The History of Slocum Chapel
Exeter, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Slocum Chapel was built in 1890 by Senator James Slocum as a memorial to his parents. His large home was located across the road.
The first service at Slocum Chapel was held on October 30, 1890. The Rev. T.W. Swan, a Presbyterian minister preached the message that day. The title was "Do Good" and for the past 130 years this little church has done just that. From the beginning it was seen as a non-denominational community church. Pastors and evangelists from several protestant denominations filled the pulpit through the years. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the congregation held picnics, socials and dramatic plays and concerts.
James Slocum died when he was hit by a train in Exeter, Pennsylvania near where he lived. After Slocum's death in 1897, according to instructions in his last will and testament, the church building was deeded to a board of trustees with the stipulation that the church must hold weekly Protestant services or Slocum Chapel would revert back to the Slocum estate.
Slocum Chapel was mentioned often in old newspapers.
To read news articles about Slocum Chapel,
click on the link below:
Late 19th century newspapers describe the first wedding to take place there between Charles E. Simonson and Julia Nicholson on October 30, 1891 - exactly one year after its dedication service.
In the early 1900's the Salvation Army held services at Slocum Chapel. At evangelism services in 1915 it was reported that 38 people gave their life to Christ in one weekend. The Chapel hosted children's programs and social events. They were active in the community and proud of their church building. Many newspapers reported fundraising efforts to restore and refurbish the building in the 1900s.
Slocum Chapel's early history reveals a lot of hope and promise. However, the little church had its share of hard times too. It faced legal troubles, vandalism and lack of consistent leadership for a time in the 1930's. One news article tells the tale of a man who disappeared never to be seen again after attending services at Slocum Chapel. Perhaps he jumped onto a passing train and started a new life somewhere else? In 1939 a mine subsidence opened up near Slocum Chapel. The little church was at risk in more ways than one.
The building was in need of repair and updates by the mid 1900s. The 1890s church had stood the test of time by its 50th anniversary in 1940.
Slocum Chapel's building was erected in early 1890.
In May of 1890 the roof was put on and in July of that year the bell was installed. The church still has the original bronze Meneely bell and yoke, made in Troy, New York. It faithfully rings out every Sunday morning, just as it did over 130 years ago.
In 1901, Slocum Chapel added porches (or vestibules) on both the front and back of the building.
Fire twice threatened the Chapel. In 1897, a barn on the property belonging to William Slocum burned to the ground. Thankfully, Slocum Chapel was spared. On July 29, 1903, lightning struck the back of the church, shattering windows and damaging the slate roof and some interior wood work. However, the building again escaped disaster and the congregation rallied to restore the building. In 1910, Slocum Chapel was wired for electricity and in 1920, a heating system (probably steam heat) was installed. In the years that followed, the congregation raised funds to install carpeting, replace broken windows, and purchase hymn books. Though things have had to be replaced and updated over the years, much of the interior building remains the same, including the beautiful wood work, door and cabinet hardware, pews and pulpit.
in the 20th century
By the early 1960s, two elderly women were all that held the building open. They met at Slocum Chapel every Sunday for an hour.They could not afford to pay the electric or heating bill so they dressed accordingly and kept on meeting. Then the women contacted Pastor Arthur E. Redmond. Redmond was serving at a church that had formed in Wilkes Barre. He agreed to be the steward of Slocum Chapel. Under his leadership, beginning in 1965 central heating was installed, the carpet was replaced, electricity was updated, and cushions were added to the wooden pews. The steeple had fallen victim to the ravages of time and was torn down sometime in the late 1900s. But the little chapel continued to be a landmark in the community. True to its calling and the mission to 'Do Good', set forth at the first church service, Slocum Chapel was dedicated to doing good in the community. A weekly radio broadcast aired, regular services at Highland Manor Nursing Home were held, and an outreach ministry to a prison in Dallas, PA was started. Social and community events continued and along with consistent preaching and worship services, the little church was sustained for decades. But by 2010 the congregation had dwindled considerably and once again, Slocum Chapel was in trouble.
In January of 2011, Pastor Guy Giordano was asked to come and speak at Slocum Chapel. Soon after, he was asked to remain as their pastor. Under his leadership, Slocum Chapel is thriving once again. A vibrant asset to the community, Slocum Chapel together with Pastor Guy and his wife Barb, have continued ministries started by others years ago. Community ministries help and serve others. Church bazaars and social events draw in local residents.
Slocum Chapel continues to "Do Good" and inspire good things in others just as Rev T.W. Swan preached at its first service. The hospitable and warm atmosphere welcomes anyone looking for hope and peace in today's world.
Restoration efforts continue and work to preserve the historic legacy of Slocum Chapel's building. In 2021, the church began fundraising efforts to replace the steeple which they hope to see placed in the Spring of 2022.
Slocum Chapel is poised to have a strong future and continue its legacy as a landmark and lighthouse to its community in Luzerne County, Pennsyvlania for the next 130 years.