Banner photograph of St. Thomas Episcopal Church Cemetery, Bath, North Carolina - Taken by Judith Richards Shubert October 2008

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.
- Thornton Wilder

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

St. Thomas Episcopal Church and Cemetery

During my trip to North Carolina this past October we made a stop at the historic community of Bath to view the St. Thomas Episcopal Church and Cemetery. Bath became the first incorporated town in North Carolina in March of 1705. Twenty-nine years later construction began on the little church that was started in 1734 by the Rev’d John Garzia. Today it is the oldest existing church building in the state.

Within the church itself we found a quiet and calm that was hard to leave. The day was bright and sunshine poured through the windows while we quietly and reverently enjoyed the beauty of this little building which seemed to whisper that it held over two and a half centuries worth of history.

A table just inside held a visitors’ log and several pamphlets. There also was a large beautiful, old Bible safely ensconced in a wood and glass case. I tried to get photos that would do it justice.

The New
Of our Lord and Saviour

Newly Translated out of the Original Greek,
And with the former
Diligently Compared and Revised..

By His Majesties Special Command..
Appointed to be Read in CHURCHES.

Printed in London in the year 1703 by
Charles Bill, and the Executrix of Thomas Newcomb, deceas’d
Printers to the Queens Most Excellent Majesty

I did not find tombstones that were as old as the church. Upon reading “A Short History of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Bath, North Carolina” by Dr. Wilson Angley, North Carolina Division of Archives and History and edited by The Rev. Gary Fulton, Rector, I discovered the reason. The booklet states that there are no tombstones older than the 1820s in the church cemetery.

“There are several possible explanations for this," the booklet read. "One plausible theory is that parishioners were interred beneath the church floor, a practice common in England.” In 1932 a newspaper article said there were as many as sixty persons buried under the floor at St. Thomas. Those buried were possibly interred under the pews in which they normally sat, and they were buried with their feet toward the aisle.

There is evidence of at least one burial under the floor. A Lady Margaret Palmer’s grave is marked by a plaque beneath the window to the left of the altar. There is anecdotal evidence passed down through the generations that the Rev’ds John Garzia and Alexander Stewart are also buried under the church, as perhaps is Thomas Boyd, buried in 1864. A marble plaque to his memory is set to the left of the west entrance of the church.

An archaeological study conducted on the north side of the church in 1993 revealed eleven unmarked gravesites dating from the earliest years of the church. “It can now be assumed that many other such graves, interred before the 1820s, surround the church.”

A Short History of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Bath, North Carolina” by Dr. Wilson Angley, North Carolina Division of Archives and History and edited by The Rev. Gary Fulton, Rector

Historic Bath County North Carolina Genealogy

Accessed November 8, 2008

All photographs taken by Judy Richards Shubert October 20, 2008
at St. Thomas Episcopal Church Cemetery, Bath, North Carolina. Copyright 2008.


  1. Hi Judy!
    Great to meet you! I live in Benbrook, and it's good to see another "Cowtown" blogger!


  2. Great to meet you, too, Ruth! I've read your blog and really like it. Love the banner of the skyline from the cemetery. Thanks for coming by. I've got to get serious now about Texas community country cemetery postings! All I've done so far has been out of state.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin