The Royal Colony of North Carolina

The Vestry Act of 1741

An Act for Establishing the Church, for appointing Parishes, and the Method of Electing Vestries; and for directing the Settlement of Parish Accompts throughout this Government.

I. Be it Enacted by his Excellency Gabriel Johnston, Esq., Governor, by and with the Advice and Consent of his Majesty's Council, and General Assembly of this Province, and it is hereby Enacted, by the Authority of the same, That this Government be and it is hereby divided in distinct Parishes, in the Manner following: That is to say, St. Paul's Parish, in Chowan County, Berkely Parish, in Perquimons County, St. John's Parish, on the Southwest side of Pasquotank River, and St. Peter's Parish on the Northwest Side of Pasquotank River, in Pasquotank County, Currituck Parish in Currituck County, Northwest Parish, and Society Parish, in Bertie County, St. Andrews Parish in Tyrrell County, St. Thomas Parish in Beaufort county, St. George's Parish, in Hyde County, Christ-Church Parish, in Craven County, St. John's Parish in Onslow County, St. James Parish, on the East side of Cape Fear River, in New Hanover County, and St. Phillip's Parish on the West side of Cape Fear River, in New Hanover County, from the Mouth of the said River, running up the Northwest River to the Bounds of the County, inclusive of the Island at the Mouth of the Northwest and Northeast rivers, in the said County, commonly called Eagle's Island, lying to the South of the Thoroughfare, St. Martin's Parish, in Bladen County, and Edgecomb Parish, in Edgecomb County.

II. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Inhabitants of every Parish aforesaid, being Freeholders, shall, and they are hereby directed and impowered, to meet together on the First Monday next after the Ratification of this Act, and on every Easter Monday every Two Years thence, after, at the Court-house, or where there is no Court-house, at the most usual Place of Public Worship, in every Parish, then and there to choose and elect Twelve Freeholders, to serve as Vestrymen for the Two next ensuing Years: Which Vestrymen so chosen, shall, by the Constable or Constables, be summoned to meet at the Church, and where there is no Church, then at the Court-house, or where there is no Court-house, at the most usual Place of Public Worship as aforesaid, in each respective Parish, within Forty Days next after such Choice, and then and there to Qualify themselves according to the Directions, and under the Penalty hereafter mentioned; and if the said Constable or Constables, or any of them, shall neglect or refuse to summon the Vestry as aforesaid, he or they so Offending, shall forfeit and pay the Sum of twenty shillings Proclamation Money, for each and every Vestryman not summoned as aforesaid who shall reside within the District of such Constable; to be levied and applied as herein after is directed.

III. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That no Person shall be admitted to be of any Vestry within this Government, that doth not take the Oaths by Law appointed to be taken, for the Qualification of Public Officers, and subscribe the following Declaration, viz.:

I, A. B. do declare, that I will not oppose the Liturgy of the Church of England, as it is by law established: And all and every Vestryman who shall neglect or refuse to do the same, shall (if he be not a known Dissenter from the Church of England), forfeit and pay the Sum of Three Pounds, Proclamation Money) to be levied and applied as herein after is directed: And if any Person or Persons, chosen as a Vestryman or Vestrymen, shall neglect or refuse to take and subscribe the said Declaration, the Vestry of which such Person or Persons was or were elected a member or the major Part of them, are impowered and required to elect and choose another or other Freeholder or Freeholders, to be Vestryman or Vestrymen in the Room and stead of the Person or Persons neglecting or refusing as aforesaid: And if it shall happen that the Vestry of any Parish within this Government, shall not elect and make choice of another or others in the Room and Stead of such Vestryman or Vestrymen neglecting or refusing to qualify as aforesaid, within One Month next after such Neglect or Refusal, that then and in such Case it shall and may be lawful for the Minister of such Parish, or for want of such, the Governor or Commander in Chief for the Time being, under his Hand and Seal, to appoint some Freeholder or Freeholders to supply such vacant Place or Places in such Vestry.

IV. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the several Vestries of this Government shall, within Forty Days after Easter Monday, Yearly, and every year, elect and choose out of the said Vestry, Two Persons, to execute the Office of Church Wardens in each and every respective Parish; and if the Persons elected and chosen Church Wardens as aforesaid, or either of them, shall refuse to execute the said Office, he or they so refusing, shall pay and forfeit Forty Shillings, Proclamation Money; to be levied and applied as hereinafter is directed, and the Vestry shall immediately proceed to elect and choose another Church Warden or Church Wardens out of the Vestrymen, in the Room of him or them so refusing to Act.

V. Provided always, That no Person whatsoever, shall be obliged to serve as Church Wardens in any Parish within this Government, for more than One Year, unless he consent thereto.

