The Royal Colony of North Carolina

The Vestry Act of 1754

An Act, for appointing Parishes and Vestries, for the Encouragement of an Orthodox Clergy, for the Advancement of the Protestant Religion, and for the Direction of the Settlement of Parish Accounts.

I. Whereas the present, as well as the future Happiness of Mankind, essentially depends on the Knowledge and Practice of true Religion; and a permanent and certain Provision for an Orthodox Clergy, may conduce to the Encouragement of pious and learned Ministers of the Gospel, to settle and reside in the several Parishes in this Province, to the Advancement of the Protestant Religion, and Encouragement of Vertue and Morality:

II. Be it Enacted, by the Governor, Council, and Assembly, and by the Authority of the same, That this Government be, and it is hereby divided into distinct Parishes, in the Manner following; That is to say, St. Paul's Parish, in Chowan County: Berkley Parish, in Perquimons County: St. John's Parish, on the South West Side of Pasquotank River, and St. Peter's Parish, on the North-East Side of Pasquotank River, in Pasquotank County: Currituck Parish, in Currituck County: Society Parish, in Bertie County; St. Andrew's Parish in Tyrell County: St. Thomas's Parish, in Beaufort County: St. George's Parish in Hyde County: North-West Parish, in Northampton County: St. John's Parish, in Granville County: St. Matthew's Parish, in Orange County: St. Luke's Parish, in Rowan County: St. David's Parish, in Cumberland County: St. Gabriel's Parish, in Duplin County: St. George's Parish, in Anson County; Edgecombe Parish, in Edgecombe County: St. Martin's Parish, in Bladen County: St. James Parish, on the East Side of Cape-Fear River: And St. Philip's Parish, on the West Side of Cape Fear River, from the Mouth of the said River, running up the North-West River, to the Bounds of the County, inclusive, of the Island at the Mouth of the North-West and North-East Rivers, commonly called Eagle's Island, in New Hanover County: St. Patrick's Parish, in Johnston County: Christ-Church Parish, in Craven County: St. John's Parish, in Onslow County, and St. John's Parish, in Carteret County.

III. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Freeholders of each respective Parish aforesaid, shall, and they are hereby impowered and directed to meet on the first Monday after the Tenth Day of June next after the Ratification of this Act, at the Court-house or Place where the County Court in each respective County aforesaid is or shall be held, or at the usual Place of electing Vestrymen, and on Easter-Monday every Third Year thereafter, then and there to choose and elect Twelve Freeholders to serve as Vestrymen for the Three Years next ensuing; which Vestrymen so chosen, shall, by the Sheriff or his Deputy, in each of the said Parishes respectively, be summoned to meet at the church, and where there is no Church, at the Court-house or Place where the County Court is or shall be held, within Forty Days next after such Choice, to qualify themselves according to the direction of this Act; and if the said Sheriff by himself or Deputy, shall neglect or refuse to summon the Vestry as aforesaid, he shall forfeit and pay the Sum of Twenty Shillings, Proclamation Money, for each and every Vestryman not summoned as aforesaid, who shall reside within his District; to be levied and applied as herein after directed.

IV. And be it Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That every Sheriff or his Deputy, one Month at least before the Election of Vestrymen for the Parish or Parishes within his County, shall give Notice in Writing to the Minister, and every Clerk and Reader within the Parish where such Election is to be held, of the Time and Place appointed for such Election; and the Minister and Readers respectively, are hereby required to publish such Notice immediately after Divine Service, on every Sunday between the Receipt thereof, and the Day so appointed; and on Failure thereof, each Minister and Reader so offending, shall forfeit and pay the Sum of Five Pounds Proclamation Money and if the Sheriff shall fail to make such Appointment, and give Notice as aforesaid, he shall for such Failure forfeit and pay the Sum of Twenty Pounds like Money; one Moiety of which Penalty shall be to the Parish wherein the Offence shall be committed, and the other Moiety to the Informer to be recovered with Costs of Debt, in any Court of Record.

