Question- What is the oldest Church building in Maple Shade? I bet you will say St. John's Episcopal Church. Wrong. Hidden in the various additions and an overcoating of brick at Immanuel Baptist Church remains the old Fellowship Baptist Chapel.
In October of 1924, The Fellowship Baptist Chapel, built in early 1870, was moved from its place in Fellowship, Mt. Laurel, a distance of over 3 miles, down Fellowship Road and across the back of the OLPH Church lot to its place on South Poplar Avenue to become Immanuel Baptist Church of Maple Shade.
The above map detail showing most of the village of Fellowship (now gone) is from J.D. Scott's 1876 Illustrated Atlas of Burlington County.
Today Rt. 73 takes over for a section of what was once a part of Fellowship Road that went from "Main Street in Maple Shade" to the village of Fellowship. There is another Fellowship Road in Mount Laurel that intersects Rt 73. Here was the center for the old village of Fellowship.
If you look closely you can see a Baptsit Church was located nearby the intersection. Below is two short accounts mentioning a church-
From "The Life of Percy Lovell Editor of the Moorestown Chronicle"- Moorestown Historical Society-
"The American store occupies the first floor of the building which was originally the Alfred H. Burr general store, selling both dry goods and groceries. John Wanamaker, when he first saw this store, said to Mr. Burr: "I hope some day to have a store as large as yours." Wanamaker came almost every week to Moorestown at that time and he and Burr went to Fellowship together where both taught Sunday School."
Here is an account from a former resident-
"Fellowship was a nice village, besides the blacksmith shop already mentioned, there was a country store at 4 corners, a church, a one room school house and a shoemaker shop. There was also farms such as the O'Brien and Witcraft farms.
Fellowship was about the oldest settlement around here because of a stagecoach drive from Camden to Fellowship and later to Greentree."
(From a document at the Moorestown Historical Society donated by the Witcraft family.)
BTW- I talked to John Witcraft (late), who lived at the Cowperthwaite house on Kings Highway. He said his mother went to the one room schoolhouse in Fellowship.
On March 25, 1890, Charles F. Shuster, who began the development of Maple Shade, sold a lot at Main Street and South Poplar Avenue to the Moorestown Baptist Church for the sum of one dollar and condition that the said property shall never be used except for Church purposes.
In 1923 the Rev. George W. Crane moved to Maple Shade. He had served as a Baptist Pastor for several churches previously. In 1924 the Baptist Extension Society of Camden held tent meetings on the Baptist Church grounds for four weeks.
In October of 1924, under the direction of Pastor George W. Crane, the Moorestown Baptist Church, and the Camden Baptist Extension, the Fellowship Baptist Chapel, built in early 1870, was moved from its place in Fellowship, Mt. Laurel, a distance of over 3 miles, down Fellowship Road and across the back of the OLPH Church lot to its place on South Poplar Avenue.
Below is a photo of Immanuel Baptist Church as it looked in the mid 1920s. The original church had a wing added to it in 1953. A renovation and a large new sanctuary was added under Pastor Herbert W. Mitchell, with the cornerstone layed on November 27, 1966, and the dedication held on Sunday, June 11, 1967.
Just prior to the move
From the Camden Post Telegram, Oct 2, 1924
The following is the best article written about the moving of the Church and is from an unknown newspaper with hand writing saying Oct. 3-10-1924. It is in the collection of the Burlington County Historical Society-
HISTORIC BAPTIST CHAPEL MOVED THREE MILES
The moving of the Fellowship Baptist Chapel from that village to Maple Shade a distance of some three miles has aroused widespread interest in the old church and its associations. The moving of the building took several days, and so well was it done that not a crack developed in either the walls or the ceiling. It now stands in its new location, at the corner of Camden and Poplar avenue, on a lot given to the Baptists in 1890 by Charles Shuster, of Maple Shade, and on the very spot where he began the digging of a cellar for a new church. the building is a weatherbeaten frame structure with a tower and a bell, and is now in better condition then many buildings erected today. It is most attractive inside, and with its quaint pews, old grand piano, library, and alter, all of which were moved with out being disturbed and still occupying their original positions. While the interior has been wired for electricity the fine old chandelier with its oil lamps still graces the center of the ceiling.
Services were held for the first time in the building in Maple Shade last Sunday, with morning and evening worship and Sunday School. Rev. George W. Crane, of Maple Shade, officiated and has charge. Howard Fish, whose home for twenty three years was alongside the historic old chapel when it stood in Fellowship, gave five dollars for the privilege of ringing the bell for the first service in its new location. Joseph E. Evans, who lives in Fellowship, rang the bell there on the morning of the church's departure for its new site.
The Fellowship Baptist Chapel was built early in 1870, and the church was organized June 21, that same year. The trustees, representing some of the oldest and most honored families in this neighborhood were: Francis J. Rue, Joseph M. Sloan, John C. Wells, John Hanna, George Vennel, James Cook, Carlton Evans and Joseph E. Evans. The first pastor was Rev. George T. Dowling, who afterwards became a Doctor of Divinity and a noted preacher. His salary at that time was $750 per year- a large amount for a country preacher those days. Jacob Stiles, now of Moorestown, was superintendent of the Sunday School in 1879.
All summer the Baptists of Maple Shade have been worshipping in a tent on their lot and the church building came at a most opportune time as the cold weather was setting in. At present the Maple Shade Church is a part of and under jurisdiction of the First Baptist Church, of Moorestown, of which Rev. William J. Cusworth is pastor, but upon its becoming finacially and numerically strong enough to be self supporting the church and land will be deeded by the Moorestown Church to the Maple Shade congregation.
A very gracious act was done by the Catholics of Maple Shade, when they gave permission to have the church building brought across the rear of their church lot, thus saving time and expense in the moving of the chapel.
The moving of the Baptist chapel from Fellowship to Maple Shade, a distance of more then three miles as aroused widespread interest in the old church and its associations. The moving of the building took seven days, and so well was it done that not a crack developed in either the walls or the ceilings. A cellar has been placed under the building which now stands facing Poplar avenue on the corner of Main street. The organ and pews were not disturbed in the moving. The edifice was placed upon the lot given to the Baptists in 1890 when Charles F. Shuster first began the development of Maple Shade.
Services were held for the first time in the new building here last Sunday, with the Rev. George W. Crane in charge. The Fellowship Baptist Chapel was built early in 1870.
From the Maple Shade Progress, Sept. 29, 1938
There has been two additions, the second which was major and includes the large new sanctuary. I was actually at a "Anniversary Service" for that several years ago and learned a lot.
An architect told them that there was no way that they could fit that size of a new sanctuary they wanted in the space they wanted to. A member of the church looked at it all and drew a picture and told him that they could do it like this, and so they did!
When they built the new sanctuary it cost a lot and there was some thought, I think they said as to waiting, but if they had waited, with rising costs, it would have cost them much more later on to do.
Left side of church building
You can see remains of the old Fellowship Baptist Chapel in 2010.