Church cor­ner­stone holds past trea­sures

Record Observer - - Religion - By KEVIN HEMSTOCK

MILLING­TON — A 112-year-old mys­ter y was put to rest Fri­day, when Ge­orge Mitchell, us­ing a cou­ple of chis­els and a ham­mer, opened up the cor­ner­stone of the for­mer Holy Cross Chapel in Milling­ton and re­vealed the con­tents.

Mitchell, a for­mer town coun­cil­man, pur­chased the Sas­safras Street prop­erty from the Epis­co­pal Church in 2002 and re­pur­posed it as a res­i­dence. But sev­eral years ago he moved to West Vir­ginia, and the for­mer church prop­erty is now un­der con­tract to Dol­lar Gen­eral, which plans to build a store on the site and an abut­ting prop­erty.

Con­struc­tion of the church started in Septem­ber 1905 af­ter the original chapel, lo­cated across the street, burned down in a fire July 12, 1904.

The cor­ner­stone for the new church was laid Sept. 12, 1905, with the Rt. Rev. Bishop Lay­ton Cole­man pre­sid­ing.

In its Sept. 16, 1905 edi­tion, the Kent News re­ported: “The cor­ner­stone of the new P.E. Church was laid last Tues­day af­ter­noon . ... The county news­pa­per, many coins and 1905 pen­nies were dropped in the stone.”

The church was con­se­crated in 1906, on the day ex­actly two years af­ter the original church had burned down.

Last Fri­day, Mitchell braved the heat to re­move the 100-pound stone. A cav­ity within con­tained a tin box. When the top of the box was re­moved, some of what the pa­per re­ported was con­firmed.

There were 20 coins in two en­velopes. The en­velopes were dated Sept. 12, 1905 and the en­velopes had the names of those who do­nated the coins: A.H. Ford and Elizabeth Boyer Collins. Among the coins was a 1905 quar­ter and a dime, two nick­els and sev­eral pen­nies of the same date. How­ever, there also were coins of as­sorted dates, in­clud­ing an 1845 “large penny,” and a half penny whose date could not be read.

In ad­di­tion, there was a prayer book in good con­di­tion. On the first page of the book was hand­writ­ten: “Chapel of the Holy Cross July 31st, 1904.”

Un­der the tin box in the stone was a hym­nal that was in very poor con­di­tion, since it didn’t have the pro­tec­tion af­forded by the tin box. There was no news­pa­per found in the tin. Mitchell do­nated the stone to St. Cle­ment’s Church in Massey. He do­nated the prayer book to the Fran­cis­can Fri­ars of Atone­ment, at Gray­moor, near Gar­ri­son, N.Y.

“It’ll be good to see (the prayer book and cor­ner­stone) go to people who will ap­pre­ci­ate them,” Mitchell said.

The monastery at Gray­moor was es­tab­lished by Mother Lu­rana White and Fa­ther Paul Watt­son in the late 19th cen­tury. Son of the Epis­co­pal rec­tor of St. Cle­ment’s Church in Massey, Watt­son was born Lewis Thomas Watt­son in 1863 in Milling­ton.

An “Army & Navy” com­mem­o­ra­tive coin, dated 1863, was in the cor­ner­stone. It may be a nod to his birth year.

Watt­son was or­dained as an Epis­co­pal min­is­ter but later con­verted to Catholi­cism. He at­tended and par­tic­i­pated in the con­se­cra­tion cer­e­mony at the Holy Cross Chapel in 1906.

Watt­son is now be­ing con­sid­ered for saint­hood by the Catholic church.

But the lit­tle chapel whose bel­fry dom­i­nated the town’s mod­est sky­line will soon be lit­tle more than a mem­ory. It is ex­pected to be de­mol­ished some­time in the next month.


Dressed in their ar­mor, Ch­e­sa­peake Church of Christ Va­ca­tion Bi­ble School stu­dents raise their “Swords of the Spirit” in tri­umph af­ter de­feat­ing a dragon (Satan), Satur­day morn­ing, June 24, in Gra­sonville. This year’s VBS was ti­tled, “Put on the Ar­mor of God,” based on

Ge­orge Mitchell re­moves the cor­ner­stone at the for­mer Holy Cross Chapel in Milling­ton. The chapel is set to be de­mol­ished to make way for a Dol­lar Gen­eral.


Ge­orge Mitchell looks over the con­tents of the cor­ner­stone of Holy Cross Chapel in Milling­ton July 14.

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