St. John’s Episcopal Church: Place of Worship. Place of War.

On the 24th of August, 1753, a small newborn boy was baptized in Elizabethtown NJ. His name was James Hatfield and he was baptized in the St. John’s Episcopal Church… a Church founded by missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, from London England.

This Society was officially organized in 1701 by King William III. A Charter was issued that said the Anglican SPG was: “an organisation able to send priests and schoolteachers to America to help provide the Church’s ministry to the colonists”… and was later amended to add to it’s mandate: ” the evangelisation of slaves and Native Americans.”     By 1702 the first missionaries were sent to America. In 1706 St. John’s Episcopal Church in Elizabethtown NJ was built under the SPG’s guidance.

Forty-seven years later James Hatfield was born and was baptised in this Church.  During the Revolution St. John’s Episcopal Church was occupied by the British Army calvary. At the age of 23 James joined the British Army and acted as a guide, according to tradition, in almost every expedition in New Jersey. It is easy to picture him often in the local British headquarters… what was once his local Church. By the end of the war the St. John’s Episcopal Church was turned over to the hands of the Rebels under the leadership of George Washington. Today this Church is considered a US Army Historic Site.

But James Hatfield did not grovel to Washington. Instead he chose to remain loyal to the King. He set sail for Shelburne Nova Scotia, with his family, in 1783 as a United Empire Loyalist. There he worked as a lumber surveyor and eventually left Shelburne in the summer of 1785 and settled in Tusket River NS.

At the age of 53, or thereabouts, James passed away. His daughter Phoebe, my great5 grandmother, was likely born the same year the Rebels took over the Elizabethtown Episcopal Church under Washington’s leadership (1780). As a precocious three year old she would have traveled the seas to the new land of Nova Scotia, no doubt wide-eyed with wonder! Perhaps her earliest memories would be on that ship… waiting to dock in a new land, a new home.

Published in: on 30 April 2009 at 10:20 pm  Comments (1)