Honoring Our Past
This History of St Margaret’s was written by Folger McKinsey (Mack) Ridout in 2004.
It was transferred by Lindsey Drager from the original typed pages. This historical document is in the collection of St. Margaret’s Church.
It is especially important to note that much of this document is not necessarily historically accurate.
The location of the first church in the Broadneck Hundred is really not known. In 1695 Colonel John Hammond gave a tract of 200 feet square of land on Deep Creek for building a church. Two tracts of land (called “glebes”) were given by Edward Gibbs for building a church in 1707. These totaled 155 acres touching Deep Creek on the north side and bordering Westminster Towne on the east. This town bordered the Magothy River on the east and was a Puritan settlement.
The church members of Broadneck Parish were permitted to use the Quaker Meeting House for their services until their church was built in 1707. In fact, members of the Church of England had been meeting since before 1682 for worship and well before the Act of 1692 establishing the 30 parishes in Maryland.
Broadneck Parish was established in 1692 and its Parish boundaries determined. The Assembly of Maryland licensed Phillip Jones, a lay reader, in 1695. He could conduct services of Morning Prayer in the absence of an ordained priest. A minister, Edward Topp, was secured in 1696.
The 1707 building was a 20′ x 20′ and was known to have a brick foundation which was “still be seen” in early 1900. We believe the walls were also brick. The Church building was replaced in 1731 by another building in Severn Heights, which was a more convenient location. The Deep Creek glebes remained unused (that is, they were not rented out or farmed by the minister) and were sold in 1814. Ministers usually lived with one of the parishioners and stayed 2-3 years and returned to England.
St. Margaret’s Westminster Parish extended from the Magothy River on the east to the Chesapeake Bay to the Patapsco on the north, to Howard County on the west and across the Severn River to the south. The little church on Deep Creek could hardly serve such a far-flung congregation. In 1731, the Vestry requested permission to build a new church at Severn Heights, now known as Winchester. The Assembly of Maryland granted approval. Two acres of land were purchased from Patrick Ogilvie who operated a school on the west side of the road to Baltimore. A brick church was built between 1825 and 1827.
In 1825, the congregation purchased one acre of land on the corner of St. Margaret’s and Pleasant Plains Road as the site for the new church. The second church had been damaged by fire in 1803 and there insufficient funds to rebuild at that time. Through donations and sale of two of the three glebes (Luck and Iron Stone Hills) the funds were available to move ahead. The Severn Heights site was discarded in favor of the St. Margaret’s/Pleasant Plains site because it was more central to the church membership at that time.
The new church building was also destroyed by fire while still under construction when a workman accidentally dropped a match into some wood shavings. A new brick church that would accommodate 100 was then built and consecrated in 1852. In 1892, that building was damaged by fire and a third wood frame church was built and it was consecrated in 1896. The bell tower and bell were put in place in 1910 and dedicated to the Reverend Samuel Ridout. This building was also built to accommodate 100 people. It was clapboard that was painted white with green trim on the exterior. Beautiful stained glass windows were inscribed and dedicated to William Duval Singleton who like many of that time had died as an infant. This window is now in the north transept.
The interior at first had 3-tiered candelabra hung from the ceiling that held candles. When electricity reached the area, they were replaced with electrified candelabra. The altar stood against the east wall surrounded by that rail across the front of the chancel. Above was a rude beam with carved wooden Maltese crosses and on top the beam at the center was a cross about two feet high.
On either side of the chancel was a corner where, on the south a sacristy and on the north an unused robing room. The pump organ stood outside of the chancel and on its south side. The pulpit was on the edge of the chancel next to the organ. The lectern stood on the north side. The church still has two baptismal fonts – a large one on permanent loan from St. Anne’s and a small one. There was a plain small prayer desk that usually stood just off center to the south side just in front of the chancel rail.
A vested choir was begun in 1942, but it was a few years later before pews on the north side of the nave were removed to make room for choir stalls. They were placed in front on the north to face the organ. In 1958 a wing was added to the church on the south side to accommodate an addition to the nave, a larger sacristy, a rector’s office and a large wing to house the Sunday School classrooms.
In 1878 the church acquired eight acres of land from Dr. Zach Ridout’s farm next door so that a graveyard could be formed and to provide for a parish hall and rectory. Three cedar trees mark the corner of the first one-acre and extended to the property line of Zach Ridout’s farm. On the north it bordered St. Margaret’s Road and on the south it is bounded by a row of cedar trees.
In the early years parishioners were buried just south of the original one-acre property line. Unfortunately, the original wooded markers decayed and were not replaced. Now there is no way to identify the occupants. Beyond those graves to the south stopping at the edge of the second parish hall there are graves of black people, both free and former slaves, who were buried there between 1920 and 1970, again with wooden crosses. Where the old parish hall was standing a huge sycamore tree adjacent to the back door steps on the north side and beside the tree was a large sandstone rock marking the south edge of the graves. That rock has been saved and rests with the three cedar trees at the corner of the acre. Unfortunately, when a new parking lot was constructed a few years ago, it was built right across the middle of that burial area.
The old parish hall was wood frame, large enough to accommodate 100 people.
It was located a few feet closer to the church than the current structure. It was finished with brown shingles; a concrete front porch was supported with columns. The hall had a large raised stage that was used for plays. Dances were frequently held. A large kitchen was in the back. The Women’s Guild hosted dinners several times a year.
In 1970 a new parish hall was built a few feet further south of the old sycamore tree where the old 1920 building stood. Nevertheless they cut the tree down. In 1935 Mary McKinsey Ridout landscaped the cemetery. Six red cedar trees were placed marking the north cemetery entrance. Three red cedars were placed at the corner of the original one-acre lot. Ten red cedars were placed across the south boundary of the cemetery. Two very large beautiful evergreen magnolias and two Chamaecyparis were placed in the middle of the cemetery to a circle where the road entering from St. Margaret’s Road should end.
In 2004 the churchyard committee put a surfaced road straight through the cemetery to create a defined access. The lower limbs of the magnolias had to be cut and one of the Chamaecyparis had to be removed, but it did accommodate the necessary situation without too much damage. A columbarium was added in 2001.