Little Fork Church Notes From History - October 5, 2023
An attempt to identify and give credit to the Architect and builders.
The focus of this research is to determine the actual architect and builder of Little Fork Church and if possible the names of slaves, indentured servants and others that participated in its construction. This is only the summary, further research on both Ariss and Voss covers 29 pages so far.
There have been many references to John Ariss as architect and builder of many colonial structures in Virginia and Maryland. As Ann Miller, the Research Scientist and Historian for VDOT, recently wrote to me "it's big, it's brick, it's Georgian, it's a church, so it must be by Ariss". A search for John Ariss at the Society of Architectural Historians website returned seven interesting claims, all but two are either suggested, attributed or “in all likelihood”. One is “commissioned” which is a true claim and the last, Payne’s Church, is “documented” to Ariss. Little Fork was “attributed” to Ariss because of its similarity to Lamb’s Creek which was “suggested” that he was the undertaker.
Little Fork has recently made available a transcribed copy of Saint Mark Episcopal Parish Vestry Book & Levies 1730 - 1785 for Spotsylvania, Orange and Culpeper Counties Virginia. On page 419 Thursday the 14th day of March 1776 the Vestry paid “To WM. Phillips Undertaker of Brick Church” and a few lines down “To Edward Voss for two plans of the Brick Church to be paid to FRENCH STROTHER”. William Phillips being born in 1693 would have been 80 years old when Church construction began. The Vestry probably delegated this Vestry member as undertaker to hire a person with the proper capabilities. George French Strother was the Church collector as well as a prominent lawyer and judge in Culpeper. The real question in this paragraph is why wait until the Church was nearly complete to pay Voss for the plans when they would have been needed to dig the first shovel or lay the first brick three years earlier unless he did more than provide the plans?
The following is an attempt to trace both Ariss and Voss’ work from the early 1700’s to when the Little Fork and Lamb’s Creek were built. John Ariss and Edward Voss were roughly the same age both being born before 1725. John in Westmoreland County and Edward in Essex Virginia. Judging by his work Ariss focused on the more prominent jobs closer to established towns following fame and money where Voss took on projects more into the wilderness which is probably why Ariss has been getting more credit than Voss.
In 1762 Edward Voss advertises in King & Queen County for the return of a runaway slave. In 1764 he advertises in the Virginia Gazette for the return of two white indented servants and 4 negro slaves. The article also mentions that Dick a mulatto, was a carpenter and painter by trade and that James was a brick maker by trade. 1765 March the same article is published. 1772 in the Maryland Gazette ten pounds for the return of a dark mulatto going by the name of Charles Harding formerly Dick about 30 years old. He was a Carpenter and Joiner by trade and can paint. In 1772 Edward Voss operates a brickyard on four lots in Fredericksburg. In April 1773 Edward Voss purchases 1000 acres, 400 of it formally granted to Richard Barnes and originally surveyed on July 22, 1749, by a young George Washington 2 days after taking the oath of public office. This 400 acres is the only known survey he did for Culpeper County. Clearly Voss had the manpower with the proper talents and now lives in Saint Mark’s Parish in Culpeper County.
1765 November, John Ayres is contracted to build Payne’s Church in Truro Parish Fairfax County Virginia. This is the oldest reference I can find to this spelling of his name. All others are based on this reference. 1768 September 9, Payne’s Church is completed. In 1768 John Ariss designed Fairfield in Berryville Clarke County Virginia for Warner Washington. In 1769 John Ariss is listed as the Architect for Menokin or Francis Lightfoot Lee House near Warsaw VA. In 1769 According to the marker for the Ruins of St. George’s Chapel West Virginia is when the Church was completed. From https://sah-archipedia.org/“In all likelihood, vestryman John Ariss, one of colonial Virginia's most noted builders, had a hand in the design and construction.”
1769-1777 Lamb’s Creek Church in Sealston Virginia is built.
In 1770 John Ariss designed Harewood near Charles Town West Virginia for Samuel Washington.
In 1774 John Ariss is listed as the Architect for Elmwood near Loretto Richmond County Virginia for Muscoe Garnett as claimed by Wikipedia which is potentially incorrect. NRHP states the date of erection c.1770 with James Mercer Garnett as Builder-Owner and the Architect as Unknown; said to have been a Fredericksburg man. 100 feet long by 30 feet deep and 2 stories would have taken a lot of bricks and a long time to build. In the middle of the nomination form for a landmark is the statement “Many of its design features, such as masonry details, façade design, and interior woodwork, relate the house architecturally to several other important mid-Georgian plantation houses, including Mount Airy, Blanfield, Menokin, and the additions to Mount Vernon. This group has been attributed to the architect, John Ariss. This may be the reason so many other churches and houses are attributed to Ariss. If it was Ariss building this large of a structure in this timeframe how would he have had the time to build Little Fork or Lamb’s Creek?
1773-1776 Little Fork Church in Saint Mark’s Parish Virginia is built. March 14, 1776, the Vestry of St’ Mark’s Parish ordered to pay “To Edward Voss for two plans of the Brick Church”
Just a little over a year after Little Fork was completed, Edward Voss on May 17, 1777, petitions the Virginia General Assembly for 100 pounds for the loss of a slave named March who was condemned to death by the Court of Spotsylvania for burglary. Being one of the Best Brick Makers in the Colony a Tolerable Brick Layer and as good a Sawyer as any Whatever. Voss having lately taken a Journey to Carolina was out of town during the incident. Could March have been one whose hands formed the bricks of our church and maybe laid the bowed wall being a tolerable brick layer?
In August of 1785 we find Edward Voss from Culpeper being contracted for the laying of 1.5 million bricks for the Virginia State Capital building in Richmond as noted in a letter from James Buchanan to Thomas Jefferson then US Minister to France.
In September of 1788 Edward Voss was paid for his part in the construction of Chief Justice John Marshall's home in Richmond.
1791 (before) Edward’s son Robert Brooke Voss born before 1765 marries Janet Somerville Knox, Daughter of William Knox of Windsor Lodge Little Fork (Currently Indian Run Farm) less than a mile from the Church.