York-Hampton Parish Boundaries, 1632-1696

The first York Parish church was "...located at the York Settlement that came into being at the point where Wormely Creek enters the York River.... The first church there seems to have been in use by 1642 and was likely a frame structure. The second church, which replaced it about 1667, seems to have been built of brick: 46' (N-S x 55' (E-W).... The fact that a 1655 tombstone (that for Major William Gooch) is within the foundation walls of this church indicates that both the first and second church occupied the same site." Grace Church, by Charles E. Hatch, Jr. 1970.

The 1655 tombstone, protected by a glass covering, can be seen on the grounds of the Yorktown Coast Guard Training Center, where the original church foundations may be found.

The land comprising York-Hampton Parish remains; one must look out of the corners of the eye to catch a glimpse of its early inhabitants. Parish records prior to the 1930's have for the most part been lost. But there are brief revelations of the life of the parish in county records, including wills and inventories and marriage records. The tombstones of early parishioners also speak poignantly of their faith and their struggles.

   The tomb of Major William Gooch of York Parish, who died October 29, 1655, is one of the oldest surviving markers in the country. Though only 29 when he died, Gooch was already a justice of York County, member of the House of Burgesses, and shortly before his death was made a Councillor by the General Assembly. This inscription on his tomb attests to the importance of the church in his life:

Within this tomb there doth interred lie
No shape but substance true nobility;
Itself though young in yeares but twenty nine
Yet graced with vertues morall and divine;
The church from him did good participate;
In councill rare fit to adorn a State.

        The life stories of women are more fragmented. In 1657, the will of John Broadnax of York Parish lists a bequest to his daughter, Elizabeth, "my Bible book." Can we infer from this that Elizabeth Broadnax was educated beyond the standard of her day, since it was uncommon for women to be able to read?


The will of Laurence Hulett of York Parish, probated in 1658, bequeaths more than 3000 pounds of tobacco, an enormous amount of wealth at that time, divided up between his sons and several neighbors. To his wife, Elizabeth, however, he leaves only a black cow, calling her "unkind and unnaturall"!


The 1675 will of Elizabeth Lockey of York Parish shows that she had considerable property at her disposal, an unusual situation in a society where property rights were generally reserved to men. Her will directs the disposition of "a negro man Silver"; "a white horse"; "a negro called Black Betty" and her child; "a negro woman named Jullyan"; four cows, another horse, and extensive household goods. She also seems to have been in the position of guardian for a young relative named Mary Hansford, for whom she arranged, in her will, a term of indentured servitude.


These men and women lead a long line of people who put the church in the context of their lives within these parish bounds.


In the past, parishes were as much political as religious entities. New Virginia settlements had to include courthouse, jail, and parish church. A network of parishes with set boundaries was established and maintained by the government.


The Virginia Assembly established the bounds of Chischiak (Hampton) Parish in January 1640, along with orders to build church and parson's house. This was to accommodate the growing settlement begun ten years earlier with prodding from the Council at Jamestown, which had offered 50 acres of land to any person settling on Charles (York) river.


By 1646 records indicate the boundaries of York County parishes as follows: "York Parish, extending form Back Creek to Yorktown Creek, and Hampton Parish from Yorktown Creek to Queen's Creek, which was then the westerly limit of the settlements.... In 1706 York and Hampton Parishes were, by an order of the Council, united to make York-Hampton Pariish." [William & Mary Quarterly, XX, 142.]

Parish vestry members walked the boundary lines of the land every fourth year until 1786.

Time Line of Significant Events

  • 1632 - York County formed and divided into four parishes
  • 1637 - Census shows ten churches in a cordon below Jamestown
  • 1642 - English Civil War begins
  • 1644 - After an Indian massacre, it is a felony for an Englishman to go to Gloucester "without good reason"
  • 1649 - Hampton Parish's chalice and flagon made in London
  • 1660 - The Rev. Philip Mallory preaches in York Parish in support of the Restoration
  • 1662 - New Anglican Book of Common Prayer. "Act of Uniformity" compels every minister to use it.
  • 1676 - Bacon's Rebellion
  • 1689 - William & Mary crowned. "Toleration Act" grands freedom of worship, except to Catholics.
  • 1691 - Yorktown lots laid out; lot #35 set aside for a church; original town plat shows a hand-drawn church.
  • 1693 - College of William & Mary founded. Colonial clergy at York and York-Hampton all had ties to the college.
  • 1696 - York County court house built in town


Last Published: October 26, 2015 8:29 AM
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