Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 9 - First Church in Fredericksburg]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 9
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(Continued from Part 8)

The first church in the town was erected in 1732, and Rev. Patrick Henry, uncle of the great orator, was the first preacher to fill its pulpit, from which the doctrines of the Church of England only were allowed to issue. The church was the only one, indeed, in the whole of St. George's parish," which at that time included half a dozen of the present counties. The great orator, when a boy, was a frequent hearer of his uncle's eloquent sermons, and it is said that they first inspired him with the fancy of becoming a public speaker. The parish still exists, but of the original rough church not a trace remains. Of the dozen churches at present existing in the town two belong to the Episcopalian creed – one being "High" and the other "Low" Church. In the olden times many of the Fredericksburg divines were noted for quaint ways and sayings, in and out of the pulpit. Soon after the inauguration of General Andrew Jackson as President, an old Methodist parson named Kobler, a stanch Whig, while offering up prayers in his church, took occasion to exhibit his uncompromising notion of honest, plain dealing. After praying for the new President's health, happiness, and the success of his administration, he added, solemnly, the words, "though Thou, O Lord, knowest that we did not want him!" Another of these outspoken clergymen, a man of great stature, strength, and of highly strung passions, was accustomed to rule his vestry with a rod of iron. Wishing to have something done which only the vestry could do, he found that a majority of them were unwilling to vote as he wished. A quarrel ensued; high words were speedily followed by blows, and in this pugilistic encounter the clergyman, thanks to his gigantic strength and skill as a bruiser, got the better of the recusant vestrymen, mauled them unmercifully, and drove them from his presence. The affair having naturally created great excitement, he rose to explain on the following Sunday, and, desiring to justify his conduct by Holy Writ, preached a virulent sermon from the test: "And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair."

(to be continued)

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