This is an exceptionally pretty part of the state, where the land is given over to horse-breeding and racing.
The gently rolling hills, long white fences, stout farmhouses and lone-standing trees make Worthington Valley an attractive destination for photographers and I was fortunate to have as my guide Irv Freedman, a local photographer who knows the valley intimately.
The look of the buildings, the dry-stone walls and gentle contours of the hills were all, to me, reminiscent of the landscape in my home in Northern Ireland. And also of Scotland, our close neighbour just twelve miles across the Irish Sea.
Even the name of the place reminded me of home. To me, the name “Worthington” is familiar as what Americans call a Scots Irish – what I would term an Ulster Protestant – name. There was a branch of the Worthington family who emigrated to Connecticut as early as 1630 and a William Worthington arrived in Maryland in 1664.
The jewel of the valley is St. John’s Episcopal Church, a classic example of the Gothic Revival architectural movement, which started in England in the 1740s and was heavily influential in sacred architecture. Either the settlers were building from their memories of churches where they had worshipped in the old country or they arrived with their designs already in hand.
The Church of Ireland and Church of Scotland, the Anglican relatives of the Episcopal Church in America, built hundreds of churches in this style throughout those two countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Little wonder, then, that Worthington Valley looked so familiar to me.
While the current structure of St. John’s dates from 1869, there was a church on the same site as early as 1816 but the original church burned down on Christmas Day 1867.
In the quiet cemetery next to the church, there lie multiple generations of the Worthington family, the oldest stone belonging to Samuel Worthington, who was born in 1734. He might have been William’s son or, given that he was born seventy years after William’s arrival in Maryland, perhaps his grandson.
Iron railings enclose the graves of the different branches of the family, children following their parents into the family plot, one generation after another.
I counted four Celtic crosses in the cemetery, their distinctive shape – a circular ring enclosing the intersection of the cross – making the evocations of Ireland even stronger.
(click on an image to enlarge it)