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Parish History Notes 1: The Early Parishes of Hanover

 

In 1654 New Kent County was formed from York County, which was one of the eight original shires of the Colony of Virginia. The New Kent officials governed an area that extended to the headwaters of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers. Certainly this western land would have been sparsely populated, except by Native American Indians, and it would not even have been very well explored by the European settlers until later in the seventeenth century. In addition to its duties of establishing counties, the General Assembly of Colonial Virginia was charged with defining ecclesiastical borders for the Church of England. By 1679 the liturgical equivalent to New Kent County was named St. Peter’s Parish, and the current parish church, St. Peter’s, was in use by 1704.


The Anglican Church of the seventeenth century performed many responsibilities that have been assigned to governments today. The size of St. Peter’s Parish made it difficult to administer these duties. As of June 1, 1705, because of “Sundry and divers Inconveniencys” and “the largeness of the Extent of said parish,” St. Paul’s Parish was divided from the west side of St. Peter’s. In 1720 Hanover County was established, using essentially the same boundaries as the recently formed parish. The chapel that predated Fork Church was built on the frontier of St. Paul’s Parish. Then, in May 1726, again because of travel difficulties, St. Martin’s Parish was formed, to include “All that part of St. Paul’s Parish lying in the fork of the Pamunkey (made by the junction of the North Anna and the South Anna rivers) together with all that part of the original parish lying north-west of Stone Horse Creek, which flows north-east into the South Anna.”


Soon population increases created the need for a larger church to serve the area of the Forks. The building we know as Fork Church was constructed in the early days of St. Martin’s Parish. Then, in 1742, Fredericksville Parish and Louisa County were formed to define the western border and complete the boundaries of the area that is still recognized as our parish and our county.