Washington Parish Museum

Free Educational Events for all ages the last Saturday of each month from 2PM to 4PM:

June 29th - John Washington the Sailor (view photos here)

  July 27th -  Colonial Brick Making

       August 31st - Digging up History

September 28th - Early Virginia Agriculture

October 26th - 18th/19th Century School

Tour the Washington Parish Museum on Sunday afternoons by appointment with Bill Doerken, Museum Director, (804) 445-6655

Featuring graphic displays and artifacts that honor the 175 year history of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, the museum also highlights other churches that have formed Washington Parish over the years.

Numerous hands-on activities for visitors of all ages include tombstone rubbing, events detailing early church brick making, and John Washington's seamanship challenges on his ill-fated trip to Virginia.

Visitors can listen to recorded music from the historic 1849 Erban organ, unfortunately destroyed in the December 2023 fire.

More about the Washington Parish

S.S. Westmoreland Steamship

Steamships: Crucial to Early Life on the NNK

In the 1800s, steamships such as the S.S. Westmoreland provided a link to civilization and were essential to the Northern Neck economy, especially considering the nearly impassable condition of roads at that time. To reach a steamship at Wirt's Wharf on Mattox Creek one would take a main thoroughfare, today's Rt. 3 or Kings Highway, that passed right by St. Peter's church.

For NNK farmers and watermen, steamships expanded access to commercial markets in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. where they could sell fresh produce and shellfish. Steamships also increased tourism to the Northern Neck. Local residents took advantage of steamboat travel which expanded opportunities to travel to urban areas for advanced medical care, greater variety in commercial goods, and access to visit family and friends.

In one instance, a steamship at Wirt’s Wharf provided emergency transportation to Alexandria Hospital for two local gunshot victims. We might consider that an early "medivac", or medical evacuation for urgent treatment, usually provided by helicopter today.

Time and Tides Influence the Church's Final Location

The first Washington Parish church was Appomattox or Mattox, renamed Washington Parish in 1664. Threatened to be overtaken by Potomac River tides and storms, the site was eventually re-established on higher ground as Mattox New Church and then renamed Pope’s Creek Church, the predecessor of St. Peter’s Church.

Who is the Washington Parish Named After?

Hint:  Not George Washington.

One winter day in 1657, the trading vessel named Seahorse of London sailed north up the Potomac River bound for a load of tobacco on Mattox Creek. Unfortunately, upon setting back to sea with its cargo, the ship did not get far.  Running aground, Seahorse of London nearly sank in the Potomac under the onslaught of a severe winter storm.

The ship went under repair nearby in what is now called Pope's Creek. While repairs were underway, second mate John became friendly with the nearby Pope family, leading to a romance between John and their daughter, Anne. By the time the ship was repaired, John had fallen madly in love. Now he had to decide between a life on land with Anne or return to the life of a trader at sea.

Ultimately, John went to Anne's father who blessed the union and gifted the couple 600 acres of fertile Northern Neck Land, a fine start to life in Virginia.  John and Anne are remembered today as a Virginia “power couple”. They each earned prestigious leadership positions that helped mold early Commonwealth history. For example, John was a founding member of the Appomattox Parish under the Church of England, renamed Washington Parish in 1664. The parish became part of the Episcopal Church in 1785, and the U.S. Episcopal Church officially separated from The Church of England in 1789 due to onerous burdens placed on American clergy by the British.

The story of John Washington demonstrates how a fateful winter storm helped to shape the course of this great country, as John eventually became the great-grandfather of George Washington, First President of the United States.

The Washington Parish Museum in Oak Grove tells these stories and so much more about the people, places and things that shaped the history of the Northern Neck.

Mark May 31, 4 p.m., on your calendar for opening of the “Best Little Museum in Virginia”, located behind St. Peter’s Church at Oak Grove.

A Building on the Move

In the late 1800’s, the rectory for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church was located about 1.5 miles south of the church building in Oak Grove. At that time, when Reverend Latane built his study there, he had no idea it would become a building on the move.

Before the rectory was eventually moved to its current location behind St. Peter's Episcopal Church on King’s Highway in Oak Grove, it was located on various sites nearby. At one point, the school board asked that the building be moved for use as a classroom at Oak Grove Elementary School. It may have also been moved for use as a post office.

When the rectory finally settled onto the church property, it was just to the right of the church building. When the current parish hall was built, the rectory was moved again by the Boy Scouts to the back of the church property and used as a study and a place for the Scouts to meet.

In early 2023, in the newly restored and re-designed Latane study building, the Washington Parish Museum was born, thankfully untouched by the December 2023 fire.