A Historic Treasure
The Colonial Vestry Book of Truro Parish is not only Pohick’s most treasured artifact, but it is also an important historical source for understanding the central role of religion in colonial Virginia. Some of the Virginia’s most prominent citizens were members of this vestry, including George Washington, George Mason, and George Fairfax. Their activities on this religious board, recorded throughout these minutes, give us insight into the spiritual dimension of their lives.
The Virginia General Assembly created Truro Parish in 1732, delineating it as the area above the Occoquan river, extending to the western frontier. Pohick Church, then the only church existing in this new ecclesiastical district, became the Parish Church over it. The Vestry members who attended there soon established chapels to serve those living in the outer reaches of the parish. These localities later became known as Falls Church, Leesburg, Centreville and Fairfax Station. The clergyman overseeing the parish, known as the Rector, would conduct occasional services in these places of worship, as well as in a temporary structure in the city of Alexandria. When the rector was leading worship at Pohick, a clerk would conduct Morning Prayer in each of the chapels, concluding with a reading of the rector’s sermon for that Sunday.
To facilitate the religious welfare of the parish, the Vestry’s responsibilities included such duties as: nominating the rector and seeing that he was properly housed and paid; building, furnishing and maintaining the parish’s church and chapels; collecting mandatory church contributions from residents of the parish; seeing to parishioners’ regular attendance at worship; checking household boundaries within the parish; and distributing alms to the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. The Truro Parish Vestry Minutes reveal that the members took these duties seriously and performed them with great diligence (for more on Pohick’s history, see the History Page).
Making of the Images
The volume containing the colonial vestry minutes records the actions of the Vestry from 1732 until the disestablishment of the colonial church in 1785. In addition, it includes the proceedings of the successor Overseers of the Poor from 1787 until 1802. For preservation and research purposes, the book has been on extended loan with the Library of Congress since 1924, though from October 2008 until October 2009 it was on display at Mount Vernon.
To further assist researchers, the Library of Congress created high resolution digital images of the Vestry Book (600 dpi) in 2008. Lower resolution images, suitable for viewing on the Internet, were generated shortly thereafter. These may be found by clicking the button below to pop up the viewing screen. Click on the page selector above or below the images to browse through the 278 pages of the volume (slow Internet connections may take time for the images to load). You may also turn on a magnifier to zoom into the text of each page on desktops or laptops, or simply pinch to zoom on touch screen devices.
Copies of the transcribed vestry minutes, published by Pohick Church in 1974, are available through the church office for $15. If you would like to support the preservation of Pohick’s historic buildings and artifacts, please see the Historic Pohick Church Foundation page.