Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Our History

Oak Grove is a small town adjacent to Colonial Beach in historic Westmoreland County, Virginia. This pastoral area along the Potomac River is known as the "Cradle of the Nation", birthplace of two presidents, George Washington and James Monroe (fifth President of the United States). Several signatories of the Declaration of Independence were born here, along with Thomas Marshall, father of 4th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall.  Nearby Stratford Hall, the Lee family plantation, is the birthplace of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The history of St. Peter's Episcopal Church is the history of Washington Parish. At the time of its founding in 1661, among the first parish vestrymen were George Washington's great grandfather, John, and James Monroe's great-great grandfather, Andrew. At various times during the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops occupied the church building. Members of the Lancaster Greys, Lee's Light Horse Brigade, the 19th Indiana, and the 8th New York Calvary left their marks, still visibly scratched into the wall in the closet under the balconey stairs.

Originally called Appomattox, the name was changed in 1664 to Washington Parish in honor of Colonel John Washington. Augustine Washington, father of George, also served the parish as a vestryman. The Reverend Archibald Campbell, rector of Washington Parish from 1744-1774, ran a school at his home. Among his pupils were not only James Monroe, but also John Marshall, future Chief Justice of the United States. The Lee family of Stratford Hall worshipped in the parish for generations.

The present St. Peter's Church is the successor of four earlier Washington Parish churches: Appomattox, Round Hill, Bray's in Leedstown, and Pope's Creek, built in 1744. After the Revolutionary War and following the disestablishment of the Episcopal Church in Virginia, many parishes in Virginia fell on hard times. When the congregations stopped using them around 1805, Pope's Creek and Bray's were seized and declared to be free churches to any denomination. The result was that no denomination would make repairs. The structure at Pope's Creek eventually burned in 1828.

The Reverend William McGuire became rector of Washington Parish in 1847. He reported to the Diocesan Convention of 1848 that there was no Episcopal Church in the parish. Happily, the next year his report stated that, "A commodious and excellent brick church has been completed at Oak Grove in this parish, and it is now ready for consecration". The church was consecrated on May 31,1849 by Bishop John Johns and named St. Peter's.

Upon entering the nave of St. Peter's, one's attention is drawn to the sanctuary with its simple colonial communion table. Over the altar is a handsome Agnus Dei window. Though numerous gifts have been bestowed, the six-piece silver communion service and the rare handmade organ are of particular note. The communion service was given in 1868 as a thank offering for the recovery of a seriously ill child. The Henry Erben organ was presented in 1854, electrified in 1934, and rebuilt and restored to its original condition in 1974 with proceeds derived from a church-sponsored historical homes tour made possible by full congregational effort.