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Pohick Church of Virginia has a long and celebrated history. Originally known as the Occaquan Church, the name was later changed to Pohick because it was relocated near Pohick Creek. Although today Pohick is known as an Episcopalian Church, at the time of its inception it was simply known as an Anglican Church, as the Episcopalian Church emerged out of the growing discord between the American colonies and England during the Revolutionary period. Among the most notable attendees of Pohick were George Mason, William Fairfax, and George Washington.
The connection between the Washington family and Pohick Church can be traced back to the nomination of the first rector, Charles Green, who was sponsored by Augustine Washington (George Washington’s father) on August 19, 1736. Following in his father's footsteps, George Washington became a vestryman of the Truro Parish in July of 1765. In 1732, the Virginia General Assembly designated the area north of the Occaquan River as the Truro Parish. Pohick, being the only church in that area at the time, became the Parish Church of Truro.
Part of the vestry's responsibility was to oversee matters of money, maintenance, and the election of clergy. In addition to these duties, Washington was also entrusted with the title of Church Warden and was influential in the relocation of Pohick Church to its current site. Washington remained a loyal vestryman of the Church until his attention was redirected to matters of war and country.
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association (MVLA) also shares a rich history with Pohick Church. The MVLA is responsible for the purchase and maintenance of the home of the Church's most beloved parishioner, George Washington. Ann Pamela Cunningham (founder of the MVLA) raised over two hundred thousand dollars to purchase the Mount Vernon estate from John Augustine Washington (great-grandnephew of George Washington) in order to preserve it for future generations. Playwright Paul Kester (who would eventually live nearby Mount Vernon, first at Gunston Hall and eventually at Woodlawn) wrote to the MVLA, explaning that "It seems particularly suitable that Miss Cunningham's name…should be permanently recorded in Pohick church, which is so linked by its past with the name of Washington."
The members of Pohick eventually showed their appreciation for Cunningham’s hard work by dedicating a pew to her in 1912. The inscription on the pew read, “Ann Pamela Cunningham, First Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1853-1874. Although the dedication can no longer be found in the Church today, the MVLA continues to support Pohick Church.
Joseph M. Meyer, Ph.D.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
1. See the official website of Pohick Church for additional information on the Church's history.
3. Philip Slaughter, The History of Truro Parish in Virginia, ed. Rev. Edward L. Goodwin (Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Company, 1907), 10.
4. See Slaughter, 42-8, for more information on how changes in the surveying of lands impacted Washington's election to the vestry.
7. Minutes of the Council of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union (Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly Publishing Company, 1900), 51
8. Grace King, Mount Vernon on the Potomac: History of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union (New York: Macmillan Company, 1929), 368.