The History of Cople Parish
Cople Parish is a very special church family which continues the colonial pattern of the geographic parish. Coterminous with Cople District in southwestern Westmoreland County, it was formed in 1664 and named Cople (for an English Parish in Bedfordshire) prior to 1668. Before its formation, the area was part of Nomini Parish, formed in 1653. In colonial days, it was the established church, serving the whole community in both spiritual and temporal matters. Among its vestry and leading parishioners were Richard Henry Lee (who drafted the resolution for Independence and was one of the signers of the Declaration); Bushrod Washington (Justice of the US Supreme Court, nephew of George Washington), President Washington’s chief heir; George Eskridge (holder of numerous colonial offices and guardian of George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball who grew up in the parish); and Robert “Counsillor” Carter. Fithian's Diary, written by a Carter family tutor, describes our Colonial heyday.
After the Revolution and Disestablishment, the parish lay dormant and inactive from 1801 until 1834. During the 19th century, Nomini Church was rebuilt and Yeocomico Church restored. The rectory was established in Hague and evolved into a parish center. A chapel stood in that area for many years. St. James’ Church was established later in the century to serve Tidwells and other neighboring areas on the water. Two sons of the parish, John Brockenbrough Newton and John Poyntz Tyler, became bishops. Mr. Tyler also started the Association for the Preservation of Yeocomico Church in 1906, while he was an Archdeacon of Virginia. In the 20th century, the parish was blessed by 14 years of ministry by Frederick Deane Goodwin, who became Bishop of Virginia after serving Cople Parish and the parishes of Richmond County. Under his leadership and that of his successors, this Parish has become a modern vital church. Cople Parish venerates its ancient traditions while remaining open to the Holy Spirit’s leading for the future and attempting to serve faithfully the community of which it is a part.