Grace Heritage Site
Historical Dates: 1885
Threat Level: High
Location: Brooks Lane
The Grace Heritage Site (formerly the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church) in Lincoln was first organized in 1872 and met in the Lincoln School (B) until the church construction was completed in 1885 by Quakers and freedmen. The basement of the church was operated as a vocational school with local Quakers teaching sewing, cooking and shoe repair. In September of 1949, the congregation moved their services to a new site in Purcellville, now named the Agape United Methodist Church. The original structure is owned by the trustees of the Friends of Grace, which includes trustees of the Agape church. The building is currently the focus of an intensive restoration effort. Learn more about it here.
Ms. Katherine Shorts - 1931 - age 22
Ms. Katherine Shorts Gibson
Katherine Gibson and Reggie Simms
Grace Church in winter
One hundred twenty eight years ago in the small village of Lincoln, Virginia, Quakers and freed slaves joined together in building one of the first legal black churches in Loudoun County.
The Grace Methodist Episcopal Church got its start in the "Old Lincoln Schoolhouse", also known as the Lincoln Colored School, and Lincoln School -B (built in 1865 ) where newly freed slaves were educated in one of the first public schools for African Americans in Virginia. The church's congregation first organized in 1872 under the leadership of Reverend Henry Carroll, and in 1884, Quakers and freedmen built the existing church just up the hill from the school. Stone Masons used native field stone and topped the structure with a bell that could be heard for miles. The building was dedicated on July 30, 1885, under the pastorate of Reverend John Bean, a circuit rider, whose churches included those in Middleburg, Leesburg, Lincoln and others. Services were originally held on the second and fourth Sundays, and the basement was used as a vocational school where Quakers taught sewing, cooking, shoe repair and other skills to the black community.
The building never had plumbing, so water was carried from the nearby spring located south of the building. Two outhouses, one each for men and women were located on each side of the rear of the church and were reportedly "two-seaters." The location of the women's outhouse was recently discovered by archaeologists but the location of the men's room is still a mystery.
After around 1915, most of the congregation resided in Purcellville and nearby Cookesville and walked to Lincoln for services. The church was active and lively, and celebrated an annual homecoming in August attended by large crowds where potluck meals were shared. The church also celebrated “children's day” and enjoyed occasional joint-services with nearby Mount Olive Baptist Church.
Money was scarce, so fundraising was a constant effort. The more popular fundraisers included "Tom Thumb Marriages" in which tickets were sold to witness staged weddings acted out by young children; and "Fan Drills", theatrical line- dances featuring young girls dressed up in colorful costumes including overskirts that "fanned" out.
The church served as an anchor and stabilizing force in Lincoln until 1942. In the early forties, then-Reverend Otis Jasper was encouraged by his church District Superintendent to have the Lincoln Church move to Purcellville where most of the congregation resided.
In September 1949, Grace Annex United Methodist Episcopal Church (now named the Agape United Methodist Church) broke ground for the new building on A Street in Purcellville and the old stone church in Lincoln was eventually abandoned. Although the congregation maintains an active cemetery in Lincoln, the old stone church has been in disrepair and out of use since the early 1950’s. The old church is owned by the trustees of the Friends of Grace.
In 2002, the Lincoln Preservation Foundation, along with the then-trustees of the Grace Church, united in an ambitious undertaking: to rescue and restore the abandoned building and tell its story. With this goal in mind, the Lincoln Preservation Foundation found itself swept up in a project we originally called "Saving Grace.” Today we call it the Grace Heritage Site Project.
The Grace Heritage Site Project, in a nutshell, strives to restore the building and grounds and allow it to stand as a symbol of the African American story. Exhibits will highlight the role of local African Americans, with special recognition given to veterans who once served, but were disregarded because of their race. The sanctuary will return to its original glory, and be available for meetings and community events. The Grace Heritage Site will enjoy visitors coming to Lincoln as part of an established Underground Railroad driving tour. You can read more about it here.
References and Links
Oral Histories and Interviews
37729 Brooks Ln, Purcellville, VA 20132 .
Contact LPF Webmaster for more information.
The building is not open to the public during restoration but vistors may walk the grounds.