We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sig’s Diary, Part 3

Sigismund Stribling Ware ("Sig") was priest at St. Peter’s for 30 years (1888-1918). Recently a diary he wrote has come to light. This is part 3 of the series. 

This is not an easy diary to decipher. Ware’s 1893 diary was a diary with 4 days on two pages, so he abbreviated and wrote small with names that cannot be deciphered. There is only a limited amount of text for a given day. We don’t know who he is writing for. Maybe only for himself and so it is more of a journal recounting his days.  You can read the diary here.

It’s only 120 years ago the Rev. Ware wrote the diary in 1893 but what a difference from our time. This is a different world, one between the Civil War mindset and the horror of WWI but before some of those modern conveniences have been invented.

Take out modern forms of transportation (automobile), modern media (TV, radio), modern forms of communication (internet) and other conveniences, electricity among many things. It certainly must have been more quiet time, more in harmony with nature and with intimate personal contacts, probably fewer in number.

It is a more formal time with Ware addressing people as “Mr” or “Mrs”, not Dick or Jane. Rev. Ware was a man of habits. He takes his “usual walk” (though never describes what this is), takes tea in the afternoon and is very observant of nature. One place he often visited was walking with his daughter Cornelia to Catlett Hill just beyond today the intersection of Route 17/301. He thrives on human contact, visiting parishioners and non-parishioners.

What motivated him ? Certainly his work as a minister of God but beyond that gardening, reading (particularly biography) and letter writing. He was reading the “Life of Wordsworth”, and the “Life of Dr. Pendleton” earlier in the year. (The latter was a Baptist minister born in Spotsylvania, leaving the south in the Civil War over the issue of slavery). He read newspapers and kept up with events, noting on Jan 24, the death of famous Minister Phillips Brooks and writing in May 1 about the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair.

1893 seemed like a happy time for him – before he lost two of three children and his wife. He could only have managed this through the support of friends and parishioners. He has his 43rd birthday in 1893 and celebrated at the end of the year his 5th anniversary at St. Peter’s. He lived in the current rectory. He talked about mending the fence in front of the house.  

Ware is both minister to Grace Church in Corbin and St. Peter’s in Port Royal, alternating between them on Sunday. For “Grace Sundays” he usually started to Grace on Sat. at 2pm to 3pm for a several hour drive in his horse and buggy. He usually stayed at Santee (dining with Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Gordon) or at Nottingham, one or two nights. In this time, both morning and evening services were held. Easter was on April 2 and during Lent they had additional services on Tuesday and Thursday. In any case, he didn’t venture far – usually between Corbin and Port Royal.

The diary throughout January was involved with the weather. It was cold in Port Royal – down to 10 below zero, the river frozen in some of the darkest times of the year. On Jan 24 he reported he “walked over on the ice and called at Woodlawn.” He was susceptible to colds and notes problems with his ears. On Sat Jan. 8 he wrote, “It was cold and snowing this am so we did not start to Grace Church; tried to get over river to service but failed.”  On Sunday, Jan 15 at St. Peters’ he had a “good congregation despite the weather”. “Conducted the S.S (Sunday School)”. “Preached a messy service. No choir.” Walked with “H*” in the PM but too cold”. Preached on John 1.29. It was often too cold for his “usual walk.”

Some things never changed with ministry. He usually took Saturday to prepare his sermon (Exodus 4:2 on Feb 4) and by Monday he was exhausted. He wrote on Jan. 30 – “Felt tired after yesterday’s unsatisfactory services.” A new prayer book in 1892 was printed a year earlier though he doesn’t comment on that and whether either church had bought a supply

Much of the time is taking up with visits. To whom did he visit ? To really understand this diary, a census of Port Royal at the time and a parishioner list are essential. A short list includes Miss Virginia Thornton, Mrs. Brookes the Farishes, the Catletts, the Lightfoots Dr. and Mrs. Gravatt, the Robbs of Gay Mont, Mr. Burrows, Loula M. He called on them, they called on him and he invited them to tea. Sickness and illness as with today were motivators for visits as they are today. On Jan. 17th “called on Miss Sarah Jane who is sick in bed.” On March 14, . “I went over to Dr. Jett’s to see Dr Jett about L who is not well.”

By the end of March, it was time to prepare his garden. He planted several crops of corn, potatoes, tomatoes and beans. We don’t get an idea of where he had his garden. Next week will look at Easter and beyond.