Bruton Parish, Virginia Register, 1662-1797
Bruton Parish, Virginia Register, 1662-1797.
The parish register which survives covers the years 1662, twelve years before the formation of Bruton Parish (these records are those of the earlier Middleton Parish) up past the American Revolution to the mid 1790s. It records life events for both the great men of society as well as artisans, children, servants, slaves, bastard children, and reflects a cross-section of the Williamsburg community during its heyday when it served as the capital of the colony. More than 3,400 entries list either births, baptisms, deaths, or burials. There are no marriage records.
The editor has provided a meticulous transcription of the register, using his training in colonial paleography to correct many of the previous mis-readings. A full index is included as well as an extensive introduction. This will provide valuable information for anyone with family in the York/James City/Williamsburg area during the eighteenth century.
Dating from 1715, Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg is the third in a series of Anglican houses of worship that began in 1658. The first, which may have been at or near the 18th-century site, was built, probably of wood, in the Old Fields at Middle Plantation, Williamsburg's name until the 66-year-old community was incorporated in 1699.
Formed from Middletown and Marston Parishes in 1674, Bruton Parish was about 10 miles square. It is named for Bruton, Somersetshire, in England, the home of then-Governor William Berkeley and Virginia secretary Thomas Ludwell. As late as 1724, the parish contained only 110 families.
The church stood near the center of Williamsburg's original survey map drawn 15 years later. Its location suggested the church's importance to the colonial community's life. Virginia governors, from the time of Alexander Spotswood, were provided with a canopied chair on a platform inside the rail opposite the raised pulpit with its overhanging sounding board. Parishioners sat in boxed pews, their walls providing privacy and protection from drafts. In the early years the sexes sat apart. A vestry book entry for January 9, 1716, says: Ordered that the Men sitt on the North side of the church, and the women on the left.
Among the Williamsburg notables buried beneath the marble flagstones inside the church was Governor Francis Fauquier, one of the best loved of the colonial governors, who died in 1768. The same year an English organ was installed. Gaolkeeper Peter Pelham was hired to play it and he brought to church with him a prisoner from the Gaol, whose job it was to pump the instrument.
Among the men of the Revolution who attended Bruton Parish Church were Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Patrick Henry, and George Mason.