Rev. James Marye, Jr. (1731-1780)

By Trip Wiggins

Rev. James Marye, Jr.
8 Sept 1731, at Manakin Town, Goochland Co., Va. – abt. Oct 1780, at Fredericksburg, Va.
Fifth St. George’s Rector
At St. George’s: Jan. 26, 1768 – Abt. Oct, 1780*
*Died while rector

   With the death of James Marye, Sr., the vestry didn’t have to look far for a replacement. They found him in Marye’s son, the Rev. James Marye, Jr. At the time he was the rector of nearby St. Thomas’ Parish in Orange County. Additionally he was the minister who was already running a Bray School and had passed the information to Fielding Lewis in 1764 which resulted in Marye’s father and Lewis operating the school in Fredericksburg. Marye family history also notes that the younger Marye was assigned curate duties at St. George’s Parish when he returned from London following his ordination – but we have yet to confirm this with church records. (Note: A curate is a member of the clergy who is an assistant rector.)

   Whatever the connection, the younger Marye was confirmed by the vestry at its January, 1768 meeting; the same meeting announcing the elder’s death. They were the first and (to date) only father-son rectors in the parish’s history.

   James Marye, Jr. was born to Rev. James and Laetitia (Staige) Marye at Manakin Town in Goochland County, Virginia on 8 September, 1731. His early education was probably provided by his father. He was a 1755 graduate of the College of William & Mary and applied for orders in the Anglican Church. That summer he headed for London armed with two letters addressed to the Bishop of London. Both letters credited him with being educated at the college and as being a gentleman, who had behaved extremely well, and both recommended him to receive Holy Orders. These letters were on William and Mary stationary and were signed by the Reverends William Stith and Thomas Dawson. Mr. Dawson further stated that Mr. Marye had been a tutor for eighteen months in the family of Col. William Byrd, a Gentleman of his Majesty’s Council, who always gave him an excellent character “in point of virtue and good manners,”…and upon this occasion,… “I think him apt and meet for Learning and Godly Conversation to exercise the Ministerial Functions…” Dawson was the commissary (the Bishop of London’s representative) for the College of William and Mary and Stith was the college president. Additionally, Gov. Dinwiddie also wrote to the Bishop of London with his endorsement of the young Marye.

   James, Jr., was ordained by the Bishop of London as a Deacon on 21 Dec 1755, and as a Priest six days later on 27 Dec 1755, and on the same day was licensed to officiate in, and given the usual bounty for Virginia.

   Family history notes that on his return to Virginia the younger Marye was hired by St. George’s Parish as a curate where he remained until receiving a call to neighboring St. Thomas’ Parish in Orange County. He was installed as their rector sometime during the early summer of 1760, replacing Rev. Mungo Marshall (Marye’s brother-in-law!) who died that summer.

   Marshall had contacted the Bray Associates as early as 1756 and was operating a Bray School for slave children in Orange County. With his death, the new rector also became involved in the school’s operations and wrote a letter to the Bray Associates in 1764 recommending an additional school in Fredericksburg at his father’s church.

   The big issues facing Marye and St. George’s during his tenure were another possible parish division, the building of a new parish chapel, the future of the Bray School, and over-riding everything else, the gathering storm clouds that would be the American Revolution.

   The first had been building over the course of Marye’s father’s term at St. George’s. The county and parish had been expanding for decades with the population constantly increasing. The vestry knew that they needed to divide – it was getting too big for one parish to effectively manage – but just when and how to do it? In 1768 the parish had over 2,500 tithables representing a population of well over 6,000 inhabitants! (St. George’s number of parishoners in 2020 is about 800.)

   Note: A “tithable” was any male who was age 16 or older, and female slave or indentured servant who was 16 or older – the tax base of the parish.

   They had taken preliminary votes to divide over the years, but now the vestry was loaded with Fredericksburg-area men who knew of the welfare costs of the parish that the extended rural parishoners didn’t see on a daily basis. At the January, 1768 vestry meeting – the same one selecting Marye as their new rector – they held yet another vote and for the first and only time in the church’s colonial minutes, the votes were recorded by name:

      “On a Motion whether Application should be made to the next General Assembly for a Division of the Parish, the Question being put thereon the Vestry was divided to wit Fielding Lewis, Roger Dixon, Charles Washington, Richard Brooke, Charles Dick and Joseph Jones for it. And William Robinson, John Lewis, John Carter, Joseph Brock, William Dangerfield and Edward Herndon against it.”

