Tag Archives: American Revolution

Aquia Church – The James Family’s First House of Worship in America

 The Aquia Church in Stafford County, Virginia, is the first known house of worship of the ancestral family of Frank and Jesse James.

Aquia Church

Located in Stafford County, this old church was established by the Anglican Church of England, which constructed the church about 1667 upon the area’s first church of Overwharton Parish, which had burned. Its brick construction of Flemish bond masonry would become a hallmark of the mansion houses constructed later by John M. James, Jesse’s grandfather, in Kentucky.

Aquia Church Historical Marker
The Aquia Church is 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.

The James family is first known to have arrived in the Virginia Colony sometime around 1620-1640. They arrived as Anglicans. The family became Episcopalians during the next fifty years. James family members appear in the Register of Overwharton Parish, 1723-1758.

During the fiery and impassioned ministry of Rev. John Waugh, notoriously known to history as “Parson Waugh” of Parson Waugh’s Tumult that erupted in 1688, the James fell under Waugh’s anti-Catholic preaching.

Like the James family, John Waugh (abt. 1640-abt. 1706) had emigrated from England to the Virginia Colony. Among Waugh’s descendants would appear Gen. Alexander William Doniphan (1808-1887), Waugh’s second great grandson, best known to the Jesse James family as the leader of Jesse’s uncle Drury Woodson James in the Mexican War, and the General at Santa Fe when Frank James’ father-in-law Sam Ralston first explored his own settlement in the West before finally settling in Missouri.

The Aquia Church was constructed with simplicity. No fancy wood carvings or distracting religious icons. Just solely an express and intent focus upon preaching the Word.

Parson Waugh’s Tumult was an extension of the Glorious Revolt that led to the unseating of King James II, a Catholic. As King William assumed the throne to put an end to there ever being a Catholic king ruling over England again,  the firebrand Waugh continued to preach to end royal rule over Virginia. Waugh urged his congregation to remain armed for their own defense. George Mason III (1690-1735), a third great grandfather of Thomas T. Crittenden Jr. the close friend and confidante of Jesse James’ son, lent his support and protection to Parson Waugh, to his congregation, and to the James. Ultimately, Parson Waugh was arrested, and George Mason was stripped of his command.  Construction of the Aquia Church, known today, was begun in 1751 and finished in 1757. Eighteen years later, the American Revolution began.

Robert “King” Carter (1663-1772), known as King because he was the wealthiest man in the Colony, had hired Nathaniel Hedgeman of Overwhwarton Parish as an overseer of his enslaved. Hedgeman, however, met a violent death, leaving Carter to remark about Hedgeman, “I have heard of late he hath been a very great delinquent from my business and lived a loose, rebelling life, which hath brought him to his untimely catastrophe.” King Carter was a third great grandfather of Maj. Hancock Lee who built the log cabin ordinary where Frank and Jesse’s mother was born. Carter also was a great-grandfather of General and President William Henry Harrison who led the James and the rebellious Baptist preachers of Kentucky into the War of 1812.

Aquia Church pew

Nathaniel’s eldest son, Peter Hedgeman (abt. 1700-1765), tendered his application for his father’s job, to which Carter replied, “As for entertaining his son, a wild young lad that hath no experience in the world, I can by no means think proper.” Despite Carter’s rebuff, young Peter Hedgeman rose to social and political in Overwharton Parish, serving in his lifetime as a justice, militia officer and presiding Burgess, representing Stafford County.

Peter Hedgeman also served as vestryman of Overwharton Parish. There he noted the dissention tearing apart his parishioners and threating to dismantle his church. Some, like the James, had removed themselves to St. Mark’s Parish, a congregation that was known to foment revolution. Peter Hedgeman readily acknowledged, “sundry inhabitants of Overwharton Parish complaining of the illegal, arbitrary, and oppressive proceedings of the present vestry of said Parish, and praying that the same may be dissolved.”

St. Mark's Church
St. Mark’s Church

Dissenters among the James and their in-law families associated with St. Mark’s Parish as the events of the American Revolution unfolded. At St. Mark’s, fourteen-year-old John M. James, destined to be the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James, first learned the power to disobey.

The lesson came directly from his Uncle Henry, the son of Henry Field Sr. and Esther James. John’s Uncle Henry was one of the sixteen  judges in Culpeper County who resigned their commissions, to boldly oppose King George’s Stamp Act. From Henry Field Jr., John learned that being disobedient in a civil manner could alter a person’s identity, and also change one’s course of destiny.

By the time the Revolution was in full effect, John M. James was one of the dissenters who bartered his participation in the war for the liberty of separating church from state. They became known as “the fighting Baptists.

These ancestral colonials and their associated families set the stage in their period for much of the dissention, conflict, and religious structures that attempt to influence political structures, not only in the time of Frank & Jesse James but also, in present day.

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Much more of this will be found in This Bloody Ground, the second volume of my Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet.

Jesuit Cousin of Jesse James Celebrates Golden Jubilee

Jesse James’ cousin, Rev. James Burns Malley S.J., recently celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a Jesuit priest on June 18, 2014.

chalice

Ordained into the Catholic priesthood on June 18, 1964, Fr. Jim has served his vocation faithfully for fifty years. His calling, however, did not come easy to him. When it did, his call to serve the Lord was not an easy ride. Like his infamous cousin Jesse James, Fr. Jim soon found himself the target of military and politicians alike, who perceived his good works as a direct challenge to their political regime.

Fr. Jim’s story is amply told in a recent biographical history of the Jesse James family, Jesse James Soul Liberty. He first aspired to a naval career, but Jim found his math and science skills did not measure up. Attending Dartmouth, Jim’s college thesis won the Jones History Prize. His graduation with “Highest Distinction in History” earned him entry to Harvard Law School, after which he joined a law firm in Boston, not too far from his New Hampshire home.

Fr. Jim’s military service found him on the staff of a Navy Admiral as an intelligence officer, not too unlike his first cousin Donald James Baumel who was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, nor unlike Jim’s great-grandfather John M. James who was a spy for George Washington in the American Revolution.

ordination invitation for James Burns Malley

When Jim was ordained and joined the Jesuit order, he answered the call of the Second Vatican Council. Committed to social change, Jim went to Brazil. There he found an active Catholic presence, but he also met a culture where “the unchurched” were deeply committed in their religion, but not necessarily their practice, particularly among the wealthy and the military.

Working side by side with the Peace Corps, Catholics, Protestants, and Marxists, Fr. Jim laid water pipes and provided running water for the poor. Jim found himself spied upon and branded a Communist priest. Providing food for the hungry, he was accused of “delaying the revolution.”

His reassignment back home landed him at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. Nearing retirement, he was relocated to Boston College in a ministerial service to students, faculty, and staff. Today, he resides in a home for retired Jesuits, where this past year he took particular delight in the election of his fellow Jesuit from South America, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was elected Pope Francis I.

Joan Beamis family

MALLEY PEDIGREE

James Burns Malley

. James Francis Malley & Marguerite Hazel Burns

.. Edward Frederick Burns & Mary Louisa James

… Drury Woodson James and Mary Louisa Dunn

…. John M. James & Mary Poor

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2012 New Year Prayer from Fr. James Malley S.J.

Janice Malley, Sister of Jesse James Genealogist Joan Beamis, Has Died

Jesse James…Meet Pope Francis I


This map gets you to the Jesse James family ancestral lands

Here’s a map, crucial to identifying the early settlement in Kentucky of John M. James, after the American Revolution and his entry into the Western frontier.

What this map reconstructs is some original military land grants distributed by Virginia to participants who served in the American Revolution. Virginia set aside these lands about 1783 and began to dispense them about 1790. John M. James was among the first of the Kentucky pioneers to acquire land here. In his lifetime, John leased, owned, sold, and controlled most all of the land on this map.

topo map of Shopville, Kentucky

The principal grant holder here was Col. Nathaniel Welch, who acquired most everything west of Buck Creek, identified on the right. On another map not shown here, Welch also acquired about 3,500 acres east of Pitman Creek. From the land at Pitman Creek to the land at Buck Creek, most al of it intermittently fell under the control of the James family. These are the lands that formed the foundations of Pulaski County, Kentucky, of which John M. James was a founder.

Looking more closely in the upper center, Fellowship Knob identifies the first acquisition by John M. James.  Following the road, upper center of Fellowship Knob takes you to the site of John’s Flat Lick Baptist Church, founded in 1799, and still operational today. John’s land extended further, well beyond the top boundary of this map to adjoin the military grant of Robert McAlister, another family relation.

Flat Lick Church
Flat Lick Baptist Church, founded 1799

From Fellowship Knob on the road extending to the lower left is a black square identifying the Mansion House of John M. James, built sometime in the 1790s.

Dahl Road home of John M. James
Mansion House of John M. James

Proceeding from the Mansion House around the corner and down brings you to the intersection of Dahl Road & Shopville Road at Flat Lick Creek. The black square here identifies the stone house of the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James.

Shopville Road at Flat Lick Creek
The Stone House of Rev. Joseph Martin James

The open space below Shopville is the big Flat Lick, still in the possession of James descendants today. A buffalo trail originally came down the center of this map from Crab Orchard to Flat Lick, where the buffalo then, and still do today, gorge themselves on its abundant salts, next to Flat Lick Creek.

This map is part of a recent two-volume history Dawning of the Cumberland by Charlene Adkins who is 93 years old. The old military surveys were drafted by surveyor Bobby Hudson, and identified by D. E. Coates, a Pulaski County historian. Their work has proved critical in putting the James family lore about John M. James’ lands into clearer perspective, while adding definition that is plainly identifiable today.

This map arrives just in time for the publication of Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty, This Bloody Ground, which tells the story  of the first arrival and settlement on the Western frontier of Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather, after the service of all of these patriots and first military grant holders after the American Revolution.

overview of Shopville, Kentucky

Contemporary of John M. James, Photographed

Conrad Heyer

This image came to my attention while preparing the final manuscript for Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty, This Bloody Ground for publication. Conrad Heyer was a contemporary of John M. James. Heyer was 102 years old when this image of him was recorded in 1852.

Heyer was a veteran of the American Revolution. He served in all the same locales as did John M. James, Jesse and Frank James’ grandfather, who is my principal subject for Volume II. Together with Joshua Logan Younger, a great-grandfather of the Younger Gang, all three were at Valley Forge with Gen. George Washington. All had been in the Continental Army, serving at the same time. While Younger and James were Southern men, Heyer was from Waldoboro, Maine, where it is said, Heyer was the first white child to be born in that community of German immigrants.

The geographic origins of the trio made it unlikely Heyer would have known John M. James or Joshua Logan Younger personally. But his surviving photographic image gives pause to wonder what James and Younger may have looked like, had each lived another generation longer to be photographed.

Photo courtesy of the Maine Historical Society.