The Carter connection to Christ Church began with Robert "King" Carter's father, John. Born in London, England in 1613, John sailed to Virginia in 1635 and later settled in Lancaster County, where he established the Corotoman plantation and became a prominent tobacco planter, merchant, and political figure. He built the first Christ Church on this site, a frame structure that was completed in July 1670, six months after his death. John was buried in the chancel of the original Christ Church, along with four of his five wives and two of his six children. Today, his grave marker lies in the the chancel of the 1735 Christ Church.

Robert Carter was born at the Corotoman plantation in 1663 and attended school in London, where he learned the trans-Atlantic tobacco trade. In 1690, Robert inherited his father's Corotoman plantation, ultimately making it the center of a vast estate that would encompass forty-eight plantations, 300,000 acres, and over 700 slaves.

Robert held virtually every important political position in Virginia, including representative and speaker of the House of Burgesses, a member of the Governor's Council, treasurer, and acting governor. He spent over four decades as vestryman and church warden for Christ Church Parish. Robert's prodigious influence continued through his numerous offspring, who include three signers of the Declaration of Independence, two presidents, eight Virginia governors, General Robert E. Lee, a Supreme Court justice, and more than 20,000 other descendants.

In 1730, two years before his death, Robert began to build a brick church to replace his father's 1670 frame church. His sons John, Charles, and Landon oversaw its completion after his death.