Grace Episcopal Church, located in Berryville, Virginia, is a treasure not only to the local citizens who still use the beautiful facility for regular worship, but to genealogists who are experiencing their ever-consuming thirst for family history. It was this “quest” that first led me through her welcoming doors in 1986. At that time I had no idea of the riches I would find there, but God and Grace Church seemed to beckon me back, year after year. Reverend Dwight Brown would graciously take time out of his busy schedule to meet with me and share his own personal knowledge of the facility, and like peeling back the layers of an onion, every visit revealed new insights.
Over the next 25 years, as I continued to transcribe the many old family letters that had been entrusted to me, new “puzzle pieces” of the Ware family picture would emerge and send me scurrying back to Berryville to validate and document my findings. Being the wife of an Air Force officer at the time, my husband and I traveled from Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Ohio back to Berryville many times. So much so, that crossing the border into Virginia still gives both of us a sense of “coming home” - - to the place of my birth and the place of my husband’s roots. Grace Episcopal Church is like a touchstone for both of us.
Reverend Brown was actually the person who first inspired me to write this particular piece about the family history. While admiring some of the exquisite stained glass windows in the sanctuary, he mentioned that he was not totally sure about the background of some of the dedications. With the knowledge my research had uncovered, I felt that it might be important to the church and future congregations to revitalize these memorials. It was a labor of love to put some “life” around what had, with time, become just words.
In writing this, I am very cognizant of the fact that the history of this church helps to define far more than just the Ware family. The cemetery alone is filled with illustrious names like Washington, Lewis, McCormick, Taylor, McGuire, Knowslar, Berry, Smith, Stribling, and so many others. The thing that still amazes me is how often these family lines cross and intersect. It is that very fact that I hope will make this book helpful for others besides just “Ware” researchers. It is my sincere desire to honor all those who have worshiped in this historic place and to help keep alive the memories that have shaped the destinies of many families besides mine. It is hard to read the section on Lucy Ware Lewis and not feel the pain that accompanied the infant mortality rate of the 1800s for all young mothers, and excerpts from some of the Civil War letters provide a keener sense of the hardships endured by all Berryville residents during those turbulent times.
The people and the church have both endured much over the years and the one overriding theme still emerges – God’s love always prevails. I dedicate this work to all those souls who have gone on before me and whose lives were blessed by the same Savior who blesses mine.
Judy C. Ware
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