By Trip Wiggins
Rev. James Marye, Sr.
7 June 1692/Parish of Bertreville, Saint Ouen, France – abt. Jan 1768/Spotsylvania County, Va.
Fourth St. George’s Rector
At St George’s: Oct. 1735 – abt. Jan 1768*
*Rev. Marye’s will dated 25 Apr 1767 and proved in Aug 1768; Marye family history notes death as Jan 1768 but NO documentation has yet been found. Died while rector of St. George’s.
Following Rev. Patrick Henry’s 1734 departure, Lt Gov. Gooch recommended the Rev. Mr. Joseph Smith. Some say he was recommended by Gooch as the governor was unhappy with the fact that St. George’s vestry was building two churches at Mattapony and Fredericksburg – against his wishes. Or it could just be that the governor still had a priest with no parish and St. George’s was available. Whatever the reason – Smith didn’t work out.
The vestry listened to Rev. Smith preach twice. That was enough for them and they refused to accept him as their minister. It appears other churches may have had the same feelings toward Smith as he was described as “very mean in appearance,” “poor in pocket,” and his sermons were generally disliked. Virginia, it seems, was not always attracting the best and the brightest preachers. They tended to obtain parishes in England! Smith had been in Virginia since 1727 and had yet to become a parish rector.
Eventually even Gooch described Smith in a letter to the Bishop of London as a “sot” who was “neither fit nor able to serve” as a minister. Smith had been charged with “grievous crimes” and had surrendered his parish rather than submit to a hearing by the Commissary’s Court. He died in 1738. (Nothing has been found as to his grievous crimes or loss of his parish.)
Gooch, in an earlier letter to the Bishop of London, did urge the Bishop to provide Virginia a priest for the French Huguenots, those French Protestants living in the Middle Peninsula, who could preach “in their own language.” To that end, the Rev. James Marye, Sr. came to Virginia and settled in Manakin.
As to St. George’s we were still looking for a rector.
Finally In the fall of 1735, St. George’s (who had by now learned of Marye) sent Zachary Lewis to Williamsburg to request from the governor the services of Marye resulting in Marye coming to St. George’s in Oct 1735. (Perhaps his wife, sister of Rev. Theodosius Staige, had something to do with this – but we’ll never know).
Rev. Jacque Marie (James Marye) was born on 7 June 1692, in the Parish of Bertreville, Saint Ouen, France. He was raised Roman Catholic and took his orders as a deacon from a Jesuit college known as the “College de Bourbon,” at Rouen, Normandy, France and was nominated deacon on 25 March 1717, but was never actually pronounced a priest. He was serving in the Parish of Bertreville – Deaconate of Basqueville.
Why not a priest? As a deacon he had learned of the plight of the French Huguenots (Protestants) and was protesting their treatment by the French government and Catholic Church. As a result, he renounced his family’s faith and fled to England in 1726, where he was licensed to officiate in the Protestant Episcopal Church. He would never again speak to his family.
While receiving his Anglican training in London, he met and married his first wife, Miss Laetitia Maria Anna Staige in 1728 in Stepney, England. She was the daughter of an Anglican minister and the sister of Rev. Theodosius Staige, who had previously emigrated from London to the Colony of Virginia and was serving as St. George’s first rector. By now Marie was usually going by his Anglicized name, James Marye.
James and Laetitia had their first child in October, 1729, a girl named Lucy Mary Marye, who was baptized at Christ Church, Spettley (sic), Spitalfields Parish, London, England. This was in London’s East End where, interestingly, a group of French Huguenot silk weavers had settled years before and still made up a large percentage of the local tradesmen and inhabitants.
After Mr. Marye completed his studies in the Anglican faith, he was licensed (not ordained) to the Colony of Virginia. He received the usual 133-acre grant of land from the English Crown, and began his ministry in early 1730 in St. James’ Parish at Manakin Town, a Huguenot settlement on the James River, in Virginia accompanied by his wife and daughter.
The following year he was called to serve the parish of King William, where he also ministered to Huguenot refugees. He served there until his call to St. George’s in 1735.
Interestingly, Marye preached some sermons at the Parish of King William while still at Manakin. Noted in the King William vestry minutes was their payment to him:
August 13, 1730. “It was agreed with Mr. Marye, minister, to give him twenty shillings per sermon, one to be preached every other Sunday, payable in wheat at three shillings per bushel, or in maize at eighteen pence per bushel, or oats also at eighteen cents per bushel, part to be delivered at his house and part at Warwick. There is due to-day to Mons. Marye, minister, six sermons.”
Note: St. James Parish was established in Henrico County in 1720 as was the parish next to it, King William, established 1700. Both served the Huguenots and the town of Manakin in what is today’s Goochland County. Marye may have officially been in St. James parish but he was already “on the books” in King William by 1730 as noted above.
Little did the St. George’s vestry and parishoners know, but they had finally found a rector who wanted to set down some roots. After three ministers, the longest tenure was less than three years, the parish and the rector “clicked” and he remained here for the next 32 years, only ending with his death – the 2nd longest tenure in the 300 years of the church. He was probably the first to hold regular services in the newly-completed Rappahannock Church in Fredericksburg.
And what was accomplished under his leadership during those 32 years?
Shutters were ordered for the Rappahannock (i.e., Fredericksburg) and Matapony churches.
Two chapels were erected in the parish: one at “the best spring, near Col. Moore’s ridge-quarter” and at “William Lea’s old field” on a branch of East North East Creek (aka the East North East Chapel) – sites, alas, not identifiable today. There was quite a fight both within the vestry and in the House of Burgesses and Governor’s Council for nearly a decade over what would be the ENE Chapel but is was finally erected sometime in 1749.
The Fredericksburg churchyard was “paled in” (picket fence put up) in 1750. [This was only done on the Princess Anne half of the lot. The Caroline Street half of the church lot will be sold in 1776.]
Rev. Marye was caught up in the ongoing saga of the glebe – his church-owned home on the Po River. He had moved his family closer to Fredericksburg, probably to his new home he would call Verenville.
A glebe (farm) was mandated by the legislature in 1727 of at least 200 acres for the minister. St. George’s purchased a 544-acre tract on the Po River near the eastern border of the county from Joseph Smith; it had been mostly Larkin Chew’s land with a strip obtained from Harry Beverley for river access. A barn and shed were added to the land in 1733. It would be sold to Benjamin Grymes in 1755 and then rented back to the parish.
In 1750 the vestry awarded Marye 2,000 lbs. of tobacco to cover housing allowances now that he was no longer at the glebe.
In 1755 the glebe was sold and the 2,000 lb. award to Marye was discontinued because of the expected income from the sale – but the “sale” dragged on for three years, leaving Marye with no housing allowance at all.
In 1758, the vestry had a change of heart. Perhaps they had been unjust with their minister and paid him 4,000 lbs. to make up for the current and previous year. In future years they again paid him his 2,000 lbs.
The Fredericksburg church received its first bell in 1751 – a gift from John Spotswood.
In 1753 additions were made to the Fredericksburg and Mattapony churches – wings added to each side to form a T. Additionally at the Mattapony location a vestry building of 16 feet square was added. This was not needed in Fredericksburg as most vestry meetings were held in private homes or local taverns.
Our first “clock” – a sundial actually – was added to the churchyard in 1754 and it was noted that between March 10th and Sept 10th, services would start at 11 o’clock, while the rest of the year they would begin at “11 ½” (11:30 a.m.).
A somewhat sore point in the light of 2019 – in 1754 the Virginia Assembly passed an act directing vestries to purchase or rent land for the establishment of a “poor house” for the maintenance and employment of the poor, each of whom was required to wear, in an open manner, with the name of the parish to which they belonged in blue, red, or green cloth. At St. George’s this was the old glebe land that was being sold to Benjamin Grymes and leased back to the parish. Some thought the act was created out of humanitarian need, while others economic need as the ranks of the needy were climbing and it was expensive to clothe, feed and house them.
Regardless, St. George’s duly followed the edict and in the February, 1759 (yes, 5 years later) vestry meeting 10 adults and 2 children were instructed to report to the poor farm (about half of St. George’s welfare recipients). While it was geared to get the needy employed, most of them were also sick and helpless and therefore couldn’t work. Within two years the poor house was CLOSED.
To become more of a Virginian, Marye became a naturalized British citizen in April, 1743. His naturalization certificate sent to London noted that he “was the only person that has hitherto claimed the benefit of the law, in this colony.” (That is, the only Anglican minister to receive his naturalization – which would have been perfectly normal as almost all Anglican priests were born in England or the colonies at the time.)
Now a citizen, he began to enlarge his land holdings by purchasing over 1900 acres in Spotsylvania County over the next few years including Lot 55 in Fredericksburg on the corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets (today’s 700 Princess Anne St – the Post Office).;
His primary residence was in Spotsylvania County on land he called Verenville (later called Fayetteville) about 8 miles from Fredericksburg on Hazel Run.
Like many ministers in Virginia, Marye was also involved in teaching children. He established a school in the Fredericksburg area (probably on Lot 55) and in the mid-1740s his class included a young George Washington along with some of his siblings and other local children.
While it is well documented that Washington used a “Rules of Civility” book in his education, for many years it was uncertain where this book came from. Paul Felder, in her book on the Washington and Lewis families in Fredericksburg noted that one of Marye’s neighbors while living on the glebe on the Po River was Robert Beverley, who lived at Newlands adjacent to the glebe, and who had a book called “The Rules of Civility.” Since Marye was his neighbor, she conjectured that he would have been a frequent guest and possibly borrowed ideas from the book to use at his school.
Of education. Rev. Marye and the vestry embarked on one of the most ambitious projects in our history – that of establishing a Bray School in Fredericksburg for the education of the local slave children. The school was named after The Associates of Thomas C. Bray, a missionary organization in England who encouraged the establishment of schools throughout the American colonies.
