By Henry Lane Hull
In the days before the Foundation for Historic Christ Church was established, when one visited the venerable relic, conditions were quite different from what they are today.
Upon walking through the gate of the iron fence, one met an elderly gentleman sitting by the north door, monitoring the comings and goings. His job was to open the door in the morning and close it at night. The fence probably is the reason the structure survived into the mid-20th century when it was replaced by the present brick surround.
When the foundation was formed, two of its most enthusiastic proponents were the Rev. Conrad Godwin and his wife, Henrietta. They owned and lived on the site of Robert “King” Carter’s mansion, Corrotoman, in Weems, and were both prodigious researchers. Henrietta determined that preserving the building entailed undertaking research into its history and the people important across the centuries of its development.
She formed and led the research committee for many years and when she retired she turned the position over to Sue Rogers. Sue built on Henrietta’s foundation, forming the committee into the research tool that has been essential in presenting the history in a comprehensive way. She developed the research collection into a broad assortment of books, manuscripts and artifacts that have made possible the further presentation that later emerged to the public with the expansion of the museum.
Sue has been steadfast in her work, the complete researcher, extraordinarily well organized, intellectually curious and ever persistent in getting to the root of an issue. The research room flowered under her chairmanship and the collection expanded to reach a far broader perspective in dealing with the legacy of the past. Sue understands the dynamism of tradition and has been able to spread her own enthusiasm to others, all the while teaching those working with her by her example and happily spreading her knowledge to everyone looking to learn of those formative times when the Northern Neck was taking on the qualities that continue to characterize it to this day.
Of particular concern to Sue and the late Ed Lyons, former president of the Foundation for Historic Christ Church, has been the effort to locate the missing early Vestry Book, the finding of which would open a vast new vista for scholarly research into eighteenth-century history. In addition to her manifold other talents, Sue also has been blessed with the gift of exquisite penmanship, thereby making the results of her extensive research informative, readable and beautiful to behold.
Sue and her husband, Walter, retired to the Northern Neck, where they lived near White Stone for many years until moving to Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury. After her long service as chairman of the research committee at Christ Church, Sue retired from the day-to-day operation of organizing and directing the research volunteers, but continues to work to make the history of the church known to all who are interested in understanding the past.
Next Wednesday, Sue will become a nonagenarian. She has yet to be able to count a dozen gray hairs in her always perfectly coifed wavy hair and she manifests the appearance of someone decades younger. Her years of volunteering in the Northern Neck have been of inestimable benefit in preserving the cultural and religious heritage that has been the bedrock of our history.
As she enters a new decade, given her contributions over years past, one only can surmise that the best is yet to come. Thank you, Sue, for your exemplary service to foster our understanding of the history of one of the Northern Neck’s greatest gems and for being an inspiration to many who have followed in your footsteps.
Happy Birthday! Ad multos annos!