From the early days of the American Revolution, the Reverend James Craig, Anglican minister of Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg County, Virginia, preached patriotism to his fellow citizens and supported the war effort by operating his gristmill as a supply depot for the American army. In the summer of 1781, Craig’s mill was burned to the ground and his lands laid waste by the infamous British offi cer Banastre Tarleton, who was leading the storied British Legion on a raid through Southside Virginia. Shortly thereafter, the Lunenburg County citizenry had occasion to formally extol the parson for his “zeal and attachment to the cause of American liberty.” But the very cause Craig was supporting was also beginning to loosen the comfortable moorings enjoyed by the Anglican Church as the established church in Virginia. Revolutionary stirrings toward complete separation of church and state were afoot and were to reach a watershed in Virginia in 1786 with legislation that set the erstwhile established church adrift in roiling waters. Stalwart, and as dedicated to his faith as to his country, Reverend Craig helped steer his church on a course where it found a new place in society after the war as the Protestant Episcopal Church.
Cynthia Mattson, a resident of Virginia since 1972, received her B.A. from Michigan State University and J.D. from Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. Mattson served most of her twenty-eight-year career with the federal government as a trial lawyer.
There were four of us one clear and cold December day in 1989—my husband and I, our youngest daughter, and my husband’s mother, Evelyn Craig Jones––standing on the side of a country road in Lunenburg County, Virginia, looking for traces of a man who lived there two centuries before. It was easy enough to read the historical highway marker where we stopped:
Home of the Reverend James Craig. To the south is the site of the late-18th-century home of the Reverend James Craig, minister of Cumberland Parish (1759–1795), physician, and Revolutionary patriot. During the Revolutionary War his nearby mill was burned by Colonel Banastre Tarleton, and Craig was taken prisoner and paroled. . . .