All Saints: a church older than most countries.
(Including this one.)
On an acre of land called “Kemp's Desire” donated by Thomas Hillary, the newly created parish built its first church. A log structure was built in 1693 just north of the site of the present church. It was enlarged in 1703, but the workmanship must have been poor. According to parish records, the building required repair in 1722, 1725, 1728 and 1746. It was replaced in 1774 by the present brick church, although construction was not completed until 1777. The order to pay the contractors on completion of the new church was signed by Thomas John Claggett (later to be first Bishop of Maryland,) Edward Gantt, Charles Graham and William Ireland, commisioners appointed under the Act of Assembly for building a new church in the parish.
The well-proportioned rectangular building, sixty feet by fifty feet and twenty-six feet high, achieves a graceful effect of height and airiness from two-story surface arches, which on the side walls enclose two tiers of windows that retain their original clear glass. The interior, remodelled in 1857 and restored in 1950, retains its side galleries and pew boxes. The pew doors, which had been removed, were restored and add much to the beauty of the church.
Set upon a rise and surrounded by a majestic stand of hemlocks, the old church is unusually inviting to passersby, and when they enter it, modern worshippers have the feeling of having stepped back two centuries in time, even though the liturgy, vestments and bible lections are thoroughly contemporary.
Under the old chancel at the east end are buried the mortal remains of two former rectors, Thomas John Chew and Matthew Johnson. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it was considered an honor to be buried inside a church, and the chancel being the place where priests offciated was usually reserved for their interment.
An early rector of All Saints was Thomas Cockshutt who came in 1697 and left in 1722. During his incumbancy, he had the honor of being invited to preach the first sermon in the recently completed Chapel Royal of Maryland, St. Anne's Church in Annapolis, on September 24, 1704, in the presence of the Royal Governor John Seymour and the gentlemen of the Assembly.
His successor, James Williamson, was a Scot who served as rector from 1722 until 1767- an unusually long incumbancy in colonial days and rarely approached or exceeded even today. His later years were darkened by the controversies following the unpopular Stamp Act (1765). At that time an unfriendly observer described Williamson as “an idiot and a Tory.” A Tory he certainly was, but his long and faithful ministry at all Saints” belies the truth of the allegation that he was an idiot.
A series of locum tenans followed Father Williamson, until The Rev. Thomas John Claggett became rector on March 16, 1769. Father Claggett remained at All Saints” until the outbreak of the Revolution in 1776. During the period of uncertainty caused by the war, the parish was ministered to very irregularly. It was not until 1786 that conditions became settled and Father Claggett was able to resume his charge. He continued as rector of All Saints until 1792 when he was consecrated as the first Bishop of Maryland.
The sundial near the front door was given by Claggett as a gift to the parish upon his consecration as bishop. Apparently he wished to make sure that his successor would begin the services punctually.
The stone baptismal font is said to have been brought from England in 1735 and used in the parish church that preceded the present one.