Review of the Colonies



In general:

Colonies were of three types –

1)       Corporate: those supported by companies organized in England for profit;

2)       Proprietary: those granted as proprietorships to individuals;

3)       Crown: those controlled by the monarch.  

In all three cases, a committee or board, usually called a “Counsel (also Council, Councill),” created laws for administration. These operated under a similar “Counsel” in England that provided home-side oversight and liaison with the Crown. Governors were appointed to oversee the colonies according to the rules or prerogatives of the three different types.

They were also generally grouped into geographical areas: New England, Middle, and Southern.

In the notes below, the name of the Colony is is followed by the date it was founded, the type, and the geographical group to which it belonged. Often colonies started out as one kind of type and became another. This is indicated by an arrow (-->) and should be read as "becomes".

Virginia: (1607 – Corporate – Southern)

  • As Virginia grew,new churches were planted. These tended to be placed along rivers since these were the “thoroughfares” along which settlers tended to move.
  • We have noted that the Virginia Assembly, in one of its first acts, declared the Church of England as the established (legal) church in the Colony. In that year, there were already 5 clergymen and some 3000 residents.
  • Clergy were supported by Vestries, and were paid largely in corn and tobacco, which they could consume or sell. By 1649, that amounted to about £100 = $18,000!
  • The first Congregational churches came into Virginia in the 1640s.
  • A plan was developed to offer Virginia Fellowships to young clergy graduating from Oxford and Cambridge. There would be cash incentives for a seven year commitment. The plan was never successful.
  • 1693 - Commissary James Blair founded the College of William and Mary, second oldest school of higher learning in North America. It was by charter an Anglican institution.
  • Despite being good Anglicans, some Vestries in Virginia actually refused to accept clergymen, preferring to be lay led, and to spend their money on other priorities.

Massachusetts: (1607 – Corporate --> Crown – New England)

  • Aside from the Plymouth Colony: In 1628 more settlers arrived – non-Separatist Puritans – who settled in Naumkeag – they called it Salem.
  • In 1630, John Winthrop brought the Massachusetts Bay Charter and founded Boston.
  • Harvard University founded in 1636 – a Puritan institution – given by a young immigrant preacher, John Harvard, who bequeathed half his money - £779 = $184,000 – and all his library to establish the school! In 1652,
  • Maine was annexed to Massachusetts colony.
  • In the first two generations, the Church of England was barred from the colony
  • In 1685: Under James II, the colony became a Royal Province and an Anglican priest was sent.
  • Anglicans were a distinct minority and had to meet in secular buildings – all other church doors were closed to them.
  • In 1688, King’s Chapel was founded in Boston.
  • Increase Mather (1639-1723), a great Puritan preacher and first President of Harvard College, spoke of Anglican worship as follows: “the priest and people toss” the prayers and pieces of paper [Prayer Book] between each other “like tennis balls.”

New York: (1626 – Proprietary --> Crown – Middle)

  • 1614 – Dutch East India Co. began to settle the area
  • 1626 - Peter Minuit settled on Manhattan Island and bought the island for 60 guilders = $24.
  • New Amsterdam, as the town was called, became self-governing in 1652.
  • Under the Dutch, many immigrants came to the colony – French, Belgian, German; Policy of broad religious tolerance – except Quakers!
  • By 1647 the colony had 2000 residents – only half were English.
  • In 1664, King Charles II claimed the area (under previous charters); Sent the English fleet to New Amsterdam; Peter Stuyvesant surrendered reluctantly; The territory was then called New York in honor of the king’s brother, the Duke of York: New York!
  • The first English services were held in a Dutch Church at Ft James – the Dutch were permitted to hold services and then, when finished, the English – the ONLY C of E congregation in NY! This lasted for 30 years! Salary of the chaplain: £120
  • In 1685 the colony came under the Crown.
  • New York was granted an assembly in 1691 but because it was controlled by Dutch settlers, and never established the English Church; Col. Dongan wrote that in 7 years fewer than 20 English (scotch, Irish) families had settled there.
  • In 1694, John Miller, chaplain to the troops, sought to claim the living for the Church; Governor approved, but assembly declined, and Miller went back to England; In England, Miller wrote a book in which he suggested that a bishop should be settled in the colonies, a suffragan of the Bp of London, and settled in King’s Farm, NY
  • The English took over the Dutch church when the Dutch built a new one, and rebuilt the old, worn structure.
  • In 1697, the congregation moved into a new church, called Trinity Church;
  • The first rector, William Vesey, graduated at Harvard in 1693, ordained in London in August 1697 – Vesey served 50 years;
  • In 1705, Queen Anne granted a former Dutch farm to the support of Trinity Church – covering a large section of down-town New York today.
  • Vesey requested missionaries for New York and from 1702-1775 the SPG maintained up to 58 missionaries in the region.
  • By 1710 there were 11 Anglican churches in NY.
  • In 1746 Henry Barclay, a missionary to the Natives west of Albany, succeeded Vesey on his death. Launched a church planting program – including St. George’s.
  • 1754, King’s College established – received Royal charter – Samuel Johnson was appointed president and ministered at Trinity.
  • Samuel Auchmuty succeeded Barclay at Trinity in 1752. Continued Church planting – St. Paul’s.
  • Charles Inglis, Auchmuty’s assistant, succeeded in 1775 – Inglis was a loyalist and left America at the Revolution and became the first bishop in Nova Scotia.
  • Under Auchmuty and Inglis, the Church was staunchly Anglican but also marked by evangelical zeal.

