Rev. Giles Rainsford – Letter of July 25, 1712

Rev. Giles Rainsfordrainsford

Giles Rainsford was a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel who was sent to North Carolina to combat the rise of Quakerism.

His father was Sir Mark Rainsford (circa 1652 – 28 November 1709) who was the Lord Mayor of Dublin and the original founder of what was to become the Guinness Brewery

Edward Mashborne served as his guide from Virginia into North Carolina.

The Letter

This is an important document. In it it we learn that Edward was actively moving between Virginia and North Carolina, that the area he was settling was between two Indian towns, that he was a schoolteacher, that he was of the established Church of England, and that education of the youth was of high importance to him.

Excerpts from the Rainsford Letter

In a letter to John Chamberlaine, Esq., of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, dated “Chowan, in North Carolina, July 25, 1712” the Rev. Giles Rainsford, a missionary to the colony wrote the following report of his activities:

I had several conferences with one Thomas Hoyle, king of the Chowan Indians, who seems very inclinable to embrace Christianity and proposes to send his son to school to Sarum to have him taught to read and write by way of foundation in order to a farther proficiency for the reception of Christianity. I readily offered my service to instruct him myself, and having the opportunity of sending him to Mr. Garratt’s, where I lodge, being but three miles distance from his town. But he modestly declined it for the present till a general peace was concluded between the Indians and Christians. I found he had some notion of Noah’s flood, which he came to the knowledge of and expressed himself after this manner, ‘my father told me, I tell my son.’ But I hope in a little time to give the society a better account of him as well as of those peaceable Indians under his command. There’s one Mr. Mashburn who keeps a school, at Sarum, on the frontiers of Virginia, between the two governments, and neighboring upon two Indian towns who, I find by him, highly deserve encouragement, and could heartily wish the society would take it into consideration and be pleased to allow him a salary for the good services he has done and may do for the future. What children he has under his care can both write and read very distinctly and gave before me such an account of the grounds and principles of the Christian religion that strangely surprised me to hear it. The man upon a small income would teach the Indian children gratis (whose parents are willing to send them could they but pay for their schooling) as he would those of our English families had he but a fixed dependency for so doing, and what advantage would this be to private families in particular and the whole colony in general is easy to determine.

This same reference to Mr. Mashburn is given in the North Carolina History and General Register, volume l, page 265, with the following footnote:

Sarum was, in all probability, located at or near the “Ballard Place” about three miles northwest of Gatesville at the head of “Sarum Creek”.

In another letter three years later, Rev. Rainsford reported: “I have been five months together in Chowan Indian Town & make myself almost a Master of their language.” He also offered to serve as missionary among them.


The Colonial Records of North Carolina. Volume l, Page 859. On file in the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Historical Commission, Research Room, Educational Building, Raleigh, North Carolina. Copied 27 April 1955 by Mrs. Elisabeth Tidd LeMaster of Decatur, Georgia.

Thomas Bray

From the beginning of the colonization in America, a need for spiritual guidance and missionary work was perceived by the leaders of the Church of England; little work, however, was actually done.

In 1696 Thomas Bray, a English Anglican clergyman, was commissioned to report on the condition of the Church in the colony of Maryland.

Although he spent only ten weeks there, but he radically re-organized and renewed the Church there, provided for the instruction of children and the systematic examination of candidates for pastoral positions.

Upon his return to England, Bray founded the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, a missionary society which established libraries and churches in the America colonies, and he founded the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, an educational and publishing society. Both societies are still active today.

A friend of General James Oglethorpe, Bray was instrumental in convincing him to establish the colony of Georgia as an alternative to debtors’ prison.

Education in North Carolina

History of Education in North Carolina. This site contains the Giles Rainsford letter but gives Mr. Mashburn as Mr. Washburn. The original in the SPG letterbook, however, is clearly MASHBURN.