Reverend Samuel Davies and a young Patrick Henry
For more than a century the Polegreen Church stood as a monument to the Hanover Dissenters and Samuel Davies in the struggle for religious liberty. Though Davies died fifteen years before the American Revolution, his influence and revolutionary spirit was embodied in Patrick Henry, the orator of the Revolution.
When Reverend Samuel Davies arrived to Polegreen in 1747, Patrick Henry was only eleven years old. Patrick' mother, Sarah, and her father, Isaac Winston, were active dissenter members of the congregation. They regularly worshipped on this site for the twelve years of Davies' ministry at Polegreen. Ironically, Patrick was named for his uncle who was the Rector of the Anglican parish known as St. Paul's at Old Church in Hanover County, Virginia.
Though the force that drove Davies was religious, the impact of his life and ministry on the political climate was equally remarkable. Known as the best recruiter of volunteer militiamen during the Seven Years' War of 1754-1759, his patriotic sermons left Davies with no peer as a pulpit orator in Virginia, or perhaps in all the colonies, during his lifetime. This gift of oratory gave him the designation "Apostle of Virginia."
His sermons were so powerful that Sarah Henry required her young son to repeat them on their carriage ride home to Patrick Henry's birthplace, Studley Plantation, which is approximately four miles from this site. Documented by his biographer William Wirt, shortly before his death, Henry credited Davies with teaching him what an orator should be.
(May 29, 1736 - June 6, 1799) was the leading Virginia statesman in defending the rights of Colonial America.
Following Henry's death, John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson singing his praises: "In the Congress of 1774 there was not one member, except Patrick Henry, who appeared to me sensible of the Precipice or rather the Pinnacle on which he stood, and had the candour and courage enough to acknowledge it."
Henry was the first elected governor of Virginia, a devoted father of 17 children, and the most famous orator of his day. Born in Hanover County, Henry made a name for himself as a young lawyer in the Parsons' Cause at Hanover Courthouse in 1763. His 1765 resolutions against the Stamp Act articulated the basic principles of the American Revolution. Henry is perhaps best known for his immortal words "Give me liberty or give me death," which he delivered during the Second Virginia Convention in a speech to fellow delegates George Washington and Thomas Jefferson at St. John's Church in 1775. His impassioned words helped move colonists toward American independence and they continue to inspire the cause of freedom around the world.
Known as the "Voice of the Revolution," Henry's political career included 26 years of service in the Virginia legislature and five terms as governor. He helped draft the Virginia Constitution of 1776 and its Declaration of Rights. A leading critic of the U.S. Constitution, Henry also strongly influenced the creation of the Bill of Rights. Following his death, Henry was buried at Red Hill Plantation, now the site of the Patrick Henry National Memorial.