THE CHAPEL OF PEACE, 1871
Located in Whitnel, in Caldwell County, at the junction of Berkley Street and Connelly Springs Road, twenty-five miles from Hart Square, the Episcopal chapel was built with the support of the Reverend Johannes Oertel, his wife, and many friends, both in the community and from the North. Elizabeth McConnell Jarratt notes in St. James’ Episcopal Church: An Historical Scrapbook that the Reverend Oertel had previously established a mission in the area, holding services every other Sunday, and he, his wife, and the parishioners soon founded a day school and Sunday School. Suspicion of Episcopalians – partly due to the Oertels being from New York and the fear that education might lead children away from their families and agricultural lifestyle – persuaded the owner of the parish’s original building to forbid its continued use. A new building was needed, Walter W. Lenoir and John S. Shafer deeding land to the diocesan trustees for the new Chapel of Peace in 1871. Sunday services were held in this chapel until approximately 1920. In 1936, the parish sold the property to James H. Blair, and a doctor’s office subsequently occupied the structure. When the Harts first visited in 1998, they found it subdivided into an apartment. The altar had been walled off for a kitchen. “You had to step up into it,” Bob says. A hall ran down the middle. The steeple had been removed, along with the porch, though Opal Green, a ninety-five year old neighbor, described both to Becky, as well as the original pitch of the roof, which was steep. Bill Brooks made a new belfry for the relocated chapel, and Bob “bought a cheap bell at a flea market,” he says, “but the tone wasn’t right. Within two months, I found an early sand-cast bell whose tone is full and long-lasting.”
While further researching the chapel, the Harts discovered that the bishop’s chair is housed at St. James, in Lenoir, which incorporated the Chapel of Peace into its parish. On the back of the chair, Bob found the name of his great-great-great-uncle, a priest, Vardry McBee, of Lincolnton, who had been a strong supporter of the North Carolina diocese (and served a few years at Ascension in Hickory). The chair had likely been named in his honor.
On June 9, 2010, with young Robert (one of Bob’s grandsons) playing the organ, Dorothy (a granddaughter) singing, and Bob and Becky’s priest, Karla Woggon, assisting, the Right Reverend G. Porter Taylor, the bishop of the diocese of Western North Carolina, consecrated the chapel, beginning the ceremony outside and saying, “Peace be to this house, and to all who enter here.”