Skip to comments.A rich history, an enduring legacy: Church congregations began before country’s founding
Posted on 11/09/2012 9:04:25 PM PST by Pharmboy
Staff photo by TIN NGUYEN St. Ignatius Catholic Church at Chapel Point, built 1789, sits on top a hill overlooking the bank of the Port Tobacco River, where the place of worship of the original St. Ignatius Parish, founded in 1641, was located. Catholics arrived in Maryland in greater numbers on the promise of religious freedom in the new American colony from the restriction of the Anglican Church.
Southern Maryland has several churches that are rich in history and continue to serve. Some of the oldest churches, many of which are Episcopal and Roman Catholic congregations, have stories of Jesuit priests ministering to Native Americans, members who served in the Revolutionary War and a rector who doubled as a naturalist.
St. Ignatius oversees Maryland history
Overlooking the Port Tobacco and Potomac rivers, St. Ignatius Church has seen almost the entire history of Maryland.
The Roman Catholic parish, belonging to the Jesuit order, has been present since 1641, when Father Andrew White first ministered to Native American populations in the region.
White, who came over on the Ark and the Dove with the first Europeans to settle in Maryland, stayed in the first Maryland colony for about five years before branching out to minister to the Native American tribes in the region, said Angela Hume, the churchs director of religious education.
White managed to convert several Native Americans, including the Piscataway tribal king Kittamaquund, Hume said. White also served as St. Ignatius Churchs first pastor, Hume said.
The church building dates to 1798; it is noted in a Latin inscription outside the church that John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States, blessed the church and dedicated it Aug. 7, 1798.
The parish is the longest continuously operating Roman Catholic parish in the United States, Hume said. The church is also called St. Thomas Manor because the property used to be a 4,000-acre plantation, Hume said. Now, the church property consists of approximately 31 acres.
From St. Ignatius Churchs beginning to 1692, the church could operate in freedom because Maryland had tolerance for Roman Catholics, as opposed to other colonies at the time. Marylands Act of Toleration in 1649 officially promoted tolerance among different Christian faiths and provided protections from hate speech, according to the Maryland State Archives.
However, Maryland enacted The Act of Establishment in 1692 that made the Anglican Church the state church. Catholic churches could not practice their faith publicly. During that time, the church was publicly shuttered, but Jesuit priests in the manor house continued to minister in the area, Hume said.
After the establishment of the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom throughout the United States, the church continued to operate.
The church has several markers of its Jesuit heritage and tradition, including displays of the letters I, H and S, which are the first three letters of Jesus name in New Testament Greek.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, for whom the church is named, founded the Jesuit order, also known as the Society of Jesus, along with six others during the 16th century.
The Jesuits take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience to God and obedience to the pope in its mission, according to the Society of Jesus official website.
The letters A, M, D and G also are displayed in several parts of St. Ignatius Church, reflecting the Jesuit motto ad majorem Dei gloriam, meaning to the greater glory of God. A plaque in the back of the church indicates that in 1805, the church hosted the ordination of the first three Jesuit priests to be ordained in the United States.
The Rev. Edward Dougherty, St. Ignatius pastor, noted this plaque as recognizing the churchs link to Jesuit ministry in the United States. Dougherty also noted that Jesuit priests have ministered all over the world, including in Japan, South Africa and India. I consider myself to be in the long line of all of them, not just in the United States, said Dougherty, who has been the St. Ignatius pastor for seven years.
St. Ignatius has history reflected in its kneelers, used by parishioners who kneel for prayers. One kneeler depicts Father Andrew White baptizing Kittamaquund. On another kneeler, St. Ignatius of Loyola is depicted along with the IHS and AMDG markers. Other kneelers depict the history of Maryland and education from the one-room schoolhouse to Georgetown University, the first Jesuit university in the country; one kneeler was made by children. The kneelers were put in for the 200th anniversary of the church building in 1998, Hume said.
The interior of the building is newer, as a fire destroyed the interior in 1866, Hume said.
During the Civil War, the Union Army had troops stationed near the property, Hume said. The Union soldiers apparently thought it was easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission to use the cemetery as a practice firing range. Although the soldiers practiced firing at gravestones and took provisions from the manor, records do not show that the soldiers used the manor house, Hume said. The church sued the U.S. government for damages after the war and received $3,000 as a settlement, Hume said.
A hidden tunnel also extends from a little white building, where the manor kitchen used to be, to the Port Tobacco River, Hume said, but the tunnel is closed now.
