Properly belonging to this county of Kent is old Christ Church at "I. U.," built in 1765, at the head of Churn Creek, within whose walls have worshipped men and women whose names are familiar to all.
I. U. Church in Worton takes its name from initials found on a large boundary stone near the church. In early times the natives made a "J" like an "I," so that the letters are no doubt "J. U.," and may stand for John, Jim or Jonas Ute, Usilton, Urie or some other early resident of old Kent.
The Still Pond M. E. Church is probably the oldest continuously organized Methodist Society on the Del-Marvia, Peninsula. The original edifice of which the present is the successor was erected some time during the Revolutionary War. Bishop Asbury, the pioneer organizer of Methodism, established a preaching place here in 1772. The present pastor is Ransom P. Nichols. The trustees are: F. H. Cornelius, A. J. Hackett, S. G. Rosebery, C. P. Norris, R. D. Moore, F. B. Harper, L. A. Ford, J. T. Baxter, R. O. Warren, J. N. Bennett, W. L. Ford, J. W. Clark, W. H. Fogwell.
The name of the town - Still Pond - where this church is located, takes its name from "Still Pond Creek," whose name is ascribed to a very deep pond at its source which is said to have never been frozen over. This tradition may be taken for what it is worth, but in the land records of early times, as well as on the map of Maryland in. 1673 by the famous Augustine Herman, of Bohemia, the name of this creek is spelled "Steelpone" Creek.
THE FIRST CHURCH IN WORTON.
Prior to 1825, as far as we can learn, there was no established place of worship in Worton. On August 5 an acre of land was purchased from William Taylor and wife for the sum of $50, on which to erect a church for the Protestant Episcopal denomination. The church was called "Parson Handy's - Church," in honor of Rev. G. D. S. Handy, a Protestant Episcopal clergyman, who lived in the community and who was its first, and, as far -as known, its only rector. This church afterwards became St. James'. The records show that on June 21, 1832, St. James Church and lot were deeded to the Methodist Protestants on the payment of the sum of five dollars. The trustees at this time were Francis Lamb. Emory Edwards, Joseph Kennard, William Coppe~ and David Arthur. There were but few member - and a small congregation. Rev. J. J. Murray, who was sent as an assistant to Rev. Isaac Webster, says:
"Kent Circuit then embraced Chestertown, Welsch's Chapel School House, above Urieville, Quaker Neck and Wesley Chapel. St. James' at that day was one of the least hopeful of our appointments. I cannot recall the name of one male member who belonged to the class. My first visit to St. James' was on Saturday in April or early in May. The country, as I drove out in my sully from Chestertown, seemed poor and neglected. Fields without fences, overgrown with sedge, dwarf pines, cedars and weeds, and other indications of land' overworked and left in a state of nature appeared where the pleasing evidences of culture, thrift and comfort are now seen. The congregations were small."
In the midst of wheat harvest Dr. Murray held a revival, which resulted in a number of conversions and additions to the church. This marked a new era in its history. St. James' became a live, aggressive church, and has remained so to the present day.
In 1853 Dr. Murray returned to Kent Circuit as superintendent, and during the second year of his pastorate purposed the erection of a new church. The response on the part of the people was so prompt and encouraging that work was begun at once. Winter came and found the building unfinished. The following spring Dr. Murray was succeeded by Rev. John Roberts, under whose pastorate the church was completed and dedicated. The building committee was Messrs. John Gale, Isaac Parsons, William Vannort, Robert Nicholson and John T. Skirven. The contractors were George R. Reed and Hyland P. Smith.- The dedicatory service was preached by Rev. John S. Reese. The present pastor is Rev. H. B. Jester. Samuel Vannort is the oldest living member, his name having been enrolled in October, 1856. He was the superintendent of the Sunday School for many years. The present superintendent is Robert U. Nicholson.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN KENT.
Dr. W. S. Maxwell says: "The Georgetown and Old Brick (near E. B. Pennington's, Sr.) Presbyterian Churches were built in Colonial days. As Upper Kent was a part of -Cecil County at that time the records are no doubt at Elkton. Those churches owned a lot in Chestertown, afterward used as a burying ground by colored people. It was on the road leading out to the Dr. Anderson property. The Old Brick was used by the Methodist Protestants some time previous to 1860, when Rev. William Megee became pastor and they had a good congregation for a number of years. The church was torn down and material used in erecting the present Presbyterian church in Kennedyville, which was dedicated in 1875. Georgetown Church was built in 1872.
THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
Fifteen years after the Christmas conference, in1784, the Methodists of Kent, who had increased wonderfully in numbers and influence, especially in Chestertown and the region round about, resolved to construct a house of worship in Chestertown. In endeavoring to secure a grant of land on the public square in a day before this stone of Methodism which the builders rejected, had become the head of the corner, great opposition was manifested by the established church against the project. It was only by calling up the bill in a night session, when many of its opposers were absent, that its passage was secured. The enemies of the new church endeavored to avenge themselves when in a majority on a committee to apportion the ground. The smallest allotment possible was made on the western part of the public square, where was erected the first Methodist Church in Chestertown. The building stands yet, opposite the Voshell House, owned by Harry Thomas, son of Dr. Samuel W. Thomas, and occupied by the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., fraternal orders, John D Urie, Esq., and Dr. Hughes.
Within these historic walls the voice of the great apostle of Methodism, the tireless Asbury, first Bishop of the Church, had been heard, as well as scores of the illustrious fathers of the church. Chestertown then became the center of the great Kent Circuit, and many noted events in the church's history occurred here. But amid all the church grew in numbers and power. A parsonage was built and a strong organization formed. In 1868 the church in Chestertown felt that its welfare would be enhanced by being made a station, and it was set off from the old Kent Circuit, of which it was the bead. The interest of the circuit in the parsonage was bought for $2,000, and all arrangements in the separation were amicable and satisfactory to all concerned.
About 1870 the need of a new church edifice was realized and preparations for building made. The late Thomas W. Eliason, Sr., who had been a pillar of the church for years, was chairman of the build lug committee.
Miss T. Bradshaw, a faithful member of the church, bequeathed a legacy of $8,000 toward the construction of the church, which was the nucleus of the building fund. 'Squire John N. Usilton, a prominent Methodist, since deceased, contributed the present beautiful site, and the present church edifice was soon completed, at a cost of about $20,000. It was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God, free of debt, in 1817, and in 1878 the Wilmington Conference convened in' the new edifice. A few years ago a pipe organ was erected and dedicated at a cost of about $2,000.
The present pastor is T. F. Beauchamp, having been sent here at the conference of 1916, succeeding Dr. L. E. Barrett, who served as pastor seven years. The M. E. parsonage was deeded to Benjamin Price. Edw. Ringgold, Thomas Stevens, Thomas Baker, A. M. Merritt, Nathaniel Wiley and William Hayne, trustees, by James Mansfield, on March 9, 1844, and included the whole lot through to Cross street. In November, 1868, this parsonage was deeded to the church for $2,000.
This building was torn down in the spring of 1916, and at this writing a new brick structure is under contract - Walter T. Pippin, contractor and builder. It will cost about $5,000.
The Board of Stewards are: Joel R. Clenients, W. B. Copper, L. B. Leaverton, J. C. Davis, J. T. Anthony, M. A. Toulson, M. E. Newsome, C. H. Jefferson, W. C. Peregoy, Thomas S. Bordley, Charles S. Hill, J. B. McIntyre, Prof. Mark Creasy, George B. Rouse. Trustees: T. W. Eliason, Prest., James Brice, H. H. Klinefelter, M. A. Toulson, John C. Davis, H. E. Perkins, Prof. J. L. Smyth.
SACRED HEART CATHOLIC CHURCH.
Father Villager was the first Catholic priest to visit Chestertown. He would write notices and the members would meet him at Mr. Thomas P. Dixon's, near town. As the congregation grew a larger place of meeting became necessary, and Miss Josie Re-Due's schoolroom was utilized. For about twenty-five years Father Villager served the people, being succeeded by Father Henche, who made occasional visits. Then in 1871 came Father Bradford, who bought the present church property from Miss Lizzie Voss, for $2,800. The old brick house was torn away and the present church edifice erected, costing $9,000. Mr. Samuel L. Usilton's property was purchased for a parsonage at a cost of $1,600, and today a fine rectory, costing $5,000, is the home of Father Urner, the present pastor. This is one of the finest church properties on the Shore.
