18th Century Accounts of Overwharton Parish, Stafford County, VA

Note: Many researchers of the Suddarth line have been stopped by the paucity of data and the seeming contradictions in what is available when they get to James Suddarth of Stafford County, who is known to have been part of that county’s Overwharton Parish. Some researchers are intrigued with the idea that Suddarth may have been from Scotland, and may have descended from French Huguenots.

My instinct is to pull together what is known about the parish, its church and its minister at the time the James Suddarth lived in Stafford County. The following information about what is surely Suddarth’s church and minister from a late 19th century publication:

Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia In Two Volumes By Bishop Meade; Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1894.

From volume II, pp. 197-206


Overwharton Parish, Stafford County.

I come now to Overwharton parish in Stafford county. The county and parish take their names from the corresponding ones in England. Stafford county once extended up to the Blue Ridge Mountain. In the year 1730, Prince William county was formed from the “heads of King George and Stafford.” Overwharton parish was also coextensive with Stafford before Prince William was divided and Hamilton parish taken off. In the same year,–1730,–Overwharton parish was divided and Hamilton parish taken off.

Overwharton covered the narrow county of Stafford, and Hamilton the large county of Prince William before Fauquier, Fairfax, and Loudoun were taken away. Stafford, in its original dimensions, first appears as a county in 1666.

When it was erected into a parish is not known,–but most probably about the same time. Its division in 1730 is the first mention of it. The Rev. Robert Rose in his accountbook mentions the Rev. Alexander Scott as a minister in it in 1727; and it is well known that he was the minister of this parish for many years.* He came from Scotland,–being obliged to leave, it is supposed, after some unsuccessful rebellion. He never married.

Having acquired some considerable property, he invited his younger brother, the Rev. James Scott, to come over and inherit it. He had one estate in Stafford called Dipple, at which he lived. His brother came over, and after some time the minister of the adjoining parish of Dettingen in Prince William, which was separated from Hamilton when Fauquier was taken from Prince William, and which he ministered for thirty-seven years.

Mr. Alexander Scott had as his assistant or curate, for a short time before his death, the Rev. Mr. Moncure, a Scotchman, but descendant of a Huguenot refugee who fled from France at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Mr. Moncure was the successor of Mr. Scott. In what year he entered his duties I have been unable to ascertain, but his name is still to be seen painted on one of the panels of the gallery in Old Aquia Church, together with those of the vestry in 1757.

The first church was burned in the year 1751. I here give the names of the minister and vestry as painted on the gallery in the year 1757, when it is supposed the second church was finished. John Moncure, minister. Peter Houseman, John Mercer, John Lee, Mott Donithan, Henry Tyler, William Mountjoy, Benjamin Strother, Thomas Fitzhugh, Peter Daniel, Traverse Cooke, John Fitzhugh, John Peyton, vestrymen.

It is gratifying to know that descendants of the above are, with probably but few exceptions, in some part of our state or land still attached to the Episcopal Church. Their names are a guarantee for their fidelity to the Church of their fathers. Of the minister, the Rev. J. Moncure, the following extract from a letter of one of his daughters, who married General–afterward Governor–Wood, of Virginia, will give a more interesting account than any which could possibly be collected from all other sources. It was written in the year 1820, to a female relative, the grand-daughter of the Rev. James Scott, who married a sister of Rev. Mr. Moncure’s wife, and daughter of Dr. Gustavus Brown, of Port Tobacco, Maryland:—

“I was only ten years old when I lost my dear father. He was a Scotch-man descended from a French ancestor, who fled among the first Protestants who left France in consequence of the persecution that took place soon after the Reformation. He had an excellent education, and had made considerable progress in the study of medicine, when an invitation to see an establishment in Virginia induced him to cross the Atlantic, and his first engagement was in Northumberland county, where he lived for two years in a gentleman’s family as a private tutor.

During that time, although teaching others, he was closely engaged in the study of divinity, and at the commencement of the third year from his first arrival, returned to Great Britain and was ordained a minister of the then Established Church; came back to Virginia and engaged as curate to your great-uncle, Alexander Scott, who at that time was minister of Overwharton parish in Stafford county, and resided at his seat of Dipple. Your uncle died a short time after, and my dear father succeeded him in his parish and resided at the glebe-house. Your grandfather, the Rev. James Scott, who inherited Dipple, continued there until he settled at Westwood, in Prince William. He was my father’s dearest, kindest friend, and one of the best of men.

