St. Paul's History

In 1819 a small group of men in Tappahannock, Virginia, met to reorganize local Anglican congregations scattered after the Revolution and to call a rector to South Farnham Parish. They secured the services of the Reverend John Rennolds from 1820-1825. The erection of St. Paul’s Church began during the tenure of his successor, the Reverend John Peyton McGuire. It replaced two colonial brick churches, Upper and Lower Piscataway, both of which had been in use before 1709. The cornerstone of St. Paul’s Church was laid on Saturday, August 4, 1838, at the northeast corner and inside was placed a box containing the Old and New Testaments, the Prayer Book, a manuscript bearing the names of President Martin van Buren, Governor of Virginia David Campbell, and a history of the times. The Consecration of the church, despite the dampness of the newly-plastered walls, took place on Thursday, June 11, 1840 with Bishop William Meade present. The architecture of the church reflected the Bishop’s emphasis on preaching and personal conversion rather than the Sacraments and Services of the Church. St. Paul’s Church is one of two Virginian churches that still retain the center pulpit characteristic of the evangelical Anglican movement.

Some of the significant families in the congregation at that time were the Temples, Smiths, Hailes, Wrights, Whitlockes, Latanes, Lewises, and Joneses. Two former rectors of St. Paul’s Church became bishops in Virginia. John B. Newton served as Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Virginia, 1894-1897, and Arthur C. Thomson served the Diocese of Southern Virginia successively as Suffragan Bishop (1917), Bishop Coadjutor (1919) and Diocesan Bishop (1930-1937). A Communicant, James Latane, became Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Virginia, and another Communicant, Edward Arthur Temple, was Bishop of Northwest Texas, 1910-1924.

Another Communicant, Martha Watson Taylor, by virtue of her office as Diocesan President of the Women’s Auxiliary, was the first woman named as delegate to the Council of the Diocese of Virginia.

In 1920 the walls of the church were reinforced and a stained glass window replaced two rectangular ones on the front. The present vesting room was built in 1924. Later the door from the pulpit to the vesting room was closed and doors cut on either side of the pulpit. The original brick aisles were revealed when the pine floors were removed in the 1950's. They were laid in an end-to-end pattern rather than the original herringbone pattern. Dedicated in 1972, the Parish House was added to the 1924 vesting room without disturbing the original building.

The family of Mr. James Smoot was the first to request burial at St. Paul’s Church. Only one unused grave site remains inside the iron fence at the right of the church. When the Gresham family requested a burial site, the present location behind the church was chosen for a new cemetery. The lines were drawn so that those at rest could face east in the traditional manner. The surrounding wall is due to the efforts of Mr. Harry Walker of Texas.

There are many gifts throughout the church that memorialize those have contributed to her life. Descendants of former communicants still take active interest in her growth and preservation. Today St. Paul’s Church is active in community outreach and especially in sending parish young people to our diocesan camp at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs.