By Trip Wiggins
Rev. Abner Waugh
Jan 1746/Orange Co., Va. – 13 Sept 1806/Caroline Co., Va.
Ninth St. George’s Rector
At St George’s: Jan. 1806 – July 1806
With the departure of Rev. Stevenson, St. George’s began looking for its ninth rector and found a very capable and seasoned minister in the Rev. Abner Waugh who came to us from nearby Caroline County.
Abner Waugh was born in Orange County, Virginia, in January, 1746. Following his graduation from the College of William & Mary in 1768 he looked seriously at the clergy and began his studies under the tutelage of the well-known Rev. Jonathan Bouchard, rector of St. Mary’s Parish in Caroline County. By 1770, Waugh was ready to take his vows and sailed to London armed with letters of recommendation from the reverends Bouchard, Patrick Henry of St. Paul’s Parish (formerly of St. George’s), and James Marye, Jr., of St. George’s Parish – all dated July, 1770. In November two additional letters of recommendation from the Bishop’s commissary to Virginia and the president of the College of William & Mary were received by the Bishop of London.
Waugh was ordained a deacon in February, 1771 and priest the next month. After receiving his bounty and passage to Virginia he set sail and was unanimously elected by the vestry of St. Mary’s Parish in Caroline County. (He had been strongly endorsed by Boucher who then moved to a rectorship in Maryland.)
Apart from his clerical duties, he became an avid proponent of the American cause volunteering as chaplain of the 2nd Virginia Regiment (commanded by a warden of his parish – Col. William Woodford) serving in the field with the soldiers during the fighting in the Norfolk area early in the war, and after the war was unanimously selected to serve as chaplain for the 1788 Virginia Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. Chief proponent of him in that role was a fellow Caroline citizen, the Hon. Edmund Pendleton. But throughout, his primary duties still focused on his parish and his parishoners. He did well and was well liked serving St. Mary’s for over 30 years before coming to St. George’s in 1806 as he turned 60. He was probably well known to many in Fredericksburg as he resided on the glebe of St. Mary’s Parish which was located directly across today’s US 17 from Belvedere plantation – just a few miles from Fredericksburg.
Alas, like his predecessor, or you might say worse than his predecessor, he came to Fredericksburg with serious health issues that forced him to resign just six months after his arrival leaving many to wonder ‘what might have been.’
Following his July, 1806, resignation, Rev. Waugh retired to Hazelwood in Caroline County, the seat of John Taylor. He died there on 13 Aug 1806. His burial location is unknown.
In about 1774, Rev. Waugh married Philadelphia Claiborne Carter, the widow of John Carter of “Cleve” in King George County. The union brought him a substantial increase in land (over 1,800 acres) and wealth and propelled him into the world of the gentry in Virginia. He lived at the glebe in Caroline County and owned a plantation in King George County, over 20 slaves, and raised (but did not compete) race horses. He did have one passion. Dancing.
Throughout most of his life he was known throughout Virginia as the dancing parson due to his accomplished abilities demonstrated in the dancing of the graceful and challenging minuet. It was normally the dance that started a ball for the gentry and was danced by each couple at the assembly alone – critiqued by all others watching. A sort of 18th century “Dancing with the Stars” with local celebrities.
Sounds like a life lived to the fullest and anchored firmly in the Gospel.
Andrews, Robert M. Jonathan Boucher (1738-1804): Loyalist and High Churchman. The Historiographer (2015)
Hall, Rev. Ralph. Hidden Village: Port Royal, Va. 1744-1981 (1982)
Fall, Rev. Ralph E. The Rev. Jonathan Boucher, Turbulent Tory (1738-1804) Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Vol. 36, No. 4 (1967)
Harrower, John. Journal of John Harrower. (1963)
Lohrenz, Otto. The Reverend Abner Waugh: The ‘Best Dancer of the Minuet in the State of Virginia.’ The Kentucky Review; Vol. 15 : No. 2 (2003)
Middleton, Arthur P. Anglican Virginia: The Established Church of the Old Dominion 1607-1786 (1954)
Quenzel, Carrol. The History and Background of St George’s Episcopal Church Fredericksburg, Virginia (1951)
Meade, Bishop William. Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia. (1857)
Slaughter, Rev. Philip. A History of St George’s Parish (1847)
Waugh, Rev. Abner. Letters from Waugh to Thomas Jefferson & James Madison (July 1806) downloaded from Ancestry.com
St. George’s Vestry Minutes
Virginia Calendar of Papers, Vol. 8
From the Library of Virginia:
-Survey Report No. 5204/Virginia Colonial Records Project; Public Records Office
-Survey Report 4803, Virginia Colonial Records Project/Public Records Office
-Lambeth Palace Library Class Fulham Palace Papers, Vol 34/Missionary Bonds
-Lambeth Palace Library Class Fulham Palace Papers, Vol 34/Ordination papers
-Public Service Claims (of the Revolutionary War – items “impressed” from land owners for service to Continental troops)
-Virginia Colonial Records Project (King’s Bounty records)
-Virginia Argus, 20 Sep 1806 pg. 3 col. 4