First Blog Post!

by Edie Wallace

I believe it was 2002 when I first became aware of Tolson’s Chapel.  It was only six years after the death of Virginia Cook, the last member of the chapel congregation who, sadly, I never knew.  I remember my first visit to the chapel, when we opened the front door and saw the Bible still open on the lectern.  The hymn page numbers from the last service were still listed on the hymn board and hymnals were still laid out on nearly every pew.  It took my breath away and goosebumps formed on my arms as I became aware of the spiritual energy still present in the old log building.  I still get that feeling every time I open the chapel door.

Viewer is facing the chapel, which is painted red.

A view of Tolson’s Chapel in 2001.

I remain eternally thankful to the United Methodist Baltimore-Washington Conference for having the foresight to seek out a preservation-minded new owner for the chapel.  And I am equally thankful to the Save Historic Antietam Foundation for taking ownership while the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel (FOTC) navigated the four-year 501(c)(3) formation process.  Fast-forward to 2018, sixteen years since that day we opened the chapel door in 2002.  The FOTC continues to grow and remains strong in our commitment to the preservation and interpretation of the historic building and its people who we have come to know and love.

Former Director Stanton stands at the podium in the chapel.

Former National Park Service Director Bob Stanton speaking at the Chapel’s rededication in 2012.

I want to use this first blog to look back on our many achievements over those sixteen years.  In all, we have received and successfully administered three Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) capital grants and two MHT African American Heritage Preservation Fund capital grants totaling over $130,000 to restore the chapel building and its adjoining cemetery.  We also received grants from the Preservation Maryland Heritage Fund and the Mary K. Bowman Fund (through the Community Foundation of Washington County) to install a beautiful informational wayside exhibit outside the chapel.  Grants from the National Park Service (through the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies) and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau helped us to establish our internet presence with a comprehensive website and a professionally designed four-panel brochure.  Grants from the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area supported our 2012 Dignity of Freedom Symposium held at the Antietam National Battlefield and in 2017, helped FOTC to begin development of an educational program at Tolson’s Chapel for visiting school and youth groups.  FOTC was most recently awarded a grant from the Mary K. Bowman Fund for costumes and supplies to move forward with our planned experiential educational program.

In 2017, FOTC was recognized for our efforts to preserve Tolson’s Chapel by the Washington County Commissioners with the John Frye Historic Preservation Award.  We were additionally honored by Preservation Maryland with the 2017 Stewardship Award.  When it rains, it pours!

A View of Tolson's Chapel in 2017, after ther restoration.

A view of Tolson’s Chapel in 2017, after the restoration.

We are sincerely grateful for the support we have received from the National Park Service, manifested in various forms – from former NPS Director Robert Stanton as keynote speaker at the Tolson’s Chapel Re-Dedication in 2012, to Superintendent Tyrone Brandyburg (Harpers Ferry National Historical Park) at our 2017 Rally Day event.  Perhaps most importantly, were it not for Dr. Dean Herrin’s intrepid research and the contributions of his interns at the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies, Tolson’s Chapel might still be a forgotten shack on the back street of Sharpsburg!  Antietam National Battlefield staff, under the guidance of Superintendents John Howard and Susan Trail, have been steady supporters of the FOTC mission, sharing their time and equipment and sending visitors our way to tell “the rest of the story” following the battles of the Civil War.  In fact, the post-emancipation/Reconstruction story at Tolson’s Chapel is so important that in 2017 National Capital Region staff earmarked funds to pursue a National Historic Landmark designation for Tolson’s Chapel (still in process).

These past sixteen years have been exciting, exhausting, enlightening, and educational for me and for the FOTC board.  And while they might deny it, I know this to be true – without the steady support and participation of the FOTC board members, none of the many things we have done could have come to fruition.  Most important to us are the many friends we have made along the way.  Without our friends and donors we could not continue our mission.  Thank you all for sharing our vision and supporting our mission over these past sixteen years!  And here’s to many, many more!

Please look to this blog for periodic articles from invited contributors covering a variety of relevant subjects!

3rd Annual Rally Day Fundraiser

Contains an image of Rally Day that was published in the newspaper as well as the detailed program.

Join us for a day of music, fun, food, and a great opportunity to support the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel’s mission to preserve and interpret historic Tolson’s Chapel! This year we will feature Shana Oshiro, Executive Director of HALO, Inc. (African American women barbershop quartet) to introduce to us their “Race and #RealTalk” program (we’ll be bringing the whole group back in the 2019 season!), and Pastor Walter Jackson from the Wainwright Baptist Church in Charles Town, WVA to sing traditional common-meter hymns, Fanny Crawford will share her storytelling talents, and the Tri-State Drum Circle is returning to help us find our rhythm. We’ll have silent auction items (look for item posts in this event beginning September 1 for early bidding!) and raffles through the day, and the traditional fried chicken, pie, and ice cream Rally Day lunch fare will be available for purchase.




