In 1729, the Vestry of St. Paul’s Parish convened and authorized the construction of a new church that would become known as Slash Church. The church was to be built sixty feet in length, twenty six feet in breadth and sixteen feet in height. The cost of building was set at “sixty thousand pounds of merchantable sweet scented tobacco with cask.” Tobacco was often used in place of real currency during this era because much of the regional economy was based on large-scale farm operations and its commerce based on the sale and trade of crops.
The name “Slash” came from the topography of the area near Stony Run in Hanover County, Ashland Virginia where the church was constructed. There were a number of trees on the property as well as a spring with a bountiful supply of water. This area also contained sandy clay soil that drained poorly, making for numerous ravines that were referred to as “slashes,” giving the church its name.
The church was to be constructed of southern yellow pine trees from the property, mortised and fastened with wooden pegs. The windows and the doors were hand wrought and there was no millwork in the entire structure. The churches gallery was a distinct architectural feature of this era, with its balustrade and balusters. There are two original pews that remain in this gallery as well as the stairway and numerous pieces of wood used in the original construction. The flooring in the nave succumbed to termites, but this discovery wasn’t made until after a fire in 1970.
A great deal of restoration was undertaken on the church in 1953 and 1954 in an effort to return the interior of the sanctuary to its initial appearance. These efforts included the addition of paneled pews, lectern, and pulpit and alter, along with paneled chairs for the clergy. Still in use for worship services is the early nineteenth century communion plate, consisting of silver flagon, chalice and paten.
The church’s first rector was the Reverend Zachary Brook, who served until 1737 when Patrick Henry, uncle of the famous orator served until his death in 1777. The young Patrick Henry also attended the Pole Green Presbyterian Church nearby to hear the Reverend Samuel Davies. The church eventually became Episcopal, but its attendance dwindled. Its historical association with England made it unpopular, and it was eventually abandoned and became a church structure that was free for anyone’s use. Many denominations used Slash for several years, primarily Methodists and the Disciples of Christ. It was later agreed that the Disciples of Christ would purchase the Slash Church building and property and the Methodists would buy land nearby.
The church was used as headquarters for a confederate general in 1862 and, along with four local homes, as a hospital for 300 soldiers who were wounded in a battle nearby that pitted 12,000 union forces against 4500 confederate soldiers. This battle is referred to as the Battle of Slash Church in the South, and the Battle of Hanover Courthouse in the North.
Slash Church proclaims as its famous worshippers Patrick Henry, Dolley Payne Madison (wife of President Madison) and Henry Clay. In 2004, it celebrated the 275 th anniversary of the building and 162 nd anniversary of ownership by the Disciples of Christ. Many of those celebrating the anniversary wore colonial costumes, and they were joined by musicians performing eighteenth century music and dancers performing colonial dance.
Slash Church’s Historic Highway Marker was erected at the northwest corner of Peakes/Ashcake and Mount Hermon Road in Ashland and Hanover County.
Profile prepared by Daniel Scruggs.
11353 Mount Hermon Road
Ashland , Virginia 23116