The stone masons brought over from England by Bishop chase to construct early buildings at Ken
yon College settled in this area. In the 1850s, with the help of the Episcopal Bishop Gregory T. Bedell, they and other families in the community built the “Quarry Chapel” on the land given by John T. Bateman. William Fish, owner of the nearby quarry, donated the sandstone. The church stood unused and deteriorating since 1937. Restoration began in 1972.
(Plaque that stands in front of Quarry Chapel today)
It is difficult to discern what actually took place during the building of Christ Church at the Quarry, as few physical documents concerning the church remain. There exists a photograph of the Chapel being built, but, unfortunately, it is not accompanied by names or occupations. The names of the people in the pictures may, unfortunately, may be lost. Much of what we know today is historical hearsay. The accounts used adhere to the same set of facts, so it is likely that there is merit in these accounts.
In the 1850s, a religious revival took place among the students of Kenyon College. This, coupled with an increasing population in Gambier, created a need for a church (Church of the Holy Spirit had not yet been built. It was not finished until 1869). Originally, people wanted to build a frame building to house services and a Sunday School. This idea was rejected by William Fish, who thought that a stone church would be much better than a wooden frame church. Since he owned the local quarry, Fish also willingly donated the stone for the building of the church. Bishop Bedell, then the bishop of the Diocese of Ohio, agreed to the plans. Accounts differ as to whether it was Mr. Fish or William Tinsley, a Diocesan architect from Ireland, who developed the plans for the church. Mr. Tinsley, who is also the architect for Ascension Hall on Kenyon’s campus, was most likely the architect for the chapel. As Louise Adams, who wrote a piece about the founding of the church, relates, “The chapel as it stands looks suspiciously like a Tinsley structure, strongly resembling the church at Clogheen in Ireland.” She goes on to mention that, “Tinsley was working in Knox County at the time the chapel project began and as Mr. Fish was involved in both buildings [Ascension and the Kokosing house, Bishop Bedell’s residence] it was reasonable that Tinsley would be interested and perhaps donated his plans.” The chapel was constructed on land generously by John G. Bateman, and the stands on the original route that Bishop Chase used in getting to the stone quarry owned by William Fish. The finished chapel stands at the corner of Quarry Chapel Road and Monroe Mills Road in Gambier, Ohio.
The building of the chapel was a community project. Stone masons may have been imported from either England or Ireland (the native countries of Fish, Bishop Chase, and Tinsley) for the construction of several buildings on Kenyon’s campus. As Bessie Rowley Bateman, a former parishioner of the church, put it, “trees were felled in the neighboring woods– stone was quarried and chiseled, and the lasting results of their labors is the small but neat and appropriate stone chapel that graces the quarry knoll.” Bateman attributes the building of the chapel simply to the local settlers. The building of the chapel progressed steadily until the exterior was finished in the winter of 1862, and the building was consecrated on January 18, 1863 by Bishop Bedell. In the words of Bishop Bedell, the first service was as follows:
“I baptized seven children and addressed the people, but the need of further effort on the part of friends to furnish it before the next winter may be felt when I state that the church was not plastered, the window frames and sashes merely set in, the wind blowing in every direction, only a small fire in the one stove whilst eighteen inches of snow was lying on the ground, the thermostat standing at 12 degrees.”
(Quotation taken from Harcourt Parish’s records on Quarry Chapel.)
The life of the Quarry Chapel began inauspiciously. In the following months, furnishings were provided by the community. A local resident named Peter Parker is credited with carving and donating the stone font which stood in the chapel. The “Ladies of Gambier” (who remain largely shrouded in mystery) tirelessly raised money to furnish the fledgling chapel. If ever a community rallied around a common cause, the Quarry Chapel was such an effort.
After it was built and furnished, the chapel was actively used for over forty years. It eventually fell into disuse and, even though it remains a symbol of the Gambier community today, the chapel that was the product of the effort of an entire town was left to simply collapse on its own.
The Western Episcopalian January 22, 1863 Page 118
“Events are God’s footsteps”—Bishop Chase
GAMBIER-On Friday evening last (January 16, 1863), under the auspices of the ladies of Gambier a Festival was held, in the Basement of Rosse Chapel, for the benefit of Christ Church at the Quarry. The mission chapel, the erection of which was commenced about one year ago, is now so far completed that except in the coldest weather it can be used for services. For the last month Sunday School and the Church Services have been regularly conducted in it; and on last Sabbath Bishop Bedell visited it, and baptized ten children. The plan of the edifice was furnished by the well known architect Mr. William Tinsley, of Cincinnati. But besides ornamenting the environs of Gambier, Christ Church will, we hope, be the means of drawing down God’s holy blessing upon this neighborhood. To contribute to the sum remaining to be provided for the completion of the Church, which is $348, the total estimated cost being $991—was the object of the Festival. The citizens of Gambier were generous in their encouragement of the enterprise; all the ladies labored assiduously and contributed bountifully in furthering it; and those charged with the responsibility of its management were especially earnest, energetic, and capable.
The room in which the Festival was held, was handsomely decorated, and the several tables were elegantly arranged and ornamented by the fair hands of those in charge of them. A most pleasing spirit prevailed among those present. All were interested in the success of the ladies, and their laudable enterprise; and every one desired to entertain everyone else. Bishop and Mrs. Bedell were present, as usual had kind words for everyone. The atmosphere of Christian friendliness and kindness which they always carry about them, and to their generous patronage much of the evening’s success was due.
Owing to the bewitching influence and charming wiles of the ladies who presided at the various tables, the excellence and elegance of the arrangements, and the general interest in Christ Church, the Festival was a complete success. Everything was sold, all were well pleased, and from the lips of everyone came compliments for the ladies of Gambier. The total proceeds were $125.80; the expenses only$2.50; and the net profits $123.30.
DEEP SNOW-Gambier was visited on Thursday last (January 15th, 1863) with the deepest snow ever known here. The oldest inhabitant could not remember a fall of snow, lying 20 inches on a level. Our whole community is indebted to Mr. William Fish for his ingenuity in contriving a horse snow plough and for his energy in using it. In the course of the morning he cleared a path three feet wide, along the main avenue from Seminary to College, and in all directions through Gambier. To these efforts we were no doubt largely indebted for the crowded attendance on our Festival.