Saint Paul's Church
The St. Paul’s Church congregation is the oldest in Bristol Parish, which was formed in 1642/43. The church is the therefore the “mother” church of the parish. The first St. Paul’s Church was built c. 1830 near the intersection of Franklin and Sycamore Streets, but it burned in 1856. In 1857 the current church on North Union Street was built in English Gothic style with ornate decorations. Pew rentals provided monetary support to the church.
Seven years after its construction, St. Paul’s Church took center stage during the Siege of Petersburg for over ten months. General Robert E. Lee worshipped here during the siege, and his pew is marked with a small brass plate. A stained glass window dedicated to him is next to the pew. On September 15, 1863 Major General George Edward Pickett married LaSalle Corbell in the church. The Federal forces allowed her to pass through their lines for the wedding. On September 25, 1864 Brigadier General Walter Stevens’ infant was baptized, with General Lee and Brigadier General Edward P. Alexander as Godfathers. Attending this service from the Army of Northern Virginia was one General (Lee), two Lieutenant Generals (Ambrose Powell Hill and James Longstreet), three Major Generals (Robert F. Hoke, Cadmus M. Wilcox, and Henry Heth), and four Brigadier Generals (Archibald Gracie, William W. Kirkland, Alexander, and Walter H. Stevens). During the siege, the church was struck by four shells, and one exploded in the basement.
Soon after the end of the war, William Henry Fitzhugh (Rooney) Lee married Mary Tabb Bolling of Petersburg in St. Paul’s Church in November 1867. His father, Robert E. Lee attended but his mother was too ill to make the trip from Lexington, VA. Additionally, St. Paul’s was a leader in establishing a school to train black Episcopal ministers.