Maryland: (1633 – Proprietary --> Crown --> Proprietary – Southern)

  • Founded by Roman Catholic, Sir George Calvert (died 1632): named for Charles I’s queen, Henrietta Maria;
  • Charles I gave the charter to Cecil Calvert (son), Lord Baltimore.
  • First clergy were Jesuits.
  • First Anglicans came in 1633.
  • Anglicans, without a priest, built a chapel. Services conducted by a lay reader.
  • In 1649, the Governor – an Anglican – decreed that all who believe in Jesus Christ should have freedom of worship.
  • First Anglican priest arrived in 1650 – William Wilkinson – earned his living by trade & farming.
  • 1675, 3 Anglican priests were in the colony;
  • In 1676 there were about 20,000 residents.
  • Following the Glorious Revolution, Protestants gathered a “Convention”, seized the government and petitioned the king for a change; William III granted the petition, and the colony became a royal province in 1691:
  • 1691 - Seven Church of England parishes existed at this time.
  • Gov Nicholson brought 6 more ministers in 1694, and began building the first brick church in Annapolis, the new capital; also opened a school; sought to establish the C of E. but failed. Nicholson brought intentionality and focus to creating a viable ministry – establishing “free-schools” in each of ten counties to prepare for students who would later study divinity at College Royal in VA.
  • 1703 Anglicanism was fully established
  • Nicholson wrote to the Bp of London requesting “ecclesiastical rule.” As a result, a  Commissary was sent in 1696 – named Thomas Bray – by Bp Compton.
  • Under Bray (SPG), clergy rose to 16.
  • In 1715 the colony was returned to the proprietorship of the Calverts, but these had become C of E in the meantime.
  • Salaries of clergy ranged from £20 - £90
  • In the period from 1716 on, Presbyterians increasingly settled and dominated the Eastern parts of the colonies, while German Anabaptists, Lutherans and Huguenots settled in the west.

Connecticut: (1636 – Corporate – New England)

