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Parish History Notes 2: The Chapel in the Forks

We are forced to make many assumptions about the construction of Fork Church because the St. Martin’s Parish records do not survive. Paradoxically, we have more information about the predecessor building known as the Chapel in the Forks. That structure was completed while western Hanover County was under the ecclesiastical charge of St. Paul’s Parish, and the Vestry Books from St. Paul’s Parish survive. They were edited by Dr. Churchill Gibson Chamberlayne and published in 1940 by the Library of Virginia.

In a meeting on March 27, 1722, the vestry ordered the construction of two chapels, one at Allen’s Creek “on the South Side of the South River, and one … at or near one John Thomason’s in the Forks of our River.” Each chapel was to be 36 feet by 20 feet “framed work and well built.” In the currency of the day, 21,000 pounds of tobacco was authorized to finish the two chapels, and 7,000 pounds of tobacco was authorized to pay for their books and ornaments. Inspection of the finished chapels was ordered on April 16, 1723. Over the next two years further funds were appropriated for railing the Fork Church yard (3,200), tarring the two chapels (1,000), a chest for the Fork Chapel (150), and benches for Fork Chapel (120). The total cost of the one chapel, then, is about 17,970 pounds of tobacco, which is about one-half of the annual budget of the parish, a very small sum by today’s building standards.