On May 11, 1766, Nicholas Minor, a founder of the town of Leesburg, deeded Lot 50 to one Robert Hamilton – for four pounds for “no other use but for a church or meeting house and grave yard.” On September 28, 1768, the deed (recorded to this day in Deed Book L at pages 451-453 in the Clerk’s Office of the Loudoun County Courthouse) was delivered to the Methodist society.
The first church building of soft stone is mentioned in a September 3, 1768 petition proposing a road “running past the Methodist Meeting House.” That church building was outgrown and replaced by a larger building sometime between 1785 and 1790.
Before the Civil War many Southern sympathizers withdrew to form the Leesburg Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In decline, the church building was used until late in the 19th century, when black members formed Mt. Zion Church in 1867 and the white remnant joined the Leesburg Church. In 1900 the property was sold by court order, the building razed and its materials used elsewhere about the town.
Adjoining the churchyard is a privately owned home which was once the first parsonage of the Old Stone Church. The oldest part of the house dates from 1762, a priceless link with the history of the Old Stone Church.
Today, the walkway bricks, the original doorway stones and headstones in the churchyard remain to mark the site of a cradle of American Methodism.
Journey Through the Centuries
Today you can visit the site of the Old Stone Church along the same walk that echoed the footsteps of many early Methodist pioneers.
ROBERT STRAWBRIDGE, the fiery young Irish immigrant preacher, probably founded the original Methodist society in the early 1760s.
THOMAS RANKIN was appointed by John Wesley to work in the colonies and found a “deeply serious congregation” when he visited in October 1775.
FRANCIS ASBURY, the first American Methodist bishop, preached here on his first recorded visit on February 29, 1776.
CAPTAIN WRIGHT BRICKELL, a Norfolk sea captain and one of the original book stewards of the Methodist Societies in America, lies in the Old Stone Church cemetery under a stone dated 1777.
WILLIAM WATTERS, the first American-born Methodist itinerant preacher, served the Old Stone Church and presided at the Sixth Conference of American Methodism here in 1778.
RICHARD OWINGS, the first native-born Methodist local preacher, later was ordained a deacon. He served the Fairfax Circuit and was pastor of the Old Stone Church at the time of his death in 1786. He lies here.
JOHN LITTLEJOHN, Methodist preacher (and sheriff and justice of Loudoun County), was entrusted during the War of 1812 with the safekeeping of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution while the British burned the Capital.
For more information visit:
Old Stone Church Archeological Site