SIGN: Spesutia Church
Where can you find a Vinegar Bible? This sign is located on Rte. 159 at St. George's Episcopal Cemetery.
We’ve been sneaking up on this week’s destination for a couple of weeks.
As you may recall from a previous marker, St. George’s Episcopal Church, also known as Spesutia Church, was originally built at nearby Gravelly in 1671. The name Spesutia is a corruption of Spesutie, meaning Utie’s Hope. The area took its name from a pioneer in the area, Col. Nathaniel Utie. For more information click here.
When William and Mary designated this as a parish in 1692, many of the settlers belonged to the Church of England. This Anglican Protestant Episcopal church was the, “first church organized on Harford soil,” according to C. Milton Wright’s, Our Harford Heritage.
The vestry house was first built in 1720 and served as a school. It was re-built in 1766 and in 1795, “the vestry ordered a new stove set up,” according to Wright. He noted that there might not have been any heat in either the church or the school up until this time.
The church as it appears today was built in 1851 and a cornerstone was laid on September 18. It contained, among other items, a Holy Bible, a Book of Common Prayer, newspapers and coins.
Although the Maryland Historical Trust describes the exterior as Italian Romanesque, the stucco finish and tall windows seem sedate compared to the interior. Kingpins hang from the rafters on the tall ceiling and sunlight pours through the stained glass windows onto the semi-circular altar. The interior feels quite rich with its glowing woodwork and pews.
There was once a slave gallery, high up in the back of the church, which was only reachable by a narrow, steep staircase. Slaves were regularly baptized into the Episcopalian faith at this church.
One of the more interesting items at the church is a Vinegar Bible. When this Bible was printed in 1717, the typesetter made a slight error. Instead of The Parable of the Vineyard, it became the Parable of the Vinegar. Oops.
The Spesutia Cemetery, located at the church, has been a final resting place for nearly three centuries. Graves were moved from the first church at Gravelly. Veterans of every war since the Revolutionary War are buried here.
One headstone noted that Herman S. Harlan died at Monterrey, Mexico, Sept 23, 1846, as a soldier in the Mexican War. Another commemorated Edward Hall, who died July 18, 1778, and perished as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Samuel Schofield was fighting in France in 1918 when he gave his life for our country. Markers signifying the graves of veterans are not an uncommon sight in this beautiful, old cemetery. It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful place to spend eternity.
There is even a legend surrounding one grave in particular. It seems that a sea captain never wanted his feet to touch dry land. After he was pickled in rum, his coffin was suspended by chains in a crypt. For the rest of the story see the accompanying article, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
This is considered to be the “Mother of Churches” of the Episcopal faith in America. What is also notable about this church is that the vestry house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Both the church and the vestry house are on the Maryland Historical Trust’s Inventory of Historic Places.
The Citizens of Harford County and the Maryland Historical Society erected the sign shown in the photos.