Dougherty said despite its history, the church is comprised of people, not a building. I like being connected to the roots of things, but its the living people that are more important. Some of our parishioners are descendants from the 17th century, but our church is not a museum. Its a living place, Dougherty said.
Away and back again to St. Andrews
St. Andrews Church in Leonardtown dates back to 1744, when the state legislature established the parish from two adjoining parishes: All Faith Parish to the north and William & Mary Parish to the south.
The church, however, did not officially come together until 1753 because the existing rectors of the parish had to resign or die before the parish could be established, due to Anglican Church laws, according to an account of the churchs history called Creation of a Parish Time Capsule of an Era by Win Everett, a church member.
In 1753, the Rev. Lawrence De Butts, who presided over the William & Mary Parish, died, and the state permitted parishioners to elect church leaders for the congregation, according to Everetts account.
The church building was erected in 1767 with two towers, each containing a staircase that indentured servants and slaves used because they were not allowed to sit in the regular pews. Indentured servants could enter the front of the church but had to ascend the right tower to sit in a balcony. Slaves were not allowed to enter the front of the church at all, instead entering the left tower from the outside, said the Rev. Beverly Weatherly, the churchs rector.
The churchs exterior has Georgian-style architecture, according to the Maryland Historical Trusts Inventory of Historic Properties. The style emphasizes symmetry and decoration above its windows.
The interior has been restored to reflect the original paint scheme and includes an altar piece with the Lords Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed displayed.
The Maryland Historical Trusts IHP indicates that John Freich painted the altar piece, called a reredos, in 1771.
A feature in older church buildings are doors on the pews of the church. They were meant to keep cold air from getting in the pews. The church rented out the pews or people bought individual pews. Doors are still present on the pews at St. Andrews Church.
The church also had members who served in the Revolutionary War and are buried in the church cemetery. One of those members was George Dent, a captain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Dent also served as a colonel in the War of 1812.
The congregation regularly attended St. Andrews Church until approximately the 1860s. At that time, the parish decided to build a church closer to downtown Leonardtown with modern amenities like electricity and running water, Weatherly said. For more than 100 years, the congregation worshipped at the modern building, which was known as St. Peters Church.
However, because of Anglican Church requirements, the congregation had to come back to the St. Andrews Church building annually for six weeks to keep the parish organized, Weatherly said.
Longtime church members recall coming to the church in the middle of the summer every year. For six weeks of services, we came to St. Andrews. It was hot and miserable, said Helen Rotzinger of Hollywood.
The congregation focused itself on morning and evening prayers, with a weekly Eucharist service, said Bob Rotzinger, Helens husband.
The congregation moved back to the St. Andrews building in 1985 when St. Peters Church was condemned due to structural concerns.
The Rotzingers continued to attend St. Andrews when the congregation permanently moved back, and both said they have a fondness for the site. Its a great church. I like the warmness of the community, Helen Rotzinger said.
The move back revitalized the congregation, Hollywood resident Susan Bennett said, because the congregation came together to renovate the church and bring it back to life.
Renovations restored two church towers and restored the building to look as it did when it was originally built. Engineers specializing in colonial buildings stabilized the church, Bennett said. The church added a parish building for church offices, classrooms and ministry activities in 1985, Weatherly said.
Weatherly, who has been the churchs rector for 2½ years, said the church is a warm and inviting community that organizes community events and runs St. Andrews Pre-School.
Enduring from generation to generation
Christ Church in Port Republic is the oldest continuously operating church in Calvert County, dating back to at least 1672.
The current building dates back to 1772, built on the foundation of the churchs two previous buildings, said Richard Dodds, curator of the Calvert Marine Museum.
The church cost 160,000 pounds of tobacco to build and received financing through Marylands General Assembly because the Anglican Church was the official church at the time, according to The Story of Old Christ Church by John Fleming.
Christian faiths that were Protestant were permitted some freedom but had to pay taxes in the form of tobacco to fund the state church, according to Flemings account. After the Revolutionary War, Anglican churches changed their names to become Episcopal churches, providing distinction and independence from the Church of England.
Known for hosting its annual jousting tournament, which has been around for 147 years, the church also has several stories, including two about previous rectors.
The Rev. George Handy was the rector when British troops stormed the region in 1814 during the War of 1812, Dodds said.
Handy wrote a letter to a man in 1814 asking him to receive some of his household goods, Dodds said, as the British troops were invading Calvert County. Handy moved to Kent County soon after for safety and did not return as rector, Dodds said.
Another rector was more attached to the landscape than Handy; the Rev. Hugh Jones trained as a naturalist at Oxford University prior to guiding the church from 1696 to 1702.
