Sunday, October 4, 2009


Road Trip- In 1920, Philadelphia doctor and summer resident Dr. Elise Rose and her friend Alice Gagnon, both devout Catholics, starting making plans for a church for the community of Onawa.Their quest for a suitable piece of land was not an easy one, and it was long. In 1933, a neighbor, Alfred A. Burke, offered the land across from his home, just up from the lake shore. Donations were accepted and construction began. Long before the 'ecumenical movement' would occur, Catholic and their Protestant neighbors all chipped in with donations and labor. Along with the building of the chapel, other aspects were needed. Dr. Rose commissioned a sculptor, Conway Sawyer, to make the figure of the 'Virgin of the Chapel', had stained glass windows and a pump organ shipped from her home in Philadelphia. Along the way, brass candlesticks and a crocheted lace tablecloth were added. In 1957, Mr. Burke died and the land and chapel were passed to his son. Soon, the beautiful place of worship was complete, but with a interesting problem-- no worshippers to speak of; two Catholics and the Burke family, that was it. Protestants, at the time, were meeting for services at area homes, rotating throughout the summer, with the Rev. Alfred Hempstead. The Burke family offered the chapel to the their Protestant friends for summer services, and in the summer of 1970, the Alfred A. Burke Memorial Chapel held its first service.


  1. What a beauty-a feast for the eyes!

    Come to the chuch by the wildwood,
    Oh, come to the church in the vale-
    No spot is so dear to my childhood
    As the little brown church in the vale

    (Dr. William S. Pitts)

  2. very interesting find. Great narrative and such a quaint little church. great light and image.

  3. It sounds almost identical to the story I told about the first Methodist church in Gordon where I was born. Now, that building is used as a town hall. I spent a lot of cold winter nights in there watching the medicine shows during World War II.

  4. This little project really pulled community together. And you really pulled together a tender image of early autumn.