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Zion Church

The historic Zion Church and Cemetery in Urbana, MD, is a preservation success story!


Zion Church and Cemetery

It was established as an Episcopal church in 1802. It is one of the most significant historical landmarks in southern Frederick County.


History of this project:
Frederick County Landmarks Foundation acquired the 3.6-acre property in 2005 by donation from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, following a long negotiation initiated by the Zion Church Preservation Committee (ZPC), an Urbana group formed in 2003 to restore the church and cemetery. FCLF has contracted with ZPC to manage and finance the restoration on its behalf.
Zion Church was abandoned as a place of worship following a fire in 1961, and the entire site has suffered damage from neglect, weather and vandalism in the decades since then. All that remains of the church are three original stone walls. Many of the tombstones have been overturned and damaged.

The restoration goal was to return the church to its original 1802 appearance, with reconstruction of the missing fourth wall, plus a new roof, floor, windows, doors and interior fittings. The site now includes interpretive signage about Zion and Urbana history.
ZPC engaged the eminent restoration architect, James T. Wollon, Jr., AIA, of Havre de Grace, Md., to create the new plan. Construction management was donated by Gardener's General Contractor, Inc. of Urbana. Numerous local vendors are supplied labor and materials at discounted prices, as a donation to the project.

Zion History

Consecrated in 1802 by the first American Episcopal bishop, the Rev. Thomas John Claggett, Zion was the first church—indeed, the first nonresidential building--in the Sugarloaf Mountain region of southern Frederick County, three decades before the village of Urbana was founded and named by Charles Johnson. For 160 years it was the center of community life in Urbana.
It is the resting place of many leading citizens of Frederick County, including veterans of the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War. Among the graves are two Virginian Confederate cavalry officers, one killed at the Battle of Monocacy and the other in a skirmish following it in Urbana in 1864. Zion was also used as a hospital during the Civil War. One of its early ministers founded a prominent girls’ boarding school housed in the nearby mansion Landon.

Among the notables buried at Zion are the founder of Urbana, Charles Johnson, and his father, Roger Johnson, a noted Maryland industrialist of the Federal period and brother of Gov. Thomas Johnson. Also buried there are members of such early families as Worthington, Beall, Murdoch, Delaplaine and Simmons.

Restoration Plans and Future Uses

In 1958, when the church was still in regular use, Zion parishioners had planned a restoration. They intended to remove the Victorian additions of the 1880s, taking the structure back to its 1802 design. But the 1961 fire dashed their plan.

A restored Zion Church and grounds is available for a variety of uses, including small community meetings, exhibits about local history, garden and craft festivals, weddings, and non-sectarian services (for example, on Thanksgiving or Memorial Day).

Zion Church Preservation Committee

The Zion Preservation Committee was founded and was co-chaired by the late Terry Grimes and Knight Kiplinger. It had 25 charter members and 42 Friends of Zion, residing both locally and all over America. Members include descendants of people buried at Zion, members of the community and surrounding counties, professional genealogists, historians, and archeologists.

Under an agreement with FCLF, all donations solicited by the Zion Committee will be placed in the Zion account at FCLF and used solely for the restoration. Conversely, no general revenues of FCLF will be allocated to the Zion restoration.

For more information, or to make donation, Knight Kiplinger at 202-887-6419.

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