  • A group, led by Thomas Hooker (English non-conforming minister) fed up with the “aristocracy of righteousness” and John Cotton in MA founded Hartford, Connecticut in 1636.
  • Hooker and others drew up the "Fundamental Orders," a charter, in 1639. Proclaimed “freedom from all save Divine Authority.” Government was still a theocracy of sorts:
  • Reveals two kinds of approaches among Puritans – strict in MA, less strict in CT
  • 1702, 30,000 residents were all officially Congregationalist;
  • Worship in any but a congregational church was forbidden – a £5 fine for violation. (About $1,400!!!)
  • 1702, two SPG missionaries from Boston, Geo Keith, John Talbot, found a few C of E communicants here.
  • 1706, a young missionary from New York baptized “a number” of converts to C of E.
  • First parish 1707 at Stratford
  • 1708, the Assembly enacted tax for support of churches (congregational); also a Toleration Act of its own, and the SPG took advantage of this to begin to plant churches
  • Many Anglicans migrated to Connecticut over time as opposed to MA because of the more tolerant conditions.
  • Yale College had been established in 1701 – as an alternative to Harvard, already regarded as “liberal”
  • About 1720 a new clergyman, the Rev. George Pigot, came to the Stratford Parish; He appears to have been well-equipped and spiritually energetic; services drew 200-300, and caused quite a stir;
  • One of the Congregationalist’s finest ministers, Timothy Cutler, was chosen to serve as President of Yale in 1718. Pigot made an impression on Cutler, and a tutor and Congregationalist minister named Samuel Johnson. In 1722, The Revs. Timothy Cutler, President of Yale, Daniel Brown, Samuel Johnson and four other highly respected Congregational pastors, presented a document to the Board of Trustees at Yale which said they were persuaded that their orders were invalid, and that they should be in “visible communion with an Episcopal Church.”
  • This event shook New England like an "earthquake." (Josiah Quincy).
  • Yale stipulated all future instructors would have to take an oath against “Prelatical corruptions and Arminianism” – i.e., against Anglicanism.
  • In 1723, Christ Church (Old North Church) was organized in Boston and Cutler was called as first Rector;
  • Cutler, Brown and Johnson were sponsored by the Church for ordination and soon departed for England to be ordained.
  • Johnson became the first settled Rector at Stratford.
  • By 1736 there were more than 700 families in Anglican churches, with many new converts from other traditions; Among these was Samuel Seabury, Sr., ordained in England in 1730; Seabury’s son, Samuel, was made a catechist by the SPG and received £10/year. Samuel also to Edinburgh in 1752 to study medicine, and was ordained priest in Dec 1753.
  • In 1742 there were 14 churches, served by seven clergy. By the revolution there were 40 churches and 20 clergy.

Delaware: (1638 – Proprietary – Middle)

  • A previous colony of the Dutch was established in 1631, but these were killed within the year by hostile Natives.
  • 1638 – The Dutch Peter Minuet (of New Amsterdam) worked for the Swedes.
  • Colony settled by Swedes, who invented the log cabin.
  • 1655 – Dutch take control from the Swedes.
  • 1664 – English rake control from the Dutch.
  • The Colony is named after Delaware River and Bay, both of which were named for Thomas West, Lord de la Warr, who had served in Virginia.
  • 1682 – Delaware awarded to William Penn, but Penn couldn’t manage it.
  • 1701 – Delaware became independent and elected its own assembly in 1704.
  • First missionary visit was by John Yeo (from Maryland) in 1677-1678
  • In 1703, the SPG sent a missionary to Newcastle County.
  • By 1708 there were 9 churches. By the Revolution, 15 churches total.
  • Swedish Church – perhaps one of the reasons for slow growth in Delaware is that the Swedish Lutheran church and the Anglicans were so close together in ministry and liturgy.

New Hampshire: (1641 – Proprietary --> Crown – New England)

  • First explored in 1603.
  • A grant was made to Capt. John Mason in 1621, included two areas: Mariana (Maine) and Laconia (NH).
  • The first minister came to the area with Mason.
  • Sir Ferdinando Gorges set up a village on the Saco River in Maine in 1630s; In 1636, a minister was there.
  • 1638, a minister was serving a church in Laconia.
  • In 1640, Portsmouth was founded with a glebe of 50 acres for support of a Church. A Church and parsonage were soon built.
  • There was also a Church in what is now called Portland, Maine in that same year.
  • Massachusetts claimed the territory as it own in 1643. NH became a royal colony in 1679 Despite this, Massachusetts Bay Company pressed its claims for decades. Portsmouth parish declined and was revived in 1734
  • 1741, the colony was finally separated from Massachusetts
  • Only five Anglican clergy served there before the Revolution.

Rhode Island: (1643 – Corporate – New England)