   They were deadlocked – 6 for and 6 against; pretty much the residents of Fredericksburg for and the more rural residents of the county against. It was obviously a contentious issue. But by now everyone knew it was not IF they would divide but WHEN and HOW.

   At the next vestry meeting (4 Oct., 1768) the measure again came up. The vestry took up the issue of HOW to divide the parish. The minutes simply state “the Vestry were divided.”

   It took the next vestry meeting in April, 1769 for everything to fall in place. The measure passed and they decided HOW to make an equitable division, namely:

   “It being the Opinion of the Vestry that a Division of the Parish is necessary Resolved that the application be made to the General Assembly for a Division thereof And it is proposed that the said Division be made in the following Manner Viz.

   “Beginning at the place where Caroline County Line crosses the River Poe (sic) and running up the said River to the Mouth of the Run called the Robinson continuing thence up the said river whereon John Mitchells Mill now stands untill it intersects the Line of Orange County. And whereas Disputes may arise touching the Right of the Vestries of the new Parishes may have to levying on the Tithables of their respective Parishes the Expense for building and repairing the Churches this Day directed to be built and repaired.

   “The Church called Mattapony Church on the South Side of the River Poe being the oldest or Mother Church It is the Request of the Vestry that the Parish on that side of the said River retain the Name of Saint George’s Parish and that the new Parish be called [blank]”

   It appears that nobody could think of a name for the new parish.

   The southern half wanted to retain the name St. George’s as the Mattapony was the older church. They lost in their bid when the Assembly met in December, they retained St George’s for the northern church and assigned Berkley to the southern church. The southern vestrymen forgot that when the parish was created in 1720 there already WAS a church, called the Rappahannock Church, that predated the Mattapony or Fredericksburg churches, and it was located NORTH of the dividing line. Additionally Roger Dixon, the newly-elected member of the vestry from Fredericksburg and a Spotsylvania Burgess was appointed to the special committee to evaluate the proposition so probably had influence to push through the legislation with the name change – thus retaining “St. George’s” for his parish.

   With the divide, the parish population immediately dropped from 2,227 to1,019 tithables.

   Also the Mattapony Church and the East North East Church were now a part of Berkeley Parish. St. George’s now only had the Fredericksburg Church. So at that same April, 1769 vestry meeting, the vestry ordered the building of a chapel for those not living close to Fredericksburg and it was decided to build it “convenient to some Spring not more than one mile and a half from Burbridges Bridge (fifty foot long and twenty six feet wide)”

   This would become known as the Burbridge Church or chapel or simply the New Church. It would be built and in full operation in mid-1770.

   The vestry also approved a gallery to be added to the Fredericksburg church. We were obviously still growing.

   With his experience in Orange County and with the continuing support of Fielding Lewis, Marye continued the operation of the Bray School in Fredericksburg. But faced with dwindling students and probably growing dissatisfaction from the more conservative members of the vestry, the school was doomed to close. Lewis made the decision to terminate it in 1770, convinced that “a school will never succeed in a small town, as the number of negroes are few and many believe that learning them to read is rather a disadvantage to the owner.” It was a great attempt while it lasted and we may never know what it did for those students who did attend.

   By 1772 the church was finding it hard to maintain its cemetery on the steep-sloping hill on the east side of their downtown lot. The church-yard at Fredericksburg, as originally laid out by law, extended from the Main (Caroline) Street to Princess Anne Street. The ground on the Main Street proving unsuitable for a place of burial, application was made to the General Assembly by the vestry for power to dispose of that part of the lot. Accordingly, the Legislature passed an act in 1772, empowering the vestry to sell so much of the church-yard as had not been used for a buying ground, and directing that the money arising from the sale should be applied towards purchasing a more convenient piece of ground in Fredericksburg. The sale was effected, but it is believed that the money arising from it was lost to the church in the troublous times of the revolution. Their original plan was to move to the current Hurkamp Park block – but the Revolutionary War had an impact on that and other church matters.

   Finally there was that war cloud on the horizon.

   In 1773 the Parliament made a calculated decision to come to the aid of the ailing East India Company by giving it a monopoly on all the tea trade. That led to the Boston Tea Party! That led to a clampdown by Parliament – to close the Port of Boston on June 1, 1774 until those responsible paid for the tea. The Massachusetts leaders called for help from the other colonies. That got everyone riled up in the colonies. Gov. Dunmore dissolved the House of Burgesses but they convened anyway and counties began forming Committees of Correspondence to keep all informed on what was going on. Fredericksburg elected a committee comprised of Fielding Lewis (chairman), Charles Dick, Charles Mortimer, James Mercer, Charles Washington, Charles Yates, William Woodford, James Duncanson, George Thornton and William Porter.

