The village of New Kent appears to have been the County seat since 1691 from land given to county by William Basset of Eltham Plantation. Prior to this location, the courthouse was located at Brickhouse on the York River. Most of the County’s colonial records were destroyed in the burning of the clerk’s office in 1787, and later records were destroyed in the burning of Richmond during the Civil War.
Virginia’s General Court confirmed the establishment of St Peter’s Parish on April 29, 1679. In the summer of 1700 the vestry ordered that a second Lower Church replace an earlier, structurally weak building known as the Broken Back’d Church. The new church, begun in 1701, was in use by July 1703. To-day it is the oldest parish church in the Diocese of Virginia and the third oldest in the Commonwealth.
Martha Dandridge, who would later become the wife of Col. George Washington, was born at Chestnut Grove on June 2, 1731. She married Col. Daniel Parke Custis, a member of the vestry and former churchwarden in June 1749. Her father, Major John Dandridge, had also served as churchwarden and vestryman, and her great-grandfather had been the first rector of nearby Bruton Parish. After eight years of marriage she was widowed with two surviving children.
On the sixth of January 1759 the Rector of St Peter’s Parish, the Rev’d Mr. David Mossom, solemnized the marriage of Col. George Washington and the Widow Custis. It has always been assumed that another future First-Lady, Letitia Christian, later the wife of President John Tyler, was baptized in the parish church in 1790.
The original portion of St Peter’s Parish Church is one of the few Jacobean structures in America and its 1740 stump tower is also rare. The body of the church is laid in English bond as are only three other colonial Virginia churches. In the church-yard are a number of colonial tombs, and the parish still posseses its Vestry Book (1684-1758) and Register (1685-1786).
The parish was represented by Col. William H. Macon at the first Convention of the Diocese of Virginia in 1785. From 1843 when the vestry reorganized and called the Rev’d Edwin A. Dalrymple as rector, Episcopalians and Presbyterians worshipped somewhat as one congregation until 1856 by alternating the Liturgy from Sunday to Sunday.
During the War Between the States the church was desecrated by Federal troops. General Robert E. Lee, whose wife was Mary Ann Randolph Custis — Martha Washington’s great-grandaughter — wrote on October 23, 1869 that *St Peter’s is the church where General Washington was married and attended in early life. It would be a shame to America if allowed to go to destruction.* His son, General William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, superintended the work of restoring the old church, contributed needed lumber, and furnished teams and hands for the hauling.
Money for the renovation was raised by the Rev’d Henry S. Kepler, Evangelist of the Diocese, who had become rector when the war broke out. The church was reopened for Divine Service on Sunday, November 10, 1872 and the Rev’d Mr. Dalrymple, who gave a stone font that the parish still possesses, preached the sermon.
St Peter’s Church Restoration Association was organized on July 20, 1922 and the Virginia General Assembly designated St Peter Parish Church as *The First Church of the First First-Lady* on March 11, 1960. With the assistance of architectural and ecclesiological experts on both sides of the Atlantic, the interior of the building was elegantly restored to a colonial appearance in 1964.
The marble monument on the north wall of the chancel honors Parson Mossom (1690-1767), rector for forty years, who probably lies buried beneath the chancel. The three-decker pulpit, the Holy Table, the octagonal font and cover, the psalm-board, the Royal Arms, and many other furnishings in late 17th-c. style as well as service-books of the period are all reminders of the more than three centuries of witness that this parish and church have borne to the honor and glory of Christ the Lord.
God preserve thy going out and thy coming in.
What a beautiful day! Low tide was at 9am so I headed out around 8 in hopes to catch it at it’s lowest so I could dig around in the muck close to where I located a potential trash pit last week. When I got to the gate that leads to the field I ran into a member of the hunt club that hunts on the property. He was there trimming some orchard trees and offered to give me a ride the site which is over a mile and a half down the old colonial road. He told me he metal detected as well and had hunted the site that he was taking me to numerous times but didn’t really find much other than a few modern coins. He did admit that he never detected around the old 1600s house site .
