Dorchester’s Country Churches: Taylors Island Chapel of Ease dates to early days

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
The Chapel of Ease on Taylors features a steeply sloped roof reminiscent of Old World architecture.

TAYLORS ISLAND — Estimated to date to the third quarter of the eighteenth century, the structural frame of the Taylors Island Chapel of Ease reflects the presence of the Anglican Church in Dorchester County when few other denominations were active. Built with exposed and decorated corner posts, plates, and wall posts finished with corner beads, the chapel originally stood on the eastern edge of Taylor’s Island adjacent to what is still known as Chapel Cove, according to information from the Maryland Historical Trust.

The rectangular structure, measuring approximately 20’ x 30’, stood for years in an unfinished state according to the Dorchester Parish vestry minutes. The chapel was repaired or finished during the early nineteenth century, which is evident inside with a remnant piece of late Federal chair rail, narrow beaded edge exterior window trim around six-over-six sash, and a gallery that was clearly installed from this later period, the Trust says.

After the parish built Grace Church on Hoopers Neck Road in 1872-73, the old church was used for a variety of purposes on its site at Chapel Cove. During the 1950s, the old Chapel of Ease was moved to a site next to Grace Church in an effort to preserve it.

Due to missing eighteenth century vestry minutes for Dorchester Parish, which was established in 1692-93, it is unclear exactly when a chapel-of-ease was erected on Taylor’s Island.
Other fragmentary records suggest an Anglican chapel was in place by the third quarter of the eighteenth century. Later vestry minutes during the early nineteenth century indicate that the island congregation was plagued by intermittent attendance by vestrymen, a lack of consistent ministerial leadership, and an unfinished chapel.

Records from the Trust say in 1821, the Dorchester Parish vestry recorded the following situation:
“In accordance with the resolution of the Last Convention Vestry of Dorchester Parish in Dorchester county report that they have at Present there parish a substantial Brick Church which has lately been put into Comfortable repair & about two thirds of the pews have been rented out, they also have a small unfinished Chapell on Taylor’s Island made of wood in which a Congregation assembles, they have no funds nor Glebe Lands, the Rev ‘d G. Weller gives to their Churches as much time as he can spare from the duties of G. Choptank Parish of which he is rector…”

Seven years later, in June 1828, the Dorchester Parish vestry ordered an assessment of the condition of the Taylor’s Island Chapel, however, the report was never entered into the vestry minutes. It is reasonable to believe, given the early nineteenth century nature of some of the exterior and interior finishes, that work was done on the eighteenth century structure at that time, the Trust says.

The chapel was used throughout the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, and the vestry minutes record various meetings held at the Chapel Cove site. However, in 1872-73, the parish financed the construction of Grace Church at a new site more centrally located on the island, and the old chapel was put to different uses through the balance of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth.

Ultimately, the Grace Foundation of Taylor’s Island decided to preserve the building and financed its relocation and renovation once it was moved to the more central site on Hoopers Neck Road.