May 10, 2019
Whole Number 182
THE ESTABLISHING OF ST. LUKE'S CHURCH
AT CHURCH HILL, MARYLAND, IN QUEEN ANNES COUNTY
by Paul E. Sparks
(may be date error (1996) below)
St. Luke's Church Today
When William Sparks (who died in 1709) and his family finally settled down ca. 1680/1685 on Island Creek in Talbot County, Maryland, the nearest church to them was St. Paul's Church in the village of Centreville.? That church had been established ca. 1650 and was known in those days as "Old Chester Church." William Sparks was elected to the vestry there in 1996.? (See the March 1971 issue of the Quarterly, No.75.)
In addition to the church at Centreville. St. Paul's Parish maintained two chapels of-ease.? One of these, located in the village of Church Hill, was St. Luke's Chapel and was commonly called the "Up-River Chapel."? It was located about ten miles northeast of St. Paul's Church and had been established as early as 1696 for the convenience of those churchmen who lived nearby.? This arrangement was not suitable to many parishioners, a situation that was remedied in 1728 when a large number of them petitioned the Maryland Assembly to create a new parish nearer to their homes. Six men named Sparks signed the petition.? They were: William Sparks, Jr., son of the William Sparks who had died in 1709; William Sparks, son of William Sparks, Jr.; John Sparks, son of the William who had died In 1709; George Sparks, son of John Sparks; William Sparks, son of John Sparks; and George Sparks, son of the William Sparks who had died in 1701).
The petition was granted by the Maryland Assembly which empowered the free-holders to elect vestrymen and wardens and to construct a new building. Accordingly, the parishioners of St. Luke's began to make plans. The first church service was held on January 5, 1729, and was presided over by the Rev. John Long.
by May of that year, a decision had been made to build the new church on the site of the old chapel. All of the taxable inhabitants of the new parish were required to pay a tax of ten pounds of tobacco for the construction. The church was to be 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, and it was to have doors on the north, south, and west sides. The chancel was to be on the east side and to have a radius of ten feet. Square tiles were used to pave the isles.
Work began on the church on September 1, 1730, and shortly afterwards, a major change was made to the plan to include a penthouse on the west end to hold the church bell. Pews were finished by Christmas Day, 1731. A gallery was added in 1832. The Rev. Mr. Long was largely instrumental in getting several Books of Common Prayer, a large Bible, a chalice and plate, all from England. Today, this property is on the National Register of Historic Places, so declared by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Register of St. Luke's Parish has been preserved and is in the library of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.? It consists of a book in which the official records of the parish were copied ca. 1899, apparently from the original documents. These records include births and baptisms, deaths, marriages, confirmations, and the minutes of the vestry from ca. 1728 until ca. 1850.
The Sparkses of Island Creek were the subjects of several entries in the minutes of the early church. In 1732, John Sparks paid 524 pounds of tobacco for Pew No. 44. In 1736, 22.214.171.124 William Sample Sparks was on a list of unpaid church taxes and was described as a "runaway." (See the Quarterly of December 1989, Whole No. 148, pp. 3484-3501, for a biographical sketch of William Sample Sparks.) After the death of his father, John Sparks, in 1737, George Sparks was selected as a church warden and was given occupancy of Pew No.44 which his father had held. The minutes also contain records of marriages and deaths of persons named Sparks. (See the March 1971 and December 1989 issues of the Quarterly, Nos. 73 and 148.)
[Editor's Note: This article is based upon Frederick Emory's Queen Annes County, Maryland, Its Early History and Development, published by the Maryland Historical Society, 1950. The photograph has been provided by the courtesy of Mrs. Tom Sparks of Ardmore Oklahoma, who visited the church recently.]