History of St. James’

St. James' Church, Mill Creek Hundred, is one of the most picturesque of the old provincial churches in Delaware.

There is no single chronicle describing the founding of the church in Mill Creek Hundred. Missionaries from both Old Swedes and Immanuel in New Castle held services in a log church believed to have been built sometime after 1703. In 1714, James Robinson acquired 110 acres of land and endowed ten acres surrounding the church for the establishment of an Anglican church and school. In 1720, he gave the land to the London Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in a deed addressed "To All Christians". Tradition holds that the Rev. John Yeo preached here in 1677, though this cannot be documented.

The log church was replaced by a frame building in 1716, described by the Rev. George Ross as "made of wood, in length 32 foot and breadth 22 . . . as fair and complete an oratory, as any not made of brick within the government."

Mr. Ross, a missionary from New Castle, is considered the first minister of the church, serving until about 1725. He considered St. James as a chapel-of-ease, a church for those who could not regularly make the long and often wet journey thorough the swamplands of the Christina River basin to New Castle some ten miles away. The early members were resolute in their denial of any such secondary status.

sjexteriorWithin the historic walls of the churchyard are the graves of many of the early settlers whose lives were closely associated with the development of the state and nation. One granite slab identifies the tomb of John Armstrong who died in 1726, the oldest known grave in the cemetery.

The church that stands today was built circa 1820 and what happened to the frame church remains a mystery. The traditional belief is that it burned to the ground, but there are no records telling of such a tragic event. No mention of a fire is recorded in any of the minutes of the Vestry or other church papers. But the new church was built and stands today much like it was then. Its interior architecture is colonial with white box pews in the nave and the three sided balcony where slaves of the area worshipped in pre-Civil War days while their masters sat below.

Many changes have taken place over the years. A melodeon was purchased in 1857 for sixty dollars and is still in possession of the Vestry. The oak altar table was installed in 1890; the Armstrong Memorial window was given in 1892; the present belfry and bell were added in 1894, the bell bears the inscription, "The Parish was organized in 1698. First Church built 1714. Praise Ye the Lord".  These dates are to be found in the records of Immanuel, New Castle, stating the land was consecrated in 1714.

In 1962. with funds given as a gift for restoration, the sanctuary was rebuilt to return it to what is believed to be much the same as it was in the early 19th Century. Other changes were made to restore the church to its old colonial atmosphere.

The school building erection was begun in 1807 and in 1809 three acres of land was deeded to the school trustees who operated a community educational program until the state took over in 1830. The building was finally torn down in 1915 and the stones used to build a sexton's house. This house forms a part of the present parish house. The first addition to the sexton's house was added in 1934, built by the Rev. Millward W. Riker, then rector of the church. Another addition was added in 1958.

St. James' stands today in the middle of modern suburbia as a symbol of stability and endurance, built upon the faith and courage of the devout pioneers who came to this land to build a better future for themselves and future generations.