V. And that the Election may be made in a fair open Manner Be it Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That at all Elections of Vestrymen hereafter to be made the Sheriff of the County or his Deputy, shall attend at the Court-house of the County or Place where the County Court is held, or usual Place of electing Vestrymen, and there take the Votes in the following manner: that is to say, He shall open the Poll at Ten o'Clock, in the Forenoon, and after Proclamation to the Freeholders to come and give their Votes for Vestrymen, shall take a List of the Names of the Voters who shall give their Suffrage, which shall be for neither more nor less than Twelve, and the Votes shall be given openly, and the Poll kept open till Sun-set, unless the Majority of the Freeholders there present shall agree to have it closed sooner; and the Sheriff shall then cast up the Number of Votes given for each Candidate, and declare the Twelve who shall have the greatest Number of Suffrages to be duly elected; and in Case of an Equality of Votes among any of the Candidates the Sheriff shall have the casting vote, and in no other Case give his Vote.

VI. And to prevent Disputes concerning who shall be understood to be a Freeholder; Be it further Enacted, That no Person who hath not an Estate Real, for his own Life, or the Life of some other Person, or an Estate of greater Dignity, in Fifty Acres of Land in the Parish for which such Election shall be made, shall be deemed a Freeholder within the Meaning of this Act; and any one of the Candidates may, in Case he suspects any Person going to give his vote, hath not a Freehold within the Meaning of this Act, object to such Person giving his Vote, and require the Sheriff to tender him an Oath or Affirmation concerning his Qualification; which Oath or Affirmation, the Sheriff is hereby impowered and directed to administer, in the following words, to-wit: You shall swear (or affirm), That you have been possessed of a Freehold of Fifty Acres of Land for Three Months past, in your own Right, in the Parish of ——, and that you have not given your Vote before in this Election. So help you God.

VII. And be it further Enacted, That no Person under the Age of Twentyone Years, shall give his Vote for the Election of Vestrymen in any Parish.

VIII. And to enforce the Attendance of the Freeholders at all future Elections of Vestrymen; Be it further Enacted, That every Person qualified to Vote for Vestrymen in the several and respective Parishes, shall, and he is hereby required, duly to attend and give his Vote at all future Elections, at the Time, and in the Manner as is herein before directed, unless prevented by some bodily Infirmity, or legal disability; under the Penalty of Twenty Shillings Proclamation Money: To be recovered by Warrant from any Magistrate within the County.

IX. And be it further Enacted, That if any Person shall hereafter, at an Election of Vestrymen, give his Vote, who is not possessed, in his own Right, of an Estate for Life, or an Estate of higher Dignity, of Fifty Acres of Land in the Parish for the Vestrymen of which he shall give his Vote; such Person shall forfeit Five Pounds, Proclamation Money; To be recovered by Action of Debt, Bill, Plaint, or Information, in the County Court, by such Person as will sue for the same; wherein no Essoign, Injunction, Protection, or Wager of Law, shall be admitted; and where such Action shall be brought, the Onus Probandi shall lie on the Defendant.

X. 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, within Forty Days after his being chosen by the Freeholders as is before directed, take the Oaths by Law appointed for the Qualification of Public Officers, and repeat and subscribe the following Declaration, to-wit: I, A. B., do declare, That I will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England, as it is by Law established. And all and every Person chosen and summoned as is hereinbefore directed, who shall refuse or neglect to do the same, shall, if he be not a Dissenter from the Church of England, forfeit and pay the Sum of Forty Shillings Proclamation Money; to be levied and applied as is herein after directed; and if any Person or Persons chosen as is hereinbefore directed, shall neglect or refuse to make and subscribe the said Declaration, the other Persons chosen as aforesaid, or the Majority of them, shall and may, after their having taken the Oaths, and repeated and subscribed the aforesaid Declaration, elect and choose another or other Freeholder or Freeholders in Place of him or them which shall so refuse or neglect to take the Oaths aforesaid, or to repeat and subscribe the said Declaration; and such Person or Persons as shall be chosen and elected by the Vestrymen in Manner aforesaid, shall, after his or their taking the Oaths, and repeating the Declaration aforesaid, be deemed and held to be legal Vestrymen, to all Intents and Purposes, as if they had been elected and chosen by the Freeholders of the County.