The tide was really low but the muck was so thick that I called it quits within 5 minutes. There’s a spring that feeds into the creek where the old ship landing is so it makes the muck extra thick from the bank to the water. I’ll have to wait until the summer to kayak to the spot I want to go to.
I decided to head back up the bank to field and do some detecting close to the house site. The area is laden with iron which is a good sign but I assumed that it’s been pounded to death over the years so I didn’t really give it a thorough check last week. The fact that the hunt club guy told me he didn’t detect around the house site gave me some hope so I decided to turn my sensitivity down and grid the area really slow and I’m glad I did. Almost immediately I hit a solid high tone and dug a smooth King William copper coin:
Then 10 feet away I get another solid high tone and dug a nice 1773 VA Halfpenny:
Next I got scratchy high tone that was being masked by some iron so I hit it from another direction and it’s a solid 93-95 on my T2 vdi. I dug a plug and rechecked my hole and it’s still a solid 93 on my vdi. I’m not guessing it’s Spanish silver because they come in lower so I’m thinking it’s a Standing Liberty but in the back of my mind I’m thinking this may be something special. I pull out my knife and dig a big wide scoop out of the side of the hole and BAM!
Now I’ve dug quite a few cobs but I’ve never dug a monster 8 reales like this!
The rest of the day was a blur. Somewhere along I dug a few buttons, buckles and a pewter spoon bowl with a maker’s mark. I had planned on digging until the sun went down but my dumb butt left my water in the car which was a mile and a half way so I decided to call it quits and trek on back.
I couldn’t pass up a beautiful day so I decided to hit an early site that has been pounded by others in the past but I figured there’d be a few more goodies left for me.
The site had a locked gate at the entrance so I had to hoof it almost 2 miles to the field and house site. The old road to the site is beautiful and there are numerous creek crossings with Indian pottery sherds laying in the creek beds.
The field is surrounded by two creeks and a river all of which were well traversed by British and Dutch merchant ships in the 1600s and 1700s. There is an old cemetery that sits behind the old house site that has numerous 17th century graves in it. The house was built around 1680 and was torn down in the early 1800s and the inhabitants relocated to higher ground nearby due to sickness caused by the low lying marshes that surround the property.
There was lots of Civil War activity in the area so this site has been pounded to death over the years so the finds were very slim.
I found a few colonial buttons and 1600s trapezoidal buckle. I also found a lead wool seal with the words “Worsted Reformed” on it which was wool from Norwich, England in the late 1600s. I also walked along the river and saw brick, oyster shell, pottery and onion bottle bases and spouts eroding from a part of the bank….potential trash pit! I’ll have to bring my probe that my good buddy Bill D gave me see how large the trash pit is.
Met up with Bill D. again this morning. Our intentions were to check out some spots we had done a little research on including a couple of early 1700 sites… then we were going to return to the site where Bill found his Charles II farthing last week and try to eek out a few more oldies. We gained permission at one of the allegedly ca. 1700 sites and after a half hour of swinging we started to hit iron and dig brick. We anticipated finding more but the site didn’t yield much but a few buttons so we decided to hit the fall-back site from last week. After chit-chatting with the nice homeowner our first goal was to try to find my lost cut pistareen from last week but sadly, after a much appreciated effort from Bill, the spanish silver is still lost…possibly forever .
My first two targets were a nice early drilled-shank button back (I’m assuming it was inlaid with bone at one point) and a spoon handle. I then dug the customary lead balls, tacks and buckle pieces. After roaming around I got a really high tone (93 on my T2 vdi) and dug up a cruddy and worn looking copper which turned out, after a very delicately cleaning, to be a 1670’s Charles II half penny. My next good target was this flattened Confederate Block I button which is the second confederate button I found in this area within a few weeks. Finding any Civil War buttons in that area is somewhat strange because there wasn’t any Civil War activity there other than a small skirmish miles down the road. These were probably lost by the home owners after the War.
