Old Donation Church is the third Lynnhaven Parish Church, and is the oldest church in Virginia Beach. Records show that the parish’s first church services were held in 1637 in the home of Adam Thoroughgood. The first church building was constructed on Mr. Thoroughgood’s land in 1639 on the location later known as “Church Point.” The vestry, or governing body of the church, was established in 1640.
By 1691 the church building had begun to deteriorate, and the land around the church was slowly being eroded by the Lynnhaven River. The vestry approved the building of a new church on two acres of land purchased from Ebenezer Taylor. The second Lynnhaven Parish Church was completed in 1692.
As the parish grew the second church was no longer able to meet the needs of the larger congregation. In 1733 the vestry ordered the building of a new church that could accommodate the parish’s needs. The third church was accepted by the vestry on June 25, 1736.
Princess Anne’s population center gradually shifted to Kempsville on the banks of the Elizabeth River, a far superior channel over the silting up Lynnhaven. By 1856 Emmanuel Church had drawn away the remainder of the Old Donation’s Church congregants, and the Old Donation Vestry held their last meeting in March 1856.
After the Commonwealth of Virginia passed a law that churches and chapels formerly owned by the Church of England and not used within a calendar year reverted to the ownership of the Commonwealth, different folks from Emmanuel Episcopal Church made annual pilgrimages to the church to hold services. When in 1882, a fire had all but destroyed the church; Reverend Thurmer Hoggard IV (1819-1902) took over this responsibility.
In 1911 an organization was founded to raise funds to rebuild Old Donation. Through the enthusiastic and tireless efforts of the Rev. Richard Alfriend and Judge B. D. White, construction began in 1912. Restoration of the church was completed in 1916, and Old Donation was, once again, open for services. The church’s bell tower was erected in 1923. Old Donation underwent major repairs in the 1960s to ensure the building’s structural integrity. It was during this time that the slate floors were installed. These renovations were completed in 1966.
Old Donation is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
You are invited to read further about notable people of the church, their historic homes, and general history surrounding Lynnhaven Parish Church which was renamed Old Donation to memorialize Reverend Robert Dixon’s (1716 – 1777) faithful stewardship of the church’s orphan boys school for 28 years and his donation of his estate, Donation Farm, for continuation of the school.
The website http://1bob9.blogspot.com has the following topics:
- Old Donation History – updated from the 375th anniversary book
- Notable Church Women – 18 women spanning from Sarah Thoroughgood-Gookin-Yeardley to Assistant Rector Reverend Ashley Urquidi
- Church Walk – A Walk around Old Donation Episcopal Church through the historic cemetery, Forever Friends Garden, Pembroke Meadows Neighborhood Park to the Elizabeth Nuckols Outdoor Learning Center.
- You Are There – Going back in time to those special events that made history, listen to what might have been said.
- Obituaries – listing of 262 diseased church members and obituaries for many of them from Capt. Jonathan Saunders (Jan 1, 1765)
- Cemetery Old Section – pictures of graves and genealogies
- Genealogy – lists of 191 genealogies that Alice Granbery Walter traced – Adam Thoroughgood’s 105 indentured servants – people listed in the Colonial Vestry Book (1723-1786) – 1916 church membership listed in Rev. Richard J. Alfriend’s notebook (picture and narrative), newspaper article about the christening ceremonies of the rebuilt church on October 11, 1916 (picture and narrative), genealogies of notable church members, and more…
- The Grace Sherwood Stone – Dedication and Blessing of the Grace Sherwood Stone July 10th 2014.
- Moseley Grave Ceremony – DAR Commemorating Colonel Edward Hack Moseley (1743- 1814) and thirteen founders and patriots as listed on a new plaque May 17th, 2014 (pictures).
- Old Homes – pictures and narrative of 31 Historical Homes of Lynnhaven Parish Parishioners
- First 100 Years – the seventeenth century in Hampton Roads
- The Golden Age of Lynnhaven Parish Church – The eighteenth century
- Church Ghost Stories – sixteen stories weaving historical fact with endings that has ghosts and spirits helping things along, and remaining around to haunt and cause mischief.
- Library Books – listing of over 160 books and 40 folders with historical newspaper, publications, sermons, writings, historical homes and churches, etc. about ODEC, Hampton Roads, and Virginia. Please inquire in the church office about access to these books and folders.