Yeocomico Church- Early Church of the Self Family
The following article was passed on to me by cousin David Self, of Dunnellon, Florida. David was one of the speakers this past weekend at the annual gathering of the subscribers/researchers of The Self Newsletter. The event was held this year in Georgia. I had hoped to attend, but was not able to arrange to be there. Thankfully, David has shared this information with us. It is very interesting, so I wanted to get it out to everyone else as quickly as possible. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I have a list of things I want to do, relating to genealogy. Visiting the Yeocomico Church is on that list. Hopefully, I will be able to go there within the next few years.
Yeocomico Church- Early Church of the Self Family
During the early years the Self family worshiped at the Yeocomico Church. Like most churches at the time it was part of the established Church of England headed by the Royal Family. The church is located in the Parish of Cople in Westmoreland County near 300 acres of fertile land granted to Robert Self in 1665 after he fulfilled the terms of his indentured service. Robert and his family were active and prominent members of the church for many years no doubt playing an important role in its development.
The church was named after the Yeocomico River that flows into the Potomac and is the dividing line between Westmoreland and Northumberland counties. It stands solid on high ground shaded by large Oak trees surrounded by a weathered brick wall about four feet tall. The original church was built of oak in 1655 and replaced with a brick structure in 1706 almost exactly one hundred years after the first settlement in Jamestown.
On entering the churchyard one's attention is immediately drawn to the emptiness and missing headstones in the old inner cemetery. Almost all of the headstones were destroyed by rebellious colonists during the Revolutionary War because the church was considered a symbol of England and its preachers used the pulpit to discourage rebellion against the British government. Robert Self and other family members were buried in the inner cemetery and the exact location of their graves is lost forever.
Mary Ball Washington worshiped at the Yeocomico Church and was educated there as a child. She was only three years old when her father died and thirteen when her mother died. Colonel George Eskridge was a member of the church and a close family friend when he was appointed Mary's guardian. Almost daily as a child Mary would ride her horse from the nearby Eskridge farm to attend school at the church. Growing up she must have known and been friendly with the Self family during daily happenings, church meetings and community affairs.
Mary was growing up to become a powerful and influential force for one of America's most famous families. George Washington was born on Wakefield Plantation nearby on Pope's Creek during the winter 1732. He was named George after Colonel George Eskridge because of Mary's love, respect and appreciation for her guardian and tutor.
The Yeocomico Church experienced calamitous times following the peaceful years when Mary was a child. American soldiers used the church as an encampment during the Revolutionary War and later the War of 1812. The church provided open space for encampments and an abundant water supply from the nearby river and streams. The fields were fertile and crops and livestock produced by the locals could either be purchased or confiscated to support the army. Deplorably the church communion table was used by colonial soldiers to butcher and slaughter animals letting blood and guts flow freely on the floors desecrating the sanctity of the holy place. The baptismal urn was used to water cows and horses.
Today, the church is the second oldest church in America that continues to have worship services. The church is well preserved and many of the furnishings are original. The entrance door dates back to 1655. The communion table and the baptismal urn have been restored and are used in services.
Daniel "Dan" McCarthy and the Self Family Newsletter in 2004 raised money to buy a bronze plaque mounted in a marble stone commemorating the Self family. It was placed near the inner cemetery and is there today. At the dedication ceremony attended by many Selfs and family, Dan eloquently summed up the family's American experience. You have probably read or heard it before but it is important to remember who we are as a family. Here is Dan's presentation.
Dedication of the Robert Self Memorial
Before we begin, we would like to offer our deepest thanks to Father John Wall and Charles Mottram Sanford who worked hard to help members of the Self Family Newsletters achieve the placing of this monument. We are here this day to pay homage to Robert Self, the first known Self in America, the ancestor of those of us gathered here today, and the probable ancestor of over 37,000 persons in American today. Paula-Jo Cahoon, who could not be with us this year due to commitments as
California's President of the Daughters of War of 1812, summed it all up by stating that this is probably the most important project undertaken by the Self Family Newsletter group to date. We have felt, for some time, that a monument to commemorate our ancestor would be a fitting tribute, a lasting memorial long overdue and made possible by the donations of scores of loving Self descendants, who seem to come into this world equipped with a common love of genealogical roots and family history. Eighty of Robert Self's descendants demonstrated this family love with donations ranging from $2.00 to $166.00. The outcome of this strong love is the memorial we dedicate here today.
We are looking at the stones of people buried as long ago as 350 years. Some have worn to a frazzle. Some are just a snub of stone; no visible record remains. Nevertheless, we cherish their memories and we preserve the records of their time here on Earth so that our own descendants can benefit from the wisdom that comes from understanding how and who brought us to this point in history. And, we wonder at that same strong love that pervades our historical research and pursuits. We ourselves are living testaments to the endurance of family ties down through the ages.
Our Robert Self was a planter and a farmer. We are certain he gave thanks to God every day. In the spring he would give thanks as he saw the trees bud and blossom. He gave thanks for the fertile earth as he worked it for planting. In the summer sun and rain, he would rejoice as the crops grew and matured. In the fall, he would celebrate the bounty with thanksgiving. And, as the snows covered these lands, one can only imagine the footprints in the snow as he and his family trudged their way here for services each Sabbath. Let us be reminded each season of Robert and his
family as they struggled to make a life and a heritage for us.
Our Robert Self was the ancestor of numerous descendants who served in the military bringing us freedoms we enjoy and take for granted today:
-- 2 soldiers of the French and Indian War
-- a dozen plus soldiers in the Revolutionary War
--20 or more soldiers of the War of 1812
-- 96 Union soldiers and 390 Confederate soldiers of the
-- Plus all the soldiers of the Wars that have followed.
Yes, a man named Self [James C. Self] became the richest and most philanthropic man in the Carolinas. And another man [Carl Albert] with a Self grandmother became Vice President of the United States. But, the real pride and backbone of the Self family - yesterday and today - are the doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, farmers, homebuilders - yes, even log homebuilders - pioneers all - who settled throughout this country, worked hard and built families. You don't have to look back as far as 350 years to see your own direct Self ancestor and the contributions he or she made to your life.
We believe Robert Self would be amazed and filled with pride as he sees this gathering of his descendants, both by blood and marriage, who, nearly 300 years after his death, still remember him and the sacrifices he and his family made coming to this strange land.
As we note his time on earth with this stone and plaque, let it serve to remind us his legacy, his good genes, his love for life. We have so much of which to be proud.