VI. And be it further Enacted, That the Church Wardens, or in Case they refuse or neglect, any Three or more of the Vestry in each and every Parish in this Government, shall have full Power and Authority to call the Vestry together, at the Places as are in this Act heretofore directed, at any Time, and upon any occasion, they shall judge necessary, by Warrant or Warrants under their Hands, directed to the several Constables of the respective Districts and Parishes, who shall be obliged to execute the same according to the Tenour thereof, under the Penalty of Ten Shillings Proclamation Money. for each and every Vestryman in such Warrant mentioned, who shall not be summoned; to be levied as hereinafter is directed: And every Vestryman who shall refuse or neglect to attend the Vestry agreeable to such Summons, shall forfeit and pay the Sum of Ten Shillings, Proclamation Money, for such offence, unless he can show sufficient Cause for his so doing, to be admitted of by the Vestry, or the Major Part of them, at their next Meeting; to be levied and applied as herein after is directed.

VII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestries of the several Parishes of this Government, shall have full power and authority, upon the Death or removal out of their respective Parishes of any Church Warden or Church Wardens, before the Time limited for the executing of the said Office be expired, to elect and choose out of the Vestry, another Church Warden or Church Wardens, in the Room and stead of the Person or Persons dead, or removing out of the Parish as aforesaid; which Church Warden or Church Wardens, so elected or Chosen, shall serve until the Time appointed by this Act for the Election and Choice of Church Wardens, Anything herein contained to the Contrary Notwithstanding.

VIII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestries of each respective Parish within this Government, shall have full Power and Authority, and they are hereby directed and required, within Forty days next after Easter Monday, Yearly, and every Year, to appoint and order such Sum of Money as they shall judge necessary, to pay and satisfy the Expence and Charge of their respective Parish, for the then Current Year, to be raised by the Poll, and collected in the same Manner by the Sheriff as other Taxes.

IX. And be it Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Church Wardens of each and every respective Parish in this Government, shall deduct, out of the money arising from all Parish Taxes by them received, the Sum of Three Per Cent. as a Reward for their Trouble, and no more.

X. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Church Wardens of each and every respective Parish in this Government, shall, the first Vestry to be held in each Parish after every Easter Monday, Yearly, and every Year, on Oath, account with their respective Vestries for all Parish Monies in their Hands, of what Kind or Denomination soever, that now are or hereafter shall become due, by Virtue of any Law for that Purpose, or otherwise, and shall pay the same to the Vestry, or their Order. And if any Church Warden or Church Wardens which now is or are, or that hereafter shall be, in any of the respective Parishes in this Government, shall neglect or refuse to account for and pay to the respective Vestries, or their Order, the Money in his or their Hands belonging to the Parish for which he or they are Church Wardens, within Twenty days after Notice, in Writing, given to him or them, to account for and pay the Parish Money aforesaid; he or they so offending, shall severally forfeit and pay Twenty Five Pounds, Proclamation Money; to be recovered by Action of Debt, Bill, Plaint, or Information, in the Name of the Church Wardens, in any Court of Record within this Province, wherein no Essoign, Injunction, Protection, or Wager of Law, shall be allowed or admitted of; to be applied by the Vestry to the Use of the Parish.

XI. Provided always, That nothing in this Act shall be construed to repeal any Clause, Matter, or Thing, in Two several Acts, passed last Session, at Edenton, for the finishing a Church at Edenton, and for erecting and building, and finishing a Church at New Bern.

XII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestry and Church Wardens of each and every Parish within this Government shall have full Power and Authority to call any Justice of the Peace or other Person or Persons whatsoever, to account, upon Oath, for the Monies in the Hands of them or any of Them belonging to their respective Parishes, or accruing and becoming due to the same, by Virtue of any of the Laws of this Government: And if any Justice or Justices or other Person or Persons shall refuse to appear and account as aforesaid, such Justice or Justices, or any other Person or Persons so refusing or neglecting, shall forfeit and pay the Sum of Twenty Pounds, Proclamation Money; to be recovered by the Church Wardens of the Parish where such Monies become due, or where payable, by Action of Debt, Bill, Plaint, or Information, in any Court Record within this Government, wherein no Essoign, Protection, Injunction or Wager of Law, shall be allowed or admitted of; and to be applied to the Use of the Parish.

XIII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestry of each and every Parish in this Government, shall have full Power to raise Money, by the Poll, for building a Church, Chappel, or Chappels, to purchase lands for a Glebe, to erect Convenient buildings thereon, and to keep the aforesaid Edifices in repair, as Need shall be, from Time to Time, to buy Books and Ornaments for the Church and Public Worship, and for the Care and Support of the Poor, and all other Parish Charges as they shall judge necesary for the respective Parishes; which said Poll-Tax shall be collected and levied as in this Act before is directed, and shall not exceed Five Shillings, Proclamation Money, per head in any one Year, for all the Purposes in this Act before mentioned.

