St. Paul’s Church

St. Paul’s Church
Virginia Lawyers
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The parish grew and flourished, and in 1775 the new handsome classical brick church was completed. The first school in what is now the District of Columbia was formed by the parish at that time. In 1776 the rector, the Reverend Alexander Williamson, chose to remain loyal to the king – as did a majority of Anglican clergy – and he returned to England. Succeeding decades marked a low point in the history of the Episcopal Church.

In 1810 St Paul’s was largely rebuilt as a result of the efforts of the Rector of St John’s, Georgetown, and of a local lawyer, Frances Scott Key – now celebrated as the author of the American national anthem. At the same time Key was one of the founders of Virginia Theological Seminary.

A major change to the aspect of the Glebe began in the 1830s with a decision of the Rector and Vestry to sell off plots of the land to form a cemetery for the relatively new city of Washington, still some distance away in the relatively rural District of Columbia. An act of Congress in 1840 established Rock Creek Cemetery in St Paul’s Churchyard, making it a vital facility for the population of the District.

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