St. Peter’s lineage goes back to the first Christian service held in what is now Maryland. In 1630, Captain William Claiborne brought the Rev. Richard James, priest of the Church of England, from Hampton, Virginia, to Kent Island, where this service was held. The settlers from England, who came in the “Ark” and the “Dove”, were in large part of the Church of England. Landing at what was later to be Saint Mary’s City, they first used an Indian wigwam for religious worship. Eden Parish was formed in 1770. It comprised the area where St. Peter’s is now located.
Eden Parish Church, also called Eden Chapel, was located at Beallsville, three miles north of Poolesville. It replaced Monocacy Chapel, which was built about 1737. With the renaming of Eden Parish as Saint Peter’s Parish in 1792, Eden Chapel became Saint Peter’s Parish. Saint Peter’s first rector was ordained on July 8, 1794 and become rector immediately. The first Vestry meeting was May 1, 1799. On November 16, 1802, the Vestry wrote to Bishop John Claggett requesting a Bible and Prayer Book for the Chapel of St. Peter’s. Saint Peter’s served the surrounding country for nearly 50 years before the present church was built in 1847.
Between 1847 and 1947, St. Peter’s was shepherded by 15 different rectors who oversaw a variety of facility expansion and improvement projects as well as expanded programs. In 1870, both a Sunday school and a choir were formed. In 1880, the Vestry purchased a Rectory. In 1928 St. Peter’s installed electricity in the fine old crystal chandelier and the side lights. The church was redecorated in 1936. Rev. Guy Crook made the choir stalls from old pews. Around 1939 an oil burner replaced the old coal furnace. In 1941 a Church Endowment Fund was formally established and guidelines were set for its use. St. Peter’s has been the beneficiary of several bequests and legacies through the century. A Hammond organ was purchased about 1940.
At the onset of World War II the pulpit at Poolesville was again vacant. The Diocese sent a discouraging note to say that five parishes were looking for rectors and St. Peter’s would have to “get along with lay readers,” as they had so often throughout history. A new rector was found in 1944. One of the highlights of this era was the centennial celebration of the construction of the church in Poolesville. The June 29, 1947 event was commemorated with the writing of a substantial history, and Bishop Dunn came to preach the anniversary sermon.
In the 1950s, St. Peter’s grew in numbers and ministry. In the 1960’s, parish organizations blossomed with the forming of the Altar Guild and an active youth fellowship. A Women’s Auxiliary met monthly to sew for missions, attend programs, and conduct church fundraisers. Perhaps the most visible sign of their efforts is the embroidered linen dossal, completed in 1968, designed from children’s favorite Bible stories.
The 1970s was a decade of dramatic change in upper Montgomery County. Almost overnight, Poolesville grew from 500 to nearly 3,000. In a community in which every face was a neighbor or relative, suddenly it became a suburb of strangers. Partly in preparation for growth, St. Peter’s undertook a complete refurbishing of the church interior, completed in 1972 with new pews, new lighting fixtures and carpet. Church attendance nearly doubled. As was its history for so many years, St. Peter’s regrouped under a new rector in the early 1980s. Before his arrival, St. Peter’s bought the property just west of the church, which became the Rectory in 1982. To meet the growing demands of the community, St. Peter’s built a new parish hall in 1984. With its new space and the resumption of building in the Poolesville area, St. Peter’s began to grow again.
Today, as St. Peter’s looks back on a long and fruitful history, we find ourselves well situated for the future. Through the dedication of so many rectors, wardens, vestry, and the constant efforts of all, the foundation laid by early settlers remains intact today. The determination and perseverance of the people of St. Peter’s brought the church into the 21st Century. They continue to be its main source of energy, providing for the ministry of the Episcopal Church in a fast-paced and rapidly changing world. The refurbishment and expansion of our facilities is testament to the faith, commitment, and energy of the people of St. Peter’s.