The Pews, Part 4

So far we have talked about the pews as objects and pews financing the Church. Now we move to actually looking as those who occupied the space. The pew documentation provides a unique view into the generations that attended St. George’s. Those who paid for the right to sit in a certain place in Church not surprisingly were many of the Church leaders as well as in town of Fredericksburg. By correlating the pew records with records of taxable property, town lots and lists of inhabitants we can discover their wealth and livelihood.

Edgar Young owned a lumber company in Fredericksburg contributed significantly to the Pews as well as serving on the Vestry for 35 years. (There was no Vestry rotation). His pew book listed the owners from 1899-1943.  Appropriately in the 1940’s book racks for the pews were given in his name. Using the original sale in 1849 and his pew book, we can piece together ownership trends. Pews were not necessarily occupied by those who bought them. We see cases of rent paid by occupants to the actual owners.

What is interesting is that of the 80 pews rented in 1849, 10 pews were continued within the same family from 1849-1939.  Four periods were used to track ownership -1849, 1907, 1916, and 1939. The average price of these pews is $340 compared to the average pew price ($312) and is at the front or at least 11 rows from the front or at the front, or the front half of the Church. (Originally there were 23 rows on each of four sides).   These would have been the leading families by price paid and longetivity.  Who were these families?

Besides paying a higher price per pew on average, they were in the upper crust economically being in the top half of taxable personal property in 1849 which has a sample of 342. (We do not have tax information on the two females that are identified). Most were merchants in 1850.  Besides the tax list there is a list of free inhabitants which totaled 2,948 in the report in 1850. Of this total, 646 professions were identified with “merchant” as the second largest profession behind “clerks”.  7 of 8 owned slaves, the most valuable commodity, tax at $0.32. Goolrick owned 14 over age 16 and Knox, 8, making the first and third largest slave holders of the time. (Their real estate was also the first and third largest in value).


Tax Rank

Tax Rank %

Pew #

Pew Price



Barton, Thos. B.







Wallace, John H.





6th row


Scott, John F.





3rd row


Knox, Thos. F.





9th row


Gray, J. B.





10th row


Scott, Geo. B.





3rd row


Goolrick, Peter





2nd row


Cunningham, W. H.





11th row


Here’s a brief sketch of the above:

    1. Thomas F. Knox – Thomas F. Knox, a merchant and member of Council signed the contract to build the Courthouse on Princess Anne Street in 1852. He was 50 years of age in 1850 and served on the Vestry at previously to 1850 and then elected in April 1865. Knox was one of 19 citizens that Federal General Pope arrested in Fredericksburg in retaliation for arrest of two Union me.
    1.  Dr. John H. Wallace – Wallace was a 57 year old physician and held real estate valued at $15,000. His four sons,  Charles,  Howson, Wellington and Wistar became presidents of the National Bank of Fredericksburg as did two grandsons, J. Stansbury Wallace and H. Lewis Wallace.  Their home was at the current Ben Franklin location though it was ransacked in the Civil War. Wellington,  a judge and attorney before being a bank president served on the Vestry for 42 years (second longest service in the 20th century) from 1877-1881 and then 1883 to the end of 1922. He also provided $6,100 for widows which became the basis for the A. W. Wallace Fund. Wistar Wallace donated the former Wallace Library location the current school board office just across George Street and occupied pew #66. He and Wellington also served as Church trustees

    1.   Peter Goolrick – Goolrick, born in Ireland, was 50 years in 1850 and a keeper for the Farmers Hotel at the corner of Caroline and Hanover. He was also VP of the Fredericksburg Insurance Company. He served as mayor 1857-1859 and briefly in 1860. Goolrick’s real estate was valued at $51,250, the largest dollar amount in Fredericksburg.

    1. Thomas B. Barton – Barton was 45 in 1850 and served on the Vestry in 1866 and like Wallace owned real estate valued at $15,000. He was a lawyer with significant real estate valued at $15,000. His son William Barton was 25 and followed his dad’s profession as a lawyer. His home was at the site of the Princess Anne Hotel just across Princess Anne Street from Fredericksburg. Prior to a Church meeting in May, 1869, Robert E. Lee stayed at his home.
    1. W. H. Cunningham – Cunningham was a dry goods merchant between 1847-1893 and served on Council and the School Board. At the time the Church was opened in 1849 he was only 28.
    1. George B. Scott – Scott was in a partnership, Scott, Will. S. & Geo. B. which showed $500 building and $500 land.  William S was a physician  George Scott became one of those who their membership to Trinity in 1877.
    1. John F. Scott –Scott was 46 in 1850 was a merchant.  (In the 1860 census of manufacturing he is listed as an iron founder).  He was one of the 19  Federal General Pope arrested.   He served in the vestry in 1847, 1865 and 1868
    1. Mrs. J. B. Gray –  The pew is shown in Mrs. J. B. Gray, widow of John Gray.  Gray was a merchant.

    He was a proprietor of the Indian Queen Hotel on the corner of Caroline and Charlotte before it burned and also rented real estate. In the 1850’s he was the owner with W. F. Gray of “Gray’s Book Store”.

    In 1823 Rev Edward McGuire and his family convalesced at “Traveler’s Rest mansion of John Gray.  In 1827 he gave a “handsome service of plate for the communion service”  This was stolen during the battle of Fredericksburg. One cups rescued from soldier by sexton. A portion came into possession Mr. O. E. Jones.. However, he delayed in return and June, 1869 Vestry authorized two ministers to get the plate. Then in late 1860’s “friend of St. George’s Church” advised senior warden seen goblet and waiter at residence near Albany and supplied name and address. Individual first refused but then wardens threatened to inform NY papers. Apparently individual was in an election. Finally in 1931 a resident of Wollaston MA offered to return communion cup taken for $75 but then accepted vestry counter offer of $50.