This is a visit to the former Grace Episcopal Church, Corbin, Va. on August 14, 2016. The church is exactly 20 minutes from Port Royal along Route 17 and then across to Pepmeier Hill Road. The object was to inspect the outside of the church. There is a graveyard with 22 graves according to this inventory.
When St. Peter’s was formed in 1835, the Diocese of Va. was in a wave of expansion. In the 1830’s new town congregations were being formed to supplement the rural parishes and St. Peter’s and Grace Corbin were part of the expansion.
From the Department of Historic Resources. “After its initial construction by neighboring planters between 1833-34 in a simple colonial style, in 1853 Greek Revival elements were added—most notably on the exterior front entrance and inside a rear addition built to house a recessed chancel. An upper gallery was installed as well for enslaved and freemen in the area to attend worship services. Those 1850s changes reflect resurgence in Episcopal Church worship wherein a central altar focused on services emphasizing ceremony and the ritual of the sacrament of holy communion over preaching from the pulpit, the more dominant form of worship during the colonial era.”
“After the war, the 1875 painting “The Ascension of Christ” by Arthur Pierson was installed in the chancel behind the altar where it is back lit by a window, a move suggestive of the more decorative religious elements that appeared in churches during the postbellum era.”
St. Peter’s rectors preached there. We do have Rev. Ware’s diary from 1893 which talked about his life going to Grace. It took him over 2.5 hours to ride to Grace Church for services from St. Peter’s. He writes on July 9, 1893 – “Got off to Grace at 8:19 and reached there at 10:56.” Today those 17.5 miles takes just over 20 minutes.
His usual places are visited – “went to Santee after the evening service at Grace, spent the night and went the next day to Gay Mont for dinner.” On the 27th he drove John Garrett to Camden. The next day “Called on Dr. Gravatt and also on the Owens and Dr. Jetts to see Mrs. R. C. Jett but she was at Camden.” On Aug 4 – “Called in PM on the Catletts, Burrows, and Miss Sarah J and Gravatts.”
Back to the visit. On trying the door I found it was open. What a surprise! Inside was like a museum. There are wooden pews, 9 on each side with about 5 people in a pew for 90. Upstairs there is a gallery. Benches could seat at least 20 more.
The first rector of St. Peter’s, William Friend, was also first rector of St. Peter’s. The church served as a hospital during the Civil War. Records indicate the church was occupied by Gen . Robert Rodes in 1862. It was abandoned early in the 20th century. In 1911, they reported 29 communicants. “Much has been done towards restoring the church the floor and beams supported by new brick pillars the church decorated and new granolithic sidewalk and steps to the entrance. The report in 1913 showed 31. No report was filed in 1914 and by 1915, the church was declared vacant.
This chancel area was in front of the arch. There may have been high pulpit in the center, desks on either side when the church originated. This church retains a desk on the right. The pulpit is on the left. The arches lead to the high altar. A pump organ is on the left. There is an ascension art scene above the cross.
The church appears stable though there is apparent water damage on the walls and gaps in the flooring on the left. No detail inspection was done – the church is also very dark. No lighting was apparent. It appears it may have been hooked up to electricity.