XI. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestrymen of each and every Parish respectively, or a Majority of them, shall, and they are hereby directed, within Sixty Days after Easter-Monday, Yearly, to elect and choose out of the said Vestry, Two Persons to execute the Office of Churchwardens in each and every respective Parish; and if the Persons elected Church-wardens as aforesaid, or either of them shall refuse to execute the said. Office, he or they so refusing, shall forfeit and Pay Forty Shillings Proclamation Money, to be levied and applied as is herein after directed; and the Vestry shall immediately proceed to choose, in the Room of him or them who refuse to execute the said Office, another or other Churchwarden or Churchwardens out of the said Vestrymen: Provided, that no Person whatsoever shall be obliged to serve as Churchwarden in any Parish for more than One Year, at the expiration of which, the Vestry shall again choose another to succeed him; and the Churchwardens of every Parish shall purchase, at the Expence of the Parish, Books well bound in Vellum, for keeping therein a Journal and Register of all Proceedings of the Vestry, in which shall be fairly stated, the Accounts of all such Monies as they, from Time to Time, shall receive in Virtue of their Office, and all Disbursements and Expences made on Account of the Parish; and within Ninety Days after their Wardenship shall expire, set up, in the Court-house of their County, on a Court Day, and continue the same during the sitting of such Court, fair Copies of such Accounts, for Inspection of the Parishoners.

XII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Churchwardens, or in Case they refuse or neglect, any Three or more of the Vestry in each Parish respectively, shall have full Power and Authority to call the Vestry together 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 several Districts in each respective Parish, who shall be obliged to execute the same; according to the Tenor thereof, under the Penalty of Ten Shillings, for each Vestryman in such Warrant named whom he shall fail to summon; 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 every such neglect, unless he can shew sufficient cause for his so doing, to be admitted by the Majority of the Vestry at their next Meeting; to be levied as is herein after directed.

XIII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestries of the several Parishes, shall have full Power and Authority, upon the Death or Removal out of their respective Parishes of any Churchwarden or Churchwardens before the Time limited for the executing the said Office is expired, to elect and choose, out of the Vestry, another Churchwarden or Churchwardens, in the Room and Stead of the Person or Persons so dead or removed out of the Parish aforesaid; which Churchwarden or Churchwardens so elected, shall serve until the Time appointed by this Act for the Election of Churchwardens.

XIV. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestry of each respective Parish, shall have full Power and Authority, and they are hereby directed and required, between Easter Monday, and the First Day of November, Yearly to lay such a Poll-Tax as they shall judge necessary, for purchasing Glebes, and satisfying the Expence of their respective Parishes.

XV. And for the better collection and paying the said Tax; Be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestry of each respective Parish shall, and is hereby authorized and impowered to nominate and appoint such Person as they shall think fit, by the Name of the Collector of the Parish Taxes, to collect and receive The aforesaid Tax, the Person appointed giving Bond, with sufficient Security, that he will duly collect and receive the said Tax, and pay and satisfy unto the Creditors of the Parish, all Taxes levied for such Purpose, and the Overplus (if any), to the Vestry, or their Sucessors, for the Use of the Parish; which Tax shall be collected at the Time and in the Manner that Public Taxes ought by Law to be collected; and shall be allowed Five Per Cent. for his Trouble, and have full Power and Authority, by Virtue of this Act, upon Neglect or Refusal of Payment of the said Tax, or any Part thereof, by any Person or Persons chargeable therewith, to distrain the Goods and Chatttels of the Party refusing or neglecting; and if the Owner thereof shall not pay what is due, within Five Days after such Distress, such Collector may and shall lawfully sell, by Auction the Goods so distrained, or so much thereof as shall be sufficient to satisfy the said Tax, and the Charges of Distress and Sale, returning the Overplus (if any), to the Owner; but shall give Notice of the Sale, by setting up an Advertisement in Writing; at the Church Door in the Parish, or at the most Public Place of Worship where there is no Church, and by publishing the same among the People immediately after Divine Service, on the next Sunday after the Expiration of the said Five Days; which Sale shall not be more than Three Days, nor less than Six Days after Notice so given, and shall be good and effectual in Law against all Persons whatsoever. And if the Vestry of any Parish shall neglect or refuse to lay a sufficient Tax to satisfy the Parish Creditors, in such Case, all and every the Vestrymen of the Parish neglecting or refusing, shall be liable to the Action of the Party grieved, his or her Executors or Administrators, for all Damages which he or she shall sustain by such Refusal or Neglect.

