Jamestown and its churches have gone through many incarnations. The very first Christian services were held beneath a piece of sailcloth attached to trees in the fort. By 1608, the English worshipped in a substantial structure built with large posts directly into the ground and mud and stud walls. The site of this first English church in America was discovered by Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists in 2010. By 1616 the church was in a bad state of disrepair and no longer suitable as a place of worship.
The construction of the next church began under Deputy Governor Samuel Argall who took command of the colony in 1617. According to historical accounts, the church was 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, of timber frame construction on a brick and cobblestone foundation. Other than this, little was known about it. Another church, constructed of brick, was built over it in the 1640s and supplemental repairs and alterations further obscured the 1617 church. Archaeological excavations over the past two years have revealed for the first time its original layout.
Lost to history for 400 years, this church was where the General Assembly was held in 1619, the first representative government in America. The governor, Sir George Yeardley, his councilors, and 22 burgesses met in the “quire” (choir) of the church for six days in the heat of summer to pass an extraordinary range of legislation. The 1617 church was where the American democratic experiment began.