Jennifer K. Cosham
Graceham Moravian Church
8231, Rocky Ridge Road (MD 77), Thurmont, Frederick County
Graceham Moravian Church, now covered with white stucco because of deteriorated masonry, is a 2-story church, built in 1822 of local brick laid in Flemish bond. The three-bay long church was built as an addition of about the same size to the eastern gabled end at the rear of the four-bay long meeting house and parsonage of 1797. The older section, with a watertable on the north, west, and south sides, has 2/2 sash windows on either floor, and is three bays wide on its west gable end, which has an interior brick chimney flanked by 6-light casement windows in the attic gable. The entrance to this portion of the building is in the center bay of this facade, sheltered by a one-bay hip-roofed porch, and consists of a single door with rounded two-panel sidelights and a transom. This portion of the building originally had an open first-floor porch across the north facade, which was enclosed in 1870. The early-19th century portion of the church is slightly higher than the first, with a large hexagonal cupola with a domed roof in the first bay east of the junction, approximately in the center of the combined building. This is apparently a replica of the original bell tower. The first bay to the east on the south facade holds an entrance recessed into the wall and defined by fluted wood columns and an arch. The entry is double leafed with a two-paned transom above. Above the transom is a round-arched window. In the three bays on the north facade are pairs of narrow 2/2 sash tinted windows, each pair topped by a round-arched window. The bays are separated by pilasters. The foundation and watertable are continued across the sanctuary. A two-story addition was added to the south facade in the 1990s. About 300-400 yards to the north of the church is God's Acre, the Moravian graveyard. East of the church is a springhouse. The parsonage, three by four bays deep and approximately 35' by 37'-6", was built on the site of two previous log church buildings. Incorporated as part of the parsonage's stone foundation is that from the earliest log structure of 1749. Much of the original molding and hardware remains, and under the carpet is very wide hemlock planking. There is structural evidence of a bell tower at the eastern end of the house. No ridge pole was used, but rough hewn rafters were pinned together and reinforced with wind braces. During the 1870s, both the parsonage and church were altered to some degree, including replacement of windows, and addition of porches.
The Moravian Church or United Brethren was founded in 1457 in Bohemia by a group who wished to preserve the spirit of the teachings of the martyr John Huss. Soon after, the Brethren were persecuted and driven out of Bohemia and Moravia. Only a few remained at the end of the Thirty Years War (1648), and it was not until 1722 that the renewed church emerged under the patronage of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf in Saxony. Moravians came to America for missionary purposes and established planned, church-owned communities. The first permanent settlements (c. 1740) were in Pennsylvania. During the 1740s, two Moravian missionaries, George Nieke and his wife, arrived in Maryland. By 1753, some of the Brethren had traveled south to Salem, North Carolina. The congregation at Graceham was one of the groups who moved southward in about the mid 18th century as part of a migration movement from Pennsylvania to Virginia and Carolina. This movement traveled via an Indian road passing near Monocacy, which is thought to have been a small village near what is now Creagerstown, Maryland. Moravians, under the leadership of Rev. George Nieke and Lorenz Nyberg, formed the settlement at Graceham in 1746. Built in 1797, the parsonage was, and still is, the headquarters of the parish and the community's center. It served as the church, the community kitchen, and a residence. These two connected buildings at Graceham, the parsonage and the church addition of 1822, are fine examples of American Moravian architecture. This building and the church's cemetery having uniform flat gravestones (called God's Acre by the Moravians) represents Maryland's only remaining Moravian 18th century settlement.