4th Annual Gala Fundraiser Dinner!

Please join us for our 4th Annual Gala Fundraiser Dinner, scheduled for Saturday, April 8, 2017, from 6:00-9:00pm, honoring the People of Tolson’s Chapel.  Come see our new display of historic photographs featuring historic members of the Tolson’s Chapel congregation!

The event will be held again this year at the Academy Theater Banquet Hall, 58 East Washington Street in Hagerstown, where a delicious buffet dinner will be provided by Applause Catering.  Entertainment by the always enjoyable jazz sounds of Bob Sykes on piano, joined this year by Lou Hines on bass and the return of Wanda Stewart’s soothing vocals.  Our own Renee Emanuel (FOTC board member) will regale us with some of her remarkable storytelling to cap the evening off!  Cash Raffles and Silent Auction items will help the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel raise funds for our annual budget and special programs.

Tickets are $65.00 per person ($55 if you are an FOTC member!), available via PayPal (find the link to the registration page on our home page) or by check to FOTC, P.O. Box 162, Sharpsburg, MD 21782.

Please be a Friend of Tolson’s Chapel and join us for an evening of good food, good friends, and great entertainment!

Closing out the Celebratory Year

Tolson’s Chapel Sesquicentennial Year of Special Events Coming to a Close with a Final Community Event, Christmas by Candlelight, December 10, 2016 at 7:00pm.

For More Information:

Sharpsburg, Md. – The Friends of Tolson’s Chapel (FOTC) celebrated the chapel’s


Dr. Hari Jones – photo courtesy Ron Lytle

Sesquicentennial year with a series of events held at the chapel through the spring/summer/fall season.  On October 1, 2016 FOTC hosted their penultimate event with a day-long Rally Day celebration.  With 65 people in attendance the event began with Renee Emanuel leading the audience in several joyful hymns.  Dr. Dean Herrin, Chief Historian, NPS National Capital Region, shared his thoughts on the significance of Tolson’s Chapel as a Freedmen’s Bureau school.  Dr. Hari Jones, independent historian and inspirational speaker, followed with a rousing talk entitled “Emancipate, Enfranchise, Educate:  The Role of the Church in Achieving this Social Trinity.” The son of a preacher, Dr. Jones filled the room with his booming voice and inspired all in attendance!  Following a traditional Rally Day lunch of Fried Chicken and sides (by Bonnies at the Red Byrd), pie (by Burkholder’s Bakery), and ice cream (courtesy Nutter’s), the Tri-State Drum Circle brought the group together with African rhythms.  The day came to a close with the beautiful gospel harmonies of The Spears Sisters.  It was a day no one in attendance will forget!

FOTC will finish out this celebratory year with a final community event, Christmas by Candlelight, a non-denominational service featuring several area ministers and plenty of traditional Christmas music.  This event will take place at Tolson’s Chapel on Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 7:00pm.  The chapel is currently without electricity or heat so the service will be lit by plenty of battery-powered candles and we encourage folks to dress warm!  Please join us in celebrating this joyful season in a traditional setting at Tolson’s Chapel.

Tolson’s Chapel is located at 111 E. High St. in Sharpsburg, Maryland.  For more information please contact Edie Wallace via email at


150th Anniversary Rally Day Event

rally-day-flierPlease join us for the 150th Anniversary Rally Day Event, scheduled Saturday, October 1, 2016

We are welcoming back Dr. Hari Jones as our keynote speaker, sharing his thoughts entitled: “Emancipate, Enfranchise, Educate: The Role of the Church in this Social Trinity”

Come share in traditional Rally Day fare, music, activities, tours, and even a USCT encampment!

Tolson’s Chapel Celebrates Black History Month

Happy Black History Month! The Sharpsburg Library will be hosting a display of Tolson’s Chapel history through the month of February. Please stop by to view our exhibit!

Also, mark you calendars for February 20th at 4:00pm in Sharpsburg Town Hall – ZSun-nee Matema, retired history teacher, author, artist, and all-around interesting person, will present her genealogical research on her family, enslaved on the Mt. Vernon plantation, following the Washington, Custis, and Lee lines.

GeoWoodstock XIII and Memorial Day Parade Open House

Welcome GeoWoodstock XIII geocachers and Sharpsburg Memorial Day Parade goers!

Tolson’s Chapel will be open for tours on Saturday, May 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Geocachers attending the GeoWoodstock XIII, we hope you will stop in for a tour! Sharpsburg Memorial Day Parade-goers, come see what Tolson’s Chapel is all about!