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The Delmarva Peninsula has its share of big tourism draws that we all love to visit. But for me the best joys of the place involve wandering along country backroads lined with lush farm fields and pine stands in search of this, that, or another hidden treasure.

Let’s start this excursion in the year 1733:
• George Washington, hero of the Revolution, celebrated his first birthday.
• King George III, villain of the Revolution, hadn’t been born yet.

That’s also the year Green Hill Church went up. It says so, in big numbers right on the building, which is still standing 290 years later on a generous bank above a bend in the Wicomico River. The location is vaguely near Quantico, in southern Wicomico County. As you scroll through the story here, you’ll find some sweet photos by Jill Jasuta Photography.

One more thing about 1733: Wicomico County didn’t exist yet. This was all Somerset County back then.

Big Plans That Never Came Off

If you ever find your way to Green Hill Road, you’ll wonder on arriving if you’re at the right place. “Can I really park here, or is it private property?” You won’t see the church from the road. What you’ll see is a grass path that winds along the border of a couple of residential backyards. “Is it really ok to stroll that path?”

Yup, go ahead. It’s a short, easy stroll. Your reward will be a postcard-pretty piece of our colonial past, a building the National Trust for Historic Preservation calls “one of the outstanding eighteenth-century architectural survivals remaining on the lower Eastern Shore.”

Things didn’t unfold according to plan here at Green Hill. Civic planners in the early 1700s imagined this bend of the river would become the site of a bustling “Green Hill Town.” They designated it an official port of entry where merchants were supposed to check in and do their paperwork and pay their taxes on imported goods from Europe.

But the town never took off as a center of commerce. The honor went to Salisbury, an upriver town that barely existed in 1733.

But there was enough activity around here in the early 1700s to support a church. The first Green Hill sanctuary was a frame affair that’s long gone. It stood near the current brick building, some 100 yards to the northeast. It was known as Stepney Church in its earliest days.

Community Do-Gooders to the Rescue

Green Hill Church Wicomico CountyThe brick building you can visit nowadays has had an up-and-down life. The church thrived early on, but then the Revolution came along and all things English, especially Episcopal churches, fell into disfavor. The church made a comeback after things calmed down, getting renamed as St. Bartholomew’s. But it faltered again after the Civil War.

A band of local do-gooders restored it in the 1880s. More ups and downs followed. The building was nearly lost for good at one point, but another group of local do-gooders came to the rescue in the 1980s. They resurrected a local tradition–an annual St. Bartholomew Day party on or around. Aug. 24. Another big restoration effort took hold just a few years ago, starting in 2020, which is why the building looks to be in good shape from the outside. They had an event there last year for St. Barholomew’s Day. I am not sure if that will be an annual affair going forward.

Holy Cow: The Milk Paint Party

Green Hill Church Cemetery Wicomico County

A glimpse of the cemetery at Green Hill

A couple of anecdotes from the annals of Green Hill. First, here is what one modern-day restoration-effort expert, Bill Wilson, told the journalist Brice Stump about the paint on the pews inside of St. Bartholomew’s:

“While I was doing research on the church, I found this quote from American Architect and Building News published in 1885 about Green Hill: ‘It’s repeated that the local legend is the church was built in 1733. The people drove their cows to the building, milked them, and with the milk, mixed (in) red ochre with which the pews were painted.’ We had a paint analysis that also confirmed that. Now we know the history of the red tone we see on the pews. Milk paint made on the spot.”

Tobacco Bucks in Short Supply

The longest-serving pastor here was Rev. Alexander Adams. His tenure lasted an amazing 65 years, from 1704 to 1769. He was in charge of that old frame church. He was at the helm during the building of the brick one. He also had other churches in his charge in other parts of that old version of Somerset County.

Green Hill Church Cemetery Wicomico County

What is up with the marbles atop the cemetery wall?

Rev. Adams had his share of ups and downs in the job. During a rough stretch in 1711 the price of tobacco crashed, which was especially bad news because that crop functioned as currency in those days. He begged for help in a letter to a bishop back in England:

“For these four years I have served as a presbyter of the Church of England, the whole County of Somerset, consisting of four Parishes, so that six congregations are supplied by me to travel 200 miles per month besides my pastoral charge. I’m my own Parish (Stepney) which has a church and chapel and is near 30 miles in length and 16 or 18 miles in breadth, which is a labor that few in America undergo yet.

“My Lord, I can’t subsist without some assistance, for tobacco, our money, is worth nothing and not one shirt [can] be had for tobacco this year in all our county; and poor ten shillings is all the money I have received by my ministry and perquisites since October last.”

Rev. Adams survived that tobacco crash and found his way to better times. Toward the end of his tenure he made a gift to the church of a Communion service crafted by London silversmiths that includes two chalices, two small plates, and a “flagon” (a pitcher-like container geared for church communion services) that can hold a gallon of wine. Its inscription reads,

“The Gift of Rev Alexander Adams, Rector of Stepney Parish, to the said Parish, 1752.”

From what I hear they break that service out for those annual St. Bartholomew Day services.

–posted by Jim Duffy for Secrets of the Eastern Shore/Whimbrel Creations LLC in June 2023.

Red Roost Wicomico County• If you want to visit the church, the address to plug into your GPS is 4035 Green Hill Church Rd, Quantico, MD 21856

• There is a Facebook page for the church that might have information about special events like the St. Bartholomew’s Day party, though it doesn’t seem to be very active in recent months.

• If you visit in the warmer months, you might want to swing things so that you can enjoy some old-school Eastern Shore cooking at the fun Red Roost restaurant, located in an old middle-of-nowhere chicken house nearby.

• The photos here were taken by Jill Jasuta Photography. On another part of this website, you can find lots more of her photos. Some of them might look great in your place–or make the perfect gift.

• One last view of this memorable building:

Green Hill Church Wicomico County

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