XIV. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the several Church Wardens and Vestries of the several and respective Parishes of this Government, or the greatest part of them, shall use their best and utmost Endeavours to procure an able and Godly Minister, qualified according to the Ecclesiastical Laws of England, and a Person of a sober Life and Conversation, to be Clerk; and may raise him or them such Stipends Yearly as they shall think convenient, so as such Stipend for the Minister be no less than Fifty Pounds proclamation Money Yearly.

XV. Provided always, That such Minister for whom such Monies are to be so raised be constantly resident in the Parish, and doth not omit officiating at the Church or Chappels within the Parish, unless permitted by the Church Wardens and Vestry to officiate in such neighbouring Parish which may be vacant, or disabled by sickness, or other unavoidable Accident.

XVI. And be it further Enacted, That if any Minister who shall have a Cure in any Parish by Virtue of this Act, shall be notoriously Guilty of any scandalous Immorality, it shall and may be lawful for any number of the Vestry not less than Nine, agreeing thereto, to withdraw the Stipend by this Act allowed to such Minister.

XVII. Provided always, That after such withdrawing of the Stipend, such Minister shall be at Liberty to bring suit, in the General Court of this Province, against the Church Wardens of his Parish, for the recovery of his Stipend; in which suit the Church Wardens may, in Bar of the Action, plead the Order of the Vestry, and shall set forth the particular facts for which the Vestry withdrew the Stipend of such Minister, And in Case the Jury shall find for the Minister, then he shall recover his Stipend, with Costs of Suit, and enjoy his Benefice; but in Case the Jury find for the Church Wardens, then, and in such Case the Vestry of the Parish are hereby impowered to elect another Minister in his Room and Stead.

XVIII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That every Minister within this Government, shall during his Incumbency, keep and maintain the Mansion-house, and all other the Out-houses and conveniences that shall be erected on his Glebe, in tenantable Repair, and shall so leave the same at his Death, or Removal out from the said Parish (the Accidents of Fire and Tempest only excepted), and shall not suffer any Waste, by cutting down of Timber, or otherwise, to be committed on his said Glebe, except for necessary Repairs, Fences or other Improvements, and Fire-wood, to be used thereon: And in Case any Minister shall fail to keep his said Glebe and the Buildings thereon in tenantable Repair, or shall suffer any Waste to be committed thereon as aforesaid, such Minister, his Executors and Administrators, shall be liable to the Action of the Church Wardens of the Parish for the Time being, whereby the Value of such Repair or Waste shall be recovered, in Damages, with Costs of Suit; and the Damage so recovered shall be laid out according to the Directions of the Vestry and Church Wardens, in making necessary Repairs upon the Glebe.

XIX. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the several Sums of Money, arising and becoming due by Reason of the Forfeitures by this Act inflicted, and for which no Method of Recovery or Application is directed before in this Act, shall be levied, within One Week next after they shall become due, by Warrant of Distress, and Sale of Offenders' Goods, from one or more of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace within the County where the Default shall be made (Regard being had to the Jurisdiction of the said Justice or Justices, returning the Overplus, if any, to the Owner), and paid to the Church Wardens for the Use of the Parish, and by them to be accounted for and paid as herein before is directed.

XX. And whereas a Vestry and Church Wardens will be wanting, for the Parish of St. Philip's, in New Hanover County, before the Time limited by this Act, for the Election of Vestrymen for the several Parishes within this Province; Be it Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That Nathaniel Rice, Eleazer Allen, Matthew Rowan, Roger Moore, William Forbes, James Hasel, Richard Eagles, John Davis, Archibald Hamilton, George Ronald, Cornelius Harnet, and George Moore be, and are hereby appointed Vestrymen for the said Parish of St. Philip's, until the next Election of Vestrymen, as by this Act directed: Which said Vestrymen shall have full Power to choose Church Wardens, and to do and perform every other Matter and Thing which other Vestrymen may do by Virtue of this Act, and shall be liable to the same Penalties and Forfeitures as in this Act is before mentioned; any Law, Custom, or Usage, to the contrary, notwithstanding.

XXI. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That all and every other Act and Acts, and every Clause and Article thereof (except as before excepted) heretofore made, so far as relates to the establishing the Church, appointing Parishes and select Vestries, and for directing the Settlement of Parish Accounts, is and are hereby repealed and made void, to all Intents and Purposes as if the same had never been made.




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