ST. PAUL'S CHURCH, KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND
Previous to the foundation of St. Paul's parish there is evidence of a church building on Eastern Neck in 1693. It is supposed to have been somewhere near what was known as New Yarmouth. The town of New Yarmouth was built upon land purchased of Major Thomas Ringgold, by a man named Tovey. Tovey bought a hundred acres of the tract of land called Huntingfield, which is stretched a cross and to the south of Eastern Neck. In 183S the farms of that tract belonged to George W. Wilson, Esq., and others. Visitors to this locality found the remains of a wharf, covered with rubbish, and also many stones which were not native to Maryland, but which had been brought in ships, as ballast, from England; said ships returned to England having tobacco as chief cargo. The stones had been used to pave the approach to the wharves, and for other purposes. In 1838 Thomas Browne owned this land. New Yarmouth was, in its day, a commercial center, and a port of customs entry; the court sat there, and there the King's justices met.
In a short time, and to meet the convenience of the northern trend of the settlers, and when the parish of St. Paul's was founded by law, the church site was moved from this New Yarmouth locality to the place it now occupies at the head of "Broadnox Creek."
The first vestry meeting of St. Paul's Parish was held in the house of Mr. Thomas Joce, of New Yarmouth, on or immediately after 30th January, 1693.
The early vestry meetings were held in the houses of Mr. Michael Miller, of Lankford's Bay, Mr. Thomas Joce, of New Yarmouth, and of Mr. Simon Wilmer.
After several efforts on April 15, 1695, the Vestry agreed with Mr. Daniel Norris to build a church 40 feet long and 24 feet wide. The church was built upon a parcel of land belonging to Michael Miller, being part of the land called Arcadia lying at the head of "Broadnox Creek," for 2,004 pounds of tobacco.
It would appear, then, that in 1707 there were two buildings or churches, one built as a Parish Church of St. Paul's, on "Michael Miller's land," the other built "adjacent to the Parish Church of St. Paul's," on two acres from Charles Ringgold for which he got 500 pounds of tobacco.
But of the church before mentioned as having been built by Mr. Daniel Norris, it was not finished according to contract; for the Vestry sued Mr. Norris for his unfulfilled contract, and on November 27, 1701, obtained judgment against him for 4,673 pounds tobacco and 299 pounds for costs of suit though he (Mr. Daniel Norris) gave a receipt on 6th February, 1696, in full for payment for building the church.
May 10, 1711, Rev. Alexander Williamson, an Orthodox minister of the Church of England, was sent certified and recommended by the Right Hon. and Rev. Father in God, Henry, Lord Bishop of London, to officiate within this province.
At a meeting of the Vestry at the Parish Church of St. Paul's in Kent County, August 27, 1711: Rev. Mr. Alex. Williamson, Mr. Wm. Scott, Capt. Edw'd Scott, Mr. Wm. Harris, Capt. Jas. Harris, Mr. Wm. Frisby, Sr., contracted with Mr. Jas. Harris, as undertaker, to build a church for the use of this Parish of St. Paul's, in Kent County, 40 feet long in the clear and 30 feet wide in the clear; to be 16 feet from the ground.
Mr. James Harris, William Pott and James Smith gave bond to the Vestrymen in one hundred and fifty thousand pounds of good, sound, merchantable leaf of tobacco, and cask to contain the same, for the completion of their contract.
The Vestrymen gave bond to Mr. James Harris for 140,000 pounds of good, sound, merchantable leaf tobacco, on behalf of St. Paul's Parish, for the due performance of their agreement. At a meeting of the Vestry on 2d February, 1713, Capt. James Harris having complied with his obligation to the Vestry about building the Church, made his delivery of the church and took up his bond. A tax of ten pounds of tobacco on each tax-payer was continually levied each year, pursuant to an Act of Assembly, for repairing, beautifying, or building churches. In 1717, 20th November, the Vestry of St Paul's Parish met in the court house in Chester Town.
