THE OLD BRICK CHURCH
The Robert Braswell pastor – 1652
The Old Brick Church – or St. Luke’s – is the oldest existing church of English origin in America, and the nation’s only surviving original Gothic building. It was built in 1632 under the supervision of Joseph Bridger. It stands about five miles from Smithfield, Wight County, Virginia. It is often described as the most precious building in America, and today is a national shrine.
The bricks bear the date 1632. It was abandoned in 1836, and was restored about 1890. Here Tarleton’s British calvary camped in 1781. The parish books were buried for safe keeping during Lord Cornwallis’ Virginia campaign. The records did not survive but mouldered to dust. The old church in spite of time and war, has been, in its more than three hundred years of existence, the scene of worship and ceremonies. The rich and poor, the humble and great have passed it many times. In the early days before the Revolution George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and many more of our early patriots, must have paused and knelt before the altar and asked God for guidance in forming our nation.
The beautiful windows are in memory of many loved and important people. One is in memory of the Reverend Alexander Whitaker who baptized Pocahontas and married her to John Rolfe. One to Captain John Smith and to Pocahontas the “First fruits of the church in Virginia”. The silver flagons of 1663, the Chalice of about 1600, the famous Smith organ of about 1665, and the lovely Baptismal Font – hewn from oak log, and the sacred altar with the Cambridge Edition Bible, 1629, are all part of the lovely furnishings of the old church that today stands surrounded by rugged trees.
The Historic St. Luke’s Gift Shop, Route 1, Box 22, Smithfield, Virginia 23430 has information and booklets that can be purchased by mail.
Here, our Great Grandfather the Reverend Robert Braswell served as pastor in 1652. There is a plaque honoring him. It has been placed by grateful descendants. In part it reads: “In honor of Reverend Robert Braswell 1613-1668.” Happy and proud are all the Braswells today who can trace their lineage to this great good man of long ago who helped to shape our nation and give unto us a rich spiritual heritage.
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