Saint James Protestant Episcopal Parish

Today, the church of St. James Parish in Baltimore county, Maryland, stands near the intersection of Monkton and York Roads, near modern real estate developments in Monkton. When the church was first built, starting in 1752, it stood in the rolling country, barely settled, near what would become the border of Baltimore and Harford counties. The church was first planned as a "chapel of ease" in 1750, designed to save parishoners of St. John's Parish (see map) a long ride to church. Twelve of the original pews, installed in the 1750's, still remain (on my agenda next summer is to visit that Parish!).

Until 1777, the chapel was a part of St. John's Parish but in January of that year it became an independant parish (I wonder if the outbreak of the Revolutionary War and St. James Parish's members' desire to "separate" from such close ties to the Church of England may have been the reason!). In March 1779 a Reverend Worsley was called to be the first rector. Unfortunately, there are no vestry records or registers of birth, death, and marriage dating from his tenure. The second rector was the Reverend John Andrews, who served from 1782 until 1785.

The third rector was the Reverend John Coleman, who was called in 1787 and served until 1816. It was during his pastorate that the registers of birth, death and marriage were preserved. This now explains why there appear to be no birth records in existence for Edward and Sarah Coyan's older children Jane (born ca. 1780) and John (born ca. 1784), but why there are birth records for my 4th great-grandfather Hugh Coyan as well as sisters Rosanna (born August 7, 1787) and Elizabeth (born February 21, 1792).

In trying to be the "Devil's advocate", I have struggled mightily in order be convinced myself that the birth record for Hugh "Cowin" in St. James Episcopal Parish in 1789 is in fact my 4th great-grandfather. It just made no sense that folks of Scotch-Irish heritage - people with such a profound dislike for the British - would be caught dead, much less alive in a Protestant Episcopal Church. My recent discovery of how close the St. James Parish was to where Edward was shown as residing in the 1783 Tax Assessment (as well as in 1790 at the time of the census) was of some reassurance. But that alone didn't "do it" for me. Recently, I inquired to Linda Merle, a well-known Scotch-Irish historian, if it was unusual for the Scotch-Irish to worship in an Episcopal church in Colonial times. Her reply was a most definite NO!

She explained to me that THE overriding factor during that period, when a horse and buggy was the BEST that you could do on a cold, snowy winter Sunday morning, was to find the nearest church. She also added that the "official" religion in Maryland was Anglican, but that the Baltimore's - being Catholic - most likely "looked  the other away" regarding religious persecution. This made the area a haven for Catholics and Presbyterians. Additionally, I found out that the St. James Parish has their own website (and it's a nice one!). When I went there and read the history of the parish, I became even more convinced that it would not at all have been unusual for Presbyterians to have used that church as their place of worship in the Revolutionary War era!

Below is another map of Harford county, showing the "divisional" lines for the Episcopal parishes of St. John's and St. George in Colonial times. Note that St. James Parish was constructed about 10 miles northwest of the location of the St. John's parish. For more info on the 1783 Tax Assessment and another helpful map, click here.

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