St. Barnabas Church
, also known as St. Barnabas' Episcopal Church, Leeland
, is located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland
and was established in 1704. Because of its location in one of the richest tobacco-producing regions in Colonial Maryland
, the small church has been a cultural hub for southern Maryland
from early colonial times
, through the American Revolution
, Civil War
, and Reconstruction
. The church holds some highly significant art and was the scene of a fiery anti-revolutionary showdown that was close to erupting in violence.
In 1692, four years before the establishment of Prince George’s County
, the Church of England
became the established church of the Colony of Maryland
through an Act of the General Assembly. By this time, ten counties had been established in the colony, and those counties were divided into 30 parishes
. When Prince George’s County came into being in 1696, two parishes had already been established within its boundaries: St. Paul’s Parish
in the area which had been part of Calvert County
, and Piscataway
(or King George’s) Parish in the area which had been part of Charles County
Creation of the Parish
On December 19
, St. Paul’s Parish was divided by the Maryland General Assembly
and the northern part became Queen Anne Parish.
The Parish contained a small log structure, in the northeast section of St. Paul's, on two acres of land owned by John and Mary Duvall. With this act, the chapel became a full-fledged congregation to meet the needs of the growing population in the area, creating the first St. Barnabas church.
Shortly thereafter, in 1706, the colonial Maryland Legislature authorized surveying and laying out of nearby "Queen Anne Town and Marlborough Town" bringing further development to the area. In 1708, Rev. Jonathan White came to Queen Anne Parish as Rector.
Old Brick Church
Col. Henry Ridgley, a prominent land-owner in Anne Arundel County and Prince George's County, was one of the first vestrymen of the parish, and pledged £10 towards the construction of a brick church in 1709 and left another £20 upon his death in 1710.
The log structure was replaced in 1710 by the first small brick church, which was the second St. Barnabas Church on the site and rather small. It is now referred to as the old Brick Church.
White remained at St. Barnabas until 1717, at which time he either died or was removed from the parish.
Henderson's Chapel and Holy Trinity
In 1713, Col. Ridgley's widow, Mary (nee Duvall
, nee Stanton, and who would later become Henderson's wife) built a chapel on her own land near her residence. On December 17
, 1717, Reverend Jacob Henderson
was appointed as rector of Queen Anne Parish. About that time he acquired numerous parcels of property through his marriage to the twice widowed, Mary Ridgely. In 1737, Henderson gave four acres of land for the use of Queen Anne's Parish called "the Glebe whereon there is a Chapple now standing." That chapel had been built for the convenience of northern part of the parish and was known as Henderson's Chapel or Forest Chapel. Almost 100 years later, in 1836 Henderson's Chapel became an independent congregation, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
Henderson died on August 27, 1751 after 34 years of service at St. Barnabas.
Affluence and a new Brick Church
Because of its location in one of the richest tobacco
-producing regions in Colonial Maryland, its rectorship was one of the most highly prized assignments in the Anglican Church in the province. In 1771, Jonathan Boucher
came to St. Barnabas, having served as Rector of St. Anne's in Annapolis
During this period, numerous dignitaries visited the church, including George Washington and his family, together with Royal Governor of Maryland Robert Eden, on October 4, 1772.
By 1772 the congregation had outgrown the original St. Barnabas church building and commissioned Christopher Lowndes “to make, erect, build, and set up a new Brick Church near the place where the Old Brick Church in said parish now stands, to contain sixty feet in length and forty-six feet in width.”
As recorded in the Prince George's County Historic Site Summary:
Boucher was an ardent Tory
and opposed the revolution from the pulpit. For months, he preached with a pair of loaded pistols beside him. In a fiery farewell sermon at St. Barnabas in 1775, he declared to a hostile crowd of 200, that "no power on earth should prevent him from praying and shouting God Save the King
." At the conclusion of the sermon, he seized the leader of the crowd, Osborn Sprigg of Northampton, Maryland, (uncle and adopted father of future Governor Samuel Sprigg
) and with pistol in hand, they walked together to Boucher's horse. Both men were allowed to leave without harm. Boucher then fled to England.
In the 1850s, the church was renovated and Victorianized
, with stained glass windows
replacing the original colonial clear glass lights.
In 1964 St. Barnabas’ Church founded Queen Anne School, a private, Episcopal-affiliated, co-educational day school for grades 7-12 (now 6-12), located on a 50 acre campus adjacent to the new Brick Church. Although the school is owned by St. Barnabas’ Church, it functions as an independent educational institution, certified by the Association of Independent Maryland Schools.
In 1971, this “new Brick Church,” was in need of repair and was carefully and authentically restored to its original colonial form as built by Lowndes including clear windows along with the addition of a new chapel under the direction of architect, Walter Macomber. The restored church was dedicated in October 1974.
St. Barnabas Church is still an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Its current rector is the Rev. Lawrence R. Harris, Jr., and its assistant rector is the Rev. Julie B. Murdoch.
The first recorded public art commission in the American colonies, The Last Supper
by Gustavus Hesselius
, commissioned in October 1721 is displayed on the choir gallery of the church. Before this, most painting in the new world had been portraits. The Last Supper
was the first significant American painting to depict a scene.
The painting which measures by 117 1/2 inches was commissioned for the first Brick Church and remained there until the present structure was built. It disappeared during the construction of the new Brick Church and did not surface again until it was discovered in a private collection in 1848 or 1914, when Charles Henry Hart identified it, depending on which source one follows.
It was on loan by Rose Neel Warrington for a period at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at the American Swedish Historical Museum as well as the Exhibition of Early American Paintings at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1917 and the Wilmington Society for the Fine Arts.
The painting was willed once again to St. Barnabas upon Warrington's death.