Digging for a historic compromise Carroll County: Talks promising about the fate of a landmark of Methodism in America.

November 11, 1996

TOO OFTEN, our rich cultural heritage is cherished only after it is threatened with destruction. Such is the case of the Andrew Poulson farm near New Windsor.

The property was acquired by the Arundel Corp., which intends to develop a 60-acre limestone quarry at the farm. Actual excavation and development of the surface mining operation is several years, and various stages of government approval, away. But the company's plans have stirred concerns in the Methodist community that the Poulson House, a cemetery and the nearby Strawbridge Shrine might be destroyed in the mining operations.

To Arundel Corp.'s credit, the Baltimore County firm is meeting with Methodist officials and historians to devise a plan that can preserve historic elements while allowing mineral extraction from the larger property. The company says it will not tear down the Poulson house or destroy a cemetery. It has asked the church for ideas on how to protect the farm.

While there is yet no clear resolution of the potential conflict, which involves privately owned land, these signs are encouraging. They suggest a willingness by the firm to minimize conflict, not only for neighborly reasons but also to reduce friction along the path to various approvals needed to develop the site.

Despite the farm's historic significance, the Methodist church had not taken steps to acquire it earlier. Robert Strawbridge is said to have formed the first American Methodist congregation, shortly after emigrating from Ireland to Carroll in 1760. Services were soon moved to the nearby Poulson farm. (John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in England, first preached in America in 1735 as spiritual adviser to James Oglethorpe's Georgia colony.)

Methodist historians have listed a number of significant features of the farm, including the house and barn, a spring and oak tree, and the cemetery believed to be there, in addition to protecting the Strawbridge Shrine. If the land has possible historical significance, the state requires an archaeological analysis before permitting mining. Arundel Corp. has begun that process. Rather than sticking to the legal requirements for a permit, the company appears to be seeking a solution. It is incumbent on the Methodist church to develop a plan to keep this historic site from falling into the pit.

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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