George Washington Papers

Minutes of Truro Parish Vestry, 21 September 1769

Minutes of Truro Parish Vestry

[21 September 1769]

At a Vestry held for Truro Parish at the Cross Roads leading from Hollis’s to Pohick Warehouse Sepr 21st 1769.

A Spott was chosen to fix the new Church upon convenient to the said Cross Roads, & agreeable to a former order of Vestry, bearing date the 20th day of November 1767:1 A Yard was laid of for the said Church, & a Certain quantity of Land laid of for the use of the said Parish, for which the Said Vestry do agree to pay Daniel French Gent: at the rate of one Guinea per Acre, for what the same shall Measure.

At the same time, the said Daniel French, who on the third Day of March last, undertook to Build the Church for the sum of Eight hundred, Seventy and Seven Pounds Current Money of Virginia, agreeable to a Plan then exhibited, did execute an agreement, and gave Bond for the Performance thereof, agreeable to a Contract enter’d into with the Vestry, on the said third day of March, and order’d to be Ratified and Confirm’d, by certain Instruments of Writing on the Seventh Day of April following; but which, for want of a Meeting of Vestry on that day, and the frequent Disapointments since, has never been done till now.2

Resolv’d that the Church-Wardens3 for the time being, do in behalf of the Parish, procure from the said Daniel French a proper Conveyance of the Lot or Parcell of Land aforementioned.

Resolv’d that the Church-Wardens Receive from Mr Alexander Henderson, the Money that remain in his hands due to the Parish, & pay to Mr Daniel French, the sum of Two hundred Pounds, being the first payment for the new Church.

Resolv’d that the Honble George Wm Fairfax, George Washington & George Mason Esqrs. Captn Daniel McCarty & Mr Edward Payne, do View & examin the Building from time to time, as they or any three of them shall see fitting to whom the undertaker is to give notice when the different Metearials are ready.4

Daniel McCarty C: W: John Posey5
Edward Payne William Gardner
George Washington Tz. Ellzey
George W: Fairfax
  Truly Recorded,

John Barry Clk Vestry

D, Truro Parish Vestry Book, on deposit at DLC.

GW, who had been a vestryman for Truro Parish in Fairfax County since 1762, was one of the two churchwardens of the vestry when on 20 Nov. 1767 by a vote of seven to five the vestry decided to build a new brick church at “the Cross Road” to replace the old wooden building south of Pohick Creek (see note 1). GW also was present on 28 Nov. 1768 when the vestry ordered the placing of a notice in the Virginia and Maryland newspapers to ask that anyone wishing to undertake the construction of the new church attend a vestry meeting on 3 Mar. 1769, “with Plans and Estimates” for a “Church to be built ...of Brick, and contain three thousand square feet” (Vestry Book, 28 Nov. 1768). On 3 Mar. the vestry reached an agreement with Daniel French to build the church and then adjourned. The contract with French containing detailed specifications for the new church is dated 7 April 1769, but lack of a quorum on that day prevented the vestry’s having its meeting and sealing the bargain (see note 2). Vestrymen opposing the new site for the church north of Pohick Creek succeeded in delaying the final approval of French’s contract for more than five months, until this meeting in September. In his Old Virginia Churches description begins [William] Meade. Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1857. description ends (2:227), Bishop William Meade reports that GW was the leader of the faction favoring the new site (nearer Mount Vernon) and that George Mason led those who wished to have the new church built on the site of the old one (nearer Gunston Hall).

1The vestry “Resolved that a Church be Built at or as near the Cross Road leading from Hollis’s to Pohic Warehouse as Water can be had...” (Vestry Book, 20 Nov. 1767).

2The minutes for the vestry meeting of 3 Mar. 1769, which GW attended, has these two entries: “Mr Daniel French undertook the Building the new Church at the Cross Roads, for the sum of £877, Virginia Currency....”

“The Vestry being met pursuant to a former order to let the Building the new Church at Pohic and not having compleated their business, adjurn till Fryday the Seventh Day of April, next.”

As for the failure to have a meeting of the vestry as scheduled on 7 April 1769, GW includes this in his diary entry for that date: “After this [fox hunting I] went to an intended meeting of the Vestry but there was none” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:140). The detailed specifications for the construction of the new church, which are copied in the vestry book immediately following these minutes for 21 Sept. and are in CD-ROM:GW, are headed: “Articles of Agreement made the Seventh day of April in the Year 1769. Between the Vestry of Truro Parish, in County of Fairfax, of the One part, and Daniel French of Fairfax Parish in the County aforesaid Gent. of the other part.” It is signed by French and the seven vestrymen present at the meeting of 21 September. See note 4.

3Daniel McCarty and Thomas Withers Coffer were the churchwardens in 1769.

4GW did not attend the next two meetings of the Truro vestry, on 1 Dec. 1769 and 26 Nov. 1770, but he was present on 8 July 1771 when the vestry agreed that the dimensions of the altarpiece in the new church should be different from what had been specified, “that the Stone coi[g]ns are coarse grain’d and rather too soft” and hence should be “painted with White Lead and Oyle,” and “that the sub’d Bricks at the returns of all the Windows ought to be painted as near as possible the same colour with the Arches.” He was also present on 5 June 1772 when the vestry decided to have three stone steps instead of one at the front door of the church, to paint its roof, to build a brick “Vestry House,” 18 by 24 feet, at the church, and to sell some of the pews. (For evidence of GW’s strenuous opposition to the sale of pews in Fairfax Parish the next year, see GW to John Dalton, 15 Feb. 1773.) On 15 Feb. 1774 GW joined the other vestrymen in taking formal possession of the new church and in making final payment to the heirs of Daniel French who had died in 1771. Quotations are from the Truro Parish Vestry Book, on deposit in the Library of Congress.

5John Posey, who was not in attendance at the vestry meeting of 3 Mar. 1769 and remained in Maryland until July 1769 after taking a new wife, went with GW on this day and joined the other five vestrymen favoring the crossroads site for the new church. With a quorum at last, the vestry ratified its agreement of 7 April with French (see source note and note 2). The five vestrymen not present today and therefore not signers of the agreement were George Mason, Alexander Henderson, William Linton, Thomas Ford, and Thomas Withers Coffer.

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