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Parishes of Virginia - Partial list

Parish County Dates Notes

Albemarle Parish

Surry and Sussex



Camden Parish



Vestry Records

Christ Church

Middlesex Co



Dettingden Parish

Prince William



Early Church Records



Roders Church, Peaked Mountain Church, Freiden's Church, St. Michaels, Trintiy Lutheran, Smiths Creek Baptist.

Early Church Records



Jacobs Church, St. Pauls Lutheran, Stoney Creek Church of Brethern, Powder Springs Union Church, St. James at Hudson Cross Roads

Henrico Parish



St. Johns P.E. Church

King William Parish




Kinston Parish

Gloucester Matthews



Kinston Parish

Mathews Co



Lunenburg Parish

Richmond Co



Lynnhaven Parish

Princess Anne Co



Newport Parish

Isle of Wight Co



North Farnham Parish

Richmond Co



Old Churches & Cem.

Princess Anne Co



Overwharton Parish

Stafford Co



Petsworth Parish

Gloucester Co.



St. James Northam Par.




St. Pauls Parish

Hanover Co



St. Pauls Parish

Stafford & King Geo



St. Peters Parish

New Kent JamesCity


Vestry Book

St. Peters Parish

New Kent & JCC



Stratton Major Parish

King and Queen Co



Suffolk Parish

Nansemond Co



Truro Parish-Pohich Church

Fairfax Co


includes Overseer of the Poor 1787-1802

Upper Parish

Nansemond Co



Zion Pine Church

Shenandoah Co


Stoney Creek

These are all available in book form.  There are also more on microfilm but I didn't have time to get the list of those.  Any of the above books I can check out for 30 days.  Karen L. Salisbury


A Brief History of the Episcopal Church, David L. Holmes
Trinity Press International, Valley Forge, PA, 1993, pp.20-22.

The faith of the Church of England was established from the start in the colony of Virginia. "Establishment" meant that Virginia's General Assembly legislated for the church, supported it through taxes, and protected it against dissent.  This government support bulwarked the Church of England in Virginia during most of the colonial period.  Growing slowly but steadily, it especially flourished in the years between 1680 and 1740.  But in time, as is usually the case in church history, state support almost crushed the spiritual life of a Christian church.

From 1607 on, the established church slowly grew-first in Jamestown, and then in ever-widening settlements along Virginia's rivers, the boulevards of the time.  Whenever settlers moved too far from existing courthouses and churches, the assembly established the boundaries of new counties and new parishes.  The number of parishes in colonial Virginia steadily increased from forty-eight in 1671, to fifty-three in 1726, to one hundred seven in 1784.  Most were smaller in size than the colonial counties.

A typical parish contain three or four churches.  Virtually all had a church farm (or "glebe").  The intention of the Virginia parish system (still in evidence along the banks of such rivers as the Rappahannock) was to place a church not more than six miles-easy riding distance-from every home in the colony.  Although they had more formal names, many of the Anglican churches bore unintentionally humorous names taken from rivers, settlements, and other geographical landmarks: Pohick Church, Beaver Dam Church, Difficult Church, Cattail Church, Turkey Run Church, Rattlesnake Church, even Cheesecake Church (the latter a corruption of a Native American name).

Although the General Assembly of Virginia passed the laws governing its established church, groups called vestries composed of twelve laymen-always white, always male, and usually wealthy-ran the individual parishes.  Their powers were immense, ranging from levying taxes to hiring and firing the clergy to handling the welfare system that was the responsibility of the church prior to the separation of the church and state in Virginia.  Very early these vestries became self-perpetuating, closed corporations.  In other colonies, vestries were elected either by all member of the Church of England or by the freeholders of a parish.  But in Virginia from approximately the mid-seventeenth century on, if a member died or resigned, the remaining members elected his replacement.  Thus Virginia's colonial vestries effectively kept parish control in the hands of a select few.

The vestry system clearly offered great advantages for the established church.  It assured the services and the loyalty of the leading landowners-families with names such as Randolph, Carter, Byrd, Page, Nelson and Washington.  The vestries tended to hire clergy on one year contracts, which reduced the number of unworthy clergy in Virginia's pulpits.  In day to day matters, the system seems to have worked efficiently.

But in the long run, the vestry system made the established church in Virginia conspicuously the church of the aristocracy.  In the minds of the common people (who comprised more than ninety percent of Virginia's population), it also allied the church with the English government's policy of taxation without representation.  In addition, clerical supervision of parish morality suffered; generally protected by one year contracts only, parsons were hesitant to speak out against the sins of their leading parishioners.