XVI. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That in every Parish in this Province, where a good and convenient Glebe is not already purchased and appropriated, a good convenient Tract of Land, to contain Two Hundred Acres at least, shall be purchased by the Vestry, and assigned and set apart for a Glebe, for the Use of the Minister of such Parish, and his Successors in all Times hereafter.

XVII. And where Mansion and convenient Outhouses are not already erected, for the Habitation of the Minister; It is hereby Enacted, That the Vestry of every such Parish shall have Power, and they are hereby authorized and required, to cause to be erected and built on such Glebe, One convenient Mansion-house, Kitchen, Barn, Stable, Dairy and Meet-house, with such other Convenience as they shall think fit.

XVIII. And to the End that the Buildings already erected, or hereafter to be erected upon every Glebe, may be kept in good Repair; It is hereby further Enacted, That every Parish Minister within this Province, shall, during the Time of his being Minister of the Parish, keep and maintain the Mansion-house, and the Out-houses and Conveniences, erected, or to be erected on his Glebe, in tenantable Repair, and shall so leave the same at his Removal from the Parish, or Death (Accidents by Fire or Tempest only excepted), and in Case any Minister shall fail to do so, such Minister, his Executors or Administrators, shall be liable to the Action of the Churchwardens of the Parish for the Time being, wherein the Value of such Repairs shall be recovered, and Damages, with Costs of Suit; and the Damages so recovered, shall be applied and laid out in necessary Repairs upon the Glebe: And every Vestry of a vacant Parish, is hereby impowered and required, to put all the Buildings upon the Glebe of their Parish into such good and sufficient Repair, that they may be fit for the Reception of the succeeding Minister. Provided nevertheless, That any Vestry who shall judge that the Minister has not wilfully committed any waste on his Glebe, may make such necessary Repairs, at the Charge of their Parish, as they shall think fit.

XIX. And to the End that the Clergy may have a decent and comfortable Maintenance and Support, without being obliged to follow any other Employment than that of their Holy Function, in the Cure of their respective Parishes; Be it Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That every Minister hereafter to be preferred to, or received into any Parish within this Province, shall have and receive an Annual Salary of Eighty Pounds Proclamation Money; to be levied, assessed, and collected, and paid in Manner herein before directed. Provided always, That no Vestry shall, at any Time make Presentation to any Parish, of a Missionary, whose Duty requires him at any Time to be absent from such Parish; unless such Missionary shall agree with the Vestry for such Yearly Salary as they shall think fit and reasonable, considering the Time his Duty will require him to be absent: And whatever Agreement shall be so made between the Vestry and Minister, shall be binding on such Minister, during the Continuance of such Mission; any Thing herein contained to the contrary, notwithstanding.

XX. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Right of Presentation of a Minister to each respective Parish within this Province, shall be and remain in the Vestry of each respective Parish, for and during the Space of Twelve Months after a Vacancy shall happen in the same; and if the Vestry in that Time, shall neglect to make Presentation of a Minister to such Parish, it shall and may be lawful for the Governor, or Commander-in-Chief for the Time being, to present; and the Minister so presented to the Parish, shall be deemed and held to be the Minister of such Parish, and entitled to the same Salary and Dues as if the Vestry had made the Presentation, as is herein before directed. Provided nevertheless, That in Case the Vestry of any Parish that shall be vacant one Year, shall procure some neighbouring or other Minister, to serve in the Cure of such vacant Parish, by performing Divine Service once in Three Months; they shall thereby save to themselves, and retain the Right of Presentation, for so long a Time as such Minister shall so serve in the Cure of such vacant Parish: Any Thing herein contained to the contrary, notwithstanding. Provided also, That no Vestry within this Province, shall present for their Minister, any Person who shall not first have a Certificate from the Bishop of London, that such Minister hath been duly ordained conformable to the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England, and is of a good Life and Conversation.

XXI. And be it further Enacted, That any Minister of a Parish who shall be guilty of any notorious Immorality, in Disgrace of his Function, and to the Scandal of Religion, on Conviction thereof before the Supreme Court of Justice, wherein Actions arising in such Parish shall be triable, shall lose his Salary and Dues, which he would otherwise be entitled to; and such Parish shall be held and deemed vacant, and the Vestry impowered to make Presentation of another, in the same Manner as if the Minister so convicted had been naturally dead.

XXII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Minister of each respective Parish, shall be obliged to officiate in such Parts of the Parish, and at such Times as the Vestry or a Majority of them shall direct at the Time he shall be received into his Parish; and in Case of Failure, it shall be lawful for them to withdraw his Salary, unless other Places shall be afterwards agreed on between such Vestry and Minister; and the Vestry, in Case of such Failure, may, and are hereby impowered to make Presentation of another Minister to such Parish as is herein before directed to be done in vacant Parishes.

XXIII. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Vestry of every Parish shall have full Power to call every Justice of the Peace, or other Person or Persons whatsoever, to Account, on Oath, and pay to them the Monies in the Hands of him or them belonging to their respective Parishes, or accruing or becoming due to the same, by Virtue of the Laws of this Province; and if any Justice or Justices, or other Person or Persons, shall refuse to appear and account as aforesaid, he or they so neglecting, shall forfeit and pay Twenty Pounds, Proclamation Money: To be recovered by the Churchwardens of the Parish for the Time being, where such Money shall become due, by Action of Debt, Bill, Plaint, or Information, in any Court of Record; wherein no Essoign, Protection, Injunction, or Wager of Law, shall be allowed; and to be applied to the Use of the Parish: And where any Suit shall be brought by the Churchwardens, and the Money shall not be by them recovered and received before the Expiration of their Office, the Suit shall be carried on to Execution by the succeeding Churchwardens, in the Name of their Predecessors, who brought such Suit, and shall be received by such succeeding Churchwardens to the Use of the Parish: Provided, that nothing in this Act shall be construed to repeal any Clause, Matter, or Thing, in an Act of Assembly, intituled, An Act, to enable the Commissioners herein after mentioned, to finish the Church already begun at Edenton.

XXIV. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the several Sums of Money arising and becoming due, by Reason of the Forfeitures and Penalties by this Act inflicted; and for which no Method of Recovery or Application is before directed in this Act, shall be levied within one Week after they shall become due, by Warrant of Distress from any Two of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace within the County where the said Penalty or Forfeiture shall be incurred, and by Sale of the Defendant's Goods, returning the Overplus (if any), to the Owner; and the Money so levied shall be paid to the Churchwardens, for the Use of the Parish.

XXV. And be it further Enacted, That all and every other Act and Acts, and every Clause and Article thereof, or so much thereof (except as before excepted), heretofore made, so far as they relate to any Matter or Thing contained within the Purview of this Act, is, and are hereby repealed and made void, to all Intents and Purposes, as if the same had never been made.

XXVI. And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That this Act shall commence, and be in Force, from and after the first Day of June next; and that all Acts heretofore legally made and done by Vestries, heretofore chosen and qualified agreeable to the Laws of this Province, are hereby declared to be as good and valid, as if this Act had never been made.




© 2015 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved