Less than one mile to the east is the site of the Church on the Main, a brick Anglican church built by the 1750s to serve James City Parish as replacement for the church on Jamestown Island, which had become difficult for communicants to reach. The Rev. James Madison(1749-1812) was its best-known rector, serving the church from about 1777 until it fell into disguise after the American Revolution and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. Madison became president of the College of William and Mary(1777-1812) and Virginia’s first Episcopal Bishop in 1790. By 1857 all aboveground traces of the church were gone.
Two miles south of Jamestown, an agricultural area known as “the Main” became home to an anglican parish sometime in the early 1750s. As the population of Jamestown and Williamsburg exploded, the Church on the Main became a popular place of worship.
The land on which the church stood was owned by Mr. Richard Ambler of Yorktown. Upon his death in 1766, Ambler left 301 acres of the Main property to his eldest son John. John died soon after his father, and the land then was given to John’s eldest brother Edward. The youngest Ambler brother Jaquelin, married Rebecca Burwell of the Kingsmill Plantation. All three brothers were prominent members of colonial Virginia society. Both eldest brothers held seats in the House of Burgesses, and the youngest served on the Council of State, was Treasurer of Virginia, and participated in the Revolutionary War.
During the War, American forces serving under General Wayne met British regulars under General Cornwallis at the Battle of Greenspring. The battle took place on the property of the Church of the Main, where the American forces were outnumbered and strategically retreated towards Yorktown. Around forty total casualties were suffered in the foray, including French sodliers under General Lafayette.
In 1788, Edward’s share of the Main was purchased from the College of William and Mary by his son John.
Selby, John E., and Don Higginbotham. The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 2007.
Morgan, Timothy E. Williamsburg: A City That History Made. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
Lytle, Richard M. The Soldiers of America’s First Army, 1791. Scarecrow Press, 2004.
Historical Marker “Church on the Main V-46,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Rt. Rev. James Madison, D.D.” NYPL Digital Gallery, www.digitalgallery.nypl.org (accessed May 2, 2012).
“Early Drawing of the College of William and Mary,” The American Cyclopaedia, http://chestofbooks.com (accessed May 2, 2012).
Department of Historic Resources link not available