A volunteer’s discovery is shedding light on the history of Poolesville’s 150-year-old Presbyterian church.
Church volunteer and Silver Spring resident Susan Hanna said she was sweeping the floor in the church’s manse, or minister’s residence, with other volunteers on a fall cleanup day on Oct. 5.
In a small crack in a storage room’s wall, underneath a utility sink, she spotted dusty, untouched bottles.
“None of them look like a bottle that you would expect to find in your recycling bin,” said Poolesville Presbyterian Church Pastor David Williams.
One was labeled “J.E. Pyle Drugs and Notions.” Another said “chloroform.” A few were “Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.” Hanna said the bottles might be from the early 1900s, based on research she and the church volunteers have done.
They found 15 bottles, 10 of them bearing the Guinness label. The slightly irregular shape of the Guinness bottles suggests that they are hand-blown, rather than factory made, Williams said.
Almost all of the bottles are empty. One unlabeled bottle holds an unidentified, black resin-like substance.
The bottles date to the church’s post-Civil War days, when the town’s Confederate sentiments started to die down and Poolesville grew into a successful agricultural community.
But more than memories of the war remained. At the time the bottles were stored, Williams said the manse would have been privately owned, not part of the church. The manse’s occupants might have been rebuilding a section of the house that had been occupied by the household’s slaves.
Hanna said she found the bottles “fascinating,” but wasn’t sure of their fate. The church’s pastor said they might be auctioned off.
“We’re a tiny little church. We don’t have any extra money,” Hanna said.
Money they raise from the artifacts’ sale would go to restoring the manse, which was built in 1827.
“A lot of buildings of that age in Poolesville have been torn down, or are falling down,” Williams said.
The church has occupied the same building since 1847. In the pastor’s office, centuries-old pages with handwritten records of the church’s activities sit largely untouched.
“It’s been a sleepy little church its whole existence,” Williams said.
For now, the bottles will be held in the church office for safekeeping.