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GLEBES were lands set aside for the clergy by American colonists, consistent with English tradition. The proprietors of townships in the New England colonies, in drawing lots for their land, reserved a share for a minister for his support. The presence of a minister, they reasoned, would induce people to migrate to the new community. The minister's allotment could be substantial—as much as four lots of 100 acres each, one for his farm and three that he could sell or rent. Whereas New England glebes generally passed into private ownership in the first generation of the community's development, in the South, notably in Virginia, glebes ranging from 100 to 250 acres were intended as permanent farms for the support of the ministers of the established church and could be rented but not sold. Members of churches other than the established church resented having to contribute to the purchase of glebes, however. Those opposed to the institution in Virginia, spurred by a wave of evangelical revivals in the area, succeeded in 1802 in securing the adoption of the Sequestration Act, which provided for the sale of glebes by the overseers of the poor for the benefit of the indigent. Not geared to reliance on the voluntary contributions of members as were other churches, the Episcopal Church was weakened by the new law. In other southern states the glebes remained in the hands of the church and were sometimes worked by ministers whose incomes were small or by tenants.


Hall, David D. The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.

Paul W.Gates/a. r.

See alsoChurch of England in the Colonies ; Church and State, Separation of ; Great Awakening ; Land Policy .