This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: Where was Joshua Chapel located?
A. Coleman’s Corner
D. None of the above
This Week’s Answer: B. Morgnec
What was once a welcome active haven for African American freemen is now quiet, but what remains still tells its interesting and significant history.
On Rte. 291, not far out of Chestertown, over the Morgan Creek’s old-fashioned steel bridge, and then just a short stretch further, is the sign for Morgnec Cutoff Road.
Odd name for a road, but when Rte. 291 was built in 1930, the Cut-off Road was built to return diverted drivers to Old Morgnec Road, the former main route from Chestertown to Millington. The small African American settlement called Corktown, through which Old Morgnec Road passed, had literally been cut off. Morgnec Cutoff Road was the apology to the isolated Corktown–now known as Morgnec. Corktown represented one of the settlements formed by free African Americans who had gained the opportunity for ownership of land and a chance for some independence.
Continuing on Cutoff Road a little further, past overgrown woods with great old trees, here and there are ghostly shadows of deserted skeleton-like house frames. The next road is Morgnec Church Road. On the right is what is thought to be one of the former homes of Corktown. Today, it has been broken by time’s toll taken for abandonment–its windows missing and open doorways inviting new wildlife tenants. The name Corktown is suggested to be a derivation of Caulk. Joshua Caulk and his wife, Martha, owned the land on which the residents settled. Later the Joshua Chapel was also named to honor its generous benefactor and forefather.
Turning south onto Morgnec Church Road, a trim pale blue vinyl-clad building, crowned by an impressive wood belfry, stands securely on its cleared lot–the Joshua Chapel. It has a small “vestibule addition” on its north side and an “annex” on its south. It’s east front stands strong with a bright red door. Its transom and windows are generously sized and seem to be ready for the day when stained glass might fill them. It is recorded that inside there are still late 19th-century oil lighting fixtures, an altar and pews.
A cemetery surrounds the church. Some of the older gravestones bear names associated with Corktown’s establishment–Caulk, Cotton and Strycking. The chapel is no longer in formal use, the cemetery continues as a burial site.
According to the Maryland State Archives “Joshua Chapel was founded and accepted into the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1839.” No early records have been found so far. The earliest record is of a land mortgage from 1869 signed by Joshua Caulk . The present Chapel is thought to have replaced the beloved ”Old Tabernacle” made of logs that was near the Campgrounds, which appear on an 1877 map. Camp meetings were popular gatherings for “preaching and singing” inspired by Methodism.
Corktown children went to school at Joshua Chapel from 1866-1887. At that time, a gift of land provided by heirs of Joshua Caulk made a new school building possible.
According to the Archives “Joshua Chapel was still operating in 1987 under the leadership of Rev. Vincent A. Hynson and had 12 members.” As of 2004, the Maryland Historical Trust references the owner to be the “Joshua Methodist Episcopal Church and Rev. Phillip A. Henry of Odessa.”
The Joshua Chapel, Corktown, the Caulks, the Cottons, the Stryklings, past and present, are clearly significant in Kent County History. They forged new paths.
Thanks to the Maryland State Archives, Maryland Historical Trust, and Kent Circuit Court Clerk of Court for their invaluable work.
The Kent Pilot welcomes Kevin Hemstock, well-known Kent County historical writer and newsman, as a History Quiz Master. We look forward to more of his thought-provoking challenges.
The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey, local newsman and history sleuth Kevin Hemstock, and columnist Kate Meehan contribute to the quiz’s development. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion.
Do you have a Kent County history question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.