Met up with Bill D yesterday to do some detecting and/or door knocking. Our chances of getting on to an early site was slim due to hunting season but we figured we’d try anyway. The first site was off limits but our next site turned out to be devoid of hunters so we got to work. We immediately hit a large iron patch and spread out to do some cherry pickin’. Our hopes were high but the place screamed early and we knew in the back of our heads the site had probably been picked over. I found a few early leather adornments and pistol balls then I struck Spanish silver. It was a half of a worn Philip V but sadly it didn’t come home with me. I probably lost it somewhere in the field . I also dug more adornments, pistol balls and a nice 1600s spectacle buckle. Bill found a nice copper but I’ll let him show that.
It was a beautiful location and we were kindly invited to come back since there is a lot more land that will hopefully hold more silver for us.
I finally got for the first time since it started to get hot last Spring. I met a man last weekend at the hardware store who turned out to be the land manager for a few old properties in my county and he granted me permission to relic hunt on them. Since most of his properties are still in bean I decided to walk a 300 acre property that he is currently clearing. None of the old maps I have show any home sites on this property even the Civil War map I have shows this property as woods. On top of that, rather than using the slash and burn land clearing method, they are mulching the land so the ground is basically covered with mulch which makes it impossible to search for brick, glass or pottery which are indicators of house sites. My plan was to walk around the high spots and kick the mulch around looking for the indicators. I was doing this for a couple of hours when I noticed a cleared area without any mulch so I figured that would be my last spot I checked and I’m glad I did. I immediately found a pipe bowl on top of the ground then I found a pipe stem:
Then I walked around picking up pottery and glass pieces
I turned on the detector and my first find was a Spanish Cob:
Then I found a couple buckle frags, a flat button, a musket ball and a round leather adornment:
There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to the site. It’s surrounded by a numerous high knolls and is not close to any water source (that I could see). There’s a reasonable amount of iron but the brick fragments are few and far between. I’m going to head back out there this afternoon and poke around a little more.
Thanks for looking!
On the way back from looking at boat today I decided to check on the property where I found a stack of half reales fused together. The fields have not been planted yet but had been limed so I figured I give it a go since it won’t be long before the crop is in.
I didn’t have much luck early on….in fact I didn’t get one target for almost an hour! The very first was shallow and rang up 75 on the T2 so I figured it was a brass casing but it turned out to be a clipped pistareen. It was quiet again after that so I decided to just walk the old road beds and was able to find a few buttons and a whole bunch of aluminum.
These fields still had high corn stalks from last fall so hopefully they’re going to plant bean this year so I can get in there good next year.
Edit……I forgot to ask about the copper nail that I took a picture of. I can’t remember ever digging one. Does anyone know what they were used for?
I couldn’t pass up this beautiful spring morning so I went to a spot in the woods that I pass everyday on the way home. I was able to secure permission a while back but have never made it out there so I figured I should go today before the brush and briars make it impossible. According to my research, there was a mill and two natural springs about a 1/4 mile from the road so I brought my mountain bike so I didn’t have to walk through tick town to get there. It’s a beautiful spot and I was able to find one of the springs bubbling from the side of a ravine.
There was very little trash except for shotgun brass so I made sure to dig every signal. I’m not used to digging in the woods and tree roots so I almost gave up but figured I’d keep at it and good thing I did because I was rewarded with a bunch of buttons and two coppers. One is a KG II and the other is smaller like a half cent but it is toast.
Most of my fields have been planted except for the one that Bill D and I have been a few times recently. Since most old plantations were self sustaining and had numerous house sites and ancillary buildings I decided to explore areas we haven’t hit in the past. To do this, I like to walk the perimeter of the fields in all-metal mode until I start to hit an iron patch, which would indicate a building site, then I grid it off making sure to hit it from two different directions. I also go really slowwwww. Doing this yesterday, I was able to eek out some goodies including a cob, three more livery buttons exactly like the one I found a few weeks ago and a really cool silver plated nameplate thingy with the name of the plantation owner. I would love to know what this was for so if anyone knows, please chime in.