Morgan Chapel's roots go back to 1870 when church trustees met at J. T. Ways Store to discuss building a new church. Since there were already trustees and the fact that the early Church Register has recorded names and memberships in the late 1860’s, one can surmise that folks most likely met in private homes for services.
In May of 1871, a group of laymen under the leadership of Captain James Morgan (see footnote 1) established the Chapel as a community church to serve as a place for the Christians in the Woodbine area to have worship service and serve the community at large. Captain Morgan and his wife deeded the property for the Morgan Chapel in 1871. The cemetery was founded at the same time and the first interments were 4-year-old George Ways, who died on Feb 14, 1853, and 5 year old Deborah A. Ways, who died on Oct 20, 1864. Most likely the two children were removed from a family burial plot to the new Cemetery at Morgan Chapel. The land on the west side of Woodbine and Hoods Mill Roads was transferred to trustees of the Congregation of Morgan Chapel “for the purpose of erecting…a house in which to hold Divine worship” by James Morgan and his wife, Mahala, on Aug 9, 1873, so presumably another structure or continued service in members home (register shows a rather large membership was already established by the late 1860s up to the early 1870s) was used the first couple of years until the church was completed in 1875. Soon after its founding, Morgan Chapel became associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church and in the early days the Chapel was one of many stops on the circuit of horse-back Methodist preachers.
From that time until 1905, Morgan Chapel existed as a small, one-room frame building. The foundation of the original structure is still visible on occasion during wet weather. In 1905 a new sanctuary (which still exists today) was erected a short distance north of the old site. In 1945 an Education Hall was added (research by Harold Robertson). The old Education Hall today serves as the kitchen and pantry for the fellowship Hall addition which was completed in 1954. In the early 1960s, the Sanctuary was hit by a car which caused considerable damage to the Chapel which required additional upgrades and the addition of a vestibule entrance.
The Fellowship Hall on the grounds with Morgan Chapel was completed in 1954. The Fellowship Hall has been used as a meeting hall for the youth, wedding receptions, church dinners and other community events that have leased the hall to include the American Red Cross for blood drives. The basement of the church serves as stores for a food pantry that is an Outreach Ministry to the community.
In 1971 Morgan Chapel United Methodist Church celebrated its 100th-year anniversary. A few of the members that still attend the church report that the event was so well attended that Police needed to direct traffic. Over the years God has truly blessed the Church and the surrounding community that the small congregation and the Outreach ministries have served. It is truly a blessing to have this wonderful historic Church in the community of Woodbine.
References: Footnote 1 - Captain James Morgan, a Civil War Veteran, 201st Pennsylvania Infantry, Woodbine on the B & O , by John H. Foertschbeck, Sr.
A Moment in Time
During the 1800s, the predominant form of church meeting was the Quarterly Conference. During this time, the presiding elder of the circuit would call a meeting to go over the affairs of the circuit, and we’d like to take you back to a specific moment in time. This quarterly meeting was held on January 31, 1887, and it involved the five Methodist Episcopal churches in the circuit at the time: Morgan Chapel, Mt. Olive, Taylorsville, Watersville (now closed), and West Falls (now closed). The Rev. Edward Smith entered the following as his pastor’s report:
"According to the limit of the conference, this is not only my last report for the Conference year, but also of my pastorate among you, and it is with more than ordinary feeling that I make it as it brings to my mind the pleasant relations that have existed between us for the last three years, and before taking leave of this body, allow me to offer my sincere thanks for your kindness and Christian courtesy toward me. As I look over the past I regret that so little has been done for the Master, yet for that little to God be the glory."
The amazing humility of Rev. Smith is extraordinary, but it becomes even more extraordinary when we consider that during his three-year tenure of the circuit, he gave 159 sermons, led 11 “experience meetings,” paid 196 pastoral visits, led 17 funerals, led 7 “sacramental meetings”, baptized 37 children and 2 adults, and addressed the Sunday school 6 times. What an incredible servant of the Lord!