CHRIST METHODIST PROTESTANT CHURCH.
The first movement toward the organization of the M. P. Church in Chestertown was inaugurated July 13, 1827, at which John Constable presided and James Harris acted as secretary. In 1829 this organization of sixteen persons erected its first church here, under the pastorate of Dr. John S. Reese. This old whitewashed brick church was built off the main street, in a quiet location. In 1859, during Dr. Daniel W. Bates' ministry, the old white building was torn down and a new one erected of a more modern character. The building was dedicated on January 30, 1859. Rev. Dr. John J. Murray preached the morning sermon and a big revival followed. In 1878, during the pastorate of Rev. S. A. Hoblitzell, the building was thoroughly repaired, and, with a small frame chapel- adjoining (now Hicks' blacksmith shop), first built on Queen street and then removed to Cross street, the church was well equipped.
In 1887 a lot on High street was bought for $3,150, and a meeting held to raise money for a new church. Rev. W. R. Graham was pastor. A building committee, composed of the following gentlemen, was appointed: J. K. Aidridge, J. W. Chapman, J. W. Lambert, W. B. Esilton, T. B. Hubbard, W. J. Vannort, T. W. Russell, S. F. Smith, J. Harry Simpers and. William Archibald, Jr. The result of this committee's work is before the world, the total cost of the improvement being $28,517.55. Milton Baker was the contractor and builder, and for years has been sexton of the church, caring for it like a mother would her child. The bell was given by the "Little Folks," and cost $350. The big pipe organ was given by the "Young People's Association," and cost $2,500. The twelve windows in the audience room are beautiful memorials of jeweled cathedral glass. These windows are in memory of M. Anianda Chapman, Marceline A. Chapman, Emeline E. Frazier, Ann Rebecca Wickes, Elizabeth Walker, Milicent Arthur, Katie Plummer, Daniel Collins, John T. Dodd, Capt. Richard Baker, John Constable, William Vannort, C. D. Vannort, David Arthur, William Bacchus. The central front window is a memorial to the late Senator George Vickers; another, "Our Dead"; another in honor of Superintendent William B. Usilton, and one in the pulpit for the pastor, Dr. W. B. Graham. Rev. J. M. Gill was pastor here in 1896, succeeded by Dr. D. L. Greenfield in 1901; then came Dr. F. T. Little in 1907, and Dr. Graham returned in 1913, followed by the Present pastor, Rev. J. L. Ward. An elegant parsonage was erected on the site of the old house, corner of Queen street and Maple avenue, in 1896, by W. S. and A. M. Culp, at a cost of $3,800. The stewards of the church are: Lewin S. Fowler, J. W. Lambert, C. S. Smith, Charles L. Dodd, J. W. Chapman, W. W. Hubbard, James W. Crouch, William A. Wheatley, J. D. Bacchus, Fred G. Usilton, A. M. Culp, Robert Huey, Charles N. Satterfield, William A. Burke, J. F. Wheatley, William B. Usilton, Jr., Walter U. Lusby, Ralph Barnett, J. W. Russell, Wilham Vansant, T. D. Bowers, C. C. Jones.
The M. P. Conference met here in 1838, 1857, 1871, and in April, 1890, presided over by Isaac Webster, William Collier, D. E. Reese and W. M. Strayer, respectively. An interesting fact in connection with the large Sunday School of this church is the superintendency of the late William B. Usilton, who served for more than forty years. His son, Fred G., was elected to succeed him in. 1910.
COLORED METHODIST CHURCHES.
The pride shown by the colored people in having worthy places in Kent in which to worship is strikingly presented in Chestertown. Janes M. E. Church, located on Cross street, built in 1915, cost over $12,000, while the A. M. E. Church, built on College street, cost about $10,000. Both are of brick and well equipped. These buildings replaced frame structures erected in the early fifties.
FIRST SUNDAY SCHOOL IN CHESTERTOWN.
A female Sunday School was organized in 1816, with twenty-seven scholars. It was the first Sunday School in the town, its church connection not being ascertained.
Page(s) 92-102, History of Kent County, Maryland, 1630-1916, by Fred G. Usilton, 1916
Transcribed by Nathan Zipfel for the Maryland History and Genealogy Project