FORT WASHINGTON, MARYLAND, KING GEORGE’S PARISH
Mother Church of the Diocese
Established 1692 – An Episcopal Anglican Congregation in the Diocese of Washington
St. John’s Episcopal Church – Broad Creek is located in the Broad Creek Historic District of Prince Georges County and has a rich historic past.
For over three centuries the historical setting for the Broad Creek Church has remained relatively unchanged.
Established by the Maryland Vestry Act of 1692, it is the Mother Church of the Washington Diocese.
ST. JOHN’S PRESENT
Old though it may be, the parish of St. John’s Episcopal Church continues to serve our surrounding communities of Ft. Washington and Oxon Hill as we continue into our fourth century in this place. Since we are a small parish, newcomers find us to be very accessible. No one feels “lost” here. We will get to know each other immediately and newcomers soon feel that they are full-fledged members of our family. We have many activities, both in “reaching-out” to the community and in our own rich social life. Thus, we are sure everyone will find a rewarding experience here in addition to the spiritual blessings of our beautiful worship services.
You are invited to share our rich tradition and join us in carrying on a legacy of support to our parish members and service to our neighbors in need.
Early Colonial Families attended Church at St. John’s – Broad Creek. Following are some of the early visitors and parishioners of St. John’s.
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND BROAD CREEK CHURCH
Washington was a member and vestryman at Christ Church Alexandria, Va. and Pohick Church near Mt. Vernon. According to traditions passed down through three local families, he did attend services here from time to time, after making an easy trip up the Potomac River and Broad Creek in his multi-oared barge. One of these families, the Magruders, owned Harmony Hall and other properties in the parish.
Another link between Washington and this church was the Rev. Jonathan Boucher, who was a friend of Washington and tutor to Martha Washington’s son, Jack Custis. Expelled from Queen Anne’s Parish, for his violently-expressed Tory attitude, Boucher served as curate here under his wife’s uncle, the Rev. Henry Addison, from late in 1772 until 10 September, 1775.
It is recorded that Walter Dulany Addison was one of the four clergy who participated in Washington’s funeral, in December, 1799. At this time he was living at “Oxon Hill” and assisting in the ministry of this Parish. He later became rector, as noted below.
John Addison already had a place in Maryland History when he was elected.
Foreman of the first Vestry of Piscataway Parish in early 1694. Born in England, he married the widow of a prominent planter in St. Mary’s County. He was active in spreading and later discounting the rumors of a Catholic-Indian conspiracy in March, 1689. He became one of four delegates from Charles County in the Associator’s Convention which governed the colony from 1689 until 1692. The Convention made him a militia captain and a member of its executive group. After Maryland became a crown colony, he sat on the Council until his death. A staunch Anglican, he would have supported Governor Copley’s desire to see the Establishment of the Church in Maryland. On the vestry, he was instrumental in the purchase of land for building the parish church. It appears that the expenditures were carried on his credit until the government subsidy could be collected. His last vestry meeting took place in November, 1705. He died some time before the next vestry, in April,1706.
John Fraser was the first rector, although at least three men had been engaged to hold services during the years before his installation. Fraser served from 1710 to 1741. The next incumbent, Henry Addison, served even longer, from 1742-1789, although he, like many Anglican clergy, was exiled to England during most of the Revolutionary War. The present church building was built during his tenure.
Walter Dulany Addison, Henry’s nephew, was rector from 1801 to 1809.5 He was notable as an early social activist in a period when this was a highly exceptional activity for Episcopal clergy. He fought vigorously against the practice of dueling, even riding to the White House on one occasion in an attempt to induce President Thomas Jefferson to stop a duel. Failing here, he rode on to the dueling grounds and stopped the proceedings by himself. He publicly opposed slavery and freed those slaves which he had inherited! He also actively assisted the founding of several Episcopal parishes in the District of Columbia, and assisted a congregation of black Methodists to establish a church in the vicinity of Oxon Hill. As a young newly-wed, he lived for a short time in Battersea (Harmony Hall).
Robert F. Henry served as Rector from 1938 until 1958. The parish mission, St. Barnabas, greatly outgrew the mother church during this period of rapid suburban growth close to the District line. King George’s Parish purchased four acres of land for the rectory site during this period. When St. Barnabas obtained independent parish status in 1958, Henry went to the new parish, together with most of the members. John C. Harris became the first rector of King George’s Parish, as reduced to its present bounds. He served until 1965, presiding over the transition from rural to suburban congregation.
For more than 200 years Broad Creek has been considered a special place because of its history, natural features, and architectural and archeological resources. Its significance is derived from several factors: the presence of the site of the Town of Aire, one of the six towns established in Prince George’s County in 1706 by the Maryland General Assembly as a port for shipping tobacco; its excellent location on the banks of Broad Creek, an estuary of the Potomac River; the presence of St. John’s Church (originally known simply as Broad Creek Church), the “mother church” for other Episcopal churches in the region; and its collection of four architecturally and historically significant early-to-mid eighteenth century landmark buildings which provide unique insight into the early architectural development of southern Prince George’s County.
For over two centuries the historical setting for these important buildings and sites has remained relatively unchanged and more recent additions to the community have done little to disturb it. Broad Creek has retained its image as a quiet semi-rural enclave, separate from the busy commercial and residential development which surrounds it. As such, the community is a reminder of Prince George’s agrarian heritage and of an era when tobacco-raising and shipbuilding were the most important industries in the County. On the other hand, the area surrounding the Broad Creek Historic District has undergone intense development in the last decade.
Concern for the protection of Broad Creek’s historic resources and for the preservation of its semi-rural setting motivated the Tanta-Cove Garden Club in the spring of 1983 to request the Historic Preservation Commission to conduct a study of the potential for historic district designation for the Broad Creek area. The study, funded by the Prince George’s County Council included documentation of the area’s historic and architectural resources, meetings with local residents and several public presentations. Completed the same year, the study recommended the creation of a historic district, based on the significance of Broad Creek’s historical and architectural resources.
On March 20, 1984, the Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Commission voted to establish a Broad Creek Historic District. The decision was upheld by the County Council on July 30, 1985.
A QUICK TOUR THROUGH TIME
The pictorial history given at Homecoming 2014, is now available here for those who missed it, or who just want to see it again.
Click here and scroll.
1. Information from the Vestry Minutes of Piscataway Parish, and from personal observation.
2. “Washington and the American Republic” Lossing,Benson J. Virtue & Yorston, 12 Dey St., New York. Vol III, page 559
3. Information from Vestry Minutes of Piscataway Parish; also Lois Green Carr and David W. Jordan, Maryland’s Revolution in Government (Ithaca 1974 and Aubrey Land, Colonial Maryland, a History (Millwood, N.Y., 1981
4. In colonial times., a rector had to be appointed by governmental authorities. Consent of the vestry does not seem to have been required. Lacking a rector, a vestry could engage clergy to serve the parish.
5. Murray, Eliz. Hesselius, One Hundred Years Ago. the Life and Times of the Rev. Walter Dulany Addison (Philadelphia, 1895)