Methodists Told that Their Founder Didn't Live in the House They Have Celebrated as His Home

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In a Carroll County cornfield stands a shrine to one of the pioneers of Methodism in America. A larger-than-life granite statue of the preacher Robert Strawbridge was erected last year -- 8 feet tall atop an 8-foot pedestal -- not far from the true centerpiece of this hallowed ground: the house Strawbridge was thought to have lived in through the 1760s and part of the 1770s.

Convinced by a snippet of oral history that this was the place, Methodist patrons for decades tried to secure it as a memorial to the early circuit rider. More than 30 years ago, they bought the 32-acre property -- decades after being unable to come up with a $3,500 asking price during the Depression. It wasn't until the turn of this century that the house became theirs when its elderly occupant died.

Hoping to learn more about this historic home, members of the Strawbridge Shrine Association asked an archaeologist to do some digging. What she has learned isn't exactly making members happy.

"I can't argue it that Robert Strawbridge lived there in the 1760s, not responsibly. I haven't seen that evidence," said Kirsti Uunila, a historical preservation specialist with Calvert County who did the work in Carroll County on her summer vacations and who submitted a report last fall.

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