ST. JOHN’S 325 YEARS OF HISTORY
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH BUILDINGS
In 1694, the vestry ordered that Capt. John Addison of Oxon Hill purchase land and obtained a contractor to build a church. A 78-acre parcel known as “Little Hall” was conveyed to the Vestry by George Athey on December 3, 1694. A wooden church building was completed there in 1695.
The building now standing is the fourth on this property. The first is said to have been destroyed by fire after a few years. William Tyler, a carpenter, started the second in 1707. This was to be 50 feet long and 25 feet wide, with a porch on the south side. The interior was to be “wainscoted below and plastered above.” A gallery 13 feet deep was to be built at the west end. The contract price was 50,000 lb. of tobacco. The Vestry was also to supply much of the material and help to raise the frame. Several years were required for completion.
In 1722 the Vestry “finished the agreement with John Lane to build a church with brick,” and with John Radford, carpenter, “to support the roofs …to complete all window frames…pews and gallery… “ In March of 1726, one of the vestrymen, Capt. Thomas Middleton, contracted to shingle the roof. The church seems to have been finished soon thereafter.
On May 27, 1765, the Vestry of King George’s Parish, as it was now known, contracted with Thomas Cleland to enlarge the brick building by extending the north and west walls and, building new walls on the east and south. Ten months later, Cleland was authorized “to have the whole of the old brick taken down” and to build a completely new building. This structure, completed in 1768, is the one now standing.
The church building was extensively refurbished, starting in 1914. The original plaster being in bad condition, the entire interior walls and ceiling were furred and covered with a composition board. A baptistry alcove was built protruding through the front center of the gallery. Stained glass windows were introduced, and asbestos shingles in a diamond pattern were laid on the roof in place of the cedar or cypress shingles previously used.
The congregation began an extensive program of preservation and restoration in 1969. The most visible results of this program are to an open interior plan, the plastering of the interior walls and the ceiling, restoration of windows and gallery, new roofing, and the removal of a brick chimney. New pews were installed in 1990.
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND BROAD CREEK CHURCH
Washington was a member and vestryman at Christ Church Alexandria, Virginia, and Pohick Church, 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 the church was the Rev. Jonathan Boucher, who was a friend of Washington and tutor to Martha Washington’s son, Jack Curtis. Expelled from Queen Anne’s Parish, for his violently-expressed Tory attitude, Boucher served as curate here under a his wife’s uncle, the Rev. Henry Addison, from late 1772 until September 10, 1775. It is recorded that Walter Dulany Addison was one of the four clergy who officiated at Washington’s funeral, in December, 1799. At this time he was living at Oxon Hill and assisting the ministry of this parish. He later became rector, as noted below.
(for whom the Concert Hall is named)
John Addison, already had a place in 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. 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.
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 perished 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 boundaries. He served until 1965, presiding over the transition from rural to suburban congregation.
This Information was compiled by John Titus.
• Vestry Minutes of Piscataway Parish
• Lois Green Car and David W. Jordan, Maryland’s Revolution in Government
• Aubrey Land, Colonial Maryland, A History
The Buildings and Grounds
18th century Colonial-era structure is the spiritual center of St. Johns and is the principal space for worship and music. Restored in the 1970s, the church regularly undergoes upgrading and repair. New windows were installed in 2013, and the new south doors will be replaced. The sanctuary contains three keyboard instruments: a historic tracker organ built by Jacob Hilbus in 1817, a large two-manual custom Allen Digital Organ installed in 2006, and an electronic Kawai piano.
Built in the mid-1960s, Bayne Hall houses church religious education, meeting and education spaces, and is the principal social space for the parish. Some spaces have been renovated including the Addison Room, the Parish offices, the Rector’s office, the Nursery, and Sunday School room.
Built on grounds outside the original church boundary, this 1960s-era structure has been home to all our Rectors. The large 4-level home provides welcoming spaces for entertaining as well as a library and meeting room. It was refurbished in April 2015 in preparation for its next occupant
The Saint John’s church graveyard contains several hundred grave markers dating from 1800 to the present day. Homemade concrete crosses, colonial scroll-top markers, picturesque 19th century allegorical markers, and contemporary granite markers (one with a Saturn V rocket!) surround the church on all sides.
CLERGY IN ST. JOHN’S HISTORY
1710 – 1741 John Fraser
1742 – 1789 Henry Addison
1789 – 1801 Unknown
1801 – 1809 Walter Dulany Addison
1835 – 1836 John Woart
1836 – 1879 Unknown
1879 – 1889 William L. Hyland
1889 – 1895 Unknown
1895 – 1904 Richard T. Kerfoot
1905 – 1907 George C. Groves
1907 – 1925 Unknown
1925 – 1927 Gerald V. Barry
1927 – 1937 Dr. William Hurst Heigham
1935 – 1958 Robert Henry
1958 – 1965 Jack Harris
1965 – 1971 Charles Gill
1971 – 1979 William A. Opel (Sabbatical: August 12, 1979 – July 6, 1980)
1979 – 1980 Marge Kenney (During Sabbatical)
1980 – 1981 John Coleman (Interim)
1981 – 1987 John A. Baldwin
1987 – 1988 Robert D. Herzog (Interim)
1988 – 1997 Lauren A. Gough
1997 – 1998 Susan Gresinger (Interim)
1998 – 1999 John A. Frizzell (Interim)
1999 – 2014 Marc L. Britt
2014 – 2017 Stephen Rorke (Interim)
2017 – 2021 Sarah Dodds Odderstol
2022 – Present Stephen Rorke (Interim)