The Vestry House was built in 1776, for 20,000 pounds of tobacco. 27th October, 1800, the Rev. George Dashiel held services at St. Paul's only every other Sunday; but what he did, or where he went, on the other Sundays, is not said. On 27th October, 1800, there occurs the first mention of dollars, where a necessary 50 dollars is to be raised to do the repairs of the church that must be done immediately. 11th May, 1801, Simon Wilmer is elected as lay delegate to the convention at Baltimore. 27th May, 1801, William Voss rented the Vestry House for a school house at three pounds per annum, Mr. Voss to keep the house in repair and mend at all times any broken windows.
In 1812 St. Paul's Church was used as a barracks or the troops, during some time of the war of that (late with England. Captain Scott, who was maternal grandfather to Mrs. George Jessop (nee Maria Harris), was quartered there.
26th November, 1843, the church was repaired. It was consecrated to the service of Almighty God by the Right Rev. William Robinson Whittingham, Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland. The Rev. Thomas B. Flower, Rector; Thomas Miller, Wm. B. Wilmer, James P. Gale, James F. Browne, James Browne, Horatio Beck, Alex. W. Ringgold, Henry W. Carvill, Vestrymen; J. N. Gordon, Sr., Register; Thomas Miller, Esq., Delegate to Convention.
January 10, 1845, G. C. Griffith was made sole supervisor of the cemetery. Ordered that no separate inclosure should be made for any grave. At this time St. Paul's owned a slip of land of an acre, more or less, lying between the main road and Dr. Houston's land, beginning at a. boundary of Houston's land, on the Bellair road, and running on with Houston's land to the Rock Hall road. Said slip of land was appropriated for a Sexton's House. The Vestry voted in 1878 that it meet once .a month regularly and any member not attending or even fifteen minutes late, to be fined $1. That Vestry meant business!
Pews were first let by lot, then in 1862 the rent amounted to nearly $500. From 1862 they were sold to the highest bidder. Pews were made free on the 1st of May, 1870, and again levied in 1872. Since 1887 it has been supported by voluntary contributions and subscriptions.
OLD ST. PAUL'S CEMETERY.
Between nature's grand provision and art's careful supply, this cemetery of St. Paul's is second to none for quiet grandeur and exquisite beauty. It is situated on the summit of a gentle slope, with a pretty, bright stream of water at the foot of the hill, while the dear old church, at its brow, rises from its 200 years of foundation in a call of peace and rest with God. Great giant oaks make the scene majestically beautiful from the hand of nature, and art has done her part in promoting most sweet loveliness. The tree tops of the great giant oak trees tower their lofty heads as reaching for the skies, arid stretch out their tops as fingers ever pointing heavenward. Their great lower limbs reach out their wondrous length in unusual size and strength, as though typical of the great loving arm of the Good God, stretched out over His own Sacred Acre, in merciful care of His faithful departed holy dead. Hosts of evergreen and other trees and shrubs are in irregular beauty all around the grounds. The graves are all neat and well-cared for, the walks clean and hard. Flowers in abundance adorn the scene and bright green grass everywhere colors and closely covers the whole cemetery. For many years it was under the management of the late Thomas W. Skirven and now his son occupies the same position. The oldest stone-marked grave has inscribed on its foot-stone:
Here lies ye body of Daniel Coley.
He departed this life Oct. ye 20, 1729.
Cut by John Godfrey.
The head-stone is as follows:
Behold & see now here I lye
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so must you be
Therefore prepare to follow me.
The next oldest has: "Here lyes ye Body of Even Evans. He departed this life June ye 30, 1735." The next is of Benjamin Vickers, Esq., 1790. There are a number of very old graves, with rough head and foot-stones, but which bear no inscription at all.
(The Rev. Chris. T. Denroche, rector of this church, 1893, issued a Souvenir History of the Parish of St. Paul's for the Bi-Centennial Celebration of its foundation in 1693, to whom we are indebted for much of the above information.)
Page(s) 78-84, History of Kent County, Maryland, 1630-1916, by Fred G. Usilton, 1916
Transcribed by Nathan Zipfel for the Maryland History and Genealogy Project