Grace Church Construction
1884 - 1885
The Grace Methodist Episcopal Church got its start in the Lincoln Colored School, sometimes called the Lincoln School (B), where newly freed slaves were educated in what was one of the first public schools for African Americans in Virginia. The church's congregation first organized here in 1872 under the leadership of Reverend Henry Carroll. In 1884, freedmen and other residents built the existing church just up the hill from the school. Stone masons used native field stone and topped the structure with a bell "that could be heard for miles!" The building was dedicated on July 30, 1885, under the pastorate of Reverend John Bean, a circuit rider, whose churches included those in Middleburg, Leesburg, Lincoln and others.
Services at the Church
1885 - 1949
Services were originally held on the second and fourth Sundays. The basement was sometimes used as a vocational school where Quakers taught sewing, cooking, shoe repair and other skills to the black community. The building never had plumbing, so water was carried from the nearby spring located south of the building. Two outhouses, one each for men and women were located on each side of the rear of the church and were reportedly "two-seaters." The location of the women's outhouse was discovered by archaeologists but the location of the men's room is still a mystery.
After around 1915, most of the congregation resided in Purcellville and nearby Cooksville and they walked to Lincoln for services. The church was active and lively, and celebrated an annual homecoming in August attended by large crowds where potluck meals were shared. The church also celebrated “children's day” and enjoyed occasional joint-services with nearby Mount Olive Baptist Church. Money was scarce, so fundraising was a constant effort. The more popular fundraisers included "Tom Thumb Marriages" in which tickets were sold to witness staged weddings acted out by young children; and "Fan Drills", theatrical line- dances featuring young girls dressed up in colorful costumes including overskirts that "fanned" out.
The church served as an anchor and stabilizing force for the black community in Lincoln until 1942. In the early forties, then-Reverend Otis Jasper was encouraged by his church District Superintendent to have the Lincoln church join the United Methodist Conference, and move to Purcellville where most of the congregation resided. In September 1949, Grace Annex United Methodist Episcopal Church broke ground for the new building on A Street in Purcellville. The old stone church in Lincoln was eventually abandoned. Although the congregation maintains an active cemetery in Lincoln, the building has been in disrepair and out of use since the early 1950’s. The building is owned by the trustees of the Friends of Grace.
In 2002, the Lincoln Preservation Foundation, along with the then-trustees of the Grace Church, united in an ambitious undertaking: to rescue and restore the abandoned building and tell its story. With this goal in mind, the Lincoln Preservation Foundation found itself swept up in a project we originally called "Saving Grace.” Today we still use that term, but we also call it the Grace Heritage Site Project.
Today, the trustees of the Grace Church own the building as a non-profit 501(c)3, the Friends of Grace Multicultural Center, or, the Friends of Grace.
The Saving Grace Project (Grace Heritage Site Project), in a nutshell, strives to restore the building and grounds and allow it to stand as a symbol of the African American story. Exhibits will highlight the role of local blacks, with special recognition given to veterans who once served, but were disregarded because of their race. The sanctuary will return to its original glory, and be available for meetings and community events. The Grace Heritage Site will also enjoy visitors coming to Lincoln as part of an established Underground Railroad driving tour.