Annandale History - Wakefield Chapel
By: M. Callahan
Wakefield Chapel, a gothic structure with white clapboard siding and arched windows, was built between 1887 and 1899 by Oliver Besley, a local sawmill owner, on land he donated. The original deed for Wakefield Chapel stated that the church was only to be used for Methodist services two Sundays a month and used by other denominations the rest of the time. Rev. Elhanan Wakefield was the first preacher at the church. A trained carpenter, he provided most of the labor while Oliver Besley provided the materials to complete the chapel.
Born in Ohio in 1834 Wakefield first sought riches in the California Gold Rush and later fought for the Union. He was gravely wounded in 1864 at the battle of Tom’s Brook, VA. Thought to be dead, he was prepared for burial in a mass grave when someone noticed him twitch. He was quickly pulled out, nursed and released from the army soon thereafter and took up residence in Annandale where he married Mary Tennison. According to the Fairfax Herald dated October 2, 1903, Reverend Wakefield had an X-ray conducted that revealed that he still had two balls in his shoulder, which was the source of the pain he endured throughout his life. Wakefield remained in the area until his death in 1920. Both he and his wife were buried in the cemetery at the Annandale Methodist Church on Columbia Pike.
By 1963 the building was largely abandoned because it was deemed to be unsafe. An estimated $40,000 was needed to complete the repairs. In July 1970 the old steeple was destroyed when struck by lightning. The future of Wakefield Chapel never seemed bleaker. An area wide appeal went out for funds to save one of the last remaining examples of rural nineteenth century churches. Many local politicians and citizens responded. By February 1971 the new steeple was in place but it took many more years before a full restoration took place. In 1975 it was conveyed to the Fairfax County Park Authority which has done a masterful job in preserving this local treasure.
Wakefield Chapel is located at 8415 Toll House Road, Annandale.
For more information see the History Section on this website: www.annandalechamber.com
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