Sussex Post

Olde Christmas at Prince George’s Chapel a homecoming with historical interest

DAGSBORO – One week later than originally planned thanks to Winter Storm Grayson, old-time holiday tradition was rekindled Sunday afternoon at historic Prince George’s Chapel in Dagsboro.

Several dozen attendees seated in the chapel’s rectangular, boxed pews joined guest singers and musicians at Olde Christmas Day Musical Celebration hosted by the Friends of the Prince George’s Chapel.

For Laurel resident Laura Mitchell, it’s an annual homecoming.

“Originally, I grew up here. I remember my mother bringing here at age 10,” said Ms. Mitchell. “I grew up with this being part of my life. Then several years before I moved I was on the board of directors for Friends of Prince George’s Chapel. So, I guess you could say I’ve had a never-ending, ongoing love affair for this beautiful historic chapel. I live in Laurel, Delaware now, but when I come here I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. So, I keep saying ‘There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.’”

Seated next to Ms. Mitchell was her good friend Karen Tucker, who experienced her first Olde Christmas Day celebration at the historic chapel, built in 1755.

“It’s beautiful. I’m so blessed to be here,” said Ms. Tucker.

First-time attendees Gail and Bill Stubbs, who retired from Monmouth County, New Jersey to West Fenwick about 12 years ago, were amazed by the chapel’s unique architecture – notably it’s barrel-vault ceiling of heart-pine planks – as well as its history, restoration and preservation.

“We saw this in the paper that they were going to have this today. So, we came over to join in,” said Mr. Stubbs. “I was up there in the loft area. It’s interesting; all of the artifacts they have up there.”

“He’s fascinated because he’s in architecture,” said Ms. Stubbs referring to her husband. “So, the barrel ceiling is amazing …”

“This is the first time I’ve been here, and I think this is a wonderful building. It’s nicely restored. I’ve never sat in this kind of a pew before,” said Mr. Stubbs. “I’m glad we came, just to listen to the music and look at the church. We go by it all of the time. It’s a great thing for the community. More people should come and see churches like this.”

“We used to just drive through Delaware to get to Florida – and never stopped …,” said Ms. Stubbs. “We’re interested in history.  And this has got a history that should really be not just preserved but written about. “

The chapel is administered by the Friends of Prince George’s Chapel. The group is responsible for general maintenance and upkeep of the chapel through a sublease agreement with the town of Dagsboro.

The Prince George’s Chapel property is owned by the state of Delaware, which leases it to the town of Dagsboro.

Traditionally held close to Jan. 6, which is the Three Kings Day, the Olde Christmas program dates back several decades.

Now in Delaware, the chapel at one time was on land that was part of Maryland. There was a lengthy boundary dispute between the Penn and Calvert families.

Prince George’s Chapel began as an Anglican chapel-of-ease, serving the northern outlying area of Worcester Parish, Maryland. With reorganization of the Episcopal Church following the American Revolution, the chapel became an independent parish church in the diocese of Delaware.

The most prominent individual with ties to the congregation is Revolutionary War General John Dagsworthy, a large landowner of the area and an officer in King George’s War, the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

The chapel is also the focus of legend and folklore regarding Gen. John Dagworthy’s final resting place. Upon his death in 1784, there is historical belief he was interred under its chancel.