On June 18, 1937, the Strawbridge Shrine Association was formed just outside of New Windsor, where many historians believe the origins of Methodism in America are located.
The shrine is named in honor of Robert Strawbridge, "an indispensable figure in the history of Methodism…," according to multiple histories of the United Methodist Church, including a history published a number of years ago on the shrine's website.
According to the website, "Robert and his wife Elizabeth, both of whom had been active in the Wesleyan movement in Ireland, came to America circa 1760 and settled on a farm rented from a Quaker, John England. Robert is credited with establishing Methodist classes and/or preaching in the local community…"
Research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Jay Graybeal uncovered some more interesting information in an Oct. 5, 1934 newspaper article about the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The article began, "The Christian Conference of 1784 and the Lovely Lane Meeting House, Baltimore, was the time and place for this most important epoch in the history of American Methodism. But we must go twenty-four years beyond that date to the very beginning of Methodism for our story which is laid in the Sam's Creek neighborhood of Carroll county…"
This account, along with others, reports that, "Immediately upon completion of his log home and the establishing of his family therein, he opened its doors for preaching and his labors as a minister of the gospel began. It was in this house that the first class and first society of Methodism was organized…."
Another older history published by the Shrine explained, Strawbridge "preached in his log cabin home and began organizing Methodist societies as early as 1763 or 1764. The first class met in his home and soon a second met at a nearby home. John Evans (1734-1827), one of Strawbridge's converts, led the first class from 1768-1804. These were perhaps the earliest Methodist organizations in American history…
"The Strawbridge house passed into other hands and was forgotten until 1915, when a Maryland Methodist historian, Mrs. Arthur Bibbins, identified it…"
The Strawbridge Shrine includes the original log cabin home of Robert and Elizabeth Strawbridge, which was "later enlarged and clapboarded."
The shrine is located on 32 acres, all purchased after years of effort. Today, the property also includes the Evans Home, a replica of the Log Meeting House built in 1982, and a visitor's center. The Evans house was moved to the grounds of the shrine in 1978, from its original location five miles away.
According to an article in The Sun on May 5, 1991 titled, "Carroll Is remembered as the Cradle of Methodism," "Strawbridge died in 1781 while living on Capt. Charles Ridgely's Hampton Estate, now Hampton House, in Baltimore County."
For information about the shrine or to arrange a tour, call 410-635-2600 or go to StrawbridgeShrine.org or Facebook.com/StrawbridgeShrine.
The GPS address is 2650 Strawbridge Lane, New Windsor, Md.