Their intimacy brought my father and mother acquainted, who was sister to your grandmother Scott. Old Dr. Gustavus Brown, of Maryland, my maternal grandfather, objected to the marriage of my father and mother. Although he thought highly of my father, he did not think him an eligible match for his daughter. He was poor, and very delicate in his health. Dr. Brown did not, however, forbid their union, and it accordingly took place. The old gentleman received them as visitors and visited them again, but would not pay down my mother’s intended dowry until they saw how they could get along, and ‘to let them see that they could not live on love without other sauce.’**

I have often heard my dear mother relate the circumstances of their first housekeeping with tears of tender and delightful recollection. They went home from your grandpapa’s, where they were married, with a slenderly-supplied purse to an empty house,–except a few absolute necessaries from their kind friends. When thus arrived, they found some of my good father’s parishioners there: one had brought some wood, another some fowls, a third some meal, and so on. One good neighbour would insist on washing for them, another would milk, and another would tend the garden; and they all delighted to serve their good minister and his wife.

Notwithstanding these aids, my mother found much to initiate her into the habits of an industrious housewife, and my father into those of an active, practical farmer and gardener, which they never gave up. When the business of preparing their meal was over, a small writing-stand was their table, the stair-steps furnished one a seat, and a trunk the other. Often, when provisions were scarce, my father took his gun or his fishing-rod and with his dog sallied forth to provide their dinner, which, when he returned, his happy wife dressed; and often would she accompany him a-fishing or fowling, for she said that they were too poor to have full employment in domestic business.

Though destitute of every luxury, they had a small, well-chosen library which my father had collected while a student and tutor. This was their evening’s regale. While my mother worked with her needle he read to her. This mode of enjoyment pleasantly brought round the close of the first year. When the minister’s salary was paid, they were now comparatively rich. My dearest father exchanged his shabby black coat for a new one, and the next year was affluent. By this time, the neighbouring gentry found out the value of their minister and his wife, and contended for their society by soliciting visits and making them presents of many comforts.

Frequently these grandees would come in their splendid equipages to spend a day at the glebe, and bring every thing requisite to prevent trouble or expense to its owners,–merely for the enjoyment of the society of the humble inhabitants of this humble dwelling. In the lapse of a few years, by frugality and industry in the management of a good salary, these dear parents became quite easy in their circumstances. My father purchased a large tract of land on the river Potomac. He settled this principally by tenants; but on the most beautiful eminence that ever I beheld, he built a good house, and soon improved it into a very sweet establishment. Here I was born: my brother and two sisters, considerably my seniors, were born at the glebe.

My brother, who was intended for the Church, had a private tutor in the house. This man attended also my two sisters, who previously to his residence in the family were under the care of an Englishman, who lived in the house, but also kept a public school under my father’s direction. about a mile from his house. Unhappily for me, I was the youngest, and very sickly. My father and mother would not allow me to be compelled to attend to my books or my needle, and to both I had a decided aversion, unless voluntarily resorted to as an amusement. In this I was indulged.

I would sometimes read a lesson to my sister or the housekeeper, or, if their authority were resisted, I was called to my mother’s side. All this amounted to my being an ignorant child at my father’s death, which was a death-stroke to my dearest mother. The incurable grief into which it plunged her could scarcely be a matter of surprise, when the uncommonly tender affection that united them was considered. They were rather more than middle-aged when I was first old enough to remember them; yet I well recollect their inseparable and undeviating devotion. They were rarely seen assunder.

My mother was an active walker and a good rider. Whenever she could do so, she accompanied him in his pastoral visits,–a faithful white servant attending in her absence from home. They walked hand in hand, and often rode hand in hand,–were both uncommonly fond of the cultivation of flowers, fruits, and rare plants. They watched the opening buds together,–together admired the beauty of the full-blown blossoms, and gathering the ripened fruit or seed. While he wrote or read, she worked near his table,–which always occupied the pleasantest place in their chamber, where he chose to study, often laying down his pen to read and comment on an impressive passage.

Frequently, when our evening repast was over (if the family were together,) some book, amusing and instructive, was read aloud by my dear father, and those of the children or their young associates who could not be silent were sent to bed after evening worship,–which always took place immediately after supper. Under the void which this sad separation occasioned, my poor mother’s spirits sunk and never rallied. The first six to eight months were spent in a dark, secluded chamber, distant from that formerly occupied.

