Those Benches!

In 1879, the Reverend Robert McBryde was rector of St. Georges. It was two years after reconstruction had ended in the south.  A South Carolinian by birth, he had served in the Confederate Army.  The Church had been undergoing an upheaval. Two years before 50 communicants opposed to the previous rector’s resignation formed Trinity Church and made him rector. McBryde, however, was popular and is the only rector to serve here at two different times. Historian Dr. Carrol H Quenzel writes he was “so amiable and polished a gentleman that he had endeared himself to every family within his charge.”

During his time as rector, several large donations were made to the Church. One of the expenditures from these donations, the settees, are still used at St. George’s today in the so called Sunday School Room or Family Room.  The settee is distinguished by a relatively high back, armrests, and a seating space that will accommodate at least two or more people. These are mostly likely the benches today, and they are getting a lot of use during the renovation.

In the Vestry meeting on December, 4, 1878, a committee was appointed to consider repairs of the Sunday School room and ascertain the cost of furnishing it. The Church was undergoing improvements, including painting of the exterior and repairs to the Sunday School room. Mr. A. K. Phillips was to be the chairman of the committee. He reported at the next meeting on Jan 29, 1879 that he had “parties in Baltimore who had agreed to furnish settees at 45 cents a foot and those with reversable [sic] backs would cost one dollar extra. It was moved 50 settees be purchased. 25 would have reversable  [sic] backs.  We still have 20 of them today.

At the March 5, 1879 Vestry Meeting, Phillips speaking for the newly named “Committee on furnishing and repairing the Lecture or Sunday School Room” reported the settees had been received. Painting would be deferred after Easter since Lenten services were being held.  Phillips offered a resolution thanking Major Doswell for the repairs to the west room of the Lecture or Sunday School Room which were paid for out of his own pocket.  Phillips indicated benches had been transported free of charge by ship from Baltimore and offered the following resolution:   “Resolved that the thanks of the Vestry of St. Georges Church be and hereby tendered to Henry Williams Esq. Agent for the Baltimore and Fredericksburg line of steamers for transportation from Baltimore fifty settees for the Lecture or Sunday School Room free of charge.”  

The cost of “Furnishing the Lecture Room” was $250 according to the treasurer reports. It is not known how much of that cost involved the benches.  Apparently there were older benches there – Bix Benches. They were eventually loaned to the “Sons of Sobriety” for the purpose of fixing up room for a meeting and religious services under the Male Branch of the St. Georges Benevolent Society.