The First and Second Churches
Captain John Smith reported that the first church services were held outdoors "under an awning (which was an old sail)" fastened to three or four trees. Shortly thereafter the colonists built the first church inside James Fort. Smith said it was "a homely thing like a barn set on cratchetts, covered with rafts, sedge and earth." This church burned in January 1608, and was replaced by a second church, similar to the first.
The Third Church
In 1617-1619, Governor Samuel Argall had the inhabitants of Jamestown built a new church "50 foot long and twenty foot broad." This wooden church stood atop a foundation of cobblestones one foot wide capped by a wall one brick thick. You can see this foundation preserved under glass on the floor of the Memorial Church. The first assembly met in Jamestown's 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. Built around the third church, the fourth church remained incomplete until sometime after November 1647.
The Fifth Church and Tower
The fourth church burned on September 19, 1676, during Bacon's Rebellion. By 1686, a new church was built using the walls and foundations of the older charred church. The tower of this church is the only 17th-century structure still standing at Jamestown. Abandoned in the 1750s, the fifth church fell into ruin by the 1790s. Although the tower remained intact, bricks from other portions of the church were reused to build the present graveyard wall.
During the 19th century, the tower became a silent symbol to many Americans of their early heritage. In the 1890s, the APVA Preservation Virginia acquired, strengthened, and preserved the tower as well as the foundations of earlier churches on the site.