The John Wesley Chapel Site and Graveyard is significant as the site of one of Maryland’s earliest African American Methodist churches. To the south of the chapel extends what is probably the largest and oldest African American church graveyards in the state.
While the chapel is no longer standing, the many graves are visible either because of engraved stones, field stones, or depressions in the ground which mark their location.
Luke P. Barber, owner of the extensive tract known as “Barber’s Enclosure,” deeded this acre lot of Barber’s Enclosure to the Trustees of the “Colored Methodist Episcopal Church” in 1868. The deed suggests that the lot was already improved with a building at the time of the transfer.
Although no records have yet been found for this chapel, much can be deduced from the short deed:
The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1866 by former members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, thus the deed provides a clue that nearby Bethel Church had already joined that organization by 1868. The people who first worshipped at John Wesley Chapel probably were either former members of Bethel, or former slaves in the Barber household who had been given land for a chapel prior to 1868.
The deed, as was also true of deeds for other black churches in the immediate post Civil War period, did not mention erecting a church; in fact it indicated that the church was already located on the lot. Mr. Barber, a member of a staunch Methodist family, may well have erected a church of that persuasion for his slaves. (The previous year a lot on Barber’s Enclosure had been deeded to trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. That church, if indeed one was ever built there, seemingly has disappeared without a trace. Recently a hiker reported having seen another old cemetery in the vicinity of John Wesley Chapel.)
The trustees on the original deed for John Wesley were: John Jackson, Charles Thomas, Moses Queen, Walter Yates, John Young, Gustavus Brown and Henry Brown. In 1899 another deed, apparently for parsonage land bought jointly with the other two churches on the circuit, Mount Calvary and Galilee, Lists Moses Queen, William Toyer, Emanuel Toyer, Benjamin Jackson and John Boone as trustees for John Wesley.
The John Wesley Chapel Site and Graveyard is located on the south side of Aviation Yacht Club Road, near Budd’s Creek in Mechanicsville, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The site is located on one acre of land surrounded by trees. The chapel is no longer standing. It originally faced north, with the gable roof oriented on a north/south axis. The cemetery extends south of the original chapel ruins.
Constructed in the late 1800s, the John Wesley Chapel was a one-story frame building which stood on a brick pier foundation. The exterior was sheathed with German siding and the steeply pitched gable roof was covered with metal. The chapel was in use until the 1950s. It burned in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
The old graveyard, extending south of the chapel, consists of 110 plots, some of which are marked with engraved stones or field stones. The majority of the graves are unmarked and the cemetery is in extreme disrepair.
A visitor today will see a pile of rubble standing on the chapel site, behind which extends the unkempt and endangered cemetery.