Barratt’s Chapel and Museum
Heritage Landmark of The United Methodist Church
In 1778 a Methodist Society was organized north of Frederica, Delaware under the influence of Freeborn Garrettson, one of Francis Asbury's most energetic preachers. One of the Society members was Phillip Barratt, who owned some 800 acres in Kent County. Barratt was the county sheriff, a farmer, and a merchant. In 1780, he donated a plot of land so that the Society could build a preaching house.
The church was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1780. It was one of the first churches built in Delaware, and is the oldest house of worship still extant in the United States built by and for Methodists.
Barratt's Chapel is remembered as the meeting place of Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury on November 14, 1784. John Wesley ordained Thomas Coke, Richard Whatcoat, and Thomas Vasey on September 1-2, 1784, intending that Coke and Francis Asbury would jointly superintend the Methodist work in America.
Coke, Whatcoat, and Vasey landed in New York on November 3. Eleven days later they were at Barratt's Chapel. Coke recorded his experience in his journal: "Sunday, November 14, 1784. About ten o'clock we arrived at Barret's-chapel [sic].... In this chapel, in the midst of a forest, I had a noble congregation.... After the sermon, a plain robust man came up to me in the pulpit, and kissed me: I though it could be no other than Mr. Asbury, and I was not deceived.... After dining, in company with eleven of our preachers, at our sister Barret's, about a mile from the chapel; Mr. Asbury and I had a private conversation concerning the future management of our affairs in America...."
Also on that day, holy communion and baptism were offered for the first time by duly authorized Methodist clergy, Thomas Coke and Richard Whatcoat.
Phillip Barratt died at the age of 55, just two weeks before Coke and Asbury's historic meeting. His widow, Miriam Sipple, nevertheless opened her home to Coke, Asbury, and twelve other preachers for dinner following worship on November 14. It was in an upstairs bedroom after dinner where Coke and Asbury met and planned a conference to be held in Baltimore the following month. History remembers it as the Christmas Conference, when the Methodist Episcopal Church was formally organized as a denomination.
Points of interest at this Heritage Landmark: The chapel exterior is much as it was in 1784, except for a gable window added on the west end and the conversion of two large first floor windows into doors. On the inside there have been several changes, but a metal star on the floor marks the historic meeting of Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury on November 14, 1784. Some of the original furnishings are in the museum.
The museum focuses on Methodism on the Delmarva Peninsula, and has books, records, letters, and memorabilia on display. There is an eleven acre cemetery with graves dating from 1785 to the present, including Barratt family graves.
Visitors may park on site; restrooms are available at the chapel.
Special events: An anniversary service is held the second Sunday in November, and a Christmas service is held in the chapel on the Sunday before Christmas.
Area attractions: In nearby Wilmington are the Winterthur Museum and the Hagley Museum. Barratt's Chapel is also near several wildlife refuges.
To visit: Barratt's Chapel is open Wednesday, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Saturday, 1:30-4:30 p.m., and at other times by appointment with the site administator, Barbara Duffin (see contact information below).
The chapel is owned by the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference Commission on Archives and History. You can support the ministry of Barratt's Chapel by joining the Friends of Barratt's Chapel, P.O. Box 668, Frederica, DE 19946.
Location: Within the boundaries of the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference in Kent County, Delaware. The chapel is ten miles south of Dover and one mile north of Frederica on U.S. Route 113. The physical address is 6362 Bay Rd., Frederica, DE 19946.
Food and lodging: There are hotels and restaurants in Dover, and restaurants in Milford on U.S. Route 113.
Directions: Use U.S. Route 113 or State Route 12. The Chapel and Museum are just off Route 113, one mile north of Frederica and eleven miles south of Dover.
For further information, contact: Barbara Duffin, P.O. Box 668, Frederica, DE 19946; 302-335-5544.
To learn more about United Methodist history in this area:
Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference Archives, Barratt's Chapel, P.O. Box 668, Frederica, DE 19946; 302-335-5544; Barbara Duffin, Site Administrator.
Allen B. Clark and Jane Herson, New Light on Old Barratt's: A History of Barratt's Chapel: A Bicentennial Project (Commission on Archives and History, Peninsula Conference, 1984).
William Henry Williams, The Garden of American Methodism: the Delmarva Peninsula, 1769-1820 (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1984).