Hungars Church

Information Provided by Michael Graves

Much has been written about the old church thru the years, some fact, some fiction, a few myths and legends. The sign hanging in front of the church touts the establishment in 1623.

There can be little doubt about a few things, first is that with the exception of the Native Americans the group of Smythe’s Hundred were the first settlers to this area of the Eastern Shore known as Accomack. The second is that the group worshiped together for many years even before there was a formal church. We are very fortunate that the records have survived. Thanks in no small way to the efforts of Thomas Jefferson. His pursuit to recover and preserve the records of the Virginia Company that document our heritage is the main reason you are able to research and find these documents.

The first formal church was established by order of the Burgess (the first governing body) dated 14 September 1635, and presented by Captain Thomas Graves (leader of Smythe’s Hundred) and Reverend William Cotton.

The first meeting of the vestry was at the Feast of St. Michael, which occurred 29 September 1635. The first order of business was to build a parsonage. The members agreed and the church was to be built by Christyde next (the coming of the new year). Records of burials at the church indicate they did meet the requirements of the order.

There have been three buildings on this site; there is no exact record of the construction of the present building; however, church records show the ordering of pews for the new brick church in 1742.

While the reconstructed church at the Jamestown Fort does predate Hungars there are very few churches that are still in existence as a church that were started in 1635.

Here are just a few items of interest about the old church. The church owns one of the few complete sets of colonial communion silver in existence, consisting of a chalice, paten, flagon and bason, each engraved with "IHS". The set was given to the Church by John Custis of Williamsburg and dates to 1742-43. Other treasures include a cassock of black taffeta and a white surplice from the 1800s and altar cloth of eyelet embroidery with "1749" on it; a prayer book of 1758 and a Bible of 1753. Hungars Parish also holds the record of being the longest church ever built in colonial Virginia. Listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register.

Please see the excellent page by Michael Graves at

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Barbara Cox

Web site copyright 1996-2005 by Barbara Cox.  This page updated August 28, 2005