Exhibit 16

Westover – the slave-holders’ church

tombstones at Westover PlantationWestover Parish was established in 1619, and the first chapel was located on the grounds of what is today Westover Plantation. Several tombs and headstones survive to mark the site of the church cemetery. The church remained at Westover until two new chapels were built in the 1730s -- one of which survives as the modern-day Westover Parish Church. Photo courtesy John Bragg.

WestoverThe Episcopal Church was the established church in Colonial Virginia, and as such was officially responsible for the religious life of slaves. Ministers of the early church probably gave little attention to slaves’ religious instruction. Church wardens, however, had certain legal responsibilities such as “binding out” orphans and children born out of wedlock. Many of the children bound out by the wardens of Westover Parish were free Negroes and mulattoes, such as Abraham Brown, the patriarch of the free town that later came to be known as Ruthville. “Binding out” was an early and not necessarily beneficent form of foster care. Photo courtesy John Bragg.

bible and cupRev. Peter Fontaine, the minister of Westover Parish from 1720 until 1757, appears to have been a diligent and highly regarded minister who took an uncharacteristically serious interest in the religious life of slaves. In 1724 he filed a report with the Bishop of London in which he said that he took every opportunity, both public and private, to urge slave owners to instruct their slaves in Christianity and to send them to church to be instructed by him from April to the end of June. Silver chalice with cover and paten, both made in London in 1690 and donated to Westover Parish by Sarah Braine courtesy Judy Ledbetter.

run away ad mentioning Rev. FontaineRev. Peter Fontaine’s particular interest in the religious life of slaves may have been unique for the time and may have contributed to the later spread of evangelical religion among Charles City slaves. This runaway slave advertisement for Charles, who first ran away in 1765, describes him as “a great preacher,” a likely indication that Charles was a “new light” evangelical convert. Virginia Gazette (Rind), 27 Oct. 1768.

Rev. William T. LeavellRev. William T. Leavell was rector of Westover Parish from 1839-1853. His private register records numerous visits to plantations for the purpose of ministering to slaves. Rev. Leavell buried “servants,” baptized infants and married couples. Interestingly, most of the burials are denoted simply as “buried a servant,” whereas his baptisms invariably include both the child’s given name and surname. His register has been an important source of names for the Slave Ancestor data base on this web site. Rev. Leavell was himself the owner of eight slaves. Photo courtesy Westover Church.

run away ad mentioning Rev. FontaineSister Robinson was a slave who belonged to the Seldon family of Westover Plantation. A young child at the time of the Civil War, she reported that slaves were sometimes required to attend their master’s church where they were instructed by the minister that good servants should obey their master. When slaves like Sister Robinson attended the master’s church, they sat in the “servants” gallery at the rear of the church which serves today as the choir loft. Photo courtesy Ingeborg Fisher.

choirToday Westover Church is the distribution center for the county’s Meals on Wheels program. Proceeds from the church’s annual Autumn Pilgrimage House Tour help to support Meals on Wheels and other outreach ministries. Photo of Charles City Spiritual Ensemble performing at Autumn Pilgrimage 2007 courtesy of John Bragg.

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