Church and State In Colonial Virginia
Freeing Religion Resource Book, 1998, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Where there other taxes based on tithable, or only the church tax?
The variety of public taxes and dues with which colonial Virginians were faced can be grouped into several broad categories: poll taxes; import and export duties, and port charges; royal quite rents (on land); and special taxes for the support of paper currency.  It is poll taxes we are concerned with here.  Poll or head taxes were the most widely paid levied in the Virginia colony.  Poll taxes can be defined as any levy assessed at a flat rate (amount due) per tithable (taxable person).  Three different poll taxes were collected in colonial Virginia-the public levy, the county levy, and the parish levy.  Former Colonial Williamsburg historian Peter V. Bergstrom explained these three poll taxes this way in "Nothing So Certain: Taxes in Colonial Virginia" (1984)
Public Levy:  The public levy, laid on by the General Assembly, dates back to 1623 before the dissolution of the Virginia Company.  This tax, assessed on tithable persons in the colony, was normally used to pay for expenses of the central government including such things as construction and upkeep of government builds (first at Jamestown, then Williamsburg), salaries of minor colonial clerks, and compensation for masters whose slaves were executed.  During the eighteenth century the public levy was also the source of funds to pay burgesses.  After 1699 the General Assembly imposed a public levy every time it met, but it did not meet every year.
County Levy:  Counties in colonial Virginia also charged a poll tax on the tithable population in each county to meet the expenses of county government.  Counties collected these taxes regularly after 1647.  County levies covered the costs of local justice such as stipends to county court clerks, constables, and coroners.  Among the most expensive charges against county levies were construction and upkeep of county facilities (courthouses, jails, bridges, roods).  Wolf bounties ran into money in frontier counties.  County justices of the peach laid on the county levy annually.
Parish Levy:  Vestries in Virginia imposed this poll tax on parish tithables to support the activities of the Church of England in Virginia.  the parish rate was not established in law until 1626 when specific legislation for payment of ministers salaries was enacted.  It is safe to assume, however, that parishioners paid some sort of tax for ministers' salaries from the earliest years of the Virginia colony.  by the middle of the seventeenth century the parish rate was also used to pay for building and upkeep of churches and chapels, to purchase and maintain glebe farms and to relive the "worthy poor" in the parish.  The parish rate was an annual levy.
What exactly did tithable mean in colonial Virginia?
Some people are familiar with the term tithe (tenth) through their churches.  In the tradition of ancient Jewish law, they are encouraged to pledge one tenth of their earnings for the maintenance of ministers, building, and programs.  In England, tithes for support of the priesthood and the religious establishment were first enforced in he tenth century.
Tithe also had a more general meaning-any levy, tax, or tribute of one tenth.  In England tithable crops, livestock, and earnings determined the tithes paid by individuals for the support of the clergy and church.  In addition, Tithing-penny referred to revenues paid to sheriffs in England by the several tithings of their counties.  A tithing (from Saxon law) was a group of ten households that formed the tenth part of a hundred, an administrative unit.
As early as the 1620s in Virginia, the term tithable meant liable to pay taxes or one subject to payment of taxes.  colonial Virginians paid poll taxes (a set tax rate per person-not based on crops, livestock, or earnings) not only for parish support, but colony and county expenses too.  Poll tax rates in the colony were not valued at a tenth part of anything.
In Virginia any person legally subject to a poll tax was tithable, that is taxable.  It was just as necessary to define the taxable population in the colonial period as it is today.  The tax base (tithable population) for the public levy, the county levy, and the parish rate was determined by age, sex, and race.  The legal definition of a tithable changed several times during the seventeenth century but remained constant in Virginia after 1705.  In that year the legislature defined tithables to include males aged sixteen years and upwards (all races) and "all Negro, mulatto, and Indian women" aged sixteen and over.  All children under sixteen and white women were excepted.  Household heads normally paid taxes for all tithable persons attached to their households.  Level of income (ability to pay) was not among the criteria for determining who paid how much in poll taxes.
The list of tithable used by the General Assembly, the county, and the parish was recast every year.  The law concerning tithables ordered that the county court divide each county into "convenient precincts" (such as Upper Bruton York County, and Lower Bruton, James City County) and annually appoint one of the justices of the court for each precinct to take the list of tithes for that precinct.  Each tithetaker put a notice at the church or chapel in his precinct stating where he would be on June 10 so that heads of families could bring him the names of the tithables in their households as of June 9.  At the meeting of the county court in August each tithetaker delivered the lists her had collected to the courthouse so that all who wanted to could view them "for discovery of such (tithables) as shall be concealed."  The county clerk then compiled a master list arranged by parish and precinct.
There are further sections on:  I will type them in as time permits.
How was the amount of poll taxes per tithable determined.
Who collected taxes based on the tithable population.
Was the sheriff really as much of a treasurer?  Where did the money go?  How was the transfer made?
Explain the working relationship between vestry, local and colonial Governments.
General Assembly
County Courts
When county lines and parish boundaries differ, who collect fines?
Was there a county board of supervisors or did the vestry serve this function?
What social services were provided by the parishes?
When did parishes stop being concerned with roads, bridges, etc?
What other responsibilities transferred from parish to county and when?
What was procession of property bounds?
Was there an official educational system in colonial Virginia?

Page submitted by Karen L. Salisbury



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