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

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 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.

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Wednesday September 15th, 2021
Stray Leaves

Have you considered it? See MoreSee Less

Have you considered it?
Tuesday September 7th, 2021
Stray Leaves

COVID HAS STRUCK THE JAMES FAMILY AGAIN . . . "My foundation and the love of my life. R.I.P 9/5/2021" – Judy Rae Davis-Gibson, spouse of Robert Melvin Gibson Sr. and 3rd great-granddaughter of John J. James & Mary Jane "Polly" Carrell. See MoreSee Less

COVID HAS STRUCK THE JAMES FAMILY AGAIN . . . My foundation and the love of my life. R.I.P 9/5/2021 - Judy Rae Davis-Gibson, spouse of Robert Melvin Gibson Sr. and 3rd great-granddaughter of John J. James & Mary Jane Polly Carrell.
Wednesday September 1st, 2021
Stray Leaves

Greg James posted the following to his immediate family a few hours ago:
"I’m currently dealing with a heavy heart and confusion. My wife Judy suddenly passed away today and I’m asking for prayers and good thoughts. Thank you!"
Judy is the second wife of John Gregory "Greg" James. Greg’s first wife, Beverly Ann Brown, is the mother of Greg’s James descendants. Regardless, we send Greg our sympathies and condolences.
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Greg James posted the following to his immediate family a few hours ago: 
Im currently dealing with a heavy heart and confusion. My wife Judy suddenly passed away today and Im asking for prayers and good thoughts. Thank you!
Judy is the second wife of John Gregory Greg James. Gregs first wife, Beverly Ann Brown, is the mother of Gregs James descendants. Regardless, we send Greg our sympathies and condolences.

Comment on Facebook

So sorry to hear about your wife Judy`s passing! Our prayers are with you!🙏

Deepest condolences. 🙏

Tuesday August 31st, 2021
Stray Leaves

Very sad news. Frank Younger has died. Details of his memorial service appear in the Comments below. See MoreSee Less

Very sad news. Frank Younger has died. Details of his memorial service appear in the Comments below.

Comment on Facebook

FRANK YOUNGER'S MEMORIAL SERVICE . . . November 18, 1940 – August 28, 2021. Frank Younger sadly passed away suddenly at age 80 as a result of an accident in his home. Frank was predeceased by his parents, Paul and Margaret (and stepmother Irene). He is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their three children, Pauline (Mike), Matt (Zoe), and Tom (Tamara), and grandson, Paul. Frank loved his family and always enjoyed sharing his encouragement, wisdom, and inimitable sense of humor with them. His contributions to the lives of many include his commitment to his career as an Astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics), his ongoing participation in local classical orchestras (including the odd instrument repair), and mentoring of many friends in any way he could. Frank’s recent endeavors included attending and helping run the James Younger Gang club as well as writing and reading his poetry. Frank has often enjoyed and been seen as having contrasting traits including riding his Harley motorcycle to a string quartet practice or cleaning his antique gun collection prior to reading his latest poetry writings to gangster club members. His unique character and compassion for all of his friends and family will be missed. You are invited to Frank Younger’s online Memorial Service. Please feel free to share the meeting link below as you see fit. You can join from any web browser using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. This will be a short memorial (20 – 30 minutes). We will not be able to provide any technical support on the day of the memorial. If you have any questions about how to join us using Zoom, please contact Zoë Younger at 778-828-9971 before Friday. We will be recording the memorial, so if you have difficulty logging in, or if you miss it, you will be able to view it at a different time. There will not be an opportunity to speak to all attendees during the service, however, if you wish to share a story with the family via email, we will be assembling a collection before the weekend. Please click the link below to join us. Topic: Frank Younger’s Memorial Service Time: Sep 3, 2021 03:00 PM Vancouver Join Zoom Meeting us02web.zoom.us/j/89203244337?pwd=QkU5b01uNzdZMWZNWmIwTUVPYllVUT09 Meeting ID: 892 0324 4337 Passcode: Frank Thank you, Join our Cloud HD Video Meeting us02web.zoom.us

I was devastated when I received the email. I spoke to Frank and Sharon a month or so ago. We had a nice talk. I will miss him dearly.

I was fortunate enough to have met and talked with Frank. He impressed me as a nice and knowledgeable man.

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