Monday, October 6, 2014

Polegreen Church–The Struggle for Religious Freedom

Mechanicsville, VA  High 73  Low 54

We visited the site of the Polegreen Church. The church was burned and those who are trying to preserve the history of the church put up this frame showing where the original building stood.


The following information was taken from the Polegreen Church web site. Fascinating story.

From the founding of the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown Island until the American Revolution 170 years later, there was only one officially recognized religion in the colony. The Anglican Church operated as the established church. Church structures were built by the colonial government, and their ministers were paid by taxing the citizens. All other religious groups were discouraged, suppressed and harassed.\



In the late 1730's a powerful religious movement, which became known as the "Great Awakening" took hold in the middle colonies of America. In 1739 a Hanover County brick mason named Samuel Morris gathered his family and some neighbors into his home regularly on Sunday afternoons to read the Bible and religious tracts, including George Whitefield's sermons. This was the beginning of the dissenter movement in Virginia.

Tom and Jim


By 1743 the Governor's Council in Williamsburg licensed four dissenter "reading houses", three in Hanover County and one in Henrico. They were all named "Morris Reading Houses". The reading house built on Samuel Morris' land was named after George Polegreen, a land grant recipient of the previous century.

This framework shows where the original reading  house was located.


At the request of the Hanover dissenters a newly ordained 23-year-old Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania arrived in 1747 to be pastor of the four congregations which had been licensed by the Colonial government in 1743. Samuel Davies was the first non-Anglican minister licensed to preach in Virginia. Among his achievements was his pioneering effort in the education of black slaves. The classic negro slave spiritual, "Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart" originated at Polegreen.

Patrick Henry worshipped with his mother, a Hanover dissenter, at Polegreen during the twelve years Davies was in Virginia.

DSCN0025For more than a century the Polegreen Church stood as a monument to the Hanover Dissenters and Samuel Davies in their struggle for religious liberty in pre-revolutionary America. In 1864, during the Civil War, General Grant, trying to take Richmond, made an attempt to break through General Lee's lines along the Totopotomoy Creek. Polegreen Church rested squarely in the center as the two armies faced each other. During an attack the Union forces overran the Confederate outer positions and occupied the church. In an effort to dislodge Union sharpshooters, Confederate artillery fired on the church and set it on fire.

In war-ravaged Hanover County the congregation which had worshipped at Polegreen could not afford to rebuild the destroyed church.


  1. Funny, considering that some groups came to America to be allowed to have freedom of religion.

  2. Interesting post. I really like the way they put just a frame of the old and all. Gives me a better idea of what it might have looked like.

  3. I am some what of a Civil War buff, so I am enjoying your history posts. Looks like you are having a great time!

  4. I feel sorry for non-believers in early Virginia as their lives were made miserable. It's ironic that many Americans want those old days where everyone must believe the same way. Thank heaven for separation of church and state!

  5. Sandie, I'm sure enjoying your tour of the east. Your writings are appreciated.

  6. Many churches, court houses and homes were destroyed during that time period. Such a pity to have so much history burned.

  7. Great tour! Thanks! Jim is really lookin good!

  8. Virginia was a total wasteland after the Civil War from the armies fighting back and forth and foraging for food, firewwood and shelter. The church is just one example of the terrible destruction.

    Hope that history is never repeated.

  9. another interesting post of the history of the area,
    great pictures.

  10. A great history lesson. Haven't been to this area of the US yet.


Thanks for visiting today. I look forward to reading your comments. Have a beautiful day.