Rock Chapel was the first Methodist Episcopal Church in Adams county; the cornerstone being laid in 1773. In fact, it is now the oldest Methodist Episcopal Church west of the Susquehanna.
Before Rock Chapel was built, the Methodists congregated on the Peter Group farm one mile east of the church at his scythe factory where the Heikes' woolen mill later stood. It was the family of Peter Group plus those of William Sadler, Sr. and Mr. Swisher who took it upon themselves to build a house of worship. Several famous Methodist circuit riders including Francis Asbury, Freeborn Garretson and Lorenzo Dow preached at Rock Chapel.
After the cornerstone was laid in 1773, there was a period of time, due to lack of funds, that the building was stopped. During this time, the unfinished building was used as a sheepfold.
In 1805, the circuit of which Rock Chapel was a part extended from Waynesboro to York covering approximately forty preaching places. Camp meetings were held at Rock Chapel during the early years of the nineteenth century, probably, the first in this part of Pennsylvania.
From 1827 to 1844 Rock Chapel was part of the Gettysburg Circuit. During this time the congregation was quite large. They had frequent and extensive revival services. In 1842 Rock Chapel had more members than any other class of the Gettysburg Circuit with the exception of Gettysburg itself. The following were members at that time: (* marks those I think are ours)
*Isaac Sadler *Isabelle Sadler *Lydia Sadler George A. Group *Richard Sadler Elizabeth Fissel Mary Hutton Arthur Stephens *Eliza McCleary Elizabeth Grier Mary A. Scarbrough Martha Mickle Mary Staley *William Sadler Michael Fissel (*?)Catherine Mondorff Margaret Harianan Harriet Greir *John Sadler *Thomas McCleary (*?)Rachel Mondorff *Isabella Sadler *Rebecca Sadler *Marget Sadler Nancy Biteman Michael Brunner *Rebecca Sadler Nancy Grier *Harriet Sadler Rebecca Blish Marget Leber
Rock Chapel was rebuilt in 1849 at a cost of $800. Dr. Peck, who was afterward Bishop preached at the laying of the new cornerstone. A graveyard was established in connection with the Chapel after its rebuilding. (I suspect that this is not altogether accurate as William Sadler, Sr. is said to have been buried there in 1848; possibly he was the first burial there, I'll ask!).
During the Civil War, woolen blankets from Heikes' woolen mill were hidden in the attic of Rock Chapel to protect them from confiscation by General Ewell's Confederate troop encamped at Starrytown (now Heidlersburg).
After the turn of the century, the work at Rock Chapel eventually dwindled as population centers shifted. In 1986, the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church recognized Rock Chapel as the site of the first Methodist meeting house in what was to later become the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Conference. Each year an Annual Homecoming and Memorial Service is held in honor of those who labored here so long ago.
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