History of Saint James’ Warrenton

Saint James' Warrenton BicentennialThe History Committee was formed in 1996 for the purpose of collecting historical material on St. James’ Church, preserving it, and informing the congregation of the parish’s rich heritage. We meet once a month and would love for you to join us. In addition to maintaining a traditional archive, we are beginning to digitize much of our history and publish our articles on our blog as well as in the newsletter.

Hamilton Parish

Hamilton Parish was established in 1730. The first Parish church was built at Elk Run; its foundation was recently uncovered and the site has been developed as a park. The second church, St. Mary’s, was erected in 1755 at Turkey Run, about one mile south of what is now Warrenton, then known as Fauquier Court House. In 1810, the town was officially named Warrenton. By then, the churches at Elk Run and Turkey Run had been abandoned and fallen into ruin.

Old Church

In 1816, the first Episcopal Church within the town was built just below the Courthouse on Alexandria Pike, and was known as St. James’ Church. The wooden framework structure was sold in 1846, and in 1853, a new brick church on Culpeper Street was consecrated; it continues today as the site of St. James’ Church.

The 1853 church was possibly designed or at least influenced by renowned New York architect, James Renwick Jr., a strong advocate of the Gothic Revival style of architecture (such as the Smithsonian Castle , designed by Renwick). In 1910, a devastating fire consumed the church and most of its contents.  The church was rebuilt, and services resumed in 1912. A parish hall was attached to the north side, now used as a chapel.

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The rebuilt structure is a stucco and brick building in the style of an English parish church. Once inside the Gothic interior, one sees the splendid stained glass Ascension window above the altar. Two windows were salvaged from the 1910 fire, as were some of the furnishings, including the brass pulpit and Communion rail. Today, St. James’ is beautified with additional stained glass windows, more than 300 needlepoint kneelers hand-stitched by parishioners, and other appropriate furnishings to enrich the setting in which we worship. One of the treasures of St. James’ is a 17th century copy of the King James Bible.

Fifteen rectors have served St. James’ during its history.

Baldwin Ridge Cemetery

Back in 1878, in bad weather it was often difficult to travel by horse and buggy from the country to Sunday services at St. James’ in Warrenton. Therefore, the concept of building a mission church east of Warrenton was proposed. By good fortune, a site at Mates Hill on Baldwin’s Ridge was donated by Joseph W. Blackwell, money was raised, and Christ’s Chapel was completed in 1883. The congregation was served by the rectors of St. James’. Adjacent to the church, land was set aside for a graveyard to include family plots, as was the custom.

baldwinridgecemeteryThe chapel was in use until its closing during World War II because of shortages of fuel and other supplies. In 1949, the chapel was deconsecrated, and then razed in the 1950s. Its furnishings were removed to St. James’. The graveyard continues undisturbed; the last burial was c. 1915. In recent years, Boy Scout Troop #10 has dedicated itself to the site with periodic cleanup, interpretative signs, and fencing, for which St. James’ is grateful.

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