Stafford Civil War Park - Stafford, Virginia
Stafford Civil War Park - Stafford, Virginia
|Aquia Episcopal Church
A stunning historic structure that is still in use today,
Aquia Church was completed in 1757 and survived
the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War.
Aquia Episcopal Church
Union soldiers from the 17th
Pennsylvania Cavalry held
services in the church during
the Civil War.
The historic cemetery is open
to the public during daylight
hours and is a fascinating
walk back through time.
Aquia Episcopal Church - Stafford, Virginia
Colonial Landmark in Virginia
|Copyright 2013 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: April 24, 2014
Historic Sites in Virginia
Churches have stood on the
site of Aquia since the 1600s
and the existing structure was
completed in 1757. It is built
in a Greek cross design.
Aquia Episcopal Church is a noted historic
structure in Stafford, Virginia. Completed in
1757, it survived the American Revolution,
War of 1812 and War Between the States
Located on Jefferson Davis Highway (US
Highway 1) the church is on a tree-ringed
hilltop off I-95 (Exit #143A) just south of
Marine Corps Base Quantico.
A stunning yet simple historic sanctuary, the
church dates its roots to the days when the
Church of England was the official church of
Great Britain. The site was part of a parish
established in 1667 to serve the people who
lived in northern Stafford County.
Overwharton Parish, as it became known,
was served by a series of ministers, the best
known of whom was "Parson" John Waugh.
He is remembered for "Parson Waugh's
Tumult," a near war that erupted in 1688.
The "tumult" took root when Parson Waugh
preached fiery sermons warning of a plot by
Catholics to attack Protestants in Stafford
County. His followers and their friends left
their farms and took up arms to defend
themselves against the expected attack.
This sudden rising of the people in the
parish greatly alarmed officials in Maryland, a
heavily Catholic colony, who believed that
Parson Waugh's followers were about to
invade them. Rumors also grew of a planned
revolution in Maryland and a whirlwind of
turbulence hovered over the region.
Parson Waugh's Tumult was part of what
became known as the Glorious Revolution,
an uprising in England that led to the
overthrow of King James II. Triggered by the
birth of the Catholic king's son, which led
many to foresee a Catholic dynasty in
England, the revolution exploded when
William of Orange was invited to invade the
country by members of Parliament who
opposed such a religious dynasty.
King James II was overthrown in 1688 and
William was named King of England the
following year. The English Bill of Rights
followed, ending forever the possibility of a
strong Catholic monarchy in Great Britain.
Parson Waugh was a firebrand of the
movement against King James. As his
"tumult" grew, he preached not only against
the Catholics, but the royal government of
Virginia as well. He refused to submit to
government orders, declaring the words of
King James' officials illegal because he
considered the king himself to be illegal.
Waugh is best remembered today for his
famed declaration that if there was "no King
in England, there was no Government here."
He urged his followers to remain in arms for
their own defense and he was supported in
this by George Mason, commander of the
The tumult ended when the government
displayed its power, arrested Waugh and
suspended Mason from his command. The
parson later apologized for his movement.
Work began on the church that stands today
in 1751. Mourning Richards, a master builder
was the contractor. William Copein was the
An accidental fire gutted the nearly finished
structure in 1755. The contractor was left in
severe financial straits by the fire, but the
House of Burgesses provided money for the
completion of the church. These funds,
however, were obtained by taxing the people
and protests followed.
Despite the protests, Aquia Church was
finished in 1757. Built in the unique form of a
Greek Cross, its brick was done in a Flemish
bond pattern with Aquia Creek sandstone
used in the foundation, cornerstones, floor,
doorways and window keystones. There was
no stained glass or fancy carvings and the
church is known for its graceful interior.
The American Revolution began only 18
years after Aquia Church was completed and
it quickly fell from prominence. The Church of
England was not in favor at the time.
Although the sanctuary survived the war, its
parishioners drifted away to other churches
in the area. By 1838 it was reported that the
grounds were overgrown and windows
broken. Services continued, however, and the
historic church miraculously survived.
Considerable improvement was done in the
1850s, but Aquia Church soon found itself
surrounded by a brutal conflict, the War
Between the States (or Civil War). Virginia
seceded from the Union in 1861 and Stafford
County became a massive campground for
the invading Union Army of the Potomac. That
history is explored at Stafford Civil War Park.
Episcopal churches drew the particular ire of
Union officers and soldiers because many
leaders of the church had preached in favor
of secession. Aquia Church was among the
sanctuaries targeted by the invading armies.
The church itself was used as a stable for
horses and the pews were so damaged by
the chewing of the animals that they had to
be shortened in height after the war. Soldiers
carved graffiti into the walls and tower of the
church, leaving behind their names and units.
The 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry did conduct
religious services in the church in 1863, but
Union soldiers did much damage to the
century old sanctuary. Rev. J.M. Meredith,
who became rector in November 1864, used
his own money to repair the vandalism.
The church survived the war, however, and
remains today a beautiful reminder of
America's colonial past.
Aquia Episcopal Church is located at 2938
Jefferson Davis Highway, Stafford, Virginia.
The grounds and cemetery are open to the
Tours of the church are available from 8:30
a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, and on
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. To schedule
your tour, call the church office at (540)
659-4007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about the church, its current
services and activities, please visit them at
Please click here to read an excellent article
on the history of Aquia Church.
Please click here for a list of burials in the
The historic cemetery dates
back centuries to the colonial
era. It is older than the church
|Photos by Savannah Brininstool
Stafford Civil War Park
Not far from Aquia Episcopal
Church, Stafford Civil War
Park interprets the occupation
of Stafford County by the