While serving as rector, he collected items to send back to London, such as Marylands early plants, animals and fossils. Some of the items survive today at the British museum, Dodds said. Jones is regarded as Marylands first naturalist.
The church has undergone several renovations and repairs during its history but has remained in the same building since 1772, according to Flemings account.
The churchs current rector, the Rev. John Howanstine Jr., who has been there for 28 years, said it gives him encouragement, hope and strength to know that the church has been worshipping for centuries in the same place.
Theres a phrase out of Scripture that I pick out and use a lot from generation to generation. Its a very profound concept in Scripture. To be in a place that has the kind of historical roots that go back as far as Christ Church, theres not many places that you can feel [the sense] from generation to generation, Howanstine said.
Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church is an inner city church blessed with the beauty and charm of a garden-like setting. This lovely church, surrounded by historic buildings, spacious grounds, and ample parking has attracted many members of the congregation.
Founding The Swedish colonists were Christians, and a pastor came with them, as did decorations (the carved cherubim holding the open bible) and a church bell. The Swedish colonists founded six congregations. Remarkably and unusually, they treated the Native American people with respect and kindness, acknowledging them as the rightful lords of the land. Sweden itself underwent an abrupt decline in power by the middle 1600's, and there were few resources to aid the colony. When the English overwhelmed the Dutch in the 1655, the Swedes governed themselves as the Upland Court and Swedish was the major European language spoken until 1680 when English settlers out-numbered them.
In 1646, a church was dedicated at Tinicum. This was the first Christian church built in the Delaware Valley and is the direct ancestor of Gloria Dei.
The site of the Gloria Dei Church, known by the Native American name, Wicaco (meaning 'a peaceful place'), was given to the Swedish church by Sven Svenson. In 1666 a blockhouse had been built on this site, and in 1677 the blockhouse was modified to become the first church. When the time came to construct a more permanent place of worship, the choice of location was made difficult by the fact that Swedes were living as far south as Tinicum as well as along the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.
After much debate, not all of it peaceful, the names of the two possible sites were written on slips of paper and a drawing held, with Wicaco the winning site. Construction of the present day church began in 1698 and under the Charter of Privileges the Swedish Church continued to thrive in Penn's colony where religious tolerance was law.
Is Tinicum near the Tinicum Park? I will always love driving up River Road, and do so now to keep my sanity.
When the Swedish residents were required by English law to start using the English naming system, rather than (around 1685) the Scandanavian patrynomic naming system, he changed his name from Peterson (Persson) to Longacre, thus confusing his descendants as to their heritage for about 10 generations! LOL. Most of us thought we were English, rather than Swedish because of the name change.
BTW, I read that many of the early members of the Swedish congregations attended church via boat. I guess that travel and commerce via boat was fairly common in Philadelphia in the early days. I remember touring “Mansions in the Park” on a visit to Philadelphia in 1976. All those houses were originally built facing the river. Since they were mostly “Georgian” style, it didn’t matter when a road was finally constructed because the front and the back looked the same!
Catholics were not allowed to hold public office anywhere in the Empire until the Catholic Relief Act of 1829.
Thank you for this information, as I was unaware. Our Founders did not pay attention to that, as Carroll of Maryland was the Catholic Signer of the DoI.
Thank you for your additions to this thread. On the subject of name changing during colonial times, after the Brits took over Niew Amsterdam in 1664, some Dutch and most Frenchmen anglicized their names. Evidently this was not uncommon back then.
My understanding is that the name changing was codified into the law around 1690. It was hard to keep track of families whose when Margit Olson’s daughter became Hedwig Margitdotter and Peter Svenson’s son became Anders Peterson.
My ancestor’s name was Andrew Peterson but when the law changed, he chnged his name to Andrew Longacre. Most of the Swedes kept the name that they held at the time, but my ancestor chose a different route. Maybe he thought there were already too many Petersons in the colony. He had an English brother-in-law named Robert Longshore who farmed the land next to him on the island. Perhaps Longacre was a nod to his b-i-l, Longshore.
This Anglicization of the names affected all of the Scandinavians and the Dutch who all used the patrynomic method of naming their children, which must have seemed disorderly to the English. I understand that there is currently a movement in Denmark to return to that method of naming their descendents.
The Antiestablishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause were indeed radical departures from the dominant views of the English ruling class. Our Founders really were revolutionaries!
...and God Bless Them All!
Boats were used a lot. We still have the original canal system in our town to the north and along the Delaware, too.
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