  • Founded in 1643 by Roger Williams – a Separatist preacher who had had to flee from Massachusetts, banished for heresy in 1636.
  • Welcomed all sorts and conditions, except Roman Catholics and Quakers! E.g., Accepted Ann Hutchinson – Colony regarded as a dump for the “Lord’s debris.”
  • A church, Trinity Church, was organized in Newport in 1698 and a building completed in 1709. It grew, and a new Church was built in 1726.
  • The Rev. James Honyman was sent from New York in 1704 and served 45 years! Honyman wrote the SPG requesting a bishop – augmented by a petition from the wardens and vestry to Queen Anne. Honyman ministered to pirates brought to Newport for trial.
  • Honyman also introduced the elder Samuel Seabury – whose son would become the first bishop – to  the Anglican Church.
  • We know that Honyman received a salary of £70 – throughout his tenure!
  • No assistance came from the Government.
  • 1706 – An SPG missionary came to a group of Anglicans at Narragansett bay – James McSparran. Honyman and McSparran worked among the slaves – at one point 100 attended services – five were communicants. The problem with baptisms was that many masters would not permit them!
  • The SPG eventually spent an estimated £20,000 in RI. Interesting
  • Note: The famous Dean Berkeley, a great educator as well as philosopher, who would become a bishop of Cloyne, visited Honyman in 1729. He extended his stay near Newport for a time of rest and writing. He toured the churches in neighboring areas and preached often at Trinity. During this time he received Samuel Johnson on several visits, and also likely Jonathan Edwards. He planned the planting of a major institution of higher learning – he thought of Bermuda, but also considered RI. He worked to raise money even from the King and from Walpole, the Prime Minister. The PM pledged £20,000! But Walpole reneged and Berkeley had to drop his plans. (Berkeley turned his attentions to Yale in 1731, perhaps influenced to do so by Johnson.)

The Carolinas:

  • Named for King Charles I
  • First settlers were from Virginia, around 1653.
  • First services of record in C of E were actually in 1660 at a settlement in what would become Charleston;  
  • Charles granted territory south of 36th parallel to Sir Robert Heath. Heath never made use of the grant and it was voided in 1663.
  • 1664, the area was known as Albermarle Province (after the Sound in NE coast)

North Carolina: (1653 – Proprietary (non-active) --> Royal – Southern)

  • 1700: only 4,000 predominantly English freeholders, with African/Native slaves Semi-isolated; communication by land almost impossible; shipping trade to New England, Virginia, and Bermuda.
  • 1712 - NC became a distinct colony from SC.
  • War with Native Tuscarora soon devastated the colony most desperate situation: few slaves, widely scattered population, very rural.
  • Became a Royal colony in 1729 – development picked up dramatically.
  • Immigration was from Germany and Sotland/Ireland, mostly in the piedmont (interior) down valleys from Virginia.
  • Baptists, Quakers, and then Methodists became numerous – in the west, Presbyterians and Lutherans in the east.
  • There were never more than 20 clergy in the whole colony before the Revolution The situation in the colony was desperate for clergy – which helps explain why there were so few: Salary was set at £30 by the mid-century.
  • One indefatigable missionary, Clement Hall, traveled 14,000 miles over eight years, and baptize over 6,000 children, and over 150 adults; preached 675 sermons!

South Carolina: (1663 – Proprietary --> Royal – Southern)

  • 1663 Charles II granted territory south of VA to the eight "Lords Proprietor".
  • 1669, the "Fundamental Constitution," the work of John Locke commissioned by Anthony Ashley-Cooper,Lord Shaftesbury, was published. It provided for minimal civil rights, but was never ratified.
  • The Colony’s Governor and Council (appointed by Proprietors)  elected an assembly of freeholders.
  • 1670, Charleston founded – became the seat of trade and eventually government C of E was the official church, though there were Huguenots (Edict of Nantes 1685) and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians
  • 1681 – first church erected.
  • 1696 – First rector installed – Samuel Marshall – salary = £150 About 1700 – there were C of E clergy in Charleston, and 1 clergy for all the rest of the colony!
  • In 1700, a dissenter friendly priest – Edward Marston - came to St Philips – and nearly undid it. Legislation in 1704 required an oath of Allegiance and Supremacy for all members of Assembly: Marston spoke out against this; the Vestry withheld his salary; Marston was removed by a commission on complaint of Vestry.
  • 5000 residents – but “the soberest, most numerous, and richest people of the province” were dissenters from Church of England.
  • 1701 SPG began to support work in SC.
  • 1706 steps were taken for the support of the Church
  • 1707 Bp of London sent out a Commissary, Gideon Johnson;
  • 1711, Church of St. Philip built on its present site; Johnson served as Rector of St. Philips, Charleston
  • A school was founded in 1711 by the SPG
  • More churches were set up by SPG missionaries
  • Communion was celebrated once a quarter in the country, once a month in Charleston.
  • Samuel Thomas ministered to the Yamassee Indians and at Goose Creek parish.
  • The Rev. Francis Le Jau carried out extensive ministry to the black slave population, but was opposed by the planters 1
  • 712 – Assembly approved of the baptism of African or Native slaves – but contended that such would not imply manumission.
  • 1719 – Alexander Garden became Commissary and Rector of St Philips. He brought order and stability to the ministry and expanded its work. John Wesley attended a clergy gathering in Charleston in 1737 under Garden. Garden became a friend and supporter of George Whitefield.
  • 1742 – Garden was forced to suspend Whitefield despite being friends. Nevertheless, Methodist preaching rapidly gained many new adherents – especially to the west.
  • 1751 – Parish divided, and St. Michael’s was established in the south of the city.
  • By 1756, annual salaries were at £200, and the help of the SPG was no longer needed.
  • SC became one of the wealthiest and best organized of the colonies and their products were highly prized in England; C of E adherents were less than half the population, but energetic and well able to support the Church and its work.

New Jersey (1664 – Proprietary --> Royal – Middle)

  • Early history the same as for Delaware (Dutch-Swedish-Dutch-English).
  • Two grants were made in 1664 to two nobles, and later defined in 1676: Sir Geo Cateret, governor of the Isle of Jersey (whence the name); Lord John Berkeley
  • Proprietors guaranteed religious freedom and rule by assembly.
  • Wm Penn bought East Jersey from Cateret’s widow.
  • 1685 the first Anglican missionary came into the area – near Perth Amboy;
  • 1669, parishioners gathered to request a minister from Bp of London.
  • 1698, Edward Portlock arrived, and the church rebuild the old courthouse. Landowners ceded the property to the Crown in 1702, but retained land rights.
  • The colony was under the governorship of New York until 1738, when an independent governor was appointed.
  • The east was settled by Scottish and New England Presbyterians; the west largely by Quakers.
  • In the west developed a landed aristocracy of great influence.
  • Anglicans lived dispersed across the colony – no organization.
  • SPG missionaries found ten communities with enough people to plant parishes 1702 – George Keith and John Talbot made a visit to New Jersey – Keith in West Jersey, Talbot in East Jersey.
  • Talbot centered his work in Burlington and until his death in 1727 carried on ministry from that center.
  • 1709, Edward Vaughan and Thomas Haliday came as SPG missionaries to the West. Vaughn went on to serve 38 years at Old St. John’s Church in Elizabeth; and converted many Baptists, Quakers and Presbyterians.
  • By 1710, there were 8 SPG clergy in NJ.
  • Many clergy in New Jersey (and there were never many) had often to work at other jobs or professions to support themselves: some became physicians – there are many indications that the people resented their clergy working at other jobs, especially when they had to pay for medical services!
  • New Jersey received the ministry of many fine and devoted missionaries (and some less so), but one stands out: Uzal Ogden, Jr. Just before the Revolution, he wrote philosophical works criticizing Deism and Thomas Paine, and numerous practical pamphlets. Ogden befriended Methodists, even communicating Francis Asbury and pledging his personal and pastoral support; Elected to be Bishop of New Jersey after the war, he was twice rebuffed by General Convention for being “too Methodistical” Sadly, in 1805 he became a Presbyterian.
  • New Jersey Anglican efforts to reach the Dutch brought about the printing of the Prayer Book in English and Dutch, approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury – many Dutch, with poorly educated clergy and dismayed at the Great Awakening – entered the order of the Church of England.
  • One Roman priest, Michael Houdin, converted and became an Anglican missionary to Roman Catholics and, eventually, Native Americans.
  • By the end of the period, some twelve churches had been built in NJ, schools had been set up, and a Corporation for the Relief of Widows and Children of Clergymen was founded.

Pennsylvania: (1664 – Proprietary – Middle)

  • Fur trappers came to the Delaware River mouth in the early 1600s.
  • 1643 – A Swedish settlement was established.
  • 1655 – Dutch administered the area from New Amsterdam.
  • 1664 – English seized the territory.
  • 1681 – The Duke of York (James II) gave Pennsylvania to William Penn in payment of a debt, and leased to him the three counties making up Delaware. Penn, a devout and sometimes persecuted Quaker, intended to create a colony that would be a “holy experiment” – granting asylum to all who were persecuted; He sent surveyors to lay out the City of Brotherly Love, and himself wrote a constitution, "The Frame of Government," which guaranteed religious freedom and a humane penal code – emancipation of slaves was recommended.
  • The popular assembly was instituted and had broad powers – subject to veto by the proprietor(s).
  • Penn circulated his constitution in German in the Rhineland – eager to attract hard-working immigrants. Not surprisingly, within 50 years, some 50,000 Germans had settled into PA.
  • 1689 – George Keith came to Philadelphia. Keith: Born in Scotland, a Presbyterian, he studied at Aberdeen; converted to Quaker; Came to Monmouth NJ in 1682; In 1689 took charge of a Quaker School in Philadelphia; He intervened in an effort to protect Quakers in Boston, then returned to Philadelphia to excoriate some of his Friends parishioners for their moral laxity and leanings toward deism. Keith formed a “separatist” group called “Christian Quakers” sometimes “Keithian Separatists”; Went to England in 1694 to vindicate himself after a trial and was attracted to the Catholic-Protestant character of the Church of England; Keith was ordained, and Thomas Bray suggested he be made a missionary to America; Sailed from England in 1702.
  • Keith enlisted the chaplain on the ship, John Talbot, to assist him. Preached in Boston, where Increase Mather opposed him; Debated Willard, Pres of Harvard, and won respect and many converts.
  • Keith and Talbot came into New Jersey, where Keith had many friends. Talbot stayed on in the East. Keith brought many Quakers in the West – who had followed him as separatists – into union with the Church of England.
  • Keith supervised more SPG missionaries: Keith went on to parts of PA, until his return to England in 1706. He died in Eng 1716.
  • 1698 – first Prayer Book services (probably by a Deacon) in Philadelphia.
  • Governor Nicholson, a churchman, brought 5 ministers with him from NY to PA at his expense.
  • Christ Church was built in Philadelphia in 1696 – grew to 500 by 1700.
  • Evan Evans came to Christ Church in 1700. He introduced services in 7 other communities; Evans worked with Keith in Philadelphia for a time.
  • 4 churches total before 1700 (none in NJ)
  • By 1710, under influence of SPG, there were 8 in PA.
  • In 1707, Evans was replaced by a Swedish Lutheran clergyman!
  • Evans returned to England and pleaded for a bishop.
  • 1730s – George Whitefield often preached at Christ Church; in 1740, he heard the Commissary Archibald Cummings preach on Easter morning about the necessity of good works; Whitefield preached that evening and tore into Cummings’ sermon; He was for a long time persona non grata after that.
  • Whitefield would preach again in 1763.
  • 1740 – Ben Franklin (et al) established the College of Philadelphia;
  • 1755 – The Rev. Wm Smith, Anglican, reorganized it, giving it the character of King’s College in NY; 2/3 of the trustees were Anglican;
  • 1755: William McClenachan, an Irish clergyman, was ordained a priest in England and came to Philadelphia in 1759: McLenachan preached and assisted at Christ Church – but then he began preaching about conversion and small group studies; The Rector (and Commissary) Robert Jenney tried to silence him, but McClenachan took people and began to build St. Paul’s Church in the city – building the largest congregation in the city;
  • The new methods began to change even Christ Church under Jacob Duche (1764 on)
  • 1760 – First Convention of clergy held – incorporated West Jersey and Delaware clergy, and some from Maryland, as well as PA. Demonstrates interrelatedness of churches.
  • 1761 – St. Peter’s Church, built and dedicated. William Provoost gave the sermon. (Christ Church and St. Peter’s would become a united Parish in 1765.)
  • 1762 – William Sturgeon (Christ Church) recognized for his work among Africans by SPG.
  •  1762 – Richard  Peters was Rector of Christ Church, brought on Jacob Duche, then in 1772, William White became an assistant at Christ Church
  • 1775 – Peters left to return to England, Duche became Rector.
  • Duche left in 1777, and White became Rector.

Georgia: (1732 – Proprietary --> Royal – Southern)

  • Organized in 1732, by General James Oglethorpe: to establish a colony for imprisoned debtors: first settlers appeared in 1733
  • 1735 John Wesley traveled to Ga. with Oglethorpe;  was the first Anglican priest of record to preach on GA soil, (Wesley was at this point a very rigid high churchman – fell afoul of the magistrates niece, and two years later returned to England.)
  • George Whitefield soon followed – “youthful and bold evangelist” – a Deacon. He returned to England, was priested, and came back to GA. Founded Bethesda College (originally an orphanage): For a short time he served as Rector in Savannah; in 1742, he began his evangelism tours, traveling several times to England to raise money for his ministries. William Woodmason however claimed that both men actually hampered the work of the Church – too much Methodism! (Wesley’s was “rigid” – Whitefield’s too “emotional”)
  • 1750 – The colony, largely unsuccessful, became a Royal Province.
  • By 1771, the Rev. Samuel Frink reported that there nearly 2000 people in Svannah, and that over 1100 of them were Anglican, 200 were Lutheran, 450 were Presbyterians and Independents, about 50 were Jews. The rest were slaves or "infidels."
  • InIn Augusta, there were forty communicants. These were the only identifiable centers of Anglican work.
  • Frink, by the way, received about £500 per year (about $90,000) , but the missionaries – of whom there were few – received only about £25/year!

Three Important Institutions


Vestries are local boards of leading churchmen (at the time studied here, only men). They may have taken their name from the fact that they met in the vesting room, the only other room in most structures besides the Church proper. Although, they may have taken the name from the fact that they were “vested” with authority to act to receive rents from glebes (tracts of land dedicated to support of the Church) and to oversee the clergy.

In England, vestries also existed. But they had more functional and less administrative uses. They cared for buildings, properties, and accoutrements of the church. In the colonies, especially the Southern Colonies, they were elected and functioned in the place of what today we would call City Councils. They collected taxes, oversaw the maintenance of roads and bridges, and public welfare issues.

Clergy were generally at the mercy of the vestries in most respects. Most vestries would renew a contract with the clergy only annually. They were not formally inducted, usually. Occasionally clergy could sue the vestries for non-performance of the contracts, or for salary deficits, and so forth. But it was far from clear whether they would win redress.


A “Commissary” was an agent or deputy of the Bishop of London, with all functional authority of the bishop except confirmation and ordination.

In 1688, the Toleration Act was passed in England (under William and Mary). In this same year, Bishop Henry Compton, bishop of London, sent a Commissary to Virginia, because the Bp of London was a member of the Council of the Virginia Company. Since “Virginia” originally referred to all of coastal America, the Bishop of London was thought to be responsible for the churches in the colonies that later developed. Compton took his responsibility quite seriously – his predecessors did not always do so.

The first Commissary was James Blair – a Scot. Blair wrestled with various governors for 50 years. He established the college of William and Mary, and became its first President. He was quite an able administrator and disciplinarian.

The second Commissary was Thomas Bray, sent to Maryland. Bray was also an excellent administrator, but had more of the missionary in him and returned to England to support missions through the SPG, which he founded.

Most Commissaries were not as gifted as these two, and many were frustrated by the demands of the setting, and the non-cooperation of the clergy.

Commissaries were sent to Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and Massachusetts. They were never sent to New Hampshire, Georgia, Connecticut, or Rhode Island. The Commissaries called for resident bishops, and were sometimes aided by clergy in this regard, in the form of petitions put together.

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG):

The SPG was the brain-child of the Rev. Thomas Bray, a brilliant young priest who had come to the attention of Bishop Compton, around 1696. He was appointed a Commissary to Maryland in 1698. He did not come to the colonies until 1700, however. Once he arrived, he stayed in the colonies only a few months.

Before leaving for the colonies, Bray established the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) – the object of which was to raise money for the purchase of books and creation of libraries in the colonies. Bray was convinced that books – both on Christian theology (Anglican, of course) and Natural Science – could be useful in bringing people to the Church, and show the “reasonableness” of the Anglican Way. This society would eventually set up some forty libraries in the colonies. (It is still in business today.)

After his return, Bray formed the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) to be a missionary sending and support body. (The first missionary was George Keith in 1702.)

Not an official part of the Establishment. It was a voluntary, largely high-church organization. Before the War, it had supported at various times as many as 340 ordained missionaries, 202 congregations, and spent £227,000 – or the equivalent of well over $60, 000, 000 by today’s standards (as compared with the pound in 1750). (Calculator available at “Measuring Worth”.)


  • New England - 84 missionaries
  • Virginia - 2 missionaries
  • Maryland - 5 missionaries
  • Georgia - 13 missionaries
  • North Carolina - 33 missionaries
  • South Carolina - 54 missionaries
  • New York - 58 missionaries
  • New Jersey - 44 missionaries
  • Pennsylvania - 47 missionaries

In the southern colonies, where the Church was established and salaries were good, the church tended to attract the least desirable clergy. The laity dominated the clergy as employers, and though there was some financial support from the governors, this was sporadic and small. Morale among clergy was generally low. The Church never grew under this circumstance, except in some unusual cases.. In the colonies where the Church was not established, Anglicans were always under suspicion. But ironically, this circumstance produced some very devoted church people – lay and ordained – and some remarkable successes. Eventually some 2000 C of E clergy served in America.

The Great Awakening

The Great Awakening refers to a movement of revivalism and pietism between 1730 and 1770. It had profound effects on the mentality – spiritual and otherwise – of the Colonies.

The Awakening began with the preaching of the Tennents – William, the father, a Scots-Irish immigrant, and his four sons, notably Gilbert, all of whom were Presbyterian clergy. There was no common method, but their preaching emphasized the heart as well as the head – practical Christian life over mere formalism. Their preaching arose to counter the spiritual lethargy of the 2-3rd generation of churchmen in the north, and to rebut the increasingly common conclusions that science would eventually open the secrets of life – that man is the measure of all things.

In the north, the Awakening occurred in principally urban settings. The preaching brought about a renewed vigor in the churches precisely because it tended to make being a member of the Church mean something – it set a high standard. “Conversion” as an experience is what these preachers sought – in definite, internal, personalized commitment to Christ.

This preaching revitalized congregations and, naturally, led to a divide between those who favored the new approach as opposed to those who sought a more refined, detached, “sober” expression of faith. Both the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians divided along the lines of “New” and “Old” – New/Old lights for the former, New/Old Sides for the Presbyterians. In order to train clergy in the new preaching, a “Log College” was founded in New Jersey, which would become Princeton University.

In the South, the Awakening took place largely on the frontier and in isolated country and village contexts. While some Anglicans were initially drawn to the new preaching, in the settled areas the Awakening couldn’t take hold among Anglicans. Instead, revivalism spread out to the west and where it drew Anglicans, it more often than not drew them away from their Church and increased the popularity and spread of the Methodists and Baptists.  

Among the best known names in the Awakening were Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.

Jonathan Edwards, a Congregationalist, was probably the best educated and brightest theologian on the American scene. He is described as “brilliant” by many. Edwards began preaching in the 30s. Like the Tennents, he preached for conversion. He became increasingly convinced that membership in the Church should not be regarded simply on the basis of “covenant” but by conversion – by commitment marked by practical engagement. In many ways, Edward’s own doctrine of the Church would become responsible for the dissolution of the prevailing “covenant” theology of the Puritans who had settled and maintained control of New England. But Edwards was not primarily concerned with this aspect of his work: instead, he was vitally interested in bringing home the claims of God on the actual lives of people. Contrary to many modern critics, his preaching was not overly concerned with emotionalism – and he himself was not a particularly powerful (i.e., emotional) preacher. Yet his message was deep and reached many hearts in a deep way.

George Whitefield, an Anglican, was a gifted preacher. It is said that merely uttering the word “Mesopotamia” would bring tears to the eyes (and he did this often, it was said). He emphasized the importance, based on his own “conversion” experience of an emotional connection, a deep-seated call and response, to Christ. He would preach, in some places, to 15,000 people! At first warmly received, he was quickly suspected by many Anglican clergy of anti-Anglican sympathies. He would later say that Maryland and Virginia, the places where Anglicans were most numerous, were “yet unwatered by the Gospel.” For their part, many Anglicans suspected him of basically two things: turning against or minimizing the importance of the apostolic succession; and his extemporaneous and emotional style, a departure from Prayer Book piety.

The Great Awakening drew from this kind of preaching and eventually resulted in revival meetings and approaches to small group study and prayer across the colonies. Among some, called Baptists, conversion and commitment led to baptizing adult members – and “Baptist” churches grew very rapidly – especially inland and toward the frontiers of the colonies.

A newer generation of Anglicans, from the mid-century on, began to re-evaluate the approach of the Awakening. Some of the leading lights in the formation of the Episcopal Church after the Revolution, were especially influenced by the principles of the Awakening.