Inspired by history and heritage, a doctor and his friends restore a church built before the American Revolution.
J. Francis Amos restores a chapel built before the Revolutionary War.
In 2011, a small church in Franklin County, Virginia, went on the market after the congregation’s last member passed away.
At the time, Old Chapel Church, also known in historic documents as the Snow Creek Anglican Church, was more than 240 years old and in need of major repairs. The north wall bulged, the roof sagged and the ceiling had to be propped up.
It is the oldest of four Anglican churches built in Virginia before the Revolutionary War. Finding no one to undertake the preservation and restoration of this historic site, I bought the property.
Carl Lounsbury, an architectural historian at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, verified the authenticity of the structure and directed restoration efforts. The English box architecture with exposed posts and beams was a traditional style reminiscent of the Anglican church in the 1608 Jamestown fort where Pocahontas married John Rolfe.
I’m a retired family physician and have always been interested in local history. After I bought the place, six people offered to help when I called them.
The “super six” pooled together their collective talents—carpentry, construction, electrical work and plumbing—to complete the job. Others also volunteered their time and contributed materials.
After years of dedicated work, the original 24 x32 structure has been fully restored. Though there are no regular church services, the building hosts weddings, reunions, church gatherings and seminars.
The one-story, front-gable church stands in an isolated and peaceful rural area. Perhaps that is why the building survived intact during the colonial wars and the Civil War. A few additions were made in the 1950s.
Spacious grounds include large oak and hickory trees, a spring, and remnants of an east-west roadbed that was prominent in 1753. An outdoor bathroom (or johnny house), picnic shelter and preacher’s stand for services held outside portray rural American worship and fellowship in the 18th, 19th and early 20th-centuries.
The 1769 Old Chapel Church is dedicated as a monument to God and to the religious heritage upon which our nation was founded.
Dr. Amos and a family friend dress in period costumes for an event at the Old Chapel.
The post and beam construction is rare.