Historic Pohick Church, in Lorton, Virginia, has been to hell and back since it was commissioned in 1767 by three well-known Georges. Their last names were Washington, Mason, and Fairfax.
Historic Pohick Church, known as the “Mother Church of Northern Virginia,” was the first church in colonial Virginia to be built north of the Occoquan River. The church’s beginnings were Anglican and actually date back to the early 1720s, but it was relocated and rebuilt under the watchful eyes of some vestrymen: The Three Georges.
As soon as the church was finished being built, the Revolutionary War started. Though his duties often kept him away, Washington seems to have been the most faithful church-goer of all Three Georges, never missing a Sunday. (Even when he had a houseful of guests over at Mount Vernon)!
During the War of 1812 (U.S. versus the British, Canadians, and Native Americans), the British came to Pohick Church (now an Episcopal church) and looted the place because of its strong association with G-Dubs. (They were still salty about losing the Revolutionary War). Apparently they even decapitated a wooden, gold-leaf-painted dove that had adorned the dedicated Washington pew. SAVAGE! The poor, headless thing was found in the courtyard of the church and was passed down for several generations before finally being donated back to the church in 1988. You can see it there today!
Until 1837, the historic Pohick Church was abandoned. A traveling Episcopal bishop visited there, because he wanted to see the Church of the Three Georges, but he was flabbergasted that it had come to such a dilapidated state. He set about raising funds for its repair and eventually raised $1,500 (which was a lot of coin back in those days). Among the bigwig contributors to this renovation were President Martin Van Buren, former President John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Francis Scott Key, whose signatures can be found in a pledge book at the church today.
Just when things were settled and looking up for Pohick Church, the Civil War struck. The Union Army raided the new church and used it as their camp, even turning it into a stable for their horses! From a written account by Lieutenant Charles B. Haydon:
“I have long known that the Michigan 2nd had no fear or reverence as a general thing for God or the places where he is worshiped but I had hoped that the memory of Gen. Washington might protect almost anything with which it was associated. I believe our soldiers would have torn the church down in 2 days. They were all over it in less than 10 minutes tearing off the ornaments, splitting the woodwork and pews, knocking the brick to pieces & everything else they could get at. They wanted pieces to carry away … A more absolute set of vandals than our men can not be found on the face of the earth. As true as I am living I believe they would steal Washington’s coffin if they could get to it.”
Following the war, services resumed at the church in 1878, and the die-hard parishioners pieced together what they could to make do. The Mt. Vernon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association finally had a call to arms and raised money to ONCE AGAIN rehabilitate historic Pohick Church. The rehab was done in 1917, when this picture was taken to celebrate.
Though the Church of the Three Georges has needed face lists and rehabs since 1917 (they are raising money again for updates), it still stands AND functions today, a hard-won testament to its steadfast determination. It’s a lot like America in that way. Rebuilt and re-birthed again and again — still changing, but still standing.
(Historic Pohick Church, located at 9301 Richmond Hwy, Lorton, is open to visitors Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., following the morning services. Guided tours for groups are available through advance arrangement with the church secretary at 703-339 6572. Entry is free of charge, though donations are cheerfully accepted.)
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