St. David’s Episcopal Church and School will host its inaugural birthday celebration and tribute to early abolitionist Margaret Mercer on June 29.
The event will be held at the ruins of the Belmont Chapel on Belmont Mansion —a lot Mercer bought in 1836— which is now part of St. David’s property in Ashburn. Mercer hired slaves to build a chapel in the hopes that paying them would help them buy their freedom.
A plaque commemorating Mercer on the property says she used the chapel as a boarding school for students of various backgrounds by waiving tuition from underprivileged children. Because educating black people was illegal in Virginia at the time and some of these students were children of slaves, Mercer was a lawbreaker.
She was also known for supporting the African resettlement movement. The American Colonization Society was created in 1816 by a group of white Americans, including fellow Loudoun resident Charles Fenton Mercer, who founded the town of Aldie in 1810. The ACS sought a place in West Africa to build a colony specifically for freed slaves, settling on Liberia in 1824, with the capital Monrovia, named after President James Monroe. According to the U.S. Department of State, the ACS transported thousands of free men to Liberia during the 19th century. Eventually, the Free State of Liberia declared independence from the ACS in 1847, one year after Margaret Mercer’s death.
St. David’s has kept a close relationship with Liberia by supporting the Bromley Mission School held there. The school is the oldest school for girls in the country. St. David’s has sent several missions trips to the school since 2005 to help the local living situation.
The Margaret Mercer tribute will begin at 4:30 p.m. at 43600 Russell Branch Pkwy. Entertainment will include music, face painting, games and a custom-made birthday cake. Hot dogs, chips and water will be provided although guests are welcome to bring their own picnics. The celebration will culminate with the Saturdays@Six Service held outdoors.