St. John’s Chapel, one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in West Virginia, is located near the eastern boundary of Monroe County on State Route 3 adjacent to the historic Sweet Springs resort. It is near the remains of Lynnside Manor (built 1845, burned 1933), the traditional home of the Lewis family who were instrumental in the building of St. John’s Chapel. It is in the Greek Revival style with a gabled roof and cupola.
The chapel was built perhaps as early as 1853 but definitely by 1859 at the behest of William Lynn Lewis and his wife, Letitia Preston Floyd Lewis. Letitia was the daughter of Virginia Gov. John Floyd, who is buried near the church. Her brother, John B. Floyd, was also a Virginia governor, the secretary of war on the eve of the Civil War, and a Confederate general. She converted to Catholicism in her late teens. William Lynn Lewis’s grandfather founded the Sweet Springs resort and was the brother of Andrew Lewis, after whom Lewisburg is named.
The church was used by Irish immigrants working at the Sweet Springs resort and those who worked on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad; by wealthy Catholic landowners, primarily the Lewises and the Woodvilles; and by African-American workers on the Lynnside estate. The first record of baptism is November 13, 1853, and the number of baptisms peaked at 174 in 1860. By 1875, there were only 14 baptisms.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston purchased the property in 1977. The chapel was restored, then rededicated by Bishop Joseph Hodges on April 17, 1983. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a part of the Lynnside Historic District in 1991.
Written by Robert S. Conte