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Column: Union Methodist history in Aberdeen remembered

The Aberdeen Room maintains a large file of church histories in the Aberdeen area. These have been contributed by members of the local churches over the years.

Some of the histories are not as complete as others, so when Susan Osborn said she was bringing a significant sketch of the Union Methodist Church, we were delighted. "Historical Sketch of Union Chapel, Sydney Park Methodist Episcopal Churches and Union Methodist Church, Aberdeen, Maryland 1849-1943" was compiled by Clayton C. Stansbury, chairman; William V. Brown, secretary; Otto B. Williams; and Rev. Hughes, pastor of the Historical Committee.

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This is particularly important at this time, since the Hosanna Museum and School have done a fine study as their contribution to the current "Journey Stories" in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution, Harford County Public Library, the Maryland Humanities Council, the Historical Society of Harford County and the Havre de Grace Boys and Girls Club.

This is their Youth Oral History Project in which they honored the Garrettson, Williams, Mitchell, Stansbury and Brown families who contributed much to the history of the area now known as Aberdeen Proving Ground.

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How significant it is that three of the historians of the Union Methodist Churches were members of the Brown, Stansbury and Williams families, now honored in the "Journey Stories." From the introduction of the history, we quote, "For one to understand and appreciate this history, it is essential for us to antedate this present institution in which we now worship. It is very imperative that we state something relative to the people and their environment, who made this plot possible for us to worship under our own vine and fig tree."

Prior to 1849, the colored people of Michaelsville Charge, our former church residence, were permitted to worship in the gallery of a white church known as Garrettson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. The colored people not only were growing religiously but intelligently. The gallery of Garrettson Chapel Church only accommodated about 50 persons (this chapel was named after its founder, Freeborn Garrettson, another honored family in the Hosanna project). We were able to help with the project, since we have the journals of Freeborn, an ancestor of ours.

In 1849, Robert Brown hauled the first material to set up the foundation for what became known a Union Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. The church was two miles southeast of Perryman. In 1850 Ephraim Brown and his brother, Solomon, erected the building.

In 1852, the Baltimore Conference appointed a white minister by the name of Rev. William Cronin as our first pastor. He served for three years and the church moved on progressively during that time.

"In the year of 1863 Bishop Scott organized the first conference for colored people." In a log cabin in the backwoods of High Timber, Robert Brown, Sr., built, organized and taught the first colored school in Harford County. In 1884, plans for a new church with seating for 300, and it was dedicated on October 7, 1888. About ten percent of members of Union Chapel Church lived in High Timber, four miles away. In 1894, the communities of High Timber, Spesutia Island and adjacent communities purchased one acre situated about five miles east of Perryman, and built a church known as Sydney Park Methodist Episcopal Church. At that time a new circuit was formed, calling it the Michaelsville Circuit.

In 1910, the first history of the two churches was written.

In 1917, the federal government entered World War I, and needed much land for a proving ground. "The requisition of our property by the government for the purpose of maintaining the freedom of the world was freely subscribed to by the well-thinking people in this locality. Our church properties were sold to the government. Union Chapel brought $8,000 and Sydney Park, $5,000.

At the time, Rev. Gaines and the trustees "came to the sun-kissed hills of Swan Creek" and bought from Mr. George Pennington, the site now occupied, of 14 acres. In 1918, work on a new church was begun, and the congregation moved in February 1922.

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There are more details about the many pastors who have served these churches in the history. Many names will be remembered. Over the years we have had numerous requests for this history, so now that its part of our church library, it is available for all to study.


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