Old Stone Church at Fort Defiance, VA
Built between 1740 and 1747, a stone church near Staunton, Virginia was home to a Presbyterian congregation which was organized before 1737. The stone church in which they worshiped, officially known as Augusta Church, became the center of what would be called Fort Defiance.
William R. Reynolds, Jr., writing about the French & Indian War during the Summer of 1755, relates:
Braddock’s defeat occurred shortly after a force of 1,500 British and American troops (from Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina) finally answered Dinwiddie’s call. They marched from Will’s Creek in Maryland under General Edward Braddock in late June 1755. On July 9, they forded Monongahela River at the forks with the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers and began the last leg of seven miles to the fort. An enemy force of 500 Indians (Ottawa, Miami, Huron, Delaware, Shawnee and Mingo) and 30 French colonial troops ambushed and routed them. The losses were staggering; 26 officers killed and 37 wounded, while 430 soldiers were killed and 385 wounded. This was enough to cause the Virginians around Stanton to construct Fort Defiance, an action typical of other backcountry communities.1
Reynolds goes on to further describe the development of the fort and its planned defense:
Churchgoers fortified the Old Stone Presbyterian Church, in late July of 1755, and they came to church services heavily armed. They named the fortification Fort Defiance. The worshippers were confident they could defend themselves against the French, and especially against any of the northern Indian allies to the French.
According to an old postcard, the Old Stone Church is located on the Valley Pike eight miles north of Staunton and is the oldest Presbyterian house of worship west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The original church building was enlarged in 1921-22, needed partially due to the growth in enrollment of the nearby Augusta Military Academy, whose cadets worshiped here while the academy was training Soldiers from 1865 until its closure in 1984.
Looking back to 1755, the worshippers who carried their weapons into the Old Stone Church may not have been officially enlisted or commissioned Soldiers (though may well have been members of a Militia, and Fort Defiance may not have been an officially sanctioned fort, but by all appearances, Fort Defiance and those who defended it suggest this Old Stone Church can be considered a military chapel, serving the religious needs of those who fought to defend their country, land, families and freedom.
1 Reynolds, William R., Jr., Andrew Pickens: South Carolina Patriot in the Revolutionary War, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 2012, p. 19.
Some information for this page is from the Augusta Stone Church website.
Some information for this page is from the Library of Congress website.
Modern photo of church exterior from http://dwaynephillips.net/takingawalk/2008/09/day-11-surprise-south-of-fort-defiance/.
Modern photo of interior of church from flickriver.com.