Grave markers from the 1700s damaged or destroyed after car crash at Barratt's Chapel – The News Journal

A section of a brick wall and between 20 and 30 grave markers were damaged or destroyed in a car accident at the historic Barratt’s Chapel and Cemetery near Frederica on Wednesday.
Some of the headstones were the oldest in the cemetery, from the 1700s and 1800s, according to cemetery board of trustees President Jim Frazier.
“They had intrinsic value as historical objects. They documented that person’s life in a stone,” Frazier said.
According to Delaware State Police, a driver trying to avoid being cut off by another car on Bay Road swerved, hit a ditch and went airborne before crashing into the wall and headstones. The at-fault driver fled the scene, spokesperson India Sturgis said. There were no injuries.
Insurance will cover the bulk of the cost of repairs and replacements, Frazier said, and the grave markers at the cemetery are mapped. With some work, cemetery staff and volunteers will be able to determine exactly which markers were destroyed or damaged.
“It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle right now,” he said.
Barratt’s Chapel and its sprawling cemetery are located at 6362 Bay Road (Route 1). Many a beachgoer recognize it by sight but are otherwise unaware of its significance.
The church was built on land donated by Phillip Barratt in 1780, according to the Barratt’s Chapel website. It is “the oldest surviving church building in the United States built by and for Methodists,” the website says.
Barratt’s Chapel became “The Cradle of Methodism” just after the Revolutionary War, when John Wesley sent Thomas Coke to America to meet with Francis Asbury and establish Methodism in the newly independent land. Coke and Asbury met and embraced at the chapel, where a star on the floor “commemorates the historic meeting,” according to the website.
The chapel is today managed by the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, while the cemetery is managed by the board of trustees. The cemetery is home to hundreds of graves, and 100 or so people continue to be buried there each year, Frazier said.
Shannon Marvel McNaught reports on Sussex County and beyond. Reach her at or on Twitter @MarvelMcNaught.