1887-1921

Living in Hope, 1887-1921

        On June 1, 1887, Grace Church received a new infusion of enthusiasm in the person of the Rev. William Byrd Lee. At the time Lee became priest-in-charge of Grace, he was already rector of Abingdon and Ware parishes in Gloucester County. He served Grace Church, with assistance from others, until his retirement in 1920.

        Almost as a symbol of the renewed hope of the parish, the ancient bell, cast in 1725 and recast in 1882, was returned to service in a free-standing bell tower about the time Lee began his ministry at Grace. Stories abound concerning the bell: how it came to Yorktown, how it was damaged, how it made its way to Philadelphia to be recast, and when exactly it was returned to service. One likely scenario is that the bell fell and was cracked during the 1863 magazine explosion that destroyed the courthouse. It was carried North by Union troops at the end of the Civil War, discovered at a Philadelphia smelting company, recast and returned to its home. [Grace Church General Study, Charles E. Hatch, 1970]

        Restoration efforts continued into the new century. In 1910, the church received $250 from the diocesan Church Extension Fund Committee, $25 from the Norfolk Convocation, and raised $200 from among the "small and scattered congregation, and friends." The money would go to "help the sadly needed repairs. A chimney is being built to the church, instead on an unsatisfactory flue, projected from the ceiling through the roof. A slate roof will replace the old and leaky one. A section of the front and side wall will be reinforced by a concrete base to guard against two serious cracks in the wall, with certain needful repairs within the church." [Church Extension in the Diocese of Southern Virginia, circa 1910, from archives of Diocese of So. Va.]

        "During World War I, Yorktown was used as a Naval Base. The Atlantic Fleet of the United States Navy made the river look like a city at night when all the ships were lit up. Tiny concession stands were build edge to edge, with no symmetry on the shoreline along Water Street." [The County of York and Yorktown, Thelma Hansford, 1972]

An iron fence was installed along church property during an improvement campaign circa 1915. In the 1960's Jack dozier told the story of the fence, recalling that it was ordered from a Baltimore firm to replace the old brick wall dismantled during the Civil War. The new fence was to be shipped to Yorktown ready to be installed. On the trip down from Baltimore, heavy weather caused the cargo in the schooner to shift, sliding eight-foot sections of pointed fencing into the wooden hull. The hull was pierced, and the ship began to take on water. The captain headed the ship for shore and watched helplessly as the vessel settled in shallow water. The cargo was recovered, the ship repaired, and the fence eventually delivered and installed at the church, where it stood until the early 1930's, when it was replaced by the present restored colonial brick wall. [Historical Facts and Dates, Luise Gallagher, circa 1976]

TimeLine of Significant Events

  • 1888 - From annual report: Communicants (white): 15; Total contributions: $99.85; Donated to diocese: $16.60
  • 1892 - Diocese of Southern Virginia becomes separate from the Diocese of Virginia
  • 1898 - From annual report: Church furnishings, including organ, valued at $150; Condition of property: "needs repairs"
  • 1904 - From annual report: 20 families, 10 Sunday services (2 communion), total revenue of $121.26, property valued at $2000
  • 1907 - 300th anniversary of Jamestown settlement. The celebration marks the first ever visit of a Bishop of London to Virginia
  • 1909 - Belfry added to church and recast 1724 bell hung
  • 1913 - William Byrd Lee Guild founded
  • 1914 - World War I begins
  • 1918 - World War I ends
  • 1921 - From annual report: 20 communicants, 36 Sunday services (3 communion), total revenue of $718.71
Last Published: March 5, 2010 10:13 AM
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