The Church Attacked by Cannon Fire – Norfolk, Virginia (1910)

The Virginia Company, chartered by King James the First, was established to colonize the east coast of North America.

The spread of English civilization meant, of course, the establishment of the Anglican Church – and the Church of England was established in Virginia for more than one hundred and fifty years, until the American Revolution.

(In the aftermath of the Revolution, the Church of England in the States was reconstituted as “The Protestant Episcopal Church” – and remained the established church until Virginia’s famed “Statue of Religious Freedom” was passed in 1786.

This abbreviated history is a long prologue to explain the presence of small, beautiful, Episcopal Churches in every colonial town and village of the “Old Dominion”.

St. Paul’s Church in Norfolk is the oldest surviving building of the Colonial era in Norfolk.  The nave of the present church was constructed in 1739.

The church was struck by a cannon ball when ships commanded by Lord Dunmore fired on the city during the Revolutionary War.

A cannonball is visible in the exterior stone wall of the Church today.

In 1910, Miss Annie Minet of Sherburne, New York received a postcard from her sister.

(Sherburne, a town in Chenango County of central New York, was named for a popular tune, “Sherburne” that was often sung by the townsfolk!

On-line, one can find an interesting history of the place.)

Annie’s sister mailed from Norfolk this postcard photograph of St. Paul’s Church.

The postcard was published by a company in Ocean City, New Jersey, and printed in Germany.

The sister seems to be traveling through the South, as she reports, “I sent you a cotton boll from South Carolina”.

It is not clear if the sister visited St. Paul’s Church on her travels through Norfolk.

Congregations or parishes as old as that of St. Paul’s often have tumultuous histories of their own, and St. Paul’s is no exception.

The parish was riven by dissent and schism in its early years, and was a Baptist Chapel for a time.

(It was reconsecrated as an Episcopal Church by Bishop Richard Channing Moore in 1832.

One hopes that Annie and her sister appreciated the long history of this early-American foundation.


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