“By Favor of God”
According to Burk's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, our Ware forefathers in England claimed their family creed to be “Deo Favente” – meaning “By Favor of God.” Throughout every generation of Wares in Great Britain and in the New World, a deeply rooted faith in the Almighty was paramount to their existence. During the years 1485 through 1603, the way in which a person practiced his or her faith was totally dictated by the political climate of the times. According to writer Mandy Barrow, “people in Tudor times were very religious and were prepared to die for their beliefs. It must have been hard for them during the 118 years the Tudor kings and queens ruled because they were often forced to change their religion depending on the religion of the reigning monarch . . . England started as a Catholic country and ended up being a Protestant one under the Tudors.” (Ref. 2542)
Religious freedom was virtually an unknown concept in Great Britain prior to the colonization of America. The conviction that kings were anointed (i.e., chosen by) God gave the monarchy tremendous power. When Henry VIII was crowned, the whole of his country was considered Roman Catholic, with the head of the church being Pope Clement VII in Rome. Henry “was a devout Catholic and defended the Church against Protestants . . . he did not agree with their views. In 1521, Pope Leo X honored Henry VIII with the title ‘Defender of Faith', because of his support for the Roman Church.” (Ref. 2542) Henry’s good will and support of Catholicism did not last long, however.
The King, as is well documented in history, had marital problems. His wife, Catherine of Aragon, had given birth to a daughter, Mary, but had failed to give Henry what he wanted most – a male heir to the throne. Already known to have a “wandering eye” for the ladies, the impatient king found himself enamored with Anne Boleyn, who appeared ready and willing to produce more children for him. The problem was that the Catholic Church did not allow for divorce. As a way to circumvent that annoying hindrance, Henry declared himself to be “Supreme Head of the new Church of England.” (Ref. 2542) By cutting himself off from Rome and taking on this new title, the ruler of Great Britain found a way to conveniently nullify his marriage to Catherine, marry Anne, and gain a tremendous amount of money from the abbeys and monasteries he ordered closed - all at the same time. The Ware family, then living in England, soon discovered that being “Catholic” was no longer safe. Sadly, many local citizens found that choosing allegiance to the church over the King usually led to beheading.
Things continued to go poorly for Henry as far as siring an heir to the throne, and although Anne produced a daughter named Elizabeth, the King soon found himself seeking another fertile replacement. His eye fell on Jane Seymour in 1536. Having already used annulment as a way out of one marriage, Henry had to come up with a different means of disposing of Anne, his current wife. Using trumped up charges of adultery and witchcraft, his court found Anne guilty of treason and, even though she maintained her innocence until the very end, she ultimately found her head on the chopping block. Henry and Jane married within days of Anne’s death, and the new Queen provided the long-hoped-for heir to the royal throne. Their son, named Edward, was christened in October, but Jane died just nine days later from complications of the birth.
In the next few years, Henry would have three more wives: Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. These spouses wisely avoided deep theological discussions with the King, but Catherine Howard did manage to “lose her head” by being adulterous. Henry died in 1547, leaving (what was once) a Catholic England in decidedly Protestant hands.
When Edward VI took the throne, there was little question that “as the King worshiped, so did the country.” Having been raised as a strict Protestant, Edward embraced his faith with determination. An eager student who “at the age of seven was already expert at conjugating Latin verbs and could compose his own verses in Latin . . . above all, Edward’s passion was religion.” (Ref. 2565) During his reign, a new prayer book was introduced “and all church services were held in English.” (Ref. 2542) Unfortunately, his religious zeal also meant that “Catholics were treated very badly and catholic bishops were locked up.” (Ref. 2542) England continued to be a Protestant nation under Edward’s rule, but “by his 15th birthday in October he was coughing blood, and by Christmas he was wracked by violent bouts of fever.” (Ref. 2565) Never a truly robust young man, Edward’s health steadily declined and upon his death in 1553, the royal crown went to Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Ever loyal to her mother’s heritage, Mary was fiercely Catholic. In her attempt to change England back to the Roman Catholic faith, she earned herself the nickname of "Bloody Mary" because of the hundreds of Protestants who were burned at the stake for refusing to practice her religion. The Wares of England now found themselves Catholic again. During the reign of Queen Mary, “the pope became the head of the church again and services were changed back to Latin.” (Ref. 2542) Her time on the throne, however, was also short - - Mary died at age 42.
Upon the death of Mary in 1558, her half-sister Elizabeth (daughter of Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn) ascended to the throne. Elizabeth was a staunch Protestant, so consequently England now reverted back to Protestantism. The Wares put away their crucifixes and rosary beads yet again. Different from her predecessors, however, Elizabeth “wanted England to have peace and not be divided over religion. She tried to find ways which both the Catholic and Protestant sides would accept and be happy . . . although [she] insisted on protestant beliefs, she still allowed many things from the Catholic religion such as bishops, ordained priests, church decorations and priest’s vestments. She also produced a prayer book in English, but allowed a Latin edition to be printed. Elizabeth disliked and punished extreme Protestants and extreme Catholics who tried to convert people to their faiths.” (Ref. 2542) It was truly a time of enlightenment, and it must have brought great relief to our Ware ancestors who had bounced from being Catholic to Protestant to Catholic and back to Protestant again in the span of approximately 20 years.
Given the constant state of flux concerning religious matters in Great Britain, it is not surprising that America looked very appealing to the early colonists. “The great migration from England in the 1600s was based on several factors: religious persecution, a caste system that favored firstborn sons, and the simple dream of owning land in a vast wilderness of opportunity. Early pioneers who came to America had no idea of the size of the country, or what awaited them upon arrival.” (Ref. 2550, 2572) The possibility of economic growth and personal freedom, however, was like an aphrodisiac to many. They came with lofty dreams.
