regularly in the Kingston Parish vestry book, "produced to the Vestry Testimonials of his Episcopal Ordination". He was permitted to occupy the Kingston glebe house and lands effective January 1, 1793, as minister of that parish.

Mr. Smith married Martha Tabb, daughter of Edward Tabb and Lucy Todd, on January 13, 1780. According to the Rev. Charles Mann, he was the father of Mr. W. P. Smith and Colonel Thomas Smith, and of the first Mrs. Tom Tabb.

Like most clergymen of the time, Mr. Smith preached in all parishes in the county. Mr. Lee reports that Mr. Smith rode a trotting horse from his home, "Belleview", in southern Mathews County, to Ware and Abingdon churches.

Mr. Smith died in 1817 and was buried at Toddsbury, but his headstone was later moved to the APVA lot in Ware Church Cemetery.

SACRED
to the memory of the
REV. ARMISTEAD SMITH
of Mathews County;
who after having faithfully served God
in the Gospel of his Son
departed this life
Sepr. 12th. 1817;
aged 60 years 9 months & 12 days.

If sincerity in friendship, a heart glowing
with true piety benevolence and charity
have a claim to lasting regard the memory
of the deceased will be fondly cherished

William D. Cairns [Carnes]

9th rector 1827 - 1829

Mr. Cairns (or Carnes) was rector of both Abingdon and Ware Parishes, 1827 to 1829. He may have been ordained at Ware Church. He arrived as rector after a long period of inactivity and found a church building in disrepair, and helped begin the process of repair. He disappears from Church records after 1830.

John Cole

10th rector 1829 - 1836

Mr. Cole was also rector for both Abingdon and Ware Parishes. He was previously rector in Surry County and went to St. Mark's Parish, Culpepper, after serving in Gloucester.

Charles Mann

1792 - 1878, 11th rector 1837 - 1878

Mr. Charles Mann was a native of Annapolis, Maryland. He was rector at Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia, before being assigned to the Theological Seminary as professor and fund raiser. From there he was called to Ware Parish.

Mr. Mann also served as rector of Abingdon until resigning there in 1867. He was succeeded at Ware after his death by his assistant, Rev. William Munford, who became assistant in 1876, and rector 1878-1879. Mr. Mann is buried in the Ware Church Cemetery.

Sacred 
to the memory of
CHARLES MANN
Born May 10th 1792
Died January 16th 1878
Forty years Rector of this Parish
---
"So he giveth his beloved sleep."

There is a plaque inside the church with a dedication to the popular minister:

Erected by a Loving Congregation,
To the memory of a faithful friend and Pastor
Rev. Charles Mann
More than 40 years Rector of this Parish
Died Jan'y. 16, 1878
In the 87th year of his age
And the 60th year of his Ministry.

He showed forth the praise of God not
only with his life but in his life, giving
himself up to His service and walking
before Him in holiness and righteousness
all his days.

The memory of the just is blessed.

 

William Munford

ass't rector 1878 - 1879

Mr. William Munford and his wife, Fanny Ball, purchased "Baiae" sometime after 1863, and he served both Abingdon and Ware parishes as needed.  He was the assistant rector at Ware in 1876 (and baptized his young son at Ware in November of that year), and served as rector after the death of Mr. Charles Mann until the arrival of Mr. William Byrd Lee.

Mr. Munford (or someone with the same name) was rector of St. Paul's Episcopal church, Columbus, MS, from 1880 to 1889.

Rectors in the Modern Era

12.  William Byrd Lee 1881-1921
13.  Douglas William Neff 1921-1925
14.  Robert Alexander Magill 1925-1932
15.  Herbert Stabler Osburn 1932-1941
16.  Reginald Wells Eastman 1942-1975
17.  Michael Hunt Murray 1975-1983
interim Albert Newton Jones 1983-1984
18.  Daniel Owen "Peter" Worthington, Jr. 1985-2012
interim Theodore H. McConnell 2012-2014
supply Scott Krecji 2014
19.  T. Grant Ambrose 2014-present

Sources

  • Chamberlayne, C. G. compiler. The Vestry Book of Kingston Parish, Mathews County, Virginia, 1679-1796. Richmond, VA, Clearfield Co., Inc., 1929. Reprinted Baltimore, MD, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1999.
  • Clark, W. M., editor. Colonial Churches. Richmond, VA, Southern Churchman Co., 1907. Articles on Ware and Abingdon Parish by the Rev. William Byrd Lee.
  • Jones, Spotswood H. The World of Ware Parish. Richmond, VA, The Dietz Press, Inc., 1991. Considerable information about several of the early rectors can be found in this history of the parish.
  • McCartney, Martha W. With Reverence for the Past: Gloucester County, Virginia. Richmond, VA, The Dietz Press, Inc., 2001. This history of the county was published during its 350th anniversary.
  • Meade, William. Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia. Philadelphia, PA, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1891.
  • Robins, Robert W. compiler. The Register of Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, Virginia, 1677-1780. Arlington, VA, Honford House, 1981.
  • Stanard, W. G. Some Emigrants to Virginia. Richmond, VA, Wm. Ellis Jones' Sons, Inc., 1911.