On Sunday, September 9, 2018, a significant part of the history of Ashburn and Loudoun County, Virginia will rightfully be memorialized at the unveiling of an official Virginia Historical Marker recognizing Belmont Chapel. The community surrounding Ashburn is invited to join a host of community and Virginia leaders, as well as the Ambassador to the US from Liberia, at this memorable event on the grounds of St. David’s Episcopal Church and School in Ashburn.
Over 180 years ago, Margaret Mercer, a remarkable but somewhat controversial woman in her day, purchased Belmont Plantation from the Ludwell Lee family with the intention of providing a broad-based boarding school for those who could afford it, as well as providing the same opportunities for those who could not. Courses included mathematics, science, art, languages and philosophy and emphasized ethics and morality. Well known as an abolitionist, Mercer included the children of Belmont’s slaves and tenant farmers in her classes. Margaret Mercer was one of the cofounders of the African Resettlement movement, which sought to persuade free blacks to emigrate to Liberia.
In 1841, using the profits from a collective farm and proceeds of craft sales from her students, she had Belmont Chapel built, partially to expand the education availability for black and white children in the area, but also to provide a center for community worship and social activities. A lifelong Episcopalian, she invited local ministers and Bishops from Richmond to hold services there as well as weddings, baptisms and funerals. Over 250 graves which surround the Chapel ruins to this day are the final resting place of local citizens whose names are among the most well known in Loudoun County history.
The chapel eventually became a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia after Mercer bequeathed it to the Diocese in her will. The last service at Belmont Chapel was a wedding in 1951. Subsequently, the carriage road leading to the chapel became overgrown and the property fell into disrepair. A fire set by vandals in 1963 destroyed most of the building except for the foundation and a portion of the stone façade.
Today, Belmont Chapel is part of the grounds of St. David’s Episcopal Church and School which was established in 1990. They continue the rich legacy begun by Margaret Mercer by providing a place for children’s education and Ashburn community events.
We hope you will join us as we commemorate the foundational value of Belmont Chapel to the Ashburn and Loudoun County citizens, as well as its founder Margaret Mercer, who diligently and gracefully helped to make the Ashburn area a better place in her lifetime.
For more information, call 703-729-0570 or contact Conrad Jones