All Faith Chapel history

Interior of the All Faith Chapel

All-Faith Chapel at the Jackson’s Mill 4-H Camp Historic District, also known as West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill, a historic 4-H camp and national historic district near Weston in Lewis County, West Virginia.  Contributor: Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer, 2015-05-03. (Carol M. Highsmith’s photographs are in the public domain}.

It was the third week in September, 1954.  More than five hundred Methodist Men from all sections of West Virginia were attending their Annual Institute at Jackson’s Mill.  The late Thomas E. Campbell was the Lay Leader.  The featured speaker was Dr. Harry Denman, Executive Secretary of the Board of Evangelism, The Methodist Church, Nashville, Tennessee.

Tom and Harry were sitting in the shade of the log cabin at the site where General Stonewall Jackson spent his boyhood.  Harry Denman was commenting on the beautiful grounds and buildings, and then suddenly he stopped.  

“Tom”, he said, “there is something missing on this campus.  I note the Assembly Hall is used for religious gatherings as well as other conferences and the Century of Progress Hall is also available for large church meetings, but I think there is a need for a chapel – an all faith “prayer” chapel where the thousands of boys and girls, men and women, who visit this camp each year could pause for meditation and prayer whenever they so desired.”

Thus an idea was born.  Mr. Campbell discussed it with the Board of Lay Activities.  A committee was appointed to report back the next year.  

At the Annual Institute in September, 1955, announcement of the proposed Prayer Chapel project was presented, and the men present enthusiastically endorsed it with pledges amounting to more than $2,000.

By September, 1956, a total of $2,177 in cash had been paid to Mr. J.A. Greenlee, Building Fund Treasurer.  On the closing day of the Institute, the Board of Lay Activities authorized the Executive Committee to meet with Mr. J.O. Knapp of the Agricultural Extension Service which administers the program at Jackson’s Mill

In August, 1957, Conference Lay Leader Evans and members of the Executive Committee of the Conference Board of Lay Activities met with Mr. Knapp, Mr. Ralph Myers, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds at Jackson’s Mill and Mr. Charles Hartley, former Director of Jackson’s Mill.  Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke also participated in this meeting.  Mr. Knapp formally announced that the Extension Division would be happy to have the Board of Lay Activities of The Methodist Church of West Virginia Conference sponsor the building of a Prayer Chapel.  It was agreed that the building would be nondenominational, made of native West Virginia stone, seat approximately forty individuals and of architectural design in keeping with the other buildings on the campus.  A Building Committee was appointed and instructed to select an architect for a building to cost approximately twenty-five to thirty thousand dollars.  Mr. Jay T. Dyer was named Chairman of the Building Committee and Mr. H. Paul Shaffer, Chairman of the Promotion Committee.  After adjournment of this joint committee the Building Committee met and chose Mr. Henry T. Eden of Charleston as the architect.

At the Spring Meeting of the Board of Lay Activities May 13, 1957, it was reported that a total of $4,881 in cash had been received.  Up to this time all money had come from Methodist Men.

Ground breaking ceremonies were held on March 23, 1958, with Mrs. Thomas E. Campbell turning the first spade full of dirt.

On April 19, 1958, at the Annual Meeting of the Board of Lay Activities it was reported that funds were coming in from friends of all faiths and that a total of $17,194 was then in the bank.  The architect and chairman of the Building Committee were authorized to start construction.  

At the Annual Institute, September 20, 1958, all special committees made progress reports.  The Treasurer indicated that $21,774.78 in cash had been received to date.  The building was then two-third completed.  The Conference Lay Leader conferred with Director Knapp and Mr. Cutlip.  It was agreed the Chapel would be presented on April 12, 1959.

Quoted from the Dedication Service, William Byus, Jr., Presiding:

“Inasmuch as this All Faith Prayer Chapel was, on Sunday, April 12, 1959, formally presented by the Representatives of the West Virginia Conference Board of Lay Activities to representatives of West Virginia University, who formally accepted same, it is therefore our purpose today to dedicate this structure”.  

Construction Details

In the design of the chapel, it was the intent to use native materials, in so far as was practical.  This was accomplished by selecting stone as the building material.  This particular stone was chosen for its warmth of color.  It is from a local quarry and is a material that the masons are accustomed to using.  The stone formation is of layers, or veins, and can be taken out in large slabs two to five inches thick.  The slabs were delivered to the job and, with meticulous care, cut by skilled mechanics to fit into the wall.  If one observes the workmanship, he will readily notice the painstaking care the masons took in the cutting of each piece.  

The floor of the chapel is also of West Virginia flagstone, laid by the same men and with the same care.  Ease of maintenance was the deciding factor in the choice of this material.  The gloss, or sheen, is obtained by polishing the stone in the same manner as that of marble or terrazzo.  

The arches are of glued, laminated Douglas Fir, fabricated in Oregon.  The arches were shipped in two sections each and erected under the careful supervision of Mr. Dyer.  The wood deck, fabricated by the same firm, striated, double tongue and groove, four inches thick, nailed with ten-inch galvanized spikes.

The lovely window over the altar was designed with spots of quiet hues of glass purchased from a Cincinnati firm.  The custom designed light fixtures are from New York City.

The exterior exposed wood trim, windows and frames, are of California Redwood, selected for its quality of long life under extreme weather exposure.

The windows of the nave, fabricated by the Charleston Lumber Company, are executed in the Japanese vein of intricacy in design.  The openings permit the entrance of ample light, yet the direct rays are softened.  The windows to the right open onto the meditation garden which is being landscaped by the Weston Garden Club.

The chapel – a dream of many years – is of contemporary design, incorporating the traditional forms common to all faiths.  It will seat forty-two people who may come quietly and worship God in quiet meditation, surrounded by the beauty He has created.

The All Faith Prayer Chapel is located near the spot made hallowed by thousands of 4-H’ers of all faiths and known to them as Vesper Knoll.  The Chapel serves as a “silent pastor” for the Jackson’s Mill campus.  

This information may be found in the Service of Presentation and Acceptance of All Faith Prayer Chapel, W.Va. State 4-H Camp, Sunday, April 12, 1959.

Contact WVU Extension Service Administration to support the improvement, renovation, and maintenance of the All-Faith Chapel at WVU Jackson’s Mill.