MHT File Photo, Undated Photo
St. John's Methodist Episcopal Church & Joshua Thomas Chapel
9883 Deal Island Road (MD 363), Deal Island, Somerset County
Period/Date of Construction:
This complex consists of St. John's Methodist Episcopal Church, an 1879 frame Gothic building, Joshua Thomas Chapel, an 1850 Greek Revival frame structure, and the surrounding cemetery with 19th and 20th century burials and markers. St. John's Church has a brick foundation, a steeply pitched roof , a three story bell tower rising on the northwest corner, shed roofed additions along the sides, and Gothic arched windows. On the interior, the church is characterized by large chamfered support posts with decorated corner brackets, pressed metal decoration, an altar rail with turned balusters, and an elaborately decorated balcony rail with heavy sawn balusters. Joshua Thomas Chapel is a rectangularly shaped pedimented gable-front one story structure sheathed in weatherboards with three double hung windows (12/12 lights) along the sides, and a pilastered entranceway with double doors. On the interior, the window and door surrounds are plain with undecorated corner blocks. The wooden pews have scrolled armrests. Surrounding the buildings is the tightly packed cemetery characterized by various types of grave markers and fencing.
The significance of the Deal Island complex formed by the St. John's Methodist Episcopal Church and the Joshua Thomas Chapel derives from the architectural character of the buildings and historic association with Methodism in Somerset County. Architecturally, the Joshua Thomas Chapel, built in 1850, is the finest example of the Greek Revival churches built in the county in the mid 19th century. Only two examples survive. The other church, St. Mark's Episcopal Church near Kingston, is smaller in scale and almost devoid of decoration. St. Mark's appears to be closer to typical of what was built than Joshua Thomas is. St. John's Church, erected in 1879, is one of the earliest examples of the more complexly designed and decorated churches being built in Somerset in the last quarter of the 19th century. The earliest extant one of this type, the Upper Fairmount Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1873, is less complex in design than the St. John's Church which is only one story in height but gives the illusion of being two stories. Historically, the site of St. John's Methodist Episcopal Church and Joshua Thomas Chapel is the oldest site in Somerset County in continuous use for Methodist meetings. Meetings began in tents in 1828. As the Deal Island group grew in size and strength, the chapel and then the church were built. Through most of the 19th century and into the 20th, Methodism has been the most predominant religious sect in Somerset County. The earliest gathering is thought to have been held on Deal Island possibly as early as 1781.