Quenzel introduction – “The congregation was so greatly enlarged by an unusually successful but non-sensational revival in 1831 that the vestry seriously considered enlarging the church building. By 1846, the urgent need of a new building was so generally recognized that a broadside soliciting funds was addressed to the pewholders. A frank admission was made of serious construction faults, namely a shallow foundation and the placing of the weight of the building on oak planks resting on the loose and crumbling earth. Attention was called to the need of a larger church to accommodate the increasing numbers of families who were virtually excluded from church services by the scarcity of pews.” This apparently was not one of documents taken to Richmond during the Civil War for “safekeeping.”
To the Pewholders and friends of the Protestant Episcopal Church, residing in the towns of Fredericksburg and Falmouth and vicinities.
The Vestry of St. George’s Church, Fredericksburg, after due deliberation and conviction of expediency and necessity have now brought at length to entertain and purpose of erecting a new Church of the present and inadequate and imperfect building. But as the cordial concurrence and liberal co-operation of all concerned are essential to success in such an enterprise the reasons and motives for so arduous an undertaking, are hereby respectfully submitted to their serious and candid consideration.
1st. The present Church was built in the years 1814-15. In preparing for its erection, a serious error was committed. It being impossible in so old a Burying Ground to avoid the graves the foundation should have extended below their ordinary depth.Unhappily this was overlooked. The earth was not removed farther than three feet below the surface, when the expedient was adopted of laying down, upon the loose and crumbling ground beneath, oak planks, by which it was hoped that the pressure would be so equalized that a firm foundation might be secured. On these planks accordingly was the House erected. But the error was soon discovered in the early and constant sinking of the walls, attended by many unseemly breaks and cracks, and rendering necessary various expedients for giving security to the building, and removing the apprehensions and fears of many about it. And now that they have been applied, it is manifest that the remedies are but temporary, and do not reach the root of the evil. The foundation is still insecure, and must become increasingly so as the decay beneath progresses. Actual danger may be remote, but it is the part of wisdom to remember that it may be near, at least, that Overlooked by us, it may spring upon another generation, more ignorant of the latent defect and confiding in the discretion of their forefathers.
2d.The present edifice is in a state of decay, which renders considerable repairs essential to its preservation and the comfort of the congregation. Such repairs will cost more than five hundred dollars.
3d. Better accommodation than we now have is wanted for our Sunday Schools, For one of the Schools,(the Infant) we have no Room we can call our own. Another is taught in the Galleries of the Church. Besides the inconvenience of position to teachers and children, there is also, from the irrepressible levity of youth, a degree of indecorum exhibited from time to time, which dishonors the sacred place while those salutary feelings of reverence are impaired , which this Sanctuary should be ever inspire. The use of a Room duly arranged and devoted to the purpose, would prevent this evil, and very much facilitate the arduous work of Sabbath School instruction and control. Such a Room we could have in the basement of the new church, as also, a permanent accommodation for the infant school
4th. But lastly, there is another, and yet more constraining argument in the want of space in the present building for the suitable accommodations of a growing congregation. An increasing number of families, desirous of attending the service and worship of the Church are now virtually precluded by the scarcity of Pews This is a privation so serious to old and young, affecting as it does their most essential interests, that no christian people can turn a deaf ear to their solicitations. Many ask that they and their little ones may share in the precious privileges of the Sabbath and the Sanctuary; and can a prayer be denied so commended to our best and holiest sympathies? The emergency indeed may demand a sacrifice on the part of those who occupy and own the Church; but the sacredness of the claim will not, we are assured, permit hesitation, with such as cherish the generous feelings of christian liberality and love, nor will they lose Bight of the importance of encouraging right dispositions and habits in those around them. That every thing should be done to foster in society the spirit of conformity to christian institutions and observances, is at once the dictate of true wisdom and true .piety.
Moved by such considerations of expediency and duty, the members of the Vestry cannot hesitate in preferring their unanimous appeal to the friends of religion and virtue, for the means of erecting such a building as may furnish convenient accommodation to all whilst its architectural dimensions and beauty shall enhance and adorn our place of habitation, gratify and exalt the public taste, and above all, honor the sacred cause to which its massy walls and lofty turrets will be consecrated. The subject is confidently referred to the enlightened judgment, public spirit and christian zeal of those addressed. That the object eminently popular amongst us we are happy to know, and trust that all will have a part in that inspired word, which says: “The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.”
It is believed that such an Edifice as we need, can be erected without imposing a burden on which any one can complain. The contributions on which we mainly depend will be reimbursed by the sale of the Pews, whilst an additional credit will be given of $100 to each owner of a single Pew, who shall purchase in the new church, and $200 to each owner of a double pew, also purchasing in the new Church. With such favorable arrangements, it our hope and expectation, that there will added such unconditional and free will offerings as may serve to meet the unavoidable contingent expenses of so large an undertaking.
By Order of the Vestry.
- C. MCGUIRE, Rector
- T. THOM,
- J. METCALFE, Wardens
- F. KNOX, C’lk of the Vestry
Fredericksburg, June 27, 1846