It had been tried in the area – in Williamsburg and even in Orange County. In Orange County it was started about 1756 under Rev. Mungo Marshall who was married to James Marye Sr.’s daughter, Lucy. Following Rev. Marshall’s 1760 death, the school and the parish of St. Thomas in Orange was carried on by Rev. James Marye Jr., son of our rector. Fielding Lewis learned of the effort in Orange and he brought the information to the senior Marye. Additionally, in 1764, James Marye, Jr., wrote to the Bray Associates recommending a school in Fredericksburg where he estimated a thousand negro adults and as many children resided in St. George’s parish. Soon Fredericksburg had its own Bray School.
Lewis was enlisted to administer the school and procured books and supplies and rented a building. The school opened in April, 1765 with a (unrecorded) female teacher. By September they had sixteen students enrolled. Of course, the senior Marye, a teacher himself, assisted as he could.
It was a bit too ahead of its time and by 1768 there were only nine students which dropped to four by summer. Even so, Lewis wrote, “I am in hopes that the little brief time they have remained may be of service as great care is taken by the Mistress to impress on their minds the dutys (sic) of our Holy Religion, and I shall continue to call frequently at the school.”
The school continued throughout Marye’s tenure – in fact, his son would continue the efforts following Marye’s 1768 death.
The 1750s and 1760s saw the first real threat to the Church of England’s authority in Virginia. It was during this time that the Baptists and the Presbyterian “New Lights” began their concerted thrust into the Virginia colony and carve out an area for new churches which began to strip the Church of England of several of its parishoners. During the tenure of Marye, the threat was still new and relatively low, but over time it would continue to grow. Virginia was no longer a safe haven for the Church of England. New churches were coming; the Great Awakening had arrived.
The biggest concern in the parish in the 1760s dealt with the possible split of St. George’s into two parishes. The area was growing and the two halves of the parish saw growth in different ways but all agreed that it was getting too populous for one parish to manage. In the south (south of the Po River), it was still very rural and the members of the Mattapony or Lower Church were more conservative than those north of the river. They didn’t see all of the problems that those in the Rappahannock Church (or Upper Church) in Fredericksburg faced – including crime, indigence and disease – and it was the legal responsibility of the parish to provide for them. The Levy (annual parish tax or tithe) was going up due to the increase in welfare cases. The southern portion saw the brunt of the levy increase as nearly 60% of the parish lived south of the Po. The newly-elected vestry in 1761, mostly Fredericksburg-area men, decided to put the division to a vote. It carried 4-3, but was tabled as only 7 vestry members voted.
Again the vote was taken in 1764: 7-0 in favor. But again there were 5 vestrymen absent so nothing was done. It would be Marye’s son who would resolve the issue of division when it was raised yet again in 1768.
In his service to the parish Marye was gifted with three able vestrymen in John Waller, Zachary Lewis (who also served the county as the King’s Attorney), and Fielding Lewis, who between them served on the vestry for nearly 90 years and much of it under Marye’s spiritual leadership. They tended to do the right thing for the parish and the community throughout their long service.
The Rev. James Marye, Sr. died about January 1768, most likely at Verenville where he is probably buried. (We only have information of his death through a published family history completed in the 1980s, the 26 Jan 1768 Vestry Minutes, and his will dated 25 April 1767, Codicil dated Oct, 1767, and proved on 4 July 1768 in Spotsylvania County. All lead to a Jan. 1768 death.)
In his personal life, he and Laetitia had four children: Lucy Mary, Susannah, James Jr., and Peter. Shortly after Peter’s Feb. 1739 birth, Laetitia died – date unknown, but after Feb. 1739 and before his remarriage in Oct. of that year to Elinor Purcell Dunn. Marye and Dunn had no children. Elinor died sometime before the reverend as noted in his will. As to his children, Lucy Mary married and died in Kentucky; Susannah married Dr. Henry Heath, a Fredericksburg physician in the 1750s; James, who will be our next rector; and Peter, a Fredericksburg merchant and member of the House of Burgesses.
Rev. James Marye – what a life! Thank you for your service.
Bly, Antonio T. In Pursuit of Letters: A History of the Bray Schools for Enslaved Children in Colonial Virginia. History of Education Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 4. (Nov. 2011)
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to Virginia and to the Settlement at Manakin Town. Published by the Virginia Historical Society in 1886, Richmond Virginia (http://huguenot-manakin.org/manakin/brock1.php) Downloaded Apr 2019
Brydon, G MacLaren, ed. The Virginia Clergy. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 33 (Jan 1925)
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Felder, Paula. Fielding Lewis and the Washington Family. (2001)
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Goodwin, Edward. The Colonial Church in Virginia… (1927)
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Quenzel, Carrol. The History and Background of St George’s Episcopal Church Fredericksburg, Virginia. (1951)
Slaughter, Rev. Philip. A History of St George’s Parish. (1847)
History of St. Mark’s Parish, Culpeper County (18xx)
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Partial List Descendants of Rev James Marye, Sr. (https://archive.org/stream/partiallistofdes00np/partiallistofdes00np_djvu.txt) Virginia Historical Society collections, v. 5, (1886)
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