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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The "One Pvt. James A. Lowndes" Story

Marker standing in front of St. Mary Anne's Church.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the churchyard of St. Mary Anne's Episcopal Church in Northeast, MD.  Northeast is a favorite visit for Carol and me for a nice weekend drive for lunch and a walk through the town.  After today's visit for lunch we took a walk to St. Mary Anne's for a few more photos I missed the first time I was there.  It was a couple of weeks ago we made our first to visit the historical Episcopal Church built in 1742.  
St. Mary Anne's Church.  This is the west side of the church.
The Vestry House is on the left of the photo.
The grass in the cemetery that surrounded the church was neatly cut and American flags flew over quite a few of the graves.  Snapped a few photos and headed toward the church.  As I rounded the church heading towards the graveyard to the rear, I encountered someone sweeping the walkway.  Introduced myself and told him I was a member of an historic Episcopal church in Lancaster, PA and asked if he knew any of the history of his church and how it became known as St. Mary Anne's.  
Interior of the church as seen through the window.
Well, there was no one known as St. Mary Anne, so he gave me a brief rundown about the name.  Seems that in 1706 the colonial legislature and the Maryland governor established a new parish on the north shore of the Elk River and had the Lord of the Manor set aside ground for the church.  Sometime between 1709 and 1715 a wooden church was built on the Manor and a Rev. Auren became the first rector.  Named the church St. Mary's Parish.  In 1714 Queen Anne died and St. Mary's received from her bequest a large bible, a Book of Common Prayer and a silver chalice and paten.  The parish was so appreciative that they changed their name to St. Mary Anne's.  It wasn't until 1742 that a new church was built that cost 300 pounds. The church had walls of three to four bricks thick and had small paned windows.  The bell tower wasn't added until 1904 when it replaced a wooden structure that stood on the west side of the church. The Vestry House, which sits next to the church is of recent construction.  
Some of the tombstones can be seen
in the foreground.  The Vestry house
is located on the right with the flag
next to it.
Then in 1777, after the British, under General Howe, landed on the shores of the nearby Elk River, church records were very vague as to church business.  The following year the rector, Rev. William Thompson disappeared.  It was thought that the Anglican clergy could not swear the Oath of Allegiance to the revolutionary cause and go against the King of England, so the minister either returned to England or headed to Canada.  The church was without a rector for almost 10 years until in 1787 when a longtime church member became the church's first American ordained priest and served as rector until his death in 1792.  In the early 1800s St. Mary Anne's followed a very unstructured path with a rector only half of the time.  The last half of the century saw two Civil War veterans in The Rev. Enoch K. Miller, a Union Chaplain, and The Rev. Giles B. Cooke who succeeded him and was the last surviving member of the staff of General Robert E. Lee.  
Tombstone of a Revolutionary Soldier
The Reverend Dr. Samuel H. Hartman is St. Mary Anne's current rector.  I'm sorry to say I didn't get to meet any of the church staff, but I did walk through the churchyard and take a look at some of the markers and tombstones.  As we headed home after the first visit I told Carol of my conversation and some of the tombstones I had seen.  She asked me about the tombstone that had the Confederate flag flying over it.  Wow, how did I miss that one?  So, that's why I am standing in the churchyard again today.  After my first visit I pulled the church's website up and read one of the sermons given on Memorial Day this year by Rev. Hartman.  Sermon tells the story of one Private James A. Lowndes who happens to be one of four veterans of the Confederate Army who are buried in North East.  
This may be the grave of a Native American. 
Pvt. Lowndes is the one who has the Confederate flag flying over his grave.  Bingo!  His story is a sad one, having been captured in the Civil War and then finally paroled in Virginia and returned to Baltimore.  Somehow ended up in Northeast and died while Rev. Enoch Miller was rector.  Pvt. Lowndes was a lawyer who became addicted to alcohol later in life.  According to the "Northeast Star", James A. Lowndes died of consumption last Sunday at the residence of Mrs. Sophie Jefferis, where he had been taken by Rev. E. K. Miller, who had picked him up several weeks since, homeless, destitute, and in the last stages of the dread disease. 
Gravesite of Pvt. James A. Lowndes
Pvt. Lowndes had Rev. Miller promise not to talk about his past to anyone so little else is known about the demise of this man.  No matter what his story may be he still deserves to be remembered on Memorial Day for his service in the Virginia Calvary.  Rev. Hartman stressed to his congregation that relationships shape our lives, our community of faith and are the essence of human life and Christian belief.  He asked all to remember Pvt. Lowndes and all other who fought and died in that war.  My two visits to the church in Northeast were both interesting as well as memorable as I learned the history of the church and its members as well as the life of one whose remains grace the churchyard of this beautiful church.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


  1. Random drive-by comment! I was looking for information on the Lowndes headstone. I was at St. Mary Anne's yesterday and was struck by the headstone adorned by the Stars and Bars. (Yes, the three-striped flag with the canton of stars in a circle. They've obviously changed the flag they display in the last five years.)

    In the picture you have captioned "Some of the tombstones can be seen
    in the foreground," the large headstone is that of my great-great-great-grandparents Levi and Margaret Reynolds. I know very little about them, except that he was from Virginia originally (according to his death certificate), she was from Pennsylvania, and they married in Oxford, Pennsylvania in 1860.

  2. Isn't history interesting! I love that little church in one of my favorite little towns in Maryland. I was just there Sunday with friends to walk the main street and visit a few of the shops in town. I am a member of St. James Episcopal in Lancaster, PA which was founded in 1744. Great church with history to it just as St. Mary Anne's Church. Next time I get down to North East, I will visit once again and view the tombstone of your relatives. Thanks for writing. LDub.