There is, however, sometimes controversy over which colony truly gave “birth” to this new nation. New Englanders are quick to state that the Puritans of Plymouth Colony set the foundation for our country, while Virginians hold firm to the belief that without a “Jamestown” there would be no settlement at all. According to the author of Cradle of America, “As for where English North America began, it has to be Virginia - whether the colony is understood as having originated at Roanoke Island in the 1580s or at Jamestown a generation later.”(Ref. 2539)
The author goes on to say that “not only did Jamestown precede Plymouth, not only did all manner of colonial phenomena occur in Virginia ‘before the Mayflower’ . . . but Virginia also proved more of a model than did the Plymouth colony for the America that followed, as so many people – the servants, the maidens – volunteered to go there to reinvent themselves in a new social and economic environment.” (Ref. 2539)
Whether in New England or Virginia, the Wares who came and settled in this country left their mark. Those of our line who began their new lives in the Tidewater area showed that “Virginia proved a place, in what [would become] the quintessentially American way, to start over.” (Ref. 2539) There was opportunity for a new beginning to be had everywhere - including how, when, and where these colonists would choose to worship. With these new beginnings came new struggles though, even on this virgin soil. The risk of beheading might be less, but James and his descendants would find that discrimination and persecution for religious beliefs would creep into denominations of faith no longer limited to Catholicism and traditional Protestantism.
As with all new settlements in America, success depended on access to water. Tidewater Virginia offered the perfect locale for those coming from England as well as those that would later migrate down from the bay states. “The waterways of Virginia dictated building sites, provided the best means of transportation and served to link the many settlements and home sites. Church attendance was especially dependent upon the waterways and only in the event of inclement weather and rough waters did the populace turn to land travel.” (Ref. 2505)
Once parish lines were established, churches were quickly built to meet the needs of the growing population. Apparently, “sometime during the 1650’s . . . the first church of Ware Parish was built near Ware River on the land of Richard Wyatt.” (Ref. 2505) It was a logical choice because “the key to the location of the first Ware Church was its location on the navigable waters of Ware River” in lower Virginia. (Ref. 2505) Although “the exact time for the formation of Gloucester County is not known . . . as indicated in the Richeson and Roe land grant, it was in existence in 1651.” (Ref. 2505)
“In the settling of Gloucester County, the Petsworth and Abington Parishes received the first thrust of migration, with Ware and Kingston Parishes following close behind.” (Ref. 2505)
Ware Episcopal Church, Gloucester County (Ref. 2421)
Interior of Ware Episcopal Church – photo by Judy C. Ware 1986
Ware Episcopal Church was erected in 1690 and is still in existence. It has been wonderfully restored and maintained. Religious services are held there on a regular basis, and a seating plan in this old colonial building shows the Ware pews. (Ref. 70) “Within the churchyard wall there are forty-eight tombstones and fragments, marking the oldest graves at Ware Church . . . [however] it is important to note here that many members of Ware Church were buried in their family plantation graveyard.” (Ref. 2505)
Photos taken by James and Judy Ware 1986
Church bulletin from 1986 – courtesy of James and Judy Ware
The church historical website describes this beautiful old building this way: “The solid brick rectangular building, laid in Flemish bond, was built by local craftsmen and artisans from England. It is the only rectangular colonial church in Virginia with both North and South doors. The classic pediment doors are the earliest of their kinds. The walls of the church are three feet thick and the foundations five feet thick. The whole structure is imposing yet elegant in its simplicity.”(Ref. 611)
As British colonists, the Wares were automatically members of the Anglican Church; the official church of England. Many in the family wished to stay that way and were highly instrumental in the activities of their parish. The ensuing years would find quite a few switching to other denominations, but the old vestry minutes for Ware Episcopal Church and Stratton Major Parish (as well as other colonial churches in the area) reflect that the Ware family members began as active leaders in their Episcopal congregations.
See following documentation below
1705 - March 13, according to the Stratton Major Parish vestry book, Nicholas Ware was a church warden.
According to "Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia" by Bishop Meade, Page 376, Article XXXIII, the following list of vestrymen in Stratton Major Parish, commencing in 1739, will show who were the leading men in all the civil and ecclesiastical matters of the parish and county: Richard Roy . . . Henry Hickman, Edward Ware, Thomas Foster, Thomas Dudley . . . Valentine Ware, Roger Gregory . . . John Ware, Richard Shackleford, William Taliaferro, . . .
William Lindsay Hopkins abstracted the St. James Northam Parish Vestry Book, 1744 - 1850 Goochland County, Virginia in 1987. Some members of the vestry were: Acough, Adams, Addams, . . . Barnett, Barrat, Bates, Baughan,, Blunkall, Bolling, . . . Denye, Dougham, Douglass, Harrison, Hatcher, Hayden, . . . McCormick, McGuire, . . . Mosby, Mosley, Moss, . . . Payne, Pemberton, . . . Pleasants, Poindexter, Pollard . . . Randolph, Richardson, Riddle, Ridgway, . . . Taylor, Thompson, . . . Walton, Ward, Ware, Watkins, Watson, Weaver, Weisiger, West, Wharton, . . . Wishom, Witt, Womack, Wood, Woodall, Woodram, Woodrum, Woodson, Woodward. . . .There would seem to be little doubt that the church was of major importance to all the Wares. The baptismal records for the grandchildren of James and Agnes attest to that fact, and they would both live to see several of their descendants enter the ministry of one denomination or another. Just as their offspring would grow and change over the years, the church itself would undergo major shifts and alterations. The people and their faith were destined to feel some growing pains.