James Rowley

James Rowley, a Kenyon graduate from the class of 1940, wrote a history of Quarry Chapel as part of a local history project while an undergraduate. He had the advantage of growing up across the road from the chapel. He spoke with his aunt. Sadly, his history has disappeared, but some of the information still survives.

John Bateman donated the land for the chapel and Bishop Lawrence of New York and Bishop Brooks of Massachusetts integrated the site where it was built it. Local residents built Quarry Chapel on the route that Philander Chase, the founder of Kenyon College, took when he scouted out the site of the school. Conveniently for the builders there was a stone quarry only a few yards away from the site.

The builders of the chapel were stone masons by trade, Englishmen who heard they could find work here. Philander Chase had been raising money in England so it is possible that the call for workers came from him, or the leading families that donated money for the school. William Fish brought his family over and found work so plentiful he wrote back to his friend Peter Parker, to come over as well. Parker, Rowley?s grandfather, followed his friend’s advice and came to Ohio, becoming one of the most experienced stonemasons in the area. The original plan was for the church to be of wood, but William Fish donated sandstone from his nearby quarry. This was the same quarry that provided the stone for the Church of the Holy Spirit on the Kenyon College campus. Peter Parker and his son Ben constructed the chapel with the help of other local residents. They also built Rosse Hall and a library, which subsequently burned. Ben Parker became the grounds superintendent of Kenyon, later promoted to Master of the Keys. He was also a caretaker for Bishop Bedell. Another son of Peter Parker, John, became the first person baptized in the chapel in 1863.

James Rowley?s mother, Stella Parker Rowley, served as the organist at the chapel for over forty years. James Rowley was baptized there in 1919. His father Charles A. Rowley was Vestryman for forty years. When James was eight, he helped his father bring in kindling for the potbellied stove in the middle of the church, the only source of heat in the church. For his work the chapel paid James twenty-five cents a week. His parents were the caretakers of the chapel, arranging for students from Bexley Seminary to come and give services on Sunday nights. The chapel served as a link between the college students and the town residents. They both benefited, the seminary students were given a chance to practice their sermons and the town people heard a second service, which was often the only service the families on the outskirts of town attended. The Bexley students sometimes came out in knee deep snow to preach to a congregation of only a dozen.

The chapel was rarely full for services in James Rowley?s time, when roughly only forty people would attend. There was no assigned seating, but generally people sat in the same place every week and others respected those spots as taken. There were no parties held at the chapel, but there were family and neighborhood get-togethers. Over the years the number of people attending services dwindled to the point that the Vestry decided that there was no need for its continued operation. Many people only went to the church of the Holy Spirit so the chapel was deconsecrated. Several years after its deconsecration some Kenyon students broke into the chapel, defacing it. In response to this a Kenyon graduate, Reverend Danforth came down from Chicago. He said he wanted to preserve Quarry Chapel and asked if he could take the altar, pews, and bell back up to Illinois with him. The Vestry held a meeting and decided he could, on the grounds that Danforth would store them in a protected area until they restored the chapel at a later date. In the 1960?s Tom Greenslade Sr. brought the furniture back to Gambier and stored it in the basement of the Old Kenyon dormitory. Eventually the school moved the pews back to the chapel when the exterior was restored in the 1970?s.