Elliot, James





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Person Biography

James Elliot was born in Virginia in 1762 and appears to have been an unsuccessful religious leader. Ordained as an Episcopal minister in September 1787, he began as rector of Petsworth Parish in Gloucester County from 1787 to 1791.[i] He later served in parishes in Westmoreland County: from 1792 until 1801 Elliot served as rector for Cople Parish and then moved to Washington Parish. It seems that James Elliot did not have much success as a clergyman. In fact, Bishop William Meade wrote in his history of Virginia's Episcopal Church,  “in the year 1799, the Rev. James Elliot was minister [at Cople Parish]. Of him we hear nothing good from this or any other parish which he served.”[ii]

James married Elizabeth Brockenbrough when he was thirty years old. He likely met her through her brother, Rev. John Brockenbrough, who also served a parish in Westmoreland County. Elizabeth’s father, Colonel Austin Brockenbrough gained fame for serving in George Washington’s regiment in 1755. When the American Revolution began, Col. Brockenbrough became a Tory and moved to England. He later returned to Virginia.[iii]

James and Elizabeth Elliot had several children together, including a son also named James. The family appears to have had trouble paying their debts in Virginia, and they eventually moved west to Kentucky. A Virginia chancery case in November of 1805 indicates that James Sr. was delinquent in paying Dr. Timothy Harrington for multiple medical visits in 1790 and was ordered to furnish the doctor with the amount of seventy-three dollars and sixty-six cents.[iv] Shortly after this judgment, the family moved to Kentucky where it appears other family members were already living, and Elliot continued his career with the church. He conducted services temporarily at Christ Church in Lexington, before moving to Woodford County, where he held services before a formal Episcopal church was formally organized.[v] Elliot hosted Rev. Joseph Jackson, a minister from the Diocese of Maryland, during Jackson’s missionary tour of Kentucky.[vi]

Elliot’s first wife, Elizabeth, died at the end of 1811 and apparently he soon remarried. Records show a James Elliot marrying Sarah G. Peart in 1812. Kentucky court records indicate it was the elder Elliot. The marriage may have caused a rift in Sarah's family because her brother, Francis Peart left in his will the sum of one dollar to Sarah and her “ungrateful” husband in 1813.[vii]

The Elliots continued to have financial problems in Kentucky. Sarah died in 1822, and James died two years later. James's will was contested and the disposal of his property, which included at least one enslaved man, was the subject of much litigation. [viii]  

By Melissa Cannarozzi

[i] G. MacLaren Brydon, "A List of Clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church Ordained After the American Revolution, Who Served in Virginia Between 1785 and 1814, and a List of Virginia Parishes and Their Rectors for the Same Period." The William and Mary Quarterly 19, no. 4 (1939): page 404. Accessed March 26, 2020. doi:10.2307/1925063.

[ii] Bishop Meade, Old Church, Ministers, and Families of Virginia, Volume II,

(Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1900), page 147. Accessed March 26, 2020. http://sites.rootsweb.com/~vacfrede/oldchurchesminisfa02mead.pdf

[iii] "The Brockenbrough Family." The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 5, no. 4 (1898): 448. Accessed March 30, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/4242100.

[iv] Chancery case, Dr. Timothy Harrington vs. James Elliot. Westmoreland County, Virginia, Index 1805-026, November 1805.

[v] The Altar Guild, Historical Sketch of Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, Kentucky, (Lexington: Transylvania Printing Co., 1898), page 20.

[vi] Peter J. Reynierse, "A History of St. John's Church, Versailles, Kentucky." Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 45, no. 1 (1976): page 47. Accessed March 28, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/42973493.

[vii] Will of Francis Peart, Woodford, Kentucky, July 17, 1813, Kentucky Historical Society, Francis Peart papers 1813-1824, SC 231. Accessed March 28, 2020. http://www.kyhistory.com/cdm/ref/collection/MS/id/8041

[viii]J.J. Marshall, Reports of Cases at Law and in Equity Argued and Decided in the Court of Appeals of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Volume III, (Louisville: George G. Fetter Printing Company, 1899), pages 208-219.