Church cornerstone holds past treasures
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.