Emmanuel Parish of The Episcopal Church
With its consecration in 1851, the cornerstone being laid in 1849, Emmanuel Episcopal Church became the center of western Maryland’s Emmanuel Parish. The new building being constructed above the former site of Fort Cumberland, whose earthworks remained under the building. The earthworks created tunnels that were later used to conceal escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. Emmanuel Parish established many other churches throughout the region, including churches in western Maryland and in what is now Romney and Moorefield, West Virginia. Visitors can view the churches many works of art including stained glass windows by taking a self-guided tour.
Backstory and Context
Cumberland’s Episcopal community continued to grow and in 1849, the congregation began construction of a new building. In 1851, the new building was completed. Designed by John Notman of Philadelphia, the building’s architecture is the Medieval English Gothic style.4 Louis Comfort Tiffany designed many new features for the church in 1905. The congregation added Tiffany’s designs to the building between 1905 and 1923. Tiffany’s work included, but was not limited to stained glass.5 Henry Holiday, Charles Goodhue, and McGill Mackell also contributed works of stained glass.6
A runaway slave from Mississippi, named Samuel Denison, came to Cumberland in the 1850’s. Denison and Emmanuel’s Rector, Reverend David Hillhouse Buel, worked together to move escaped slave through Maryland and on to freedom. Old Fort Cumberland’s earthworks provide a tunnel system under the church and its rectory, through which Denison escorted runaway slaves after they had crossed the Potomac River and hidden temporarily in the Shanty Town of lower Cumberland.7 Cumberland’s Shanty Town residents were very poor and the area was not racially segregated, providing a natural place to hide.8 The runaways first stopped under the church where they received aid from abolitionists. Denison then escorted them through a steam line tunnel through the basement of the Allegany County Academy, where he also worked as a custodian, and on to the cellar of Emmanuel’s Rectory. The Rectory’s cellar was located in a little seen area of town; from there the runaways were spirited on to Pennsylvania.9Emmanuel Episcopal Church is active and continues to service the city of Cumberland. Emmanuel Church is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. The church allows self-guided tours of the stained glass; the church also offers guided tours of the tunnels. Make contact with the church in order to arrange a tour. Emmanuel Episcopal Church is part of the Washington Street Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.