The English colonists who landed at Jamestown in May 1607 brought with them a familiar institution: the Church of England. Established by law and supported by annual taxation, the parish church—with duties like public welfare, marking property lines, binding orphans out to learn trades and reporting parishioners for offenses such as not attending church, swearing, and having children out of wedlock—was the unit of local government that had the greatest influence on Virginians’ daily lives.
Although it evolved differently in Virginia due to tobacco culture, geography and other forces, the church stood as the colony’s official religion from 1619 until….
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