Discover Delmarva: John Wesley Church
There’s no indoor plumbing and its pretty tiny, but the John Wesley church in Oxford Maryland once served as the place where many Talbot County residents came to worship starting back in 1838.
By 1851, the congregation was mixed which was extraordinary for the time.
“After the civil war, the black congregants purchased the church from the whites. Because then of course they could own property”, says Preservation Society president Paula Bell.
At that point the John Wesley Church became all black.
Local resident, James Brooks Junior says his great-grandfather, Carole Brooks was a member.
“I knew Pop Pop had ties to this church because he faithfully came to church every Sunday because Daddy used to bring him.”
But as we sat in the tiny sanctuary Brooks saw the names of his other relatives etched in the stained-glass windows.
“Aunt Alice, Aunt Nellie…all these Brookses. That was my family right there. I’m beside myself right now to be honest with you”, says Brooks.
The John Wesley Preservation Society is working hard to identify all the names of the more than 60 unmarked graves in the church’s cemetery.
The effort is aimed at giving more people like James Brooks the chance to reconnect with their ancestors.
Paulette Albury is the head researcher.
“Now I’m going to go to the Washington archives to do that also because Annapolis did tell me some but they didn’t have them all”, says Albury.
Although this house of worship was used for over 100 years in the 70’s it shuttered its doors and fell into disrepair.
But a community campaign raised money to rehab the church and the cookhouse.
Their hard work paid off.
“In 2015, we were declared the first African American museum in Talbot county”, says Bell.
Organizers hope to start expanding the buildings, setting up more interactive displays and making the entire site accessible according to federal ADA standards by this summer.