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A Brief History of Zion United Methodist Church

Zion Church, first known as "Garrettson Chapel" has a rich heritage dating back to 1780, just twenty years after the beginning of The American Methodist Church in 1760 and four years before the Christmas Conference in Baltimore.

The first Methodist sermon in Dorchester County was preached by Rev. Freeborn Garrettson in 1779 at the home of Squire Airey, near Salem, Maryland. There was so much excitement caused by the preaching of Wesley’s Methodist doctrine, that Garrettson was arrested at the home of Mr. Airey and imprisoned in the old Cambridge Jail, which stood on Locust Street directly across the street from the present Zion Church parsonage. Through the efforts of Francis Asbury and Governor Paca of Maryland, Garrettson was released from jail.

In 1800 a lot on the corner of Mill and Church Streets was purchased for $3,000 and Garrettson Chapel was erected. On April 18, 1802, Bishops Asbury and Whatcoat visited the new Chapel.

By 1845 the Chapel had outgrown its building. The new Zion Church of Race Street was built of stone at $6,000 and dedicated in 1846 by Bishop Janes.
On Sunday, July 31, 1910 a devastating fire started in the business section of Race Street. Zion was one of many structures destroyed during the blaze.

In September, 1910 the Trustees purchased the lot on Locust Street for $10,000, where the present Zion was built at a cost of $85,000. The first service was held in 1912. Fourteen years later, the mortgage was burned in 1926.

On January 1, 1950, a devastating fire totally destroyed Zion Church, which was still in debt from the remodeling of 1949. Though shocked and saddened, the congregation, under the leadership of the Rev. Alton S. Miller, had the determination to go forward.

The decision was made to rebuild. Assistance came from the entire community. The rebuilding was completed in 1952. On Sunday, October 29, 1967, the mortgage burning ceremony was held during the pastorate of the Rev. Otho G. Brewer, Jr.

Through the generosity of Capt. Levi B. Phillips, Sr. who died in 1946 leaving Zion a legacy, a lovely parsonage was built next to the church. Constructed of granite, it was dedicated in 1952.

The Phillips-Roszelle Memorial Church Parlor was planned during the pastorate of Dr. John E. French.

In 1968, when the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church and Zion became Zion United Methodist Church, the senior pastor, Dr. Howard M. Amoss, was a delegate.

During the pastorate of the Rev. William H. Owens an Endowment Fund was established in 1972.

In 1973 a History and Records Room was decorated and furnished by Mr. and Mrs. Granville Hooper. The Book of Remembrance contains many important gifts made to Zion by its devoted members.

The Zion congregation is grateful for the rich blessings God has bestowed throughout the long and eventful history of our church and pray that God’s guiding hand may continue to lead us in the future as in the past.