The management of the family devolved on my brother and second sister. My eldest married two or three years previous to this period. I was left pretty much to my own management. The education of my brother and sister was so far finished that they not only held what they had acquired, but continued to improve; but alas, poor me! I as usual refused every thing like study, but became, unfortunately, immoderately fond of books. The key of the library was now within my power, and the few romances it contained were devoured.

Poetry and a botanical work with plates came next. This gave me a useless, superficial knowledge of what might have been useful, but what in this indigested way was far otherwise. The Tattler, Guardian, and Spectator were the only works I read which contained beneficial instruction; and of these I only read the amusing papers; and, taking the beautiful and sublime allegories which abound with moral instruction in a literal sense, I read them as amusing tales. This kind of reading made up a pernicious mass of chaotic matter that darkened while it seemed to enlighten my mind, and I soon became romantic and exceedingly ridiculous,–turned branches of trees together and called them a bower, and fancied I could write poetry, and many other silly things.My dear mother suffered greatly toward the close of her life with a cancer: for this she visited the medicinal springs, and I was chosen to attend her. It was a crowded and gay scene for me, who had lived almost entirely in seclusion.

I did not mix in its gayest circle; yet it was of service to me, as it gave me the first view of real life that ever I had. My beloved parent was not desirous of confining me; but I rejoice at the excellent recollection that I could very seldom be prevailed upon to leave her. There I first became the favourite and devoted friend of your most excellent mother. Forgive the vanity of this boast, my dear cousin, but I cannot help observing that she afterward told me that it was the manner in which I discharged this duty that won her esteem and love. At this place I first met General Wood, who visited me soon after my return home, and became my husband four years after.”

The time of Mr. Moncure’s death is seen from that true patriot and statesman, Mr. George Mason, of Gunston, Fairfax county, Virginia. As he signs himself the kinsman of Mrs. Moncure, the relationship must have come from the connection between the Browns, of Maryland, and Masons. Dr. Brown came to this country from Scotland in 1708, and married in Maryland.

“Gunston, 12th March, 1764. 
“DEAR MADAM:–I have your letter by Peter yesterday, and the day before I had one from Mr. Scott, who sent up Gustin Brown on purpose with it. I entirely agree with Mr. Scott in preferring a funeral sermon at Aquia Church, without any invitation to the house. Mr. Moncure’s character and general acquaintance will draw together much company, besides a great part of his parishioners, and I am sure you are not in a condition to bear such a scene; and it would be very inconvenient for a number of people to come so far from church in the afternoon after the sermon.

As Mr. Moncure did not desire to be buried in any particular place, and as it is usual to buy clergymen in their own churches, I think the corpse being deposited in the church where he had so long preached is both decent and proper, and it is probable, could he have chosen it himself, he would have preferred it.

Mr. Scott writes to me that it is intended Mr. Green shall preach the funeral sermon on the 20th of this month, if fair; if not, the next fair day; and I shall write to Mr. Green to-morrow to that purpose, and inform him that you expect Mrs. Green and him at your house on the day before; and, if God grants me strength sufficient either to ride on horseback or in a chair, I will certainly attend to pay the last duty to the memory of my friend; but I am really so weak at present that I can’t walk without crutches and very little with them, and have never been out of the house but once or twice, and then, though I stayed but two or three minutes at a time, it gave me such a cold as greatly to increase my disorder. Mr. Green has lately been very sick, and was not able to attend his church yesterday, (which I did not know when I wrote to Mr. Scott:) If he should not recover soon, so as to be able to come down, I will inform you or Mr. Scott in time, that some other clergyman may be applied to.

I am very glad to hear that Mr. Scott purposes to apply for Overwharton parish. It will be a great comfort to you and your sister to be so near one another, and I know the goodness of Mr. Scott’s heart so well, that I am sure he will take pleasure in doing you every good office in his power, and I had much rather he should succeed Mr. Moncure than any other person. I hope you will not impute my not visiting to any coldness or disrespect. It gives me great concern that I am not able to see you. You may depend upon my coming down as soon as my disorder will permit, and I hope you know me too well to need any assurance that I shall gladly embrace all opportunities of testifying my regard to my deceased friend by doing every good office in my power to his family.

I am, with my wife’s kindest respects and my own, dear madam, your most affectionate kinsman, GEORGE MASON”


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