Church Walk

A Walk Around 
Old Donation Episcopal Church

The various stops are marked 1-8.  

(1) We begin our walk in the herb garden. On July 10th 2014 the stone below was dedicated to Grace Sherwood who was accused in 1706 by our church of being a witch.  Looking down Witchduck Road, you might want to visualize her being marched 1-1/2 miles down this dirt road (named after her ordeal) with hundreds of local folks gathered to witness the event of the only ducking in Virginia of a woman thought to be a witch. Bound cross body she was thrown into the Lynnhaven River. When she surfaced they tied a 13# Bible around her neck, but she was able to untie her binds and swim ashore. Since the waters did not consume her, she was judged a witch and thrown into the jail located where the 3rd church building stands today.

(2) A plaque in front of the day school marks the approximate location of the second church built in 1692. Old Donation had its beginnings in 1637 when Adam Thoroughgood held the first services in his home. Two years later the first church was completed at Church Point. When the church became overrun by the river, the congregation moved  3-1/2 miles up the west branch of the Lynnhaven River and up Cattail Creek to complete their second church here in 1692. Moving into the Golden Age of the 18th century the congregation became more prosperous and built their third church, a larger and more substantial church. It was completed in 1736 and is the church standing today.

(3) Moving over to Church #3 built in 1736, the most striking feature is the difference in brick color, the darker bricks being the ones used to rebuild the church in 1916 after it had been destroyed by fire in 1882. The church is a good example of colonial architecture which combined elements of the first crude shelters in Jamestown with Early Georgian style.  The rectangular 34 by 68 foot brick building was laid in Flemish bond, created by alternately laying headers and stretchers in a single course.  The influence of Georgian architecture is evident with use of horizontal lines, rounded window headers and a slate-covered gable roof.  The entrance narthex and side sacristy were added during the 1916 reconstruction.  
The 19th century Lynnhaven area suffered hard times with most folks moving to the more populous Kempsville area.  After Virginia passed a law that churches not used within a calendar year reverted to the ownership of the Commonwealth, members of Kempsville’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church made annual pilgrimages to the burned out church to hold services. Later the Rev. Thurmer Hoggard IV took over this responsibility, followed by his son and two daughters and then Lay Reader Richard Alfriend. Rev. Alfriend was buried in the center isle of the church in 1923.
Behind the azaleas at the northeast corner of the church, is a corner stone with a time capsule inside, its contents remaining buried for future folk to discover. The famous Judge Benjamin Dey White had his Masonic Lodge install the stone at the 1916 dedication of the rebuilt church. He was Senior Warden at the time and, along with Charles Barnett, secured financing in the amount of $7,000 for the church’s reconstruction. 

(4) In front of the church is the Bell Tower erected in 1923.  At one time there was a bell tower or lychgate at the entrance to the cemetery (no longer standing). Bodies were placed here before being taken into the church for funeral services. 

(5) Moving along to our historic cemetery, information about the graves can be found in the listing below this web site at - Cemetery Old Section. In addition to the Old Section (to the south side of the church) there are 38 more gravestones (most placed in the 20th century behind the church and on the north side of the church), the Full Casket Burial Ground, Wall Columbarium, In-ground Columbarium, Memorial Garden (Scattering Garden), and three graves in the floor of the church. 

Leaving the cemetery we journey to the “Forever Friends Garden” by walking past the Wall Columbarium through one of Pembroke Meadows Neighborhood Park’s paths. 

The path splits a little way down.  We take the left fork.
Make note. We’ll be returning by way of the right fork.

The path, covered with oyster shells, dips down into the now dry bed of one of Cattail Creek’s tributaries. Called Cattayle Branch on the below 17th century map we see  from the size of the creek long ago how it was used to hall materials by barge for construction of Church No. 2 in 1692 and our present church in 1736. If we drive ½ mile up North Witchduck Rd from the church we can see water to the right and left, Cattail’s main course ending just south of the Lynnhaven House, at 4405 Wishart Rd.  The first tributary off Cattail is Robinson Neck dividing the land between the church and the 1st Ferry Farm Plantation, home of our famous Walkes from 1782 to 1828 and the 2nd Ferry Farm Plantation built by George F. McIntosh (1768-1863) in 1830 for his son. 

The Mcintosh’s lived at Thalia’s Summerville across the west branch of the Lynnhaven River (called Thurston Branch at that location). Thirty-two year old George McIntosh first saw the beautiful sixteen year old Elizabeth Walke standing on her veranda gazing at the moon from his porch just a short distance away across the river (see "4" and "5" below).  In 1800 Elizabeth married George, an event at Old Donation Church hailed as the wedding of the century with a week long celebration at the church, Ferry Farm and Sumerville.

The trail then follows along the fenced Day School Playground to a stone walkway leading to the Forever Friends Garden behind Alfriend House.  Alfriend House was built as a rectory residence in 1957 and is now used for Sunday School and meetings.

(6) The Forever Friends Garden was dedicated in Oct 2005 by the Animal Resources of Tidewater and our church. As a celebration to pets and their owners, Animal Resources promotes protection of pets to ensure humane treatment.  A special bulb planting ceremony is held yearly in October blessing donor’s pet.
(7) We continue over to Donation Dr / Afriends Trail and walk a few feet along the curb to Pembroke Meadows on the right crossing a foot bridge over the dry bed of Cattail Creek.  Just past the bridge note a path to the right which is the route we’ll take going back to the cemetery.  Walking up a slight incline we come to… 
(8) In the woods behind Pembroke Meadows Elementary School is a small amphitheater, the Elizabeth Nuckols Outdoor Learning Center. It is a quiet place for solitude and refection. On the wall are 165 bricks with donors’ names from 1999 – 2003.  At the entrance (other side from your walk) a plaque reads: “In memory of Elizabeth E. Nuckols, May 11, 1983 – October 24, 1995. Heaven needed an angel and chose Elizabeth. ‘Life is not measured in years but by the love we touch.’”

We complete the walk by going back through the Pembroke Meadows Neighborhood Park path to the cemetery.