   From the Virginia Gazette:

     “Yesterday [June 1] being the day [set aside] by the members of the late House of Burgesses as a Day for Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine Interposition for averting the heavy Calamity which threatens Destruction to the Civil Rights of America, the same was accordingly observed by the Inhabitants of this Place…”

      Rev. Marye preached the sermon and the Rev. Mr. Wilson read prayers.

   Fielding Lewis and Charles Washington were members of St. George’s vestry.

   Of course, the very next item in the Gazette took away a bit of the gravity of the situation – the results from the Fredericksburg Jockey Club horse races:

   “The May Fair Purse of £50 run for here the 24th ult. was won by Moore Fauntleroy, Esqr’s bay Mare Miss Alsop, beating Kitty Fisher, a gray Mare belonging to William Fitzhugh, Esq; of Chatham, two four Mile Heats. And next Day the Entrance Money of the first Day’s Purse was run for, by Fearnought, the Property of Alexander Spotswood, Esq; beating Proctor’s Mare the best two in three Heats, the first of which she won.”

   The coming conflict would be tough on all and especially on the Anglican Church as most citizens were ready to cast off anything that smelled “English.”

   In 1776, and act of Assembly was passed, repealing all the laws of Parliament requiring conformity to the Episcopal Church, and exempting dissenters from contributing to its support. The clergy would no longer be paid the Assembly-mandated 16,000 lbs. of tobacco. They would only receive a voluntary payment from the parishoners in their respective churches. So Marye’s salary was stopped. Luckily he had a working farm to help make ends meet. The vestry also gave him 3,000 lbs. of tobacco for housing expenses since the parish no longer owned a glebe for the residence of the rector.

   The State of Virginia stopped short of cutting all ties with the Established Church. They still mandated that the church handle all welfare cases for the duration of the war. No other organization was set up to do that – including the state or county government.

   The last three years of Marye’s rectorship as recorded in the vestry minutes were silent on his activities. He was probably trying to hold his parish together during the war and providing for his family on no salary. It was probably a tough time.

   As to Marye’s death, a family history places it at 4 Oct 1780 in Fredericksburg with the burial at his home at Fayetteville. The vestry minutes are curiously void of any mention of his death but we know that his will, dated 1774, had a codicil added and signed on 3 Oct 1780 and was proved in court on 21 Dec 1780 – so October makes sense.

   Bishop Meade later wrote, “That as far as I could learn, James Marye, Jr., was a man of ‘evangelical views and sincere piety.’” Becoming more specific, the Bishop reported seeing a manuscript sermon written by Marye on the religious training of children, “which would do honor to the heart of any clergyman,” and whose “…tone and spirit might well commend it” to all parents and enlightened Christians. (None of his sermons survive.)

   On the personal side:

   On 29 April 1761, Rev. James Marye, Jr., married Miss Sarah Vaulx, of Westmoreland Co., Va., daughter of Capt. Robert and Sarah (Elliott) Vaulx. They were blessed with four children, three girls and a boy between 1762 and 1767.

   Sometime between the birth of their fourth child in 1767 and 1770, Sarah died and Rev. Marye married, secondly, to Mary Kenner on Jan 1770 in Northumberland County, Va.  This marriage was short lived, as his wife Mary died 7 Oct 1770, after being ill only a few days. They had no children. He married for the last time, between 1771 and 1773, Mrs. Elizabeth Osborne (Neale) Grayson, widow of Benjamin Grayson, of Loudon Co., Va., and the daughter of Christopher Neale, of Prince Georges Co., Md. To this union were born three daughters.

   Of local note, Rev. James Marye penned his own Christmas hymn: (tune has been lost)

Assist me, Muse divine! To sing the Morn

On which the Savior of Mankind was born

But oh! What Numbers to the Theme can rise?

Unless kind Angels aid me from the skies?

Methinks I see the tuneful Host descend

And with officious Joy the Scene attend.

Hark! By their hymns directed on the Road,

The gladsome Shepherds find the nascent God!

And view the Infant conscious of his Birth,

Smiling bespeak Salvation to the Earth!

   A big thanks to the Maryes of St. Georges’s – forces in our early history who helped set our future.


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