History

Stained glass window, Stone's Chapel

Stained Glass Window, Stone’s Chapel

The most difficult part about tracing the history of Stone’s Chapel lies in the fact that, from the beginning, the church was used simultaneously by different denominations. This sharing of resources during the late 18th century was not uncommon. Lutheran and German Reformed congregations frequently built “Union” churches that served two congregations. Stone’s Chapel began life as one such shared building. As German Lutheran families moved south and west, Presbyterians became the primary users of Stone’s Chapel, joined by some remaining German Reformed Church members.

On June 8, 1783, a Lutheran minister named Paul Henkel preached in a barn near the future site of Stone’s Chapel, first in German and then in English. The German families arranged with Henkel to preach there once a month for the next year. As the congregation grew, they determined to build a proper church. In the fall of 1784, Henkel recorded in his journal preaching under a tree as members of the congregation sat on the piles of lumber for the new building. Before the end of 1784, Jacob’s Church had been completed, on land owned by Jacob Stein and his wife Barbara.

Because at this time Henkel had not yet been ordained, he could not administer the sacraments, only preach. In July 1785, Christian Streit, an ordained Lutheran minister, assumed the pastorate of the Winchester Lutheran Church and its four outparishes, Jacob’s Church included. Streit performed the first marriage at Steinkirche, as Jacob’s Church came to be known, for Daniel Hoch and Christina Hunsicker on September 18, 1785. The following month, Streit held the first communion service at Steinkirche. Between 1785 and 1788, Christian Streit recorded 58 services at Steinkirche, presiding over many baptisms, marriages and funerals.

It appears that as Streit’s health began to decline, another Lutheran minister assigned to the Virginia Synod, J. David Young, assumed responsibility for Steinkirche and a growing congregation in Smithfield (now Middleway, West Virginia), eleven miles north. In 1798, the Smithfield congregation purchased a lot and the new church was dedicated in May 1799. The Smithfield church became the main church of the Smithfield Parish, which included Steinkirche and the Lutheran church in Gerrardstown.

The earliest documentation of the church property is a deed recorded in 1793, transferring the property from Jacob Stone (he had Anglicized his name) and his wife Barbara to the “Trustees of the Lutheran and Calvinistic Societies.” The term “Calvinistic” most likely refers to the German Reformed Church, which was the predecessor to today’s United Church of Christ.

The present brick building was constructed in 1848-49 under the direction of Reverend E. G. Proctor who held the Smithfield Parish pastorate. According to Lutheran records, there was an active congregation at Stone’s Chapel until 1899, although anecdotal evidence suggests that Lutheran services were held only once a month in the years after the Civil War. During this time, Presbyterian services were also held once a month and a joint Sunday School was held every week.

It is unclear when Presbyterians began using Stone’s Chapel. In 1740, a Presbyterian church was built about four and half miles away, just south of the town of Summit Point. This church was known as the Bullskin Church, because it was located at the headwaters of Bullskin Run. Around 1810, the Bullskin Church building fell into disrepair. The church members evidently scattered to other area Presbyterian churches, including the Hopewell Church in Smithfield, the Tuscarora Church in Martinsburg, and Stone’s Chapel.

Presbyterian records prior to 1886 have scant references to Stone’s Chapel. In 1824, the Winchester Presbytery appointed Reverend J.H.C. Leach to supply (preach) at “Stone’s Meeting House.”  Records of the Winchester Presbytery record the names of three other ministers who preached at Stone’s Chapel, through 1857. However, ministers assigned to the presbytery but not “settled” at a church preached at any of the churches that were without pastors, at their own discretion. We can assume that Stone’s Chapel was among the churches who were supplied by these ministers.

Following the establishment of the Berryville Presbyterian Church in 1853, the pastors of that church served Stone’s Chapel.  However, the first mention of Stone’s Chapel does not appear in the church’s records until August 1878, when the Session of the Berryville Presbyterian Church met there. In September 1885, the Session agreed for the church’s pastor to conduct worship services at Stone’s Chapel twice a month – a morning service on the third Sunday of each month and an afternoon service on the first Sunday.

In 1886, the Winchester Presbytery formally approved the organization of Stone’s Chapel Presbyterian Church as a separate church.   The new church began with 15 members, 11 of whom came from Berryville Presbyterian Church. About this time, it appears that the Presbyterians became the sole occupiers of Stone’s Chapel.

In 1905, the vestibule tower on the front of the church and an addition on the back of the church for use as a Sunday School room was constructed.  At the same time, a new slate roof was added, along with interior improvements including new pews, carpet, the memorial stained glass windows, a pipe organ, a mahogany pulpit and new pulpit furniture (settee and two chairs).

In the early 1950s, the Clarke County Cemetery Association was formed to maintain the adjacent cemetery, a function it continued until it was absorbed into the Stone’s Chapel Memorial Association in 2011.  The cemetery contains approximately 200 marked graves.  The earliest gravestones date to the 1820s and include a number of Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans.

Stone’s Chapel Presbyterian Church was closed in 2000. Ownership of the building was transferred to the Stone’s Chapel Memorial Association in 2012. The Memorial Association has been working to restore the building since then. A new roof was installed in the summer of 2013 and the interior plaster has been repaired and painted. In 2017, electrical service was restored, allowing for lights and heat. Other repairs are awaiting funding.

3 Responses to History

  1. https://stoneschapel.org/history/ Check out this website…..we will be attending the first worship service and homecoming at this very historic structure…which is next to our property (only separated from us by an old house and barn). It dates to the 1700’s – revolutionary war times. We’re thrilled that it is being restored!

  2. americanpresidents says:

    My ancestor, Thomas Hunsicker, was one of the four individuals who first organized the church. There is a history of Stone’s Chapel that used to be distributed by the Berryville Presbyterian Church that describes this. This history describes how Thomas wrote back to Wolfersheim, Switzerland to obtain a church certificate from the German Reformed Church as part of founding the church. I then tracked down a relative who lived in Winchester, VA who possesses this original church certificate along with another church certificate for a Barbara Hunsicker, who is believed to be the second wife of Thomas Hunsicker, since his church certificate states that his wife was Anna Gertrude. Thomas Hunsicker emigrated to America on the ship “Phoenix” that landed in Philadelphia in October, 1754. He initially settled in LeHigh County before moving to the Frederick County area of Virginia after the French and Indian War with his eldest son Daniel (who Peter Hunsicker who is buried in the cemetery was the son of – and who served as a Lieutenant in the French and Indian War then built a mill along Opequon Creek), Thomas Hunsicker Jr. (who I am descended from and whose wife Ruth and all his children except for Jonathan are buried together in Mt. Hebron cemetery in Winchester), and other members of his family. The Hunsickers were then all married by Christian Streit, who served both as the first minister of Stone’s Chapel Church and of the old German church whose remains are in Mt. Hebron cemetery. Finally, it was my understanding that Stone’s Chapel Church was initially called Stine’s Chapel and that the land donated for the church was donated by a Mr. Stine, one of the other four individuals who initially founded the church along with Thomas Hunsicker. — Rick Hopper, email rickhopper@aol.com

  3. americanpresidents says:

    I also forgot to mention that Stone’s Chapel was the first German church in Virginia. Lovettsville claims to be the oldest continually operated German church, but Stone’s Chapel (originally called Stine’s Chapel) was the first. Also, the first burial in the cemetery was in 1816 or earlier since Peter Hunsicker, who has the most prominent gravestone, was buried there in 1816. He was the son of Daniel Hunsicker, the eldest son of Thomas Hunsicker, and built Prospect Hall (which still stands) in nearby Middleway, West Virginia.

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