Ware Episcopal Church sits about one and one half miles east of Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia, on Route 14. The cemetery lies on the south and west sides of the colonial church building, built around the beginning of the eighteenth century. Ware Parish itself was established soon after the formation of Gloucester County in 16511.
The original church and cemetery were located approximately one and one half miles east of the current location, on Glen Roy plantation on the north side of the Ware River. A marble slab, east of the remains of a brick foundation for the original church circa 1660, marks the grave of William Potter (d. January 29, 1703).
In the 1680's, Mordecai Cooke provided land for a new church and cemetery at the present location; construction of the new church began sometime after 1690 and was most likely completed towards the end of the rectorate of the Rev. James Clack; analysis of the poplar beams in the church suggest they were placed about 1719. Mr. Clack, who served from 1679 until his death in 1723, is buried in the churchyard to the east of the church -- the earliest known burial at the site.
A number of early parish rectors are buried in the cemetery or memorialized in the church.
The cemetery and memorial garden at the present church contain over one thousand tombstones. The oldest stones are those for burials under the chancel and within the walls surrounding the church -- these date to the early 1720's. Tombstones relocated for preservation from private cemeteries to the church cemetery (see map) by the APVA and family members date to the early 1700's. A number of tombstones indicate service in the Civil War, including those for several soldiers who died at Burgh Westra, a local home used as a Civil War hospital.
Rectors would usually be buried at the east end of the church -- the tombs of The Reverend James Clack (1655-1723) and The Reverend Charles Mann (1792-1878) are found there -- or under the church floor where the Reverend John Richards (1689-1735) is buried. Others buried beneath the church floor include the rector's wife Amy Richards (1685-1725), their servant Mary Ades (1697-1725), Ann Willis (1695-1727) and her infant daughter Anne, The Reverend John Fox's wife Isabell Booth Fox (1704-1742), and their daughters Mary (1738-1742) and Susannah (1740-1743).
The William & Mary Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 3. (January, 1895, by Lyon G. Tyler) reported on old tombstones in Gloucester, including those under the chancel floor, and that report is quoted in the APVA "Epitaphs Book" (see below for references). The Rev. William Byrd Lee also described the tombstones under the church, on page 190 of the Register of Abingdon and Ware Parishes, 1830-1918 and these descriptions are reported in The World of Ware Parish. For the eight burials under the floor, the WMQ describes six tombstones and appears to try to reproduce the inscriptions exactly, but Mr. Lee describes four grave sites, combines two pairs of the six inscriptions of the WMQ, and seems to be modernizing the text of the inscriptions. The WMQ inscriptions are used in the list of tombstones on this site, but combined as done by Mr. Lee. The WMQ transcriptions are also used for unreadable tombstones moved to Ware from family cemeteries.
The oldest tombstone in the cemetery is that of Edward Porteus (d. bet. 1696-1700). The stone was relocated for preservation in 1959 from Violet Bank near Poropotank Creek.
The Ware Church cemetery is the final resting place for a number of Confederate Army veterans, including Thomas Buckner Armistead II, Capt. Junius Brown, Maj. Giles Buckner Cooke, Maj. William Kennon Perrin, John Hairston Seawell, Capt. John P. Taliaferro, Gen. William Booth Taliaferro, and two unknown soldiers.
The wall around the church and inner graveyard is said to be the oldest church wall in America. The north and east entries and gates are very old, the south and west entrances are relatively new. The wall, approximately 1.5 feet thick, encloses a square approximately 160 feet on each side. The 80' x 40' church building is within the north half of the square.
The cemetery was expanded west of the churchyard walls in 1884 when six acres were obtained from William Alexander Taliaferro, and again in 1895 with the acquisition of another six acres. Three year old William Todd Robins, Jr. was the first to be buried in the new area. It was in 1895, and due to the cemetery expansion, that the west and south gates were cut into the churchyard wall. In 1933, another two acres were purchased from John H. Brown. And in 1989, a Memorial Garden was established on part of 5 acres purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Birkhofer in the 1940s.
In the late 1930s Mr. Walter Sanders applied to buy a lot in the cemetery, but as only members were allowed to purchase lots (and he was not) the Vestry refused. So, Mr. Sanders bought an eighth of an acre next to the cemetery from the Brown family and was later buried there. In the early 1940s his wife deeded this property to the church and Mrs. Sanders was later buried beside her husband (lot 55C). Note that the stones in this lot are not in line with other stones in the cemetery.
Catalogs of this and other Gloucester County, VA, cemeteries are available online courtesy of the USGenWeb Tombstone Inscription Project and its registry of Gloucester County cemeteries. The William & Mary Quarterly published epitaphs from old tombstones of Gloucester County in 1894-5, and these are online at UsGenWeb; Ware Parish cemetery appears in two issues: Vol. 3, No. 1. (Jul., 1894) and Vol. 3, No. 3. (Jan., 1895). Find A Grave has an entry for Ware Episcopal Church Cemetery.
The list of burials in the cemetery is also recorded in The World of Ware Parish. Epitaphs on tombstones in local family cemeteries appear in Epitaphs of Gloucester & Mathews Counties, published by the APVA in 1959.
Photographs of the cemetery are online at the church's web site and at the Tombstone Inscription Project's Gloucester County cemeteries page. Photographs of individual tombstones can be requested by email to .
1 These dates are all approximate. County records were destroyed by fire. We know that Gloucester County was in existance in 1651, and the establishment of Ware Parish is commonly thought to have been in 1652. Other sources: The World of Ware Parish, by Spotswood H. Jones (Dietz Press, 1991), and miscellaneous unpublished notes of Martha Feild Brown.
. . . September 1, 2002