The First and Second Churches
--Captain John Smith reported that the first church services were held outdoors "under an awning (which was an old saile)" fastened to three or four trees. Shortly thereafter the settlers built the first church inside the fort. Smith said it was "a homely thing like a barn set on crachetts, covered with rafts, sedge and earth." This church burned in January 1608 and was replaced by a second church, similar to the first. Made of wood, it needed constant repair. Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married in the second church.
The Third Church
--In 1617-1619 when Samuel Argall was Governor, he had the inhabitants of Jamestown build a new church "50 foot long and twenty foot broad." It was a wooden church built on a one-foot-wide foundation of cobblestones capped by a wall one brick thick. You can see these foundations under the glass on the floor of the present building. The First Assembly was held in the third church.
The Fourth Church
--In January 1639 Governor John Harvey reported that he, the Council, the ablest planters, and some sea captains "had contributed to the building of a brick church" at Jamestown. This church was slightly larger than the third church and was built around it. It was still unfinished in November 1647 when efforts were made to complete it.
The Fifth Church
--The fourth church burned during Bacon's Rebellion on September 19, 1676. Ten years later a fifth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the fourth church. Sometime after it was finished a brick church tower was added. The tower is the only seventeenth-century structure still standing above ground at Jamestown.
The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high (ten feet higher than the ruins) and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as indicated by the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of the bell or bells to carry across river and town. This church was used until the 1750s when it was abandoned. Although the tower remained intact, the building fell into ruins by the 1790s when the bricks were salvaged and used to build the present graveyard wall. Throughout the nineteenth century the tower remained a silent symbol to Americans of their early heritage. It was strengthened and preserved shortly after the APVA acquired it in the 1890s.
The Present Church
--The present Memorial Church building was constructed in 1906 by the National Society, Colonial Dames of America just outside the foundations of the earlier churches. It was dedicated May 13, 1907.