Sussex During the American Revolutionary War
Sussex played an active role in the achievement of American liberty. Colonel David Mason, who represented Sussex for years in the Virginia House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, was a member of the committee that drafted Virginia’s first state constitution in 1776, which incorporated the immortal Virginia Declaration of Rights.
Colonel Augustine Claiborne, the first County clerk, resigned his position in order to be “a strenuous supporter of the Revolution”. He aided in the clothing of troops for the Continental Army and in providing homes for distressed Norfolk citizens burned out by Lord Dunmore.
During the lst year of the war, in 1781, Lordk Cornwallis, coming up from the Carolinas into Virginia by way of the old Halifax Road that skirted the western portion of County, met the turncoat Benedict Arnold, British Commander of Petersburg, on the banks of the Nottoway River near modern Stony Creek.
All of Sussex County was known as Albemarle Parish during colonial times, and all of its citizens were required to support the Anglican, or Established, Church with their taxes and their attendance.
The church wardens, rather than government, took responsibility for the care of the poor. The communion silver used at St. Andrew’s Church near Yale still survives and represents one of the most complete sets of colonial church silver in America.
Also, the register of births and deaths kept by the Reverend William Willie has also survived as a great genealogical reference to the colonial residents of the County.
Growing dissatisfaction with the Established Church during colonial times led to the establishment in Sussex of some of the earliest Baptist and Methodist churches in Virginia. Antioch near Yale, originally known as Raccoon Swamp Meeting House, is regarded as the oldest Baptist church in eastern Virginia, being established in 1772.
Sappony Church near Stony Creek, followed being established in 1773. Its first pastor was the Reverend James Bell, who had relinquished his post as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses to devote himself to a new ministry.
At Jones’ Chapel, the site of which is located on Comans Well Road near Interstate Route 95, thousands were converted by itinerant Methodist preachers, including Bishop Francis Asbury.
Lane’s Chapel, which was located near Airfield Mill Pond near Wakefield, is the third earliest documented Methodist church in Virginia.
At Ellis Chapel, which was located near Waverly on Walnut Hill Road, Virginia Methodist, at their annual conference held there in 1783, first went on record as opposing the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
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Source: A Synopsis Of The History Of Sussex County; Gary Williams, Sussex County Clerk of Circuit Court