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Signs of the Times: All Hallows Parish Church

The historic church at Brick Church Road

Four hundred years of history converge at Anne Arundel County’s tiny All Hallows Parish, at the intersection of Maryland Rt. 2 with Brick Church Road, in Edgewater. Perhaps you’ve noticed its State of Maryland roadside historical marker. Were you to stop and read, here’s what you’d find — and a bit more.
    Back in 1692, the British Crown decreed the Anglican Church the official church of the colony of Maryland. The province was divided into 30 official Anglican Parishes, one being “All Hallows, South River Parish.”
    Before the decree, the church was there.
    Bridget Blake, chair of the parish cemetery committee, believes All Hallows was a parish as early as 1669. “We can’t pinpoint the location of their earlier church,” Blake says, “but we know that around 1729, All Hallows Parish replaced it with the brick church you see today.”
    Within the parish boundaries were the farms and plantations around nearby London Town. Influential landowners served on its Vestry. First parish rector, the Rev. Joseph Colebatch, made history in 1697 as the first in the colony to baptize enslaved people.
    Renowned among All Hallows Parish rectors is evangelist and bookseller Mason Locke Weems. Parson Weems is best known for his use of creative license in his biography of George Washington. Finding little information about Washington’s boyhood, the parson spun a tall tale involving a boy, a hatchet and a father’s favorite cherry tree.
    In 1940, the parish reconstructed the church interior in its original colonial style. Now a thriving Episcopal church, with its box pews, rustic bell tower and ancient burying ground, All Hallows Parish Church retains the charm of another era.
    In the parish cemetery listing, searchable in the sheltered church entryway, you’ll find a four-century Who’s Who of early Maryland settlers, their descendants, military heroes from the American Revolution to modern wars and parishioners of today.    Buried behind the church are several Revolutionary War soldiers, as well as Deputy Gov. William Burgess, who founded London Town around 1683. Blake also believes that Annapolis merchant Anthony Stewart, whose name we most associate with the 1774 burning of the brig Peggy Stewart in Annapolis Harbor, is buried at All Hallows.
    In 1774, hoping to unload a cargo of tea in the Annapolis harbor, Stewart paid the hated tea tax imposed by the Crown. Furious local residents foiled his plans. On October 19, Stewart watched from a nearby ship as both tea and his brig Peggy Stewart went up in flames.
    From the more recent past, here lies stage, film and television actor Art Smith, who was blacklisted in 1952 during the anti-Communist witch hunt of the House Un-American Activities Committee.