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St. Luke's Church Pedlar Mills, VA

The history of St. Luke's Church at Pedlar Mills goes far back into the beginnings of this commonwealth.

In 1778, Amherst Parish had included the Episcopal Churches of Nelson County before the two counties of Amherst and Nelson were formed. The churches of Amherst County were then taken into "Lexington Parish" (named for the first battle of the Revolution, fought at Lexington, Massachusetts) with the Reverend John Buchanan as its first minister.

There is a note in the parish registry that Major Josiah Ellis was appointed to receive subscriptions from the parishioners of "Pedlar Church" in 1799.

The original St. Luke's Church is described as a small frame building upon the upper part of Pedlar River.

St. Luke's for a time eked out a rather precarious existence. However, again in the parish records we find a notation in 1800 of a 'subscription being on foot for raising a sum of money for the particular purpose of repairing Pedlar Church'. Josiah Richard Ellis, a Great-grandson of the first mentioned Major Ellis, writes in a history of St. Luke's that after a meeting held in an old tobacco barn in 1826, it was decided by friends of the church that the wooden chapel should be replaced by a brick church. This was done early in the 1830s under the ministry of Reverend Silas Freeman.

The church was largely supported by John and Richard S. Ellis, brothers and merchants at Pedlar Mills, who were instrumental figures in the building of the old brick church. After the War Between the States, the Reverend Robert J. McBride came as Deacon to Lexington Parish and became deeply interested in rebuilding the now-antiquated brick building of St. Luke's. The old church was torn down and rebuilt of the same brick under his administration probably about 1871 or 1872.

On May 11, 1876, St. Luke's was consecrated by The Right Reverend Francis M. Whittle, Assistant Bishop of Virginia. The sentence of consecration, written and signed in his own bold hand, is now pasted in the front of the parish register.

From the dawn of the century down to about 1921, however, there seems to be little record of the activities of St. Luke's. In April 1921 the Reverend Josiah Richard Ellis, Grandson and Grand-Nephew of John and Richard S. Ellis who built the original brick church, took charge of Amherst Parish and conducted services at St. Luke's. During his ministry, about 1926, the portico, with its tall white columns, was added to the church building.

Today, its congregation is considerably reduced in size, and services are held only several times a year.

Contributed by: Ken Dunlap

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