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1776 Little Fork Preservation Foundation

Little Fork Church 

Little Fork Episcopal Church, the only colonial church in Culpeper County , is located off Route 229, 10 miles north
of Culpeper, Virginia . The Church, listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, is widely appreciated as a structural document of early churchmanship and craftsmanship.

HISTORY

In 1730 St. Mark’s parish was using a small wooden “chapel of ease” within the Little Fork between the
Rappahannock and Hazel Rivers.  In 1773 this chapel burned and the Vestry decided to build a new church of wood near the site of the destroyed chapel. Shortly thereafter, they reconsidered and agreed to build a brick church“… eighty feet long and thirty feet wide in the clear … twenty feet pitch … on the land of Peter Bowmer.”  The first payment to the “undertaker” (builder), William Phillips, was 35,000 pounds of tobacco.  The church, designed by John Voss, was to be finished by November 1, 1776 . Among the early rectors of Little Fork were the Rev. John Thompson (1740-1772), the Rev. James Stevenson (1785-1805), and the Rev. John Woodville (1805-1835).  

Members of the Little Fork congregation were among the Culpeper Minute Men who heeded Governor Patrick Henry’s call-to-arms in 1775.  Early in the Civil War, the church grounds were used as a drill field by the Little Fork Rangers; the Rangers became Company D of the 4th Virginia Cavalry.  Later, as the War moved south,Union troops quartered at the church and in the harsh winter of 1863-64 destroyed most of the interior furnishings for firewood.  After the War, a contrite Union officer sent $100 to the old church and stipulated that it be used for new pews, presumably to replace those vandalized for campfires.  

Regularly weekly services at Little Fork ceased with the outset of the Civil War and were not recommenced after the War’s destruction.  For over a century, church services were held at least annually as the congregation of St.Stephen’s parish in Culpeper would travel out to the old church building for “Little Fork day,” a tradition maintained to this day.  Regular services resumed after the restoration.

RESTORATION

James Scott Rawlings, in his 1963 book Virginia’s Colonial Churches stated that Little Fork “although, as an architectural monument, is without a superior in Culpeper, Orange , Fauquier, Rappahannock, Madison , and still other nearby counties … is one of the two or three most neglected of colonial churches.”  This could not be allowed to continue, and concerned citizens from around the country, led by a committee chaired by the late Mr. Welly K. Hopkins and Lieutenant-General (ret.) Andrew J. Boyle, joined in efforts to fund a restoration of the Church in the Little Fork.  Restoration began on the building’s, and our country’s, bicentennial.

 An accurate description of the Church was available from excellent church records along with the research done by Milton
Grigg, the well-known authority on colonial construction.  The exterior wall of the church is brick, laid in Flemish bond.  The covered cornice, some floorboards, the ornate wooden paneled reredos, and most of the interior ceiling are original.  The Church still uses the original Queen Anne silver communion set.  

The Church has been completely restored, including the boxed pews and wine-glass pulpit, and it is exactly as it was when completed in 1776.  It took three years, 1773-1776, for its construction and the same length of time for its restoration, 1976-1979.

 A LIVING CHURCH

The greatest testament to the founders and builders of this architectural masterpiece, and the thousands of souls who worshipped in its pews and met at its communion rail, is that after the restoration of the building, Little Fork became again a living house of worship re-consecrated by the Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia.  Today, regular Sunday worship services are conducted at a renewed Little Fork Episcopal Church.
 

Little Fork is a small, but growing, rural church community welcoming all into its historic and consecrated building.  Adult and youth Christian Education are offered throughout the academic year, and a number of ministries and small groups serve the church and community.  The old Burying Ground has also been re-established and re-consecrated.  Burial sites are available for purchase (inquiries should be addressed to the Little Fork Church Secretary).

 

PRESERVATION

Now that the Church has been restored, it seems only prudent to provide for its future maintenance. 

Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining this historic building, a regional and national landmark, in its original condition is beyond the means of its small congregation. It is clear, though, that the building must never be neglected again.  To preclude this and looking forward to the next two hundred years, the Little Fork Church Preservation Committee has established a fund to be used solely for the perpetual maintenance of the Church and grounds.  Please join us as a Friend of Historic Little Fork Church:

 

The names of Life members are inscribed on a bronze plaque in the Church. Tax-deductible contributions can be made to

“Little Fork Church Preservation Foundation” and mailed to:

1776 Little Fork Church Preservation Foundation

Preservation_of_Little_Fork_Information.doc

P.O. Box 367
Rixeyville, VA 22737

 

In addition to the above contributions,Little Fork can be remembered in your will, and the preservation of this
remarkable historic and religious edifice is a fine opportunity to create a memorial to a departed friend or loved-one. 
If you would like to make a restricted contribution through a trust, please contact the church.