Before the United States unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, brothers William and Thomas Towson settled into farming an area of Sater’s Hill in Maryland, along the trade route to York, Pennsylvania as it connected with the Native American trail, known as Joppa Road. The year was 1752 and the family worked diligently to accommodate an increasing amount of travelers bringing goods and livestock to the port of Baltimore by building and managing the Towson Hotel. Their hamlet, fondly called Towsontown, quickly expanded to a village; and in 1790, attracted businessman Capt. Charles Ridgely to construct the Hampton Mansion, now preserved as the Hampton National Historic Site, after six generations of Ridgeleys lived there until 1948.
About a half mile down Hampton Lane from the mansion stands Towson United Methodist Church. Built in its current location in 1958, the church has its beginnings in that small Towsontown village of long ago, where townsfolk gathered for prayer meetings in private homes. It was not until 1839 that a Citizens’ Committee realized the community’s desire for public worship and built a union church for all denominations through a land grant from Henry Chew, owner of Epsom Estate, on the site of an old arsenal occupied by the United States Government during the War of 1812. Built by General Nathan Towson, Epsom Chapel opened on November 10, 1839 with Rev. Daniel Helper of the Methodist Episcopal Church officiating.
As the community grew in popularity and size, the Methodist Episcopal congregation desired a building of its own. Local resident, Mary Shealey, donated property on York Road and the cornerstone was laid on August 14, 1869, then disappeared by morning. [Sometime between 1929 and 1932, the original cornerstone was found near a spring in a meadow south of town and cleaned, then replaced in its proper position.] The new Towson Church was dedicated in October 1871 with a congregation of 86 members and its first appointed pastor, assigned by the Baltimore Conference.
In subsequent years, a branch of Towson Church organized with worship services in a schoolhouse north on York Road across the Gunpowder River in Dulaney Valley. When this congregation grew beyond its one-room limits, local residents, Alfred and Fannie Lee, donated land on which Lakeview Methodist church was built and dedicated in 1893. Around 1912, Baltimore City purchased the property for the Loch Raven Reservoir, which submerged the entire Dulaney Valley village with water. From the sale of church land, the Lake Methodist congregation bought a pipe organ and installed it in the brick church on York Road. Around the same time, the Methodist Episcopal congregation built its own worship space, congregants at Epsom Chapel bought a melodian for their church. Some members believed instrumental music should not be used in church and withdrew membership, forming the Methodist Protestant Church in 1861. This congregation built a stone church with a bell tower and eight stained glass windows at Allegheny and Bosley Avenues in 1908.
Later in 1952, these two churches merged and became Towson Methodist Church, upon near-unanimous voting of 1400 combined members. Land for the merged church was purchased from Goucher College when the Baltimore Beltway construction severed 16 acres from campus. On Sunday, May 11, 1958, the church held a Service of Consecration. Ten years later, by the conclusion of the 1968 General Conference, the existing Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches merged, officially creating Towson United Methodist Church – which successfully established programs for men, women and youth for full inclusion and involvement in the new church.
Sources: “A Brief History,” Rev. G. Custer Cromwell, Church Directory of First Methodist Church, 1950 “Towson United Methodist Church, 1871-1971, Methodism in Towson” complied by Centennial Committee, 1971 “Travel Guide” Towson, Maryland history, www.triposo.com