History of St. James
St. James Episcopal church is currently located on the edge of the village of Cartersville at the northern boundary of Cumberland county, along the James River. The history of the Episcopal church in Cumberland county dates back to 1840.
The original St. James church was built on land deeded from Samuel Hatcher and was located a few miles south of the current location of the church. The Rev. Olcott Buckley was the first rector who served until 1855.
The Reverend John D. Powell served for several years at St. James with the exception of when he was called to serve as chaplain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
The reverend Doctor J.D. Morrison served as rector, liking the area so much that he moved his family to the village of Cartersville in 1875. After Rev Morison left in 1883, the church had no rector for several years. During this period, the church was dismantled and rebuilt in its current location on land donated by Judge Irving.
The church had several rectors from 1884 through 1931. The Reverend Robert E. Withers came in June of 1931 and was rector when the church caught fire and suffered extensive damage. A pair of rare antique tablets, one carved with the Ten Commandments and the other one carved with the Lord’s Prayer, were destroyed.
The church was rebuilt using a design originally drawn by Thomas Jefferson for a church in Charlottesville. The Cartersville community pitched in to help rebuild the church. Fund raising for the rebuilding of the church was in part generated from proceeds from a local play and a concert at the State Teachers College in Farmville. The congregation donated new pews, purchased for $25 each, in memory of family members. The dedication plaques on each pew can still be seen today. The new church was dedicated in 1939 by The Right Rev. Doctor William A. Brown, Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia. 150 people attended the celebration. A reception following the dedication was held at Greenwood, the Holman family residence who were long-time members of the church. Reporters from Life magazine recorded the event for their publication.
The Reverend Cameron MacRae provided sacraments for the church and was assisted by students from the Virginia Theological Seminary for several years. The church’s reed organ was replaced with a pipe organ in 1956. This same organ is still in use today.
In 1968, under the Rev. Edmund Berkley, the congregation voiced a need for a parish house. The Episcopal Church Women raised the necessary funding in part by selling old fashioned Brunswick stew. A vintage recipe was found and an old cast iron pot was borrowed and the first Annual ECW Stew came to pass. The Annual Stew Stirring continues as an important tradition today using two large antique cast iron pots warmed over open fires.
In 1980, the Rev Allie Fraser came to St. James, who was followed by Jonathan Glass, who served from 1986 until 1990. During Rev Glass’ tenure, the men of the church began to display their culinary talents at their annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. The Annual Stew Stirring, Pancake Supper, BBQ Chicken and other fundraisers have helped in many refurbishing projects at St. James over the years.
In 1991, the Rev. Sidney Hall came on board and in 1997, The Rev. James Drinard Smith joined as Rector followed by the Rev. Dr. Carolyn Craft, Professor at Farmville State College and the first woman rector of the church. The Reverend Bob New joined St. James in 2010 and retired in 2014. The Reverend Martha Jenkins joined in 2014 and remains as rector today.
The congregation built an outdoor event pavilion in 2013, in part to honor the memory of Dr. David Weiking, Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia and parishioner. The pavilion, located behind the church was built on additional land donated by long-time friend of St. James, and